|Ground:||Sophia Gardens, Cardiff|
|Scorecard:||England v Australia|
|Player:||JE Root, GS Ballance, BA Stokes, JR Hazlewood, MA Starc|
|Event:||Australia in England and Ireland 2015|
DateLine: 8th July 2015
By Andy Jalil at Sophia Gardens
In association with INVESTEC
Root leads England recovery after early losses
Cardiff – The contest in the most intense rivalry in cricket got underway with the first day of the much anticipated Ashes series seeing the England innings revived to 343 for seven after Australia had struck to make three incisions in the first hour of play. Joe Root hit a brilliant seventh Test century and featured in a 153-run partnership with Gary Ballance for the fifth wicket.
Having decided to make first use of a slow pitch England lost three wickets for 43 after rain had delayed the start by 15 minutes. Even at that early stage Michael Clarke, the Australia captain may have thought it would be nice to win the first Test as Australia’s record in away Tests against England has been far from impressive with just one win in 14 Tests. It should also be said that England have claimed victory just once in nine opening Ashes Tests.
It was a memorable start for Josh Hazelwood, playing in his first Ashes Test and claiming a wicket in his first over when Adam Lyth, in attempting to play to leg, sent a leading edge catch low to gully for David Warner to take it well. Australia claimed the second wicket with a shrewd bit of captaincy by Clarke when he brought Nathan Lyon on after just 13 overs. The off spinner obliged with the wicket off Alastair Cook, having bowled two maidens, he struck with a ball that bounced a little and Cook, slashing at it, top edged behind the stumps.
In the following over Mitchell Starc pinned Ian Bell in front of the stumps and so, after just 14.3 overs, England were faced with the task of attempting to bring about a recovery. It would have got a lot more difficult two balls later if Root had not been dropped before he had scored when Brad Haddin failed to hold a low catch off the unlucky Starc.
Thereafter, the two Yorkshire batsmen, combined in a fine stand to take control over nearly three hours to bring about a recovery. After his tentative start Root settled in to play some attacking strokes. He got off the mark with two fours in one over off Starc, the first was a drive to mid-off followed by a stylish square drive off the back foot. He kept picking up fours, after flicking one off Starc, he cut Hazelwood to get to 30.
By lunch they had taken England to 88 with Ballance on 28 and Root 33. The latter then reached his 12th Test half century and continued to show his range of strokes while his partner was more watchful. They brought up the hundred of the stand in which Root had 72 from only 74 balls while Ballance scored 25 facing just four balls less. He eventually got to his sixth Test fifty from 127 balls with a lovely drive to cover point off Starc.
By tea the recovery was looking good on 190 for three and Root was on 93. They had scored 102 from 29 overs in the session and of the 150 of their stand Root had 97 and Ballance 43. Australia finally broke the stand in the second over after the break with Hazelwood hitting Ballance’s back leg in front of the stumps. He was on 61 and England were 196 for four.
Ben Stokes went for the big strokes soon after coming to the crease. His first six, off Johnson, was mishit and went over the wicketkeeper. For the second, he came down the pitch to Lyon and put it over the bowler’s head. In Lyon’s next over he struck two more fours as England enjoyed another good stand.
Root’s superb innings finally ended on 134 when Starc came on for this seventh spell of the day and with the first ball ended the fifth wicket stand of 84. The batsman did not get close enough to drive as he edged low to first slip. The left-arm fast bowler struck again four overs later when Stokes, on 52, played inside the line of the ball.
Two overs before the end of play, Hazelwood had Jos Buttler held for 27 to claim his third wicket and finished with three for 70 while Starc had three for 84. Moeen Ali remained not out with 26.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
Copyright © 2015 Andy Jalil)