By Justin Palmer
Joe Root plundered a superb century to defy Australia as England recovered from a poor start to post 343 for seven on the first day of the first Ashes Test in Cardiff on Wednesday.
A fluent and counter-attacking Root, dropped before he had scored, hit 134 with Gary Ballance (61) and Ben Stokes (52) making solid contributions.
Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc took three wickets apiece for Australia with the late dismissal of Jos Buttler leaving the game evenly poised.
England were wobbling at 43-3 when Root came to the crease on an overcast and chilly morning in the Welsh capital but he made the most of a second-ball reprieve after he was spilled by wicketkeeper Brad Haddin.
England did not lose a wicket in the afternoon session as Root prospered and Ballance scratched around to share a fourth wicket stand of 153 at Sophia Gardens, where England dug in for a memorable draw in 2009 – the first Ashes Test at the ground.
Ballance was trapped in front by Hazlewood and Starc ended Root’s 166-ball stay when he induced an edge to first slip.
Ben Stokes continued the assault before Starc bowled him, the paceman celebrating with a finger-to-lips send off for the departing batsman.
Moeen Ali (26) and Stuart Broad (0) will resume today.
Root was full of aggressive intent, scoring quickly – mixing imperious cover drives and stylish cuts – seizing on anything short, wide or over-pitched to compile his seventh Test century and second against Australia.
Having lost the toss, Australia made the most of a swinging ball as Adam Lyth (six) fell in the second over, caught low down by David Warner at gully off Hazlewood.
Off spinner Nathan Lyon, introduced in the 10th over, sent back captain Alastair Cook (20) who tried to cut him away and edged behind to Haddin. When Ian Bell’s poor form continued as he was trapped leg before for one by a Starc inswinger, England were reeling.
Starc and the accurate Hazlewood caused England the most problems but there was no success for Mitchell Johnson, England’s nemesis from the last Ashes when he took 37 wickets with express pace.
He got no help on a sluggish pitch with his 20 wicketless overs costing 87.
“I’m really pleased with the ways things have gone today,” Root told Sky Sports Ashes. “I rode my luck at times, especially early on, so I’m happy to be in the position we are in as a team.
“We can kick on in the morning and get some early wickets when we get the chance to.”