England recover from slow Ashes Test start

England batsman Joe Root

England recovered from losing an early wicket in the first day of the Ashes Test against Australia at Sophia Gardens to finish on 343/7.

Joe Root made Australia pay for dropping him on nought by making a century that rescued England from a dire position on the first day of the first Ashes Test at Sophia Gardens on Wednesday.

Root’s 134 was the cornerstone of England’s stumps total of 343 for seven.

He came in with England struggling at 43 for three after the loss of skipper Alastair Cook and Ian Bell in quick succession before lunch.

But he still upped the tempo and, with Yorkshire team-mate Gary Ballance who made a gritty 61, Root helped add 153 for the fourth wicket on a sluggish pitch.

It took Root just 118 balls to complete his hundred — the quickest in the first match of an Ashes series — and was the 24-year-old’s seventh century in only 28 Tests.

This was also Root’s first Test innings against Australia since he was dropped for the climax of the 2013/14 Ashes campaign in Sydney — a match England lost as they were routed 5-0.

Root and Ben Stokes (52) put on a brisk 84 for the fifth wicket before both batsmen fell to left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Starc before stumps.

Moeen Ali was 26 not out and Stuart Broad unbeaten on nought at the close.

Starc led Australia’s attack with three wickets for 84 in 19 overs.

But fellow left-arm quick Mitchell Johnson, whose 37 wickets were central to Australia’s success in the last Ashes, went wicketless as his 20 overs cost 87 runs.

Despite the initially overcast conditions, Cook decided to bat first after winning the toss.

Josh Hazlewood struck with just his sixth ball on Wednesday when he had fellow Ashes debutant Adam Lyth, aiming legside, caught low down by a diving David Warner at gully.

Michael Clarke, bidding to lead Australia to a first Ashes series win in Britain in 14 years, lived up to his reputation as an enterprising captain by bringing on off-spinner Nathan Lyon as early as the 10th over.

Cook could not get Lyon away and the 14th consecutive ‘dot ball’ he received from the spinner saw him out for 20 when an edged cut was caught by wicketkeeper Brad Haddin.

The struggling Bell was then lbw for one to a rapid, full-length and swinging Starc delivery.

Root almost went lbw to Starc first ball, spared by a thin inside edge, and next ball he was dropped by a diving Haddin, unable to hold a right-handed chance.

During the 2013 Ashes Test at Lord’s, Haddin dropped Root on eight before the Yorkshireman went on to make 180.

England got through the second session without losing a wicket, although Lyon was convinced he had Root lbw for 62 when the batsman missed a sweep.

However, umpire Kumar Dharmasena’s not out verdict was upheld on review after replays showed the ball had pitched outside leg stump.

Ballance’s near four-hour innings ended shortly after tea when he was plumb lbw on the back foot to a full and swinging Hazlewood delivery.

Root pressed on, an elegant cover-drive for four off Hazlewood, seeing him to a century.

Stokes had a stroke of luck when a top-edged pull off Johnson flew over Haddin’s head for six.

But that didn’t stop the standard-bearer for England’s new ‘aggressive’ approach going down the pitch to drive Lyon for six in far more convincing fashion.

Both Root and Stokes fell late in the day as Starc took two wickets for six runs in 14 balls.

Root exited when an edged drive off Starc was caught low down by first slip Shane Watson.

He batted for nearly five hours and faced 166 balls, including 17 fours.

Starc then bowled Stokes with a swinging delivery that knocked over middle and off stumps.

Australia struck with the new ball when Jos Buttler’s checked drive off Hazlewood flew straight to Johnson at mid-on to end a seventh-wicket stand of 50 in 57 balls with Ali.

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