England 7-343 at stumps on day one

The Ashes opener is a day old, but England have already showed more pluck than they managed in the entire 2013-14 series.

Joe Root led the way with a sparkling 134 as his side rallied after lunch to reach 7-343 at stumps in Cardiff.

It is already a higher total than anything England posted in 2013-14, save for a second-innings 353 in Perth.

Australia started brightly on Wednesday and grabbed four wickets in the final session, but the tourists could have taken a vice-like grip on the contest in the morning session.

The hosts would have crashed to 4-43 in the 15th over if Brad Haddin held a one-handed catch.

Instead the ball popped out, handing Root a life on zero and changing the course of the first Test.

Root steadied in style, reaching three figures in 118 balls to make it the fastest first-innings ton in Ashes history.

The vice-captain was eventually out edging to Mitchell Starc in the 73rd over, having rebuilt England’s innings with the help of Gary Ballance and Ben Stokes.

Starc trapped Ian Bell lbw and created the only two chances of Root’s four-hour knock, while he rattled Stokes’ stumps after a quick-fire 52.

The 25-year-old held a finger to his lips after getting the better of Stokes, shushing the fiery allrounder who had batted with typical aggression.

The left-armer struggled for control and consistency for much of the day and went off the field late with what looked to be a leg cramp.

Mitchell Johnson seemingly took on supernatural properties when he inspired fear and snared 37 scalps in the most recent Test series between the nations.

Johnson was used as a first-change bowler this time around and went wicket-less, despite extracting impressive bounce out of a slow-and-low pitch.

Ballance copped the brunt of it – blows to the chest and forearm looked particularly painful.

The No.3 batsman weathered the bouncer barrage in a dogged half-century, contributing 43 runs in a 147-run partnership with Root.

Root then put on a 84-run stand with Stokes before attempting one cover drive too many.

Hazlewood maintained a full length for 22 overs, dismissing Ballance, Adam Lyth and Jos Buttler to be the pick of the bowlers.

The closest Australia came to dismissing Root in the second session was a confident lbw appeal from Nathan Lyon, when England’s vice-captain was on 62.

The tourists reviewed the decision, but replays confirmed it was pitching outside leg.

Michael Clarke admitted pre-match he also would have batted first, but it may well have been a good toss to lose given the overcast skies.

Alastair Cook saw off the new ball, only to come unstuck against Lyon.

Cook went 14 balls without scoring against the offspinner before lashing at a delivery he could easily have paid more respect to.

Haddin did well to snaffle the edge, but that will be scant consolation for the keeper given the reprieve he offered Root.

AAP rf/ldj

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