Root leads England fightback in Ashes

Joe Root has spearheaded a formidable fightback from England in the Ashes opener at Cardiff, where the hosts were 3-190 at tea on day one.

England would have crashed to 4-43 in Wednesday’s morning session if Brad Haddin held a one-handed catch.

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

“He just looks like he was done by a bit of pace,” Ricky Ponting said of the dropped catch while calling the game for Sky Sports.

Root was unbeaten on 93 at tea, having rebuilt England’s innings alongside Gary Ballance (59no).

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.

Michael Clarke was off the field so Steve Smith decided to review the decision, only for replays to confirm it was pitching outside leg.

Root scored freely and struck 12 boundaries, the highlight being a couple of textbook cover drives.

Ballance was nowhere near as productive – scoring 43 runs in the 147-run partnership.

The No.3 batsman looked particularly uncomfortable against Mitchell Johnson, who struck him on the forearm and chest.

Ballance weathered the storm in a fashion that he and his teammates failed to achieve in the 2013-14 series, when Johnson snared 37 scalps.

Alastair Cook won the toss, but Australia struck thrice in a lively morning session.

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

The pitch offered limited assistance to Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc, who were given the new ball ahead of Johnson.

Yet the Dukes was swinging and Hazlewood created the initial breakthrough in his first over; a full ball that Adam Lyth edged to David Warner at gully.

The sight of Warner diving forward to complete the sharp catch confirmed what little carry there was in the pitch.

Cook steadied, seeing off the new ball and Johnson’s four-over spell only to come unstuck against Lyon.

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

Haddin snaffled the edge, dismissing Cook for 20.

Ian Bell was trapped lbw by Mitchell Starc in the following over, having briefly mulled a review that would have shown ‘umpire’s call’.

Root recovered from his reprieve with trademark class, unleashing two sweetly-timed boundaries in Starc’s next over and never looking back.

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