Root hits 118*; England make bold declaration on day one of Ashes
SUMMARY: England 393-8 declared from 78 overs (Joe Root 118*, Jonny Bairstow 78, Zak Crawley 61; Nathan Lyon 4-149, Josh Hazlewood 2-61) vs Australia 14-0
England stunned Edgbaston by declaring against Australia on the first day of an Ashes series that more than lived up to the hype.
Joe Root’s masterful unbeaten 118 pulled England from 176-5 to 393-8 when captain Ben Stokes executed the earliest first-innings declaration in Ashes history.
Root added 121 with Jonny Bairstow, who crunched 78 in as many balls, and coaxed valuable lower-order contributions from Moeen Ali, Stuart Broad and Ollie Robinson.
All this after Zak Crawley, who batted beautifully for 61, got the series off to an explosive start by hammering Pat Cummins’ first ball of the day through the covers for four.
Off-spinner Nathan Lyon took 4-149 for an Australia side that looked to counter England’s swashbuckling style by posting fielders to the boundary for the entire day.
If that tactic was surprising, it was nothing compared to Stokes’ bold play that gave his bowlers four overs at the Australians late on a baking day.
David Warner defied his old nemesis Stuart Broad, taking Australia to 14-0 alongside opening partner Usman Khawaja.
At the end of a breathless, memorable day, the Ashes holders found themselves 379 runs behind.
Ashes opener lives up to hype
This was more than enough to justify the expectation surrounding the most eagerly anticipated Ashes series in a generation.
There were fireworks when former England captain Alastair Cook paraded the urn before play, but that was nothing compared to the pyrotechnics of Crawley’s crunching drive off Cummins’ first ball of the match – a shot that will go down as an iconic moment in Ashes history if England go on to win the series.
What followed was riveting, made all the more compelling by the Australian plan to have fielders on the boundary for the entire day. It created a high-stakes game of cat-and-mouse, with England only finding their top gear for a period after tea.
Were the Australians too passive? England still scored in excess of five runs an over. The tourists had the chance to run through the home side’s lower order, but, guided by Root, England were able to reach a total that is at least par on a pitch currently ideal for run-scoring.
Then came the ultimate power move from Stokes, who had earlier won the toss. No-one in Birmingham was expecting the declaration, but it exposed Warner and Khawaja to an evening examination.
Broad even took the first over against his old bunny Warner, but Australia came through and England face some hard work with the ball on Saturday. (BBC Sport)