SCORE: England: 343-7- (88)
The Ashes began just as they should have! A team rocked early by some fine bowling makes a stellar comeback to poise the game in balance. This is how usually the first Ashes Tests have been. Fair to say, the first 2015 Ashes Test too had a similar tale to narrate after the end of Day One. Alastair Cook won the toss and had no hesitation in batting first on a docile wicket.
The strip laid at the Sophia Gardens is bound to attract scathing criticism in the days to come. In the very first over of the game, the wicketkeeper collected the 2 deliveries on the third bounce. That should generally happen on a wicket which is four days old, not when the pitch is just four deliveries old. It seemed clear that England had utilized the home advantage as they prepared a wicket which greatly negated the venom of the Australian bowlers. The pitch had no bounce and more than an English wicket, it played like a subcontinent wicket.
The Australian bowlers though, were least distracted by the nature of the pitch. Josh Hazlewood was disciplined throughout and struck early as Adam Lyth edged one to David Warner. On the last ball of the second over, Lyth tried to flick the ball towards the leg side, but got a leading edge and Warner did the rest by taking a good low catch.
A brilliant tactical decision by Michael Clarke was to implement spin early on. Lyon was introduced in the 10th over and the pitch assisted spin in the very first session. Even without the rough patches being fully developed, Lyon got the ball to turn away from Cook. Cook was soon dismissed as he attempted a cut shot off Lyon on a delivery which bounced more than what Cook anticipated. Another inning, another start wasted by Cook.
In the 15th over, Bell on 1, fell prey to a classical left arm seamer’s delivery. Starc bowled a full length in swinging ball to Bell, who was beaten by pace and rapped on middle and leg. The umpire raised his finger instantly, and Bell didn’t even bother to review. At 43-3, things looked utterly dim for England when Joe Root and Gary Ballance got together. Root was dropped on the second ball he faced by Brad Haddin. It was a full length ball outside the off stump and Root tried to squeeze the ball and the edge flew to Haddin, who dropped it. Had that catch been taken, England would have been in dire straits.
Ballance and Root then got together to swing the balance of the game. While the southpaw Ballance played an otherwise unentertaining brand of cricket with minimal feet movement, Root was lively from the word go. Root once again reiterated the fact that why he is considered to be among the best batsmen in the world right now. Root played with absolutely no fear and his strike rate was always above 80. The two Yorkshiremen built a partnership which scripted England’s revival.
In the afternoon session, England didn’t lose a single wicket. Ballance was eventually dismissed for 61 as Hazlewood trapped him in front of middle and leg. More than the 61 runs, Ballance stood there for 149 balls, thus negating any advantage the Aussies held. Root soon got to his ton as he hit Hazlewood for a boundary. Along with Ben Stokes, Root had an aggressive partnership and the duo played some really entertaining strokes. With the scorecard reading 280, Root played a loose shot on a Mitchell Starc delivery only to be caught by Shane Watson at first slip for 134
Soon after getting to his fifty, Stokes was cleaned up by Starc who bowled a ripper to dismiss the southpaw. Soon after a 50 run partnership with Moeen Ali, Jos Buttler was dismissed as well. This time Josh Hazelwood struck as Buttler chipped straight to mid on.
With the score reading 343-7 after the end of Day one, its been a game in which both the sides have done well. Australia though hold a slight advantage as the pitch is batting friendly. Surely a gripping second day awaits the viewers!