Centurion Joe Root admitted that he rode his luck before leading England’s recovery from a treacherous opening to the first Investec Test against Australia at Cardiff yesterday.
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Vice-captain Root once again proved England’s driving force after the hosts slumped to 43-3, joining forces with Yorkshire club-mate Gary Ballance initially and then all-rounder Ben Stokes to guide his side to 343-7 at the close.
The 24-year-old’s counter-attacking 118-ball hundred, the seventh ton of his Test career, was the quickest of all time in the first innings of an Ashes clash. He eventually fell for 134, although his role of saviour could have been nullified almost immediately.
Root survived a huge LBW appeal first ball before wicketkeeper Brad Haddin floored a gloved chance off seamer Mitchell Starc. Root went on to make 180 after being dropped by Haddin at Lord’s in 2013 and this proved another expensive miss.
“I rode my luck at times, especially early on,” said Root. “Anyone is slightly vulnerable first up in their innings and fortunately I managed to sort it out pretty quickly today and things clicked.
“When they attack, it’s the best time to attack them because that’s when there are gaps and it’s easier to score quickly.
“It’s always nice to get a hundred, especially against Australia and so early in the series. Hopefully it is the first of a few and not a one off.”
Opener Adam Lyth and skipper Alastair Cook had already departed cheaply when Ian Bell’s batting woes continued. Dismissed leg before by Starc, Bell has now scored just 56 runs in his last nine Test knocks.
Ballance’s form had come under scrutiny after a barren series against New Zealand, but he shared a 153-run stand with Root, scoring 61, before becoming the second of three victims for Ashes debutant Josh Hazlewood.
The baton was passed to Stokes, who put on 84 with Root -- the highest run-scorer in Test cricket during 2015 with 675 -- for the fifth wicket. Both fell in quick succession, with Stokes making 52, while Lancashire’s Jos Buttler followed for 27.
Starc, like Hazlewood, claimed three wickets, although fellow seamer Mitchell Johnson, England’s tormentor-in-chief during the last Ashes series, failed to live up to the pre-match billing granted by Australia skipper Michael Clarke, finishing with 0-87 off 20 overs.
All-rounder Moeen Ali will resume today unbeaten on 26, alongside seamer Stuart Broad, and Root has urged the duo to propel England beyond the 400-mark in a bid to maximise scoreboard pressure on a slow Cardiff pitch.
“The longer we can keep them out there the better,” added Root. “Moeen and Broady are both very capable of scoring big scores and putting together big partnerships. Fingers crossed we get 400 plus.”