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Root century stands out on seesaw first day

England reaches 343/7; fifties from Balance and Stokes and three-fors from Hazlewood and Starc the other highlights of the day

Root century stands out on seesaw first day - Cricket News
Joe Root celebrates a century.
During the last Ashes series, in Australia, Joe Root was dropped following a disastrous run of form leading into the final Test in Sydney. Eighteen months on, Root couldn't have asked for a better way to kick off the latest installment of cricket's most celebrated rivalry, his century leaving a lasting impression on a sellout crowd on the first day of the first Test at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff on Wednesday (July 8). 
The innings helped England recover from a disastrous start before Australia prised out Root (134), Ben Stokes (52) and Jos Buttler (27) in the final hour to even things out on a cracking day of Test cricket. England ended the day at 343 for 7, with Moeen Ali (26) and Stuart Broad, yet to get off the mark, at the crease.
If Root's knock was the highlight, Gary Ballance provided the steel the foundation of the England innings was built on. Though he largely played second fiddle during the course of a 153-run third-wicket partnership with Root after Australia had England where it wanted the host to be at the end of the first hour, the significance of Ballance’s 149-ball 61 wasn't lost on anyone.
Giving Root company after Ballance's dismissal immediately after tea was Stokes, who marked his coming of age with knocks of 92 and 101 against New Zealand at Lord's in May this year. He got stuck in on a surface that got better and better for the batsmen as the day wore on.
As the sun shone brightly on a clear afternoon, there was also a small subplot added to an already fascinating story when David Warner was thrown the ball to dislodge Root. It merely showed Australia’s desperation on a day when things could have been very different had Brad Haddin pouched Root off the second delivery he faced with England's scorecard reading 43 for 3.

While Root eventually perished to Starc, off whom Haddin had spilt the chance early on, after edging a full and wide delivery to Shane Watson at first slip to end a 247-minute vigil, Stokes was quickly off the blocks and had strolled to 52 before being accounted for by Starc's late swing as the ball whizzed past the outside edge to hit off stump. 
Buttler hit three cracking fours in an attractive knock before chipping a harmless delivery from Josh Hazlewood to Mitchell Johnson at mid-on. Moeen's stroke-filled cameo, meanwhile, helped England squeeze out valuable runs to cap off a day it wouldn’t be too unhappy with, considering the hole it had slipped in to after opting to bat.
In the first hour, Adam Lyth (6) edged a Hazlewood delivery that nipped away in the second over, and Warner took an excellent catch at gully.
Alastair Cook (20) seemed to have weathered the early burst and looked confident, pulling Hazlewood effortlessly. But after two unsuccessful attempts at dancing down the pitch to hit Nathan Lyon over the infield, Cook edged a cut off a short ball that skidded on and Haddin held on superbly.
An ungainly hoick off Lyon later, Ian Bell was done in by Starc’s late swing as the ball thudded into the pads before the bat could come down. Bell trudged off, leaving England in tatters.
Instead of going into a shell, the aggressor in Root took over as he cut and drove with élan to somewhat take the sting off Australia’s attack, even though they kept bowling unplayable deliveries from time to time. Root’s willingness to make his start count was admirable.
Root’s stand with Ballance seemed to have eased England into a position of strength before Hazlewood struck by trapping Ballance plumb in front. While the wicket galvanised Australia, England’s intentions of continuing to bat aggressively helped it stay ahead. 

When play ended, there were smiles in the England camp, for the situation could have been far worse if not for Root's brilliance. In the opposition camp, there was warm applause for Starc, who was clearly the best bowler on view en route figures of 3 for 84 after 19 overs of toil on a batting beauty. Hazlewood finished the day with 3 for 70.

To view full scorecard, please click here.

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