CARDIFF • Australia made the most of overcast conditions to leave England with that familiar sinking feeling on the first morning of the first Ashes Test yesterday.
England captain Alastair Cook's decision to bat first at Sophia Gardens backfired as the hosts, who were thrashed 5-0 in Australia in the 2013-14 series, limped to 88 for three at lunch.
But a fluent counter-attacking Joe Root made the most of a second-ball reprieve to move within seven runs of a century and help his side recover from their poor start. At tea, England were 190 for three with Root on 93 and Gary Ballance 59.
Root, dropped second ball by wicket-keeper Brad Haddin before he had scored, was in aggressive mood as he and Ballance dragged England back with an unbroken century stand.
On a cloudy morning, with light rain delaying the start by 15 minutes, England proceeded to make a dismal start when Adam Lyth (six) fell in the second over.
Lyth, who had just clipped Josh Hazlewood to the fence, again tried to punch into the legside but was squared up by the paceman's next delivery and got a leading edge to be well caught low down by David Warner at gully.
There were few demons in the pitch but the Australian pacemen got the ball to swing while off spinner Nathan Lyon, introduced in the 10th over, sent back Cook (20).
The opener fell two balls after the drinks break, edging Lyon behind to Haddin from a ball that bounced.
Ian Bell's poor form continued as he lasted seven balls before being trapped leg before wicket for one by Mitchell Starc from a full swinging delivery. Bell has reached double figures in just two of his last eight Test innings with a highest score of 29. And he has scored only 56 runs in his last nine innings.
The lack of pace and bounce in the pitch was evident in the first over of the match. Starc's third ball to Lyth barely got off the ground on the way through to Haddin.
England's nemesis Mitchell Johnson was quickly into the attack at the first change and did get one ball to rear up at Ballance, although the left-armer has yet to add to his 37-wicket haul in the last Ashes.
After Lyth departed early, Cook and Ballance were circumspect to anything on a good length but Clarke's decision to take an early look at Lyon was rewarded.
Cook, who had been tied down by 14 dot balls from the spinner, tried to cut him away and edged behind.
It could have been worse for the hosts had Haddin clung on one-handed after Root, who survived a vocal shout for lbw on the first ball from Starc, next ball nicked a swinging yorker-length delivery behind.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
ASHES, 1ST TEST
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