England stayed true to their ‘Bazball’ approach on Friday.
Sitting on the balcony outside England’s dressing room, even Ben Stokes looked surprised when Zak Crawley hammered the first ball of the Ashes series through the covers for four.
A few hours later, Joe Root had the audacity to reverse-ramp Australia pace bowler Scott Boland over the boundary. Then Moeen Ali flicked Pat Cummins for six off his hips. Root repeated his trick shot for another six against Cummins.
England stayed true to their ‘Bazball’ approach on Friday and underlined their confidence by daring to declare at 393/8 after Root’s 30th Test century on a rousing opening day at Edgbaston.
In the four overs England gave themselves for a probing bowl, Australia went 14 without loss by stumps and opener David Warner survived his Test nemesis Stuart Broad, who opened the attack. Warner was 8 not out and Usman Khawaja on 4.
Root reached his fourth Ashes ton with a single against spinner Nathan Lyon to the delight of the raucous crowd. Root was stopped on 118 not out, including two sixes against Lyon in the final over before the unorthodox declaration by England captain Stokes.
Root and tailender Ollie Robinson, 17 not out, looked comfortable enough to have taken England past 400, though Australia were set to receive the new ball after two more overs.
Jonny Bairstow scored a 78-ball 78 and Crawley hit 61 as England raced along at more than five runs an over in a successful start to its toughest test in the year-old ‘Bazball’ era. It all added up to England’s highest Ashes total at home since 2015.
Lyon also enjoyed a good day, taking 4/149 from his 29 overs in hot and sunny conditions on a batting-friendly pitch to extend his overall Test tally to 491.
Three entertaining sessions saw Australia get on top before England rallied each time with key partnerships, including 70 runs for the second wicket between Crawley and Ollie Pope, and 121 runs between Root and Bairstow which lifted England from 176/5 to 297/6.
It still looks like an evenly balanced contest with Australia 379 runs behind but boasting the top three ranked Test batters in Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith and Travis Head.
Australia have not won an Ashes series in England since 2001 but entered the game as the newly crowned world Test champions after beating India on Sunday. They hammered England 4-0 in the last Ashes series in 2021-22, meaning Australia need only to draw the best-of-five contest to keep cricket’s famed urn.
England have won 12 of their last 17 Tests with their carefree approach under Stokes and coach Brendon (Baz) McCullum. It paid off on Friday but this still remains their biggest test yet.
A moment’s silence before the game paid tribute to victims of a knife and van attack in Nottingham, England, including two cricket-loving students.