England refrained from all-out “Bazball” attack and settled for a mix of easy singles and 12 fours, but no sixes to go to lunch on 124-3 against an uncharacteristically cautious Australia in the first Ashes Test on Friday. (More Cricket News)
Both teams will eat with some confidence at Edgbaston, though Australia gained a psychological edge when England opener Zak Crawley (61) was dismissed by seamer Scott Boland off the last ball before lunch. Joe Root (20 not out) was at the crease.
Australia set mostly defensive fields and has so far restrained the England attack ahead of a critical afternoon session after losing the toss on an excellent wicket to bat on in hot and sunny conditions. Australia captain Pat Cummins said he would have also batted first.
Crawley reached 50 in 56 balls — including a morale-boosting four confidently driven through extra cover against the first ball of the series bowled by Cummins.
Crawley shared a 70-run run partnership with Ollie Pope (31) for the second wicket, before the England vice captain was out leg before wicket against spinner Nathan Lyon as Australia successfully appealed the umpire’s decision. That brought in Root, England’s highest-ranked batter at No. 6, at 92-2 and Lyon’s price of success saw him removed for Josh Hazlewood, who has often troubled Root in previous tests.
England brought up its century with another boundary from Crawley against Cummins.
England has won 12 of its last 17 tests with its attacking and carefree “Bazball” approach under Stokes and coach Brendon (“Baz”) McCullum.
Australia went for Hazlewood at the expense of pacer Mitchell Starc and the 32-year-old seamer repaid the vote of confidence by claiming the first wicket of the series with England on 22. Ben Duckett went for 12 to Hazlewood, caught low behind by Alex Carey.
Australia has not won an Ashes series in England since 2001 but enters the game as the newly crowned world test champion after beating India on Sunday. It hammered England 4-0 in the last Ashes series in 2021-22, meaning the visitors only need to draw the best-of-five contest to keep cricket’s famed urn.
Australia’s lineup includes the top three-ranked test batters in Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith and Travis Head.
A moment’s silence before the game paid tribute to victims of a knife attack in Nottingham, England, including two cricket-loving students.