The first Test at Cardiff’s Sophia Gardens was delicately balanced at the end of Day 2 with Australia 5/264 at stumps – still 166 runs shy of England’s first-innings total after the hosts’ tail wagged during the morning session.
Resuming on 7/343, England added another 87 runs in just 14 overs as Moeen Ali blasted 77 off 88 balls. Mitchell Starc finished with a five-for after claiming Ali and James Anderson in successive overs to halt England’s rearguard surge.
Australia’s openers exchanged their traditional roles with Chris Rogers the aggressor and David Warner eventually dismissed with the score on 52 after a watchful 17 off 42 balls, caught by Alistair Cook at first slip off Anderson.
Cook suffered a painful blow soon afterwards – much to Joe Root’s amusement:
But the skipper recovered in time to glove another catch as Ali sent Steve Smith on his way for 33.
Rogers became the first Test batsman in history to post seven consecutive half-centuries with reaching a ton by falling for 95, caught behind off newcomer Mark Wood. Ali had a second vital wicket after tea when he dismissed Michael Clarke caught and bowled for 38, leaving Australia at 4/207.
Adam Voges (31) and Shane Watson (29 not out) posted Australia’s fourth 50-run partnership of the innings, before Ben Stokes claimed the valuable wicket of Voges with less than three overs of the day remaining. Nathan Lyon (6 not out) remained at the crease with Watson at stumps.
Australia had progressed to 5/264 at a run-rate of 3.77, compared to England’s brisk 4.20 per over.
Anderson (1/36 off 16) troubled the tourists more than any other bowler, while Stokes (1/35 off 12) was also economical and hardworking.
Stud of the day
What a luxury for England to have Ali – an opener in ODIs – coming in at No.8. The all-rounder pushed the hosts to a formidable total in the morning and took two vital wickets with his tricky off-spin. He could be a real X-factor in this series.
The game-breaking Stokes’ late wicket changed the complex of the match – Australia would have been far more satisfied heading into Day 3 with Voges and Watson at the crease rather than a nightwatchman.
We have a real doozy of a Test match on our hands in the Welsh capital. The morning session on Day 3 could be the most important of the Test – there’s a bit of batting to come in the shape of Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson, but the tourists desperately need the maligned Watson to hang around. The stage is set for ‘Watto’ to be the hero, but does the veteran possess the form or confidence to live up to that role again? Meanwhile, respective pace spearheads Johnson (0/111 off 25) and Stuart Broad (0/55 off 12) will be looking for far more impact as the match wears on than they’ve displayed so far.
-Rogers created history by becoming the first batsman to hit seven straight Test 50s without going on to notch a century. His last four Tests have produced scores of 55, 55, 57, 69, 95, 56 and 95. He is also the first opener, and the fifth player overall, to post seven 50-plus scores in a row.
-The red-headed opener also hit his first six in his 21st Test – a top-edge off Broad.
-England posted a 400-plus score against Australia for the first time since the 2011 New Year’s Test at the SCG (when they hammered 644 and won by an innings and 83 runs). In 10 Ashes Tests since, the best England had managed was 375.