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Man of the moment Joe Root leads English fightback

By David Clough the ashes

Published 09/07/2015

Quiet please: Mitchell Starc (left) advises Ben Stokes to keep it shut after dismissing him
Quiet please: Mitchell Starc (left) advises Ben Stokes to keep it shut after dismissing him

England's man of the moment Joe Root put his side's day one Ashes fightback down to a slice of luck and a dash of "Yorkshire grit".

When Root arrived at the crease Australia had their hosts wobbling at 43 for three after England opted to bat first.

Root was then dropped on nought by wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, a slice of luck he cashed in on to the tune of 134 runs as England ended the day on a promising 343 for seven.

Root's fine form is fast becoming a given but he was aided this time by a brave 61 from county colleague Gary Ballance, who sustained several bruises as he battled both Mitchell Johnson and his own dip in form.

"Obviously, it wasn't pretty at times, but it was vital that we got a decent partnership," said Root (below) of the stabilising 102-run stand.

"When you come into positions like that, after losing three wickets quite quickly, you're going to get opportunities to score - because they're going to have aggressive fields.

"It could have gone completely the other way - I could have got out second ball, then you look a little bit silly - but I had that fortune, and could cash in and make the most of it. And Gary was so important for us - the mental strength he showed, determination and Yorkshire grit... the way he went about things was really pleasing."

When this match is filed away in the record books it is possible that Haddin's one-handed spill could be seen as the decisive moment. If Root goes on to enjoy a prolific series it may be even more critical than that.

But the 24-year-old was mindful he could easily have been brooding over a duck, a price he feels would have been worth paying for committing to aggressive methods.

"There will be times when it doesn't quite come off, and you look slightly stupid and play what looks like a horrendous shot and get out - but those are the sort of risks we're taking by playing this attacking cricket," he said.

"We want to continue to do that and really put sides under pressure.

"Fortunately, it was my day - I was the one who managed to do it - but everyone is going to take that approach."

Root led the counter-attack as his and Ballance's unbroken century stand bailed England out.

The Yorkshire pair joined forces at a perilous 43 for three, after Alastair Cook had chosen to bat first on a cloudy morning, but by tea had guided the hosts to a heartening 190 without further loss.

Root was the driving force, having survived nervy initial moments.

On his return to the Ashes fray after being dropped for the final Test of England's 5-0 trouncing in 2013-14, Root raced past his 50 in just 56 balls.

There was some good fortune, dropped on nought second ball off Mitchell Starc by Haddin, before he survived later scrapes against Nathan Lyon on 61 and 79 - a DRS lbw procedure marginally going his way and then a possible inside-edge on to pad looping to short-leg where Steve Smith ought to have held on.

Ballance, returning to form with his first half-century in any format for club or country since Grenada in April, operated in Root's slipstream en route to his milestone from 127 balls.

He did well especially to withstand a testing spell from Johnson, who peppered the left-hander with short balls to a field of leg-side catchers from round the wicket.

England badly needed stability after their early troubles in which Josh Hazlewood made short work of his fellow Ashes newcomer Adam Lyth, Nathan Lyon did likewise with Alastair Cook and Ian Bell's slump continued.

Lyth's was the first departure.

He had tucked Hazlewood's fourth delivery off his pads for four - but trying to repeat the dose two balls later, instead got a leading edge low for a sharp catch by David Warner.

Cook's evident attempt to take the attack to Lyon came to nought when he was undone by a little extra bounce from the off-spinner to be caught-behind cutting.

Bell made only a single run before he completely missed Starc's full-length swing to be out lbw.

But Root overcame his scratchy start, a faint inside-edge on Starc's first delivery to him preventing lbw and then his most obvious escape thanks to Haddin.

He was soon playing with a fluency as he and Ballance established a foothold before lunch - and then batted throughout the afternoon.

Belfast Telegraph

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