England have slight edge after Ashes opening day

November 23, 2017

England came through the first day of the Ashes series slightly in the ascendancy after a curious first day of the series at Brisbane, finishing a rain-shortened day on 196-4. James Vince made 83 and Mark Stoneman 53, with both inexperienced players making their highest Test scores to date. 

After all the pre-series hype, the teams were finally able to get out on the field and Joe Root decided to bat after winning the toss.

The pitch had been expected to be fast and bouncy, although word emerged that it might be slower than usual after being relaid earlier this year following an Adele concert. 

If so, England may have the singer to thank for a very different surface that, instead of providing the ideal wicket for Australia's pace attack, turned out to be very sluggish and, even more surprisingly, offered appreciable turn on the first day for off-spinner Nathan Lyon.

None of this helped Alastair Cook, who made just two before he was caught at first slip off the bowling of Mitchell Starc, but the left-armer seldom swung the ball on a day that was cool by Brisbane's sub-tropical standards. 

However, with bouncers rarely reaching shoulder height, Stoneman and Vince were able to settle in and sought to grind down the bowlers, reaching 59-1 from 29 overs by lunch before drizzle delayed the restart.

When they returned, the pair took their stand to 125 - more than England managed for any wicket in the previous Ashes series down under - before Stoneman was bowled by Pat Cummins.

Vince continued his serene and stylish progress as he topped his previous Test best of 42, shedding his past bad habit of driving at wide balls and edging them to slip as he made a maiden Test half-century. He was dropped by wicketkeeper Tim Paine on 68 from the bowling of Lyon, but the off-spinner denied him a maiden Test hundred by running him out with a direct hit.

When Cummins had Root lbw on review for 15, England had slipped to 163-4, but Dawid Malan and Moeen Ali counter-attacked and took England safely to the close, with Australia wasting a review on a failed lbw appeal against Malan with the third delivery of the new ball before the umpires took the players off for bad light. 

Cricket lovers booking corporate hospitality for the Edgbaston Test match next summer when England play India may be fascinated to see how the likes of Stoneman, Vince and Malan will get on when the ball turns for Lyon this winter, with India's potent slow bowling attack sure to be a key factor next year. 

England will now hope Moeen can be a key factor with both bat and ball. He is 13 not out with Malan on 28, and the pair will be looking to see off the new ball and steer England to a healthy total. After that, however, Moeen could be a potential match-winner if the pitch continues to turn. The surface is also expected to speed up as the game goes on.

Image: Getty, from Keith Prowse subscription

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