Australia slammed on the brakes on the second morning of the final Ashes Test, shutting England’s bowlers out before a stunning catch from Joe Root lifted spirits at the Kia Oval.

The home side were bowled out for a thrill-a-minute 283 on day one, scoring at a frantic pace but burning out in less than 55 overs, with the tourists grinding their way to 115 for two in reply.

Australia, 2-1 up and with the urn already retained, were more than happy to block their way through the first session and shored their position up with some low-risk cricket which takes them one step closer to a first series win on these shores since 2001.

Resuming on 61 for one, they scraped together just 54 runs in 26 overs. Usman Khawaja was still in place at lunch, moving to 47 not out off 152 deliveries, but Marnus Labuschagne was dismissed for nine after chewing through 82 balls.

England had been probing away without success until the pace of Mark Wood finally drew a mistake, Labuschagne edging behind for what should have been a regulation take for wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow.

But he remained static, leaving Root to fling himself into action at first slip and snap up a brilliant one-handed take to his left.

Labuschagne appeared to be unhappy at the fading light levels as he skulked towards the pavilion, but Root’s reactions suggested the thick, grey clouds that lingered over the ground were not too bad.

The arrival of Steve Smith, who reached 13 not out at lunch, picked up Australia’s rate, as he drove James Anderson for consecutive fours to ease past Labuschagne’s score in a fraction of the time.

Anderson endured another demoralising session, wheeling away through a couple of tidy but joyless spells in handy conditions.

The seamer, who turns 41 on Sunday, has picked up just four wickets in four matches this summer and cannot seem to find the edge of the bat despite building up a steady rhythm.

Stuart Broad was the pick of the attack in a first hour that saw just 13 runs off the bat as well as eight byes.

He had Labuschagne playing and missing, went up for an lbw appeal and saw a flick round the corner land a yard in front of leg gully, but ultimately found himself frustrated by the policy of calculated defence.

Khawaja played his role with aplomb, relentlessly eating up time at the crease in bowler-friendly conditions and ending the morning’s play with a rare flourish as he pinged Wood off his pads to the square-leg boundary.

Zak Crawley produced an instant Ashes classic as England seized control of the must-win fourth Test with a barnstorming display on day two at Emirates Old Trafford.

Crawley crashed and smashed his way to 189 runs from 182 balls as the hosts bullied Australia with a heavy dose of ‘Bazball’ bravado.

After bowling the tourists out for 317 with two early wickets, England wiped out the deficit in just 55 overs and finished 67 ahead on 384 for four.

The speed of their assault was motivated partially by the threat of bad weather over the weekend and Crawley was the ideal man to lead the way. He unloaded 21 fours and three sixes, repaying the rock-solid faith Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum have shown him.

The 25-year-old’s inconsistency has attracted criticism and he arrived at the crease with an underpowered Test average of 28.65. But he has a maverick quality that appeals to the current regime and could not have picked a better stage to spread his wings with a fourth ton.

At 2-1 down with two to play England have no option but to win this game, regardless of the coming rain, and Crawley has given them every chance.

Moeen Ali (54) and Joe Root (84) offered lively support, with Harry Brook and Stokes unbeaten overnight.

England were into their work swiftly, James Anderson removing Pat Cummins with the first ball of the morning and Chris Woakes completing a well-deserved five-for to end the innings.

Crawley started as he meant to go on, brushing the first ball of the innings off his hip for four, and refused to let Ben Duckett’s third-over dismissal knock him off course.

He weathered a couple of early scares, edging inches in front of slip on 12 and given out lbw on 20 before successfully calling for DRS, but held his nerve to reach the lunch break intact.

Moeen’s promotion to number three came with low expectations – not least from himself – but he proved a perfect ally, sharing the burden with a flurry of four boundaries in eight deliveries.

From a promising foundation of 61 for one, England proceeded to play two outrageous hours of adrenaline-fuelled cricket in the afternoon session. In the space of 25 overs they scored 178 runs, with a run-rate of 7.12 that would not have been unacceptable in a T20.

Crawley was a conundrum Australia simply could not crack. A couple of inside edges skated dangerously close to his stumps and more than one thick outside edge climbed over the cordon, but even his errors raced through to the ropes.

When he did find his timing, he looked imperious. He showed Cameron Green the full face of his bat as he stroked elegantly down the ground, walked across his stumps to open up fine-leg and drove through cover with style.

He even made sure to hammer home Australia’s folly in leaving out a specialist spinner. When part-timer Travis Head took a turn, Crawley reverse swept his first ball for four and then stooped to launch the follow-up into the stands.

Moeen fell for 54, well caught at midwicket by Usman Khawaja to give Mitchell Starc a second success, but a partnership of 121 represented a job well done.

Crawley and Root ensured the momentum did not go with him, the latter immediately negating Australia short-ball tactics with some expertly judged hooks.

A delicious cover drive took Crawley within one blow his hundred and he got there off just 93 balls with a lobbed cut shot that is unlikely to be found in any coaching manual. The crowd roared him on, but the reaction on the balcony, from team-mates who have repeatedly rallied to his defence in the lean times, was even more telling.

Root ensured the fun kept coming, dipping into his bag of tricks to reverse ramp Mitchell Marsh over for six. The tea interval did little to revive the away side’s flagging spirits, Cummins unable to rouse his side by word or deed.

He gave himself a four-over burst at the start of the evening and shipped 30 including back-to-back straight fours that took Crawley to 150. At one stage Cummins attempted to review an lbw appeal that had hit Root’s bat, making the signal with comic timing as the umpire signalled no-ball. When England picked up three overthrows for some sloppy backing up at the bowler’s end, it was no surprise to find the captain was the culprit.

England took the lead in fitting style, Crawley stepping inside the line and blazing Marsh high over wide long-on for six. The quickest double hundred in Ashes history was beckoning when Crawley came to an abrupt end, dragging a short ball from Green back into his stumps.

He walked off to a well-earned ovation, having restated the mercurial skills which have made him a mainstay of the Bazball era.

Root was well placed to follow him to a ton but found himself bowled by one that shot through low from Josh Hazlewood. Brook and Stokes put on a calm 33 before stumps but more fireworks are likely as England look to move things forward on day three.

Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow can bat away their costly dropped catches as England look to assume control of an evenly-poised third Test at Headingley.

The Yorkshire pair each put down two chances on the opening day, with Root’s spillage of Mitch Marsh on 12 especially expensive as the recalled Australia all-rounder went on to make a run-a-ball 118.

Mark Wood took five for 34 with his breakneck pace as Australia were all out for 263, with Root and Bairstow unbeaten at stumps as England, 2-0 down in the five-match series, closed on 68 for three.

Much has been made of how Bairstow might react after his controversial stumping at Lord’s but he will be hoping his bat can do the talking as it did so emphatically did during last year’s golden summer.

What they said

Four years on from his most recent Test appearance – when he declared “most of Australia hate me” because of his inconsistency – Marsh might be feeling the love even more after his rescue-act. Called in because of a niggle to Cameron Green, the 31-year-old flayed his third Test hundred – all of them have come against England – and chipped in with the wicket of Zak Crawley for good measure.

Butter-fingered England

England’s subpar fielding in this series has frequently been cited as the major difference between the two sides – and there were another four dropped catches on Thursday. Bairstow can be forgiven for being unable to reel in a tough chance when Steve Smith was on four but the England wicketkeeper put down an easier chance down the leg-side when Travis Head was on nine. Root then put down regulation catches with Marsh on 12 and Alex Carey on four before slamming the ball into the turf in frustration at himself after holding on to Head. In total, the lackadaisical efforts cost England a whopping 158 runs.

England grateful for five-star Wood

Fitness concerns precluded Wood’s involvement at Edgbaston and Lord’s but he was worth the wait after dealing almost exclusively in speeds upwards of 90mph here, topping out at 96.5mph. He ended his first spell by flattening the leg stump of Usman Khawaja while he wiped out Australia’s lower order to finish with his first five-wicket haul at home. Every ball he bowled was an event with none of Australia’s batters looking comfortable against him. Wood has been a must-have overseas but this display summed up what a handful he can be in any conditions and why England are desperate to keep him on the park.

Headingley boo-boys

Emotions have been running high so there was some anticipation – and maybe a little trepidation – at how Headingley’s Western Terrace crowd would react. One of the liveliest and noisiest stands in the country made their presence felt by booing Australia captain Pat Cummins at the toss, while Carey was serenaded with ‘stand up if you hate Carey’ when he was batting. They seemed delighted by Cummins getting a two-ball duck and Carey being sconed on the helmet by Wood – even if the pair’s days ended better. Given they were at the forefront of the controversial Bairstow stumping at Lord’s, how they were received in Leeds is no surprise. The pantomime jeers of Smith and David Warner seem to have returned as well, harking back to how they were welcomed in England in 2019 after ball-tampering bans. Overall, though, any nerves at tensions potentially boiling over appear to have been unfounded.

Warner’s unsweet 16

Stuart Broad has enough time to climb to the top of this list with a possible five more innings at Warner, for whom retirement might not be able to come soon enough. The Australia opener’s latest downfall to his nemesis came when he was persuaded to push away from his body with the ball kissing the edge and carrying to Crawley, who pouched a chest-high catch at second slip.

Robinson squashed?

Ollie Robinson’s relatively quiet series continued as he went wicketless in his first 11 overs before trudging off the field after sending down just two balls of his 12th before tea. An England and Wales Cricket Board spokesperson confirmed a back spasm had curtailed his day. As for whether he will be able to bowl in Australia’s second innings, watch this space.

England bowled themselves into trouble on day one of the second Ashes Test at Lord’s, before two wickets in an over from part-timer Joe Root offered a late morale boost.

Desperate to produce a statement of intent after their tense two-wicket defeat at Edgbaston, the hosts failed to make the most of Ben Stokes winning the toss in helpful conditions as Australia reached the close on 339 for five.

It could have been much worse for the hosts but Root, asked to carry the spin burden alone due to concerns over Moeen Ali’s injured index finger, halted the tide just as it threatened to carry England away.

Travis Head had clattered 77 at better than a run-a-ball when he was stumped racing down the track at a delivery that started wide and turned even further from the bat, then all-rounder Cameron Green threw his wicket away for a duck in a vain attempt to slog Root down the ground.

Two cheap wickets in four balls did not completely mitigate two-and-a-half sessions of deeply uninspired work from a lethargic seam attack, but it did halt a 122-run stand between Head and Steve Smith that was quickly heading towards game-changing territory.

Smith remains at large on 85 not out and with the chance to bat England out of the match on day two.

Prior to Root’s unexpected intervention, England had relied on rookie seamer Josh Tongue for two of their three wickets as James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Ollie Robinson and Stokes himself all toiled without success.

Tongue produced two fine deliveries to clean bowl both openers, Usman Khawaja offering no stroke on the cusp of lunch and David Warner (66) cut in two by a gem, but even he was not exempt from the travails which swamped his team-mates.

The 25-year-old went at 4.88 over the course of the day, with Broad wicketless and Robinson visibly down on pace as he returned one for 86.

Stokes’ three-over cameo cost him 21 and although Anderson kept a lid on the scoring, he was worrying subdued for the third innings in a row.

Stokes could hardly disguise his grin when Pat Cummins called incorrectly at the toss, eagerly sending the tourists in under cloudy skies on a green-tinged pitch.

When the floodlights came on just before the start of play, the scene seemed set for the home attack to have some fun, but the anticipated clatter of wickets failed to materialise.

The game was interrupted after a solitary Anderson over when two Just Stop Oil protesters invaded the pitch brandishing orange paint powder, an incursion that ended with wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow lifting one of the activists off his feet and carrying him off the pitch while Stokes shepherded the other into the arms of security.

Warner and Khawaja did not allow the break to disrupt their concentration, although the latter offered a low half-chance off Broad that Root would have done outstandingly to hold.

The bowling looked laboured at times, with Robinson struggling to crack 80mph, but Broad should have picked up Warner on 20 when Ollie Pope put down a regulation edge at fourth slip, an echo of missed opportunities in the first Test.

Pope spent the latter half of the day off the field receiving ice treatment for a shoulder injury and England will hope their vice-captain’s batting is not affected by the issue.

Warner sought to impose himself, bending the knee to sweep Broad and Robinson and hooking Tongue for six as his first three overs leaked 24 runs. But he showed plenty of character to get his side up and running either side of lunch.

He dismissed Khawaja moments before the break, nipping one down the slope and into the off stump, and saved something even better for Warner after the restart.

He put together a deliciously difficult over to the left-hander and capped it in style with one that speared between bat and pad as it flicked the bails.

That brought Smith and Marnus Labuschagne together, fresh from the pair’s double failure at Lord’s. Smith was busy immediately but Labuschagne was shaky until a sequence of five boundaries from eight legal deliveries warmed him up.

Both were well settled as they took tea at 190 for two, but Robinson finally got himself into the contest in the evening session when he got one to stand up off the seam and take Labuschagne’s outside edge for 47.

England briefly had an opening, but a whirlwind knock from Head closed it emphatically. He laid into a tiring attack with gusto, hitting 14 boundaries as weariness and sloppy fielding began to take a toll.

With Smith showing signs of tunnel vision and a couple of DRS decisions correctly going against England, it took unforced error to lift Stokes’ side.

Root was apparently biding time until the second new ball but found a some bite from the rough and tempted Head into a rash charge.

Bairstow did the rest with a smart take and stumping, before Green hacked his third ball high to mid-off to take some of the shine off a strong day for Australia.

Broadcaster Mark Nicholas has likened Joe Root to rock stars such as David Bowie and Bruce Springsteen for his ability to continually reinvent himself.

Root has been England’s most dependable batter for several years but since handing over captaincy duties to Ben Stokes, the Yorkshireman has adapted his approach to be in keeping with the ultra-attacking philosophy under his successor and head coach Brendon McCullum.

His strike-rate has skyrocketed in the last 14 Tests, up to 76.35 from a career mark of 54.65 before Stokes took the reins, while Root’s output remains excellent with 1,279 runs at 67.31 in the Bazball era, again a significant improvement from a stellar career average of 50.76 in 131 Tests.

Nicholas, the former Hampshire captain who will serve as the next MCC president from October, believes relinquishing the captaincy last year played a role in unlocking Root 2.0.

Nicholas told the PA news agency: “He’s an amazing man and cricketer actually and I think the ability to keep reinventing himself as a batsman. It’s almost like rock stars do it.

“David Bowie kept reinventing himself, Bruce Springsteen to a degree. There’s a number of them. It’s amazing actually.

“It’s incredible to think that he averages more under Stokes than before Stokes and in itself that tells you that he’s freed up his mind. I think that as a captain, he felt the responsibility heavily.

“By freeing his mind up, he’s a little looser in the shoulders, (has) a looser grip on the bat and therefore everything is more ready to go in the attacking sense.”

Root has risen to the top of the Test batting rankings after swashbuckling innings of 118 not out and 46 in England’s agonising two-wicket defeat in the first LV= Insurance Ashes Test.

His second dig typified his outlook as he outlined his intent on the first ball of the penultimate day by attempting to reverse ramp Pat Cummins.

While he made no contact on that occasion, Root was undeterred and unleashed the same shot off back-to-back deliveries in Scott Boland’s next over, bringing a six then a four.

Root’s blitz came to a premature end after he charged down the pitch to Nathan Lyon and was stumped.

While Nicholas disagreed with the bullish approach, he accepts the England camp may not share the same view.

Nicholas added: “The choice of the reverse scoop first ball of the day, I think that is overdoing the bravado because if you get out, you’re going to feel you’ve let a lot of people down quite unnecessarily.

“If you’re in and you’re seeing it bigger, completely fine, but first ball of the morning against the best fast bowler in the world, there’s no obvious necessity for it.

“(Former England captain) Tony Greig once said ‘it’s a greater crime to get out for 30 or 40 than for nought’. In other words, once you’re in, don’t give it away.

“Does this England team take any reference in that sort of principle at all? Maybe not.

“I noticed when he walked past Stokes who was (the next batter in), Stokes gave him a kind of touch (on the shoulder) and said ‘brilliant mate’, not ‘you clown’.”

Joe Root has no regrets about the manner of England’s Ashes loss at Edgbaston, insisting he would like to “go back in time” and captain England in the same fearless fashion as Ben Stokes.

England’s unabashed commitment to the attacking principles of ‘Bazball’ saw them lose a thrilling first Ashes Test to Australia at Edgbaston, with the hosts driving the game forward to a tense conclusion that ended in defeat by two wickets.

The England dressing room has not blinked over the risks that they took along the way, with Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum insisting they are on the right track.

Now Root has joined the chorus, insisting the only thing he would change if he had his time again is not bringing a similarly aggressive style during his own reign.

Root led his country in a record 64 Tests over five and a half years, walking away last April after overseeing a draining run of one win in 17.

As the team’s most accomplished batter he has let loose since returning to the ranks, scoring five centuries and averaging 67.31, but wishes he had taken Stokes’ bold approach when he was at the helm.

Asked if England would like to go back to day one at Edgbaston and reverse their declaration after just 78 overs, the fastest in Ashes history, he said: “That’s not what we’re about as a team. If I could go back in time, I’d go back and start my captaincy tenure the way Ben has and try to play in a similar manner to how he does it.

“It’s far more exciting, far more interesting and I think we are getting more out of our team and our individuals. We’re playing better cricket to watch and producing better results overall.

“A lot of times that would peter out to a draw. The wicket we had was very slow, it could have made for a long, mundane game, but the way we went about it we gave ourselves a great opportunity to win the Test match.

“If are going to grow as a team we can’t just look at a couple of moments going against us and say ‘we need to do things differently’. If anything we need to double down on how we do it, completely back ourselves and make sure we get those one per centers right at Lord’s.

“We feel like we’ve ran the game for five days and we might be on the wrong end of it but there’s still so much more to come in that dressing room. It’s a great spot to be in.”

Apart from sheer weight of runs, one of Root’s most significant contributions to the new era of English cricket is his frequent use of an unconventional reverse ramp shot against pace bowlers.

Root uses the stroke to take advantage of gaps in the field, turning accurate deliveries into boundary options, but also to make a statement of intent against quicks who are unused to being treated with such apparent disdain.

Even so, his decision to deploy it off the first ball of a finely poised fourth day against Australia captain Pat Cummins was a remarkable one. Root made no contact on that occasion, but was undeterred enough to use it twice more in the next over – hitting Scott Boland for six and four.

“I don’t feel like Superman, I’m absolutely bricking it when the bowler’s running in to bowl most of the time,” he said of his mindset.

“Coming out first ball of the day, it was more about being 28 for two and it was a chance to lay a marker down. To say to everyone in the ground – the dressing room, the crowd – we are not here to be bowled at, we’re here to push the game on.

“I think that’s how we all look at the game now, from any position we feel like we can get somewhere to go on and win.”

Root also enjoyed an unexpectedly central role with the ball as the first Test reached its conclusion, sending down 15 overs in the fourth innings as Moeen Ali struggled with a burst blister on his right index finger.

McCullum has said Moeen will play in Wednesday’s second Test if fit, but if concerns linger over the injury, England could go two ways. They could send for a replacement, such as Surrey’s Will Jacks, but they could also continue to rely on Root’s part-time off-spin and use the chance to bring in Mark Wood’s 90mph pace.

“I think Mo will be absolutely fine, I’m sure he will be, but it’s always great when you get a chance to contribute to any Test match,” said Root.

“You want to get involved and step up in those big moments. I’m always ready for a chance to take Test wickets.”

England’s Joe Root has leapfrogged Ashes rivals Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head to top the Test batting rankings.

The Yorkshireman’s performance in scoring a combined 164 runs – 118 not out and 46 – at Edgbaston in the first Test defeat to Australia propelled him five places up the International Cricket Council’s rankings.

Labuschagne dropped two places to third after making just 13, including a first-ball duck in the first innings, with Head falling to fourth despite a first-innings half-century.

Edgbaston man-of-the-match Usman Khawaja, the fourth Australian in the top 10 along with Steve Smith, moved up two places to seventh after scores of 141 and 65.

England’s next-best performer is Harry Brook, who rose five spots to 13th on the back of scores of 32 and 46.

James Anderson retained his place as the second best bowler in the world, despite a disappointing display in Birmingham, while Ollie Robinson moved into the top five with five wickets in the first Test.

Meanwhile, following a thrilling final day at Edgbaston, England and Australia have both been fined 40 per cent of their match fees and deducted two World Test Championship points for slow over-rates.

Despite serving up a breathless finale in which the tourists snatched a two-wicket victory on a see-saw fifth evening, both teams have been punished for failing to get through their overs quickly enough.

Captains Ben Stokes and Pat Cummins pleaded guilty to the offence and accepted the proposed sanctions, so there was no need for formal hearings, the ICC said.

As the match was the first in the new WTC cycle, that means England’s reward for the attacking tactics that moved the game towards its dramatic conclusion despite long rain delays is to sit on minus two in the table.

Australia picked up 12 points for their Cummins-inspired win, so drop back to 10.

All 22 players have also lost 40 per cent of their match fees, which equates to around £6,000 for the English contingent.

Stuart Broad lit the fuse on England’s victory push with two huge wickets as a compelling Ashes opener built towards a thrilling conclusion at Edgbaston.

Broad got England’s ‘fortress’ rocking in the evening session as he had Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith – numbers one and two in the Test batting rankings – caught behind during an electric spell.

With adrenaline coursing through his veins Broad would have loved nothing more than a crack at the man who occupies third place on that list, but Australia opted to shield Travis Head from the late pressure and sent out Scott Boland as nightwatchman.

Australia ended a gripping fourth day on 107 for three chasing 281, with all results on the table heading into what is set up to be a classic finale.

The tourists had made an assured start to the chase, with Usman Khawaja and David Warner putting on 61 for the first wicket before Ollie Robinson got one to clip the latter’s outside edge to get his side up and running.

England had earlier been bowled out for 273, an erratic but entertaining innings punctuated with dashing strokeplay but haunted by a feeling of impermanence.

There was not a single half-century on the card, with Joe Root and Harry Brook both reaching 46 and Ben Stokes contributing 43.

Had any of the three lasted the course, the game might have slipped away from Australia entirely, but Root was stumped for the first time in his 131 Test career as he charged Nathan Lyon and Brook tried too hard to generate a boundary that was not on offer.

Stokes, whose attacking principles run through the DNA of his side, played a notably responsible knock but was stopped in his tracks by his excellent opposite number Pat Cummins.

England’s commitment to high-risk, high-impact cricket hurried the first Ashes Test towards a gripping conclusion, setting Australia 281 to win on day four at Edgbaston.

Resuming on 28 for two, England put their foot to the floor as they moved to 273 all out at the end of an elongated afternoon session.

The hosts would have loved one of their middle-order batters to kick on to a substantial score, but saw Joe Root (46), Harry Brook (46) and Ben Stokes (43) dismissed one by one just as they were dragging control away from the Australians.

There were important runs too from from the tail, Ollie Robinson making 27 as the last two wickets put on 44.

Despite delivering emphatically on their promise to entertain, even those who roared their approval from the stands may reflect that England over-reached against Nathan Lyon at times.

Root was stumped for the first time in 131 Tests when he ran down the pitch and swiped fresh air and Brook cut short a highly promising stay when he dragged to midwicket trying to force a boundary.

Former captain Root set the tone for a colourful day with an audacious start, attempting his trademark reverse ramp off Pat Cummins’ first delivery of the morning.

Root has become a master of that audacious stroke but, even by his own standards, attempting it so early – with a crucial Test match balanced on a knife-edge – showed remarkable chutzpah.

Undeterred, he went back to the well twice in the next over, launching Scott Boland over the wicketkeeper’s head for six and then flicking four more beyond the slip cordon. It was a faintly surreal, but utterly exhilarating opening salvo.

England continued to go after Boland, who shipped 31 off his first three overs as his reputation for economy took its second battering in four days.

By contrast, Cummins was working up a head of steam at the Pavilion End and he produced a picture-perfect inswinging yorker to see off Ollie Pope (16), thudding the base of off stump as the batter groped for contact. He finished with four for 63 – an outstanding effort by any measure.

That left England 84 ahead and three down, but the arrival of Brook ensured the tempo did not slow. He took just three balls to register his first four, punching Cameron Green down the ground and quickly dialling up the aggression.

He helped himself to 13 off Lyon’s first over – not the kind of reception the spinner would have anticipated on a wearing pitch – and later launched him over extra-cover with a clean swing of the bat.

Lyon got his rewards for sticking at it, Root overly giddy as he ran down the pitch and left Alex Carey a simple stumping.

Stokes unexpectedly cooled things down, playing safely as he realised the importance of slowing Australia’s roll, but Brook lost his patience as Lyon dried up the scoring options.

Within sight of a first Ashes fifty he swiped at the spinner and was well caught by the diving Marnus Labuschagne at midwicket.

Jonny Bairstow successfully overturned an lbw decision just before lunch, with England heading in at 155 for five. They made another 118 in the middle session, but were bowled out in the extra half-hour as they wrestled for the upper hand.

Bairstow took the lead past 200 with successive fours – an impeccable square drive and a thick edge to deep third – but he was undone lbw by the wily Lyon for 20.

That left Stokes in charge of building the lead and he batted with deliberate focus, putting away the slogs that have too often followed him around as captain.

He hit five boundaries in almost two hours of observance, before his opposite number Lyon trapped him leg-before with the lead at 217.

England will have been happy with their finishing position from there, Moeen Ali making a scratchy 19 and Robinson showing real composure as he chipped away vital runs.

He was close to being out for five, but Labuschagne brushed the ball across the ground after claiming the catch at short leg. He holed to give Lyon a fourth, with Stuart Broad and James Anderson adding 17 more before the latter edged Cummins behind.

Joe Root’s first Ashes century in eight years provided calm amid the storm as England and Australia traded blows in a high-octane opening day at the first LV= Insurance Test.

Root’s masterful 118 not out, the 30th ton of his career but a first against the old enemy since 2015, provided the centrepiece on a day of fiercely competitive cricket and outstanding entertainment that bodes well for the summer ahead.

Ben Stokes pulled a rabbit from the hat when he waved Root in at 393 for eight – the earliest declaration in Ashes history after just 78 overs of the match – but his hopes of sniping a late wicket did not materialise.

The renewal of Stuart Broad’s personal duel with David Warner provided some late theatre, but Australia will resume on 14 without loss after surviving the challenge.

The tone was set by the first ball of the series, when Zak Crawley crashed visiting captain Pat Cummins through the covers for four in a bold statement of intent. England went on to score their runs at a fraction more than five-an-over, once unthinkable but fully in keeping with this side’s spirit of adventure.

Crawley’s flowing 61 set the agenda, and repaid a portion of the faith he has been shown during patchy form, while Jonny Bairstow’s first Test innings in 10 months found him in rude health.

He hustled and bustled his way to 78 at exactly a run-a-ball, bossing a stand of 121 with Root and proving the badly broken leg that interrupted his career-best hot streak last summer had not dulled his effectiveness.

But England needed someone to go on, take it deeper and hold the line as Australia repeatedly made timely breakthroughs on an placid pitch. That man was Root.

He may have gone three Ashes series and 16 Tests since he last made a century against the Baggy Greens, but the 32-year-old remains his country’s classiest performer.

Here, he measured his innings to perfection. Arriving at the crease in the 18th over at 92 for two, Root quickly settled into a familiar rhythm as he worked the ball meticulously around the arc between deep third and point.

In the afternoon he eased to his half-century for the fifth time in his last five innings, allowing Harry Brook and Bairstow to press the accelerator at the other end, and in the evening session he finished the job.

Twice he pulled out his audacious reverse ramp, dispatching Scott Boland and then Cummins over his shoulder for six, and he was building to a crescendo when Stokes declared.

England won the toss and, with it, the chance to bat first under sunny skies.

The first ball of the Ashes has acquired a mythology of its own over the years, with the most memorable moments falling in Australia’s favour.

Michael Slater slashing Phil DeFreitas for four in 1994, Steve Harmison serving up a massive wide in 2006 and Mitchell Starc smashing Rory Burns’ leg stump 18 months ago are all etched into the story of this series, and Crawley made a game attempt at joining their ranks.

Offered a modicum of width first up by Cummins, he found the sweet spot of the bat and pounded the ball emphatically to the ropes at extra-cover.

The crowd roared its approval, joined by an England balcony who had seen their fighting talk come to life in a matter of seconds.

Josh Hazlewood, recalled in place of Starc, was welcomed in similar style as Crawley pinged his first delivery to the square-leg boundary, but Ben Duckett made an early exit. One ball after chopping past his stumps he was caught behind in familiar fashion.

Crawley and Ollie Pope refused to be rattled, putting on a bright 70 as they ran hard, played positively and used their feet to confront the bowlers head on.

By contrast, Australia quickly reverted to defensive field placings, piling up the boundary riders in a clear attempt to throttle England’s aggressive game.

Crawley was buoyant. When Nathan Lyon was handed an early look in the 10th over, he pulled out a reverse sweep and clean drive down the ground, before leaving his mark on Boland with some flowing strokes.

Yet the first session ended with Australia back in the hunt at 124 for three, Lyon trapping Pope lbw for 31 and Boland getting one to lift as Crawley gloved the final ball of the session behind.

By then Root had settled quietly into his work and he was happy to sit back and watch Brook’s 32-run cameo at the start of the afternoon.

Brook showed glimmers of his ball-striking prowess, pounding Lyon over extra-cover and clobbering Boland on the charge, before his fun ended in a stroke of misfortune.

Padding away the spinner, he saw the ball loop into the air, hit his leg and dislodge a bail.

Stokes made just one before nicking Hazlewood, but Bairstow kept the tempo up. He and Root produced their latest made-in-Yorkshire stand, Root providing the finesse, while Bairstow scampered greedily for every single and pounded out 12 boundaries.

Both he and Moeen Ali were stumped running down the pitch at Lyon, the latter having heaved Cummins for six over midwicket, but only Stokes’ surprise declaration could bring an end to Root’s magnificent innings.

Joe Root admitted he will relish the chance to deliver for England and focus purely on playing in his first Ashes series in eight years without the captaincy.

England made it 11 wins in 13 Tests under the leadership of skipper Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum with a 10-wicket victory over Ireland at Lord’s on Saturday.

All eyes now turn to the Ashes opener on June 16 and Root, who was man of the series on home soil in 2015 with 460 runs, is excited after leading England during the last three red-ball battles with Australia.

“It’s going to be nice, yeah,” the Yorkshireman said.

“It’s going to be nice to just go and play the game and try and assist where I can for Ben and for the other guys around, play a slightly different senior role in the team.

“They’re always great fun to be a part of, these big games, big series. They’re the ones you want to stand up and play well and it’s just an opportunity to do that again.

“I think my batting has been fine for a while, but mentally to be able to just turn up and play and have fun, just chat batting with some of the younger guys.

“Obviously (I’ll) try and help out where I can but Ben knows what he’s doing.

“He’s got enough behind him now to give himself the encouragement and confidence to make those big calls on his own, as you’d expect him to anyway. He’s doing a far better job than I did.”

The majority of England’s team were also part of the 4-0 defeat Down Under in 2021, but opener Ben Duckett and Harry Brook are set to experience their first taste of Ashes cricket at Edgbaston.

Asked what advice he could give them, Root was unable to play down the life-changing aspect of beating Australia with this upcoming series generating a similar level of excitement to the memorable 2005 instalment.

Root said: “Most importantly is not to over-egg it and that’s probably one of the things that you have to keep in mind.

“There will be a lot more attention, there will be a lot more noise, there will be a lot more hype around it. There will be people that might not normally be interested in cricket very interested in cricket for five or six weeks.

“It’s the same game. As soon as the bowler lets go of it, it’s you against the ball. Just go and play as you’ve been playing for the last 12 months and when it goes well, enjoy everything that comes with it.

“If you’re successful in Ashes cricket it can set you up for life really, not just the rest of your career but beyond it. It’s an opportunity to go and make history and hopefully have an incredible two months of it as a group.”

Root’s own preparation for this monumental series had been far from ideal before his 56 against Ireland.

The Yorkshire batter decided against playing County Championship cricket during April and May after he secured a first Indian Premier League contract, but Rajasthan Royals only selected him on three occasions and he batted just once in the tournament.

Nevertheless, the 32-year-old was philosophical about his experience in India.


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“Championship cricket is the bedrock of our domestic game and I am not trying to bag it with what I say here,” Root explained.

“I am not saying it’s not important or a good standard. For where I am in my career, am I going to learn more about myself in that environment?

“Am I really going to be prepared better for an Ashes series facing lower pace bowling on some nibbly wickets when hopefully we will play on good pitches against high pace and a high quality spinner? I don’t think so.

“By learning and experiencing something new, talking and discussing the game with greats like Kumar Sangakkara and Brian Lara, other players and ex-players about just batting in general, Test cricket, I thought that not just for the Ashes, but the rest of the year for me it would set me up best to perform well and get the best out of myself. I feel ready.”

Joe Root is plotting to make "unbelievable memories" with England this year ahead of The Ashes and their Cricket World Cup title defence.

The former Test captain has eschewed red-ball cricket with Yorkshire in order to play a debut season in the white-ball Indian Premier League.

In a Rajasthan Royals side packed with talent such as fellow England man Jos Buttler and India's Ravichandran Ashwin, though, he is yet to play a game.

Root is unconcerned, however, seeing his time in the IPL as key to broadening his all-round game before two major contests later this year.

"When I was England captain, I didn't feel it was fair on the rest of the team for me to go and play, given what the [Test captaincy] role needed and what it deserved," he told Sky Sports News.

"Now I feel like there are more opportunities to do that without the responsibility, and I'm just trying to look to keep developing as a player. I love county cricket and I think it is so important for the English game.

"[But] looking ahead to the rest of the year, the chance to play white ball cricket out in India, ahead of a World Cup for England in these conditions as well, I think will benefit me hugely.

"You look at 2019 and how incredible that was with a World Cup and [The] Ashes. There are so many opportunities for players to do wonderful things and create unbelievable memories.

"They are the things that you play for, to be a part of some special memories and cool experiences and they certainly all lay ahead for us."

England will face Australia for the first time since Root stepped down from the captaincy, with successor Ben Stokes overseeing a dramatic turnaround in fortunes.

They will then return to India for the latest edition of the ICC Cricket World Cup, which they famously won in a dramatic Super Over finale against New Zealand in 2019.

Joe Root was in the mood to gush about the talents of his successor as England captain, Ben Stokes, after his own "solid contribution" helped put the tourists in a strong position in the second Test in New Zealand.

England started day two on 315-3, adding another quickfire 120 before declaring on 435-8, with Root unbeaten on 153.

The bowlers were able to reduce New Zealand to 138-7 before rain stopped play, with James Anderson and Jack Leach taking three wickets each.

There had been some surprise when Stokes called the declaration immediately after Root passed 150, but it allowed England time to claim the two early wickets of Devon Conway and Kane Williamson before lunch.

"I think it was a brilliant call from Ben," Root said. "It felt like that 40 minutes before the break, the sun was out and with 40 minutes of sun, a heavy roller and 40 minutes of sun at lunch, it might have changed the wicket.

"It didn't work out like that, it gave a better opportunity to make the most of the conditions. The way we're playing at the minute with the confidence we've got, seeing the ball move around with the number one Test bowler [Anderson], the two leading wicket-takers we've ever had [Anderson and Stuart Broad], it just seemed a very brave and attacking option. Full credit to Ben, as you'd expect, for taking it on.

"He's just walked so naturally into the role, he's managing the game really well and everyone is responding to it. I just think was a brilliant call from him, it would have been very easy for us to keep going and we might not be sat here with them seven down tonight. Credit to him, he's doing a great job."

Root's partnership of 302 with Harry Brook (186) was the third-best for the fourth wicket in England Test history, and fell just eight runs shy of the best partnership overseas, behind Paul Collingwood and Kevin Pietersen's 310 in Adelaide in 2006.

"I felt like I owed that to the group," Root said of his 153. "It's been a while since I made a solid contribution. To be part of such a big partnership was really pleasing and I think the best thing was I had the best seat in the house to watch Harry go about his business.

"It's a joy to watch him play at the minute. He certainly made my life a lot easier out there, the way he manages to wrestle momentum in our favour and constantly put bowlers under pressure.

"I felt we had a really good understanding, we negated a few modes of dismissal by getting down the crease. We fed off each quite nicely and made it difficult for them to bowl one length for us."

England have put themselves in a winning position after day two of their second Test in New Zealand, with three quickfire James Anderson wickets torpedoing the hosts' chances.

The visitors resumed on Saturday at 315-3 with Harry Brook and Joe Root at the crease, with Brook only adding two more runs to reach 186 off 176 deliveries before getting caught-and-bowled by Matt Henry.

Root, who picked things up at 101 not-out, made his way to 153 not-out from 224 deliveries. After just 28 of his first 101 runs came via boundaries (seven fours), he put the foot down on day two, with 32 of his 52 runs resulting from three fours and three sixes.

New Zealand quick Neil Wagner caused Ben Stokes to mistime a pull shot and lob an easy one to mid-off on 27, and spinner Michael Bracewell removed Ben Foakes (duck) and Stuart Broad (14).

Henry came back in and collected his fourth wicket, dismissing Ollie Robinson for 18, and with England at 435-8 they decided to declare and have a bowl in swinging conditions.

The decision paid early dividends, with Anderson starting like a house on fire.

Anderson got the wicket of opener Devon Conway (duck) in the first over, with a review finding the faintest of edges through to Foakes behind the stumps. 

England's all-time leading wicket taker then caught the edge of Black Caps talisman Kane Williamson (four), and Foakes had three catches by the ninth over after Anderson removed Will Young (two).

Anderson's onslaught left New Zealand at 21-3 – the same mark England were before Brook and Root's heroic partnership – but there was little resistance waiting in the wings, as Jack Leach took three wickets and Broad nabbed one to make it 138-7.

For the second day in a row stumps were called hours before the scheduled finish time due to heavy rain, and the weather may be the hosts' only chance of salvaging a result.

Brook second to Bradman

Despite only mustering two more runs after resuming play, Brook's 186 raised his average to 89.88 from nine innings. 

Among all players with at least five Test innings, Brook's average is second to only Sir Donald Bradman (99.94).

Anderson's bread and butter

All three of Anderson's early wickets were caught behind by the wicketkeeper – a familiar sight for the legendary quick.

No player has ever registered more dismissals via that method, with Anderson's 191 now giving him 39 more than second-placed Glenn McGrath.

Among the top-five – McGrath, Broad, Courtney Walsh and Dale Steyn – Anderson's percentage of wickets caught behind (27.88 per cent) is the highest.

Harry Brook finished Friday with a Test average over 100 after racing to 184 not-out on day one of England's second Test in New Zealand.

Brook, 24, came to the crease with England in a dire position, sitting at 21-3 after Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett and Ollie Pope all found themselves dismissed in a combined 39 deliveries.

New Zealand quick Matt Henry took the first wicket, finding the outside edge of Crawley in the fourth over, and after that one went through to Tom Blundell with the gloves on, Pope edged to third-slip off Henry's very next over.

Michael Bracewell snagged another catch at third slip when Tim Southee found Ben Duckett's edge, leaving the visitors in a precarious position, but they were just getting started.

With Joe Root down the other end, Brook showed no fear, maintaining a strike rate near 100 his entire innings as he blasted his way to 100 off 107 deliveries.

It was his fourth century from nine Test innings, and while he still has his sights set on his first double-century, he continued to push the tempo, reaching stumps at 184 not-out off 169 deliveries.

Root played the steady hand, climbing his way to 101 not-out off 182 deliveries, with just 28 of his runs coming from boundaries (seven fours). In contrast, 126 of Brook's runs have come through boundaries (24 fours, five sixes).

The sides were only able to get through 65 overs before the rain arrived, forcing stumps to be called early with England at 315-3.

Harry making history

Brook has burst onto the scene as arguably the most exciting young Test batsman in recent years, and his strike rate of 99.38 is the highest in Test history for players with at least 200 runs in their first five Tests.

He currently has 807 total runs – at an average of 100.87 – giving him a chance to overtake Sunil Gavaskar (912) and Sir Donald Bradman (862) as the only batsmen in Test history with more runs in their first six matches.

Root moves one step closer to Cook's record

Root's century was his 29th while wearing the Test whites for his country, and he took one more step towards reaching Alastair Cook's record of 33. Root is now six centuries clear of third-placed Kevin Pietersen.

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