Five things we learned on day one
Starc shooshes Stokes but he didn't have it all his own way
Sam Ferris is a Sydney-based journalist for cricket.com.au. He is the host of The Unplayable Podcast and co-creator of the hit web series In Case You Played And Missed It.
Use it or lose it
A look at the scorecard after four overs read pretty for Mitchell Starc.
Any fast bowler would be happy with two maidens from his first two overs, but with a swinging new Duke ball, Starc’s radar was slightly off on the opening morning of the 2015 Ashes.
Wayward outside off-stump, captain Michael Clarke had no problem in dragging his lethal left-armer after only 12 balls, handing the shiny new rock to his other southpaw slinger Mitchell Johnson.
While dispensing hooping outswing at 145kph would trouble any opening combination, Starc’s deliveries were allowed to safely travel through to Australia’s gloveman by England’s left-handed pair.
Starc cooled his jets on the boundary before returning 10 overs later to trap an out-of-sorts Ian Bell with a curling inswinging yorker. Which leads us to…
Bell’s single-figure struggles
Ian Bell is trapped in front by Mitchell Starc
Since scoring his 22nd Test century in April, Bell’s form has dramatically eroded.
In his past nine visits to the crease, Bell has reached double figures on three occasions with two ducks and four scores of one.
The 33-year-old was England’s standout batsman the last time Australia travelled to the British Isles in 2013, scoring 562 runs and three centuries as England’s player of the series.
It was a breakthrough campaign for the elegant right-hander, who broke his Ashes century drought two years earlier with a 115 in Sydney to seal a 3-1 series win.
But after averaging only 6.22 in his past five and a half Tests, Bell’s place in England’s middle order could well be under pressure. But there is a silver lining…
Joe Root's amazing run of form continued on day one of The Ashes Test series as he racked up yet another century (Australia video only)
Bell’s recent early exits have allowed Joe Root to enter the fray at No.5 to help resurrect England, rebuild the innings and then reign supreme.
Walking out at 3-42, Root burst out of the blocks, scoring at better than a run a ball against a swinging ball and a hostile visiting attack.
With a strike rate hovering around 85 runs per 100 balls faced, Root crashed boundaries through the covers off the front foot and dispatched anything that was dropped short by Australia’s fast bowlers whose inconsistent lengths made building pressure through maiden overs difficult.
Joe Root walks off SSE SWALEC Stadium to a rousing reception // Getty Images
Root played with patience and poise throughout his sparkling century, the fastest in the first innings of an Ashes series.
The 24-year-old worked singles, picked gaps and punished anything slightly loose from Australia’s quick men, highlighted by a textbook front foot drive to the cover point boundary to reach triple figures.
And it could have been so different for the tourists.
A dropped catch from Brad Haddin has proven decisive on day one in Cardiff, with Joe Root going on to notch three figures and rescue England's innings
Veteran wicketkeeper Brad Haddin put down the dynamic right-hander on naught off his second ball, diving too far to his right and grassing the opportunity one-handed, just as the seamer-friendly conditions disappeared…
Sun = no swing
Moments after Starc wrapped Bell on the pads in front of the stumps to capture Australia’s third wicket of the morning session, the overcast conditions that help bend the four-piece ball in the United Kingdom blew away with the strong south-westerly breeze.
The gloomy, dense atmosphere found in these parts of the northern hemisphere is the perfect catalyst for swing bowling, but when the clouds disperse and release the pent up sunshine, the ball refuses to move off its centre axis.
So when Root survived his second-ball scare off a searing Starc, not only was he given an extra life, he got to bat in the best conditions on offer.
David Warner rolls the arm over // Getty Images
While the sun was out, Australia had little reply to the Root resistance, and on a wicket devoid of pace and lateral movement Clarke was forced to dip into his bag of tricks and set funky fields, wring bowling changes and even employ his opening batsman, David Warner, for a few overs.
A brace of breakthroughs from Starc stalled England’s onslaught late in the evening session, with the wicket of Ben Stokes extracting a surprising reaction from the lissom fast bowler…
Starc’s signal of silence
When Starc castled England’s fiery allrounder with a drifting outswinger, the speedster raised his index finger over his mouth as he ran past the departed and towards his jubilant, and relieved, teammates.
Ben Stokes made a half century for England on day one of the Ashes at Cardiff before THIS delivery from Mitchell Starc (Australia only video)
Was Starc ‘shooshing’ Stokes to remind him he doesn’t need to verbally attack a batsman to take his wicket?
Was he asking the red-haired aggressor keep his words to himself while he was occupying the crease?
Or was he physically expressing the philosophy floated by the hosts of a peaceful, friendly series after the country embraced the good-spirited Blacks Caps and their charming leader Brendon McCullum?
Whatever the reason, the fact that Starc signalled silence to England’s most extroverted athlete shows that while the tempers are muted on day one, there’s plenty of cricket to be played.
Click above to learn more about how to stream the Ashes and more cricket