Andrew Flintoff’s 16-year-old son, Rocky, has scored his maiden century for Lancashire’s second XI.

The teenager conjured up memories of his father’s flamboyant hitting as he peeled off 116 in 165 balls against Warwickshire’s second string, hitting 11 fours and three sixes at Edgbaston.

On the same ground where ‘Freddie’ Flintoff struck 167 – his best Test score – against the West Indies in 2004, Rocky made light of his rookie status with a series of punishing blows into the leg side.

Batting for long periods with Saqib Mahmood and sharing a stand of 39 with his 18-year-old brother Corey, the youngster put in an eye-catching display against an attack featuring highly-rated seamer Che Simmons and former England Lions spinner Jake Lintott.

Rocky Flintoff only made his second XI debut earlier this month, a matter of days after turning 16, and hit a half-century against Durham last week.

While his sons take their first steps in the game, Flintoff senior is stepping up his return to the sport and is set to travel to the T20 World Cup in June as part of England’s backroom team.

Flintoff will also act as head coach of Northern Superchargers this summer, furthering his reintegration into the cricketing fold following the major car crash he suffered while filming Top Gear in late 2022.

Alex Davies hit a maiden double century as Warwickshire piled on the runs on the opening day of their Vitality County Championship encounter with Durham at Edgbaston.

Fellow opener Rob Yates also cracked 191 in an extraordinary first-wicket partnership of 343 with outstanding skipper Davies, whose unbeaten 226 came from 274 balls with 25 fours and three sixes.

To compound the misery for promoted Durham, who had won the toss, Will Rhodes reached 60 not out to take the hosts past maximum batting points and to 490 for one before the close.

Champions Surrey took command against Somerset at The Oval despite a century from Tom Lammonby.

Lammonby (100) and Matt Renshaw (87) got Somerset off to a fine start by putting on 178 for the second wicket but the loss of seven wickets for 20 runs undermined their efforts.

Captain Lewis Gregory (50) lifted the score to 285 but Cameron Steel (four for 50) wrapped up the innings before Surrey openers Rory Burns and Dom Sibley chiselled 42 off the lead without loss.

Joe Clarke continued his excellent start to the season with another century as Nottinghamshire closed on 305 for six against Worcestershire at Trent Bridge.

Following up his ton against Essex last week, Clarke hit 105 and shared in a third-wicket stand of 133 with Ben Slater (70) as the hosts recovered from the loss of two early wickets.

Dean Elgar (120) scored his first Essex century and Matt Critchley (103no) also reached three figures against Kent at Chelmsford.

Jordan Cox added 67 and Michael Pepper 49 as the hosts amassed 421 for six at stumps.

Hampshire were 305 for six at the end of day one against Lancashire at the Utilita Bowl.

Liam Dawson was unbeaten on 61 after solid efforts from Tom Prest (85), James Vince (56) and Nick Gubbins (50).

Australia’s Nathan Lyon (two for 97) bowled 32 overs as Lancashire kept themselves in the game.

In Division Two, spinner Alex Thomson took a career-best seven for 65 as Derbyshire bowled out Glamorgan for 287 in Cardiff. Kiran Carlson was the hosts’ top-scorer with 74.

Derbyshire were 46 for one in response.

Emilio Gay’s unbeaten 165 helped Northamptonshire to 311 for three against Middlesex at Wantage Road. Captain Luke Procter added 73 in a second-wicket partnership of 189.

Pakistan captain Shan Masood’s 140 was the mainstay of Yorkshire’s 326 against Gloucestershire at Bristol. Jonathan Tattersall (58) and Matt Milnes (51) also contributed but Zaman Akhter’s five for 89 helped the hosts hit back before they ended the day on 28 for two.

Liam Trevaskis was 82 not out as Leicestershire closed on 326 for eight against Sussex at Grace Road. Rishi Patel (87) and Peter Handscomb (51) also hit half-centuries.

Northamptonshire were all-but relegated from LV= Insurance County Championship Division One following their two-wicket defeat to Warwickshire at Edgbaston.

Warwickshire survived a top-order collapse courtesy of a Ben Sanderson hat-trick to chase down 176 in 60 overs after Northamptonshire declared to try and force victory in the must-win match.

The hosts fell to 24 for five following the hat-trick, but Michael Burgess made an unbeaten 78 and added 70 with Ed Barnard for the sixth wicket before an unbroken ninth-wicket stand of 52 with Olly Hannon-Dalby saw the hosts over the line.

Middlesex secured a draw with Lancashire which boosted their chances of securing their top-flight status next season.

Middlesex were 160 for three with Jack Davies unbeaten on 65, his maiden first-class fifty, and Stevie Eskinazi on 26 not out when the players eventually shook hands at 4.50pm – with Lancashire only batting once in the game after they were dismissed for 413 in the morning.

Kent held on to secure a draw with Nottinghamshire in a thrilling finale at Canterbury.

Joe Clarke struck an unbeaten 141 and Brett Hutton compiled a career-best 84 as the hosts, following on, made 348 to set Kent a victory target of 168.

Asitha Fernando took three quick wickets to help reduce Kent to 59 for five before former Nottinghamshire all-rounder Joey Evison steadied the ship with an unbeaten 13 off 66 balls to keep Steven Mullaney’s side at bay.

Jaydev Unadkat took six wickets to help Sussex boost their promotion chances with just their second win of the season in Division Two with a 15-run victory over Leicestershire.

Indian left-armer Undakat took figures of six for 94 from 32.4 overs and cleaned up the last four wickets in just 31 balls as they bowled out the resilient Foxes for a superb 483 – with Colin Ackermann making 136.

Sussex will visit winless Derbyshire next week before finishing the season at home to Gloucestershire but second-placed Worcestershire still hold an 18-point advantage over them.

Sam Northeast and Eddie Byrom hit centuries to help Glamorgan draw with Yorkshire in Cardiff.

Northeast finished proceedings unbeaten on 166, while Byrom made 101 before he was bowled by Dom Bess and captain Kiran Carlson chipped in with a half-century which saw him pass 1,000 runs in a season for the first time in his career.

Glamorgan picked up their 11th draw in 13 matches this season while Yorkshire remain bottom of the table despite starting the day with a slight chance of claiming an innings victory.

First-class debutant Ed Middleton and Graeme van Buuren produced an unbeaten stand of 77 as Gloucestershire scrambled a draw with fellow strugglers Derbyshire in Bristol.

The pair put on a stubborn seventh-wicket stand to end Derbyshire’s hopes of a first victory of the campaign.

Gloucestershire had slipped to 131 for six in their second innings, holding a narrow lead of 105 with a possible 43 overs left in the day but Middleton’s 39 off 91 balls and Van Buuren’s 48 from 100 saw them to 208 for six at the close as both teams remain winless.

A total of 22 wickets fell on the opening day of the LV= Insurance County Championship Division One match between Warwickshire and Middlesex at Edgbaston.

Warwickshire were put into bat but were all out for just 60 runs – their lowest championship total since 1982 when they could only muster 43 against Sussex.

Middlesex were in scintillating form with the ball as Ethan Bamber took five for 20 and captain Toby Roland-Jones chipped in with three for 27, as the Middlesex attack made the most of the bowling conditions to remove Warwickshire with just 22.5 overs bowled.

The visitors had a lead of 139 after posting 199 in response. Ryan Higgins top-scored with 53 as bowlers Ed Barnard and Mir Hamza both took three for 49.

There was still time left for Warwickshire to start their second innings and they lost two wickets before stumps, reaching 53 for two at the end of a hectic day’s play.

Nottinghamshire opener Ben Slater notched his first ton since April last year to give his side a healthy advantage over Kent.

Slater put exactly 100 runs on the board before he nicked Jaskaran Singh straight into the hands of Harry Finch and while Haseeb Hameed, Will Young, Joe Clarke and Steven Mullaney all made starts, they failed to go on.

Kent took regular wickets to stop the hosts from going on to make a big partnership, but in the end it was wicketkeeper Tom Moores who frustrated the Kent attack, finishing unbeaten on 72 as Nottinghamshire closed on 275 for five.

Northamptonshire’s Emilio Gay posted three figures for the first time in nearly a year as their batters dominated against Lancashire at Emirates Old Trafford.

Gay posted 144, one run short of his career-best total, and hit 14 boundaries in his 342-minute innings which helped his side post an impressive 302 for five at the close of play.

Aiming to haul themselves off the bottom of the table, the Northamptonshire opener put on 207 runs with captain Luke Procter for the fourth-wicket stand and earn just their second batting bonus point of the season.

Jamie Porter took five wickets as Essex landed the first blow over Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl.

Pace bowler Porter conceded just 37 runs as the hosts could only manage 120 on a bowler-friendly pitch, with Simon Harmer chipping in with three for 26.

Batting also proved tricky for Essex, who replied by reaching 145 for six at the close, but more importantly take a 25-run lead into day two.

Surrey’s Tom Lawes destroyed the Somerset top order as they were bowled out for just 170 at Taunton.

The hosts were all out after just 56.3 overs, with 20-year-old seam bowler Lawes claiming wickets of three of the top four on his way to figures of four for 41, Tom Kohler-Cadmore top-scoring with 59 for Somerset.

Surrey replied with 138 for four, Tom Latham leading the way with 67 not out while his fellow countryman Matt Henry began his final appearance of a prolific spell in red and white-ball cricket for Somerset by taking three for 26.

Division Two leaders Durham endured a frustrating day at Scarborough after Yorkshire openers Adam Lyth and Finlay Bean shared a century stand as the hosts threw the first punch on a curtailed day’s play.

Lyth and Bean shared 113 inside 31 overs and went on to a score of 142 for two from 38 overs before Bean fell lbw to England Test pacer Matthew Potts.

Lyth led the way with 75 not out off 118 balls, but hail at lunch prevented an afternoon restart and when play looked to get under way at 2.30pm, rain fell again and it was not until 5.30pm when play resumed for nine overs before bad light cut short play for good.

Colin Ingram’s century put Glamorgan in the driving seat of their clash with Derbyshire.

Ingram notched his first century of the season and stood firm with a record second-wicket stand of 193 from 338 balls with Zain-ul-Hassan, who himself made 69 before being caught and bowled by George Scrimshaw.

After Ingram was bowled for 136 from 200 balls, Kiran Carlson and Billy Root hit half-centuries and shared a run-a-ball fifth-wicket stand of 107 as the visitors closed on 408 for six.

England’s record wicket-taker James Anderson has described the Edgbaston pitch as “kryptonite” for his style of bowling and is praying for livelier surfaces as the Ashes continues.

Anderson, who turns 41 next month, struggled to make an impact during Australia’s tense two-wicket victory with just one wicket in 38 overs.

With minimal swing or seam and gentle carry, Anderson’s primary weapons were dulled and he did not even bowl in the decisive final session.

That has put his place in some doubt for Wednesday’s second Test at Lord’s, though his record at the home of cricket – where he has 117 wickets at 24.58 – tells a different story.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Anderson admitted: “That pitch was like kryptonite for me. There was not much swing, no reverse swing, no seam movement, no bounce and no pace.

“I have tried over the years to hone my skills so I can bowl in any conditions but everything I tried made no difference. I felt like I was fighting an uphill battle.

“There was a bit of rustiness but I gave it everything I could. Having played for a long time, I realise you cannot take wickets every game. Sometimes it is not your week. It felt like that for me.

“It is a long series and hopefully I can contribute at some point, but if all the pitches are like that, I am done in the Ashes series.

“I know I was not on top of my game. It was not my best performance. I know I have more to offer and contribute to the team. I want to make up for it at Lord’s and all I can do is turn up on Sunday and prepare to play.”

Anderson was twice stood down from new-ball duty at Edgbaston, a rarity in his two-decade Test career, but he revealed he was part of that decision.

“I had a chat with Ben Stokes about how I felt. We agreed it was the type of pitch the taller bowlers were getting more out of. I was completely on board with that,” he said.

England are continuing to assess Moeen Ali’s injured finger, which prevented the spinner playing a full part in the fourth innings of the match. Head coach Brendon McCullum has said the all-rounder will play if the medical staff can patch up the badly blistered index finger, but back-up options remain under consideration.

Surrey’s Will Jacks did his cause no harm on Thursday night when he smashed five sixes in an over during a knock of 96 against Middlesex in the Vitality Blast. His spin bowling is less developed, but explosive batting is very much part of the current England philosophy.

Mark Wood, who is capable of hitting paces in excess of 96mph, is also an increasingly attractive option. Jofra Archer’s speed caused big problems for Australia during the Lord’s Test of 2019 and Wood is the only available option who can recreate that kind of hostility.

Australia’s two-wicket victory over England in the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston ranks alongside some of the greatest matches played between cricket’s oldest rivals.

Here, the PA news agency highlights some key stats from an incredible game.

Culture clash

A big part of the allure surrounding this match and the rest of the series relates to the styles of cricket that both teams play, which could hardly be more different.

Australia play tough, attritional cricket designed to grind down their opposition, while England have adopted an ultra-aggressive style under Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum, aimed at generating results – whether that be a win or a loss.

This clash of ideologies was on full display in Birmingham.

Australia and England scored a near-identical number of runs (668 compared with 666) and lost the same number of wickets (18), but Pat Cummins’ side faced 1,252 deliveries compared with England’s 866.

Australia were happy to bide their time, scoring at a rate of 53.35 runs per 100 balls on average, while Stokes’ men looked to force a result by striking at 76.91.

The difference in approach was embodied by the teams’ key batters – England’s reverse-ramping Joe Root faced just 207 balls for his 164 runs across both innings, while Australia’s stoic Usman Khawaja scored his 206 runs from 518 deliveries and became the 13th player in history to bat on all five days of a Test match.

Ebb and flow

Australia’s win was especially thrilling because of the way the match seemed to swing back and forth throughout.

Just seven runs separated the sides after the first innings, in which England surprisingly declared on 393 for eight and Australia lost their last four wickets for 14 runs to be bowled out for 386.

The drama went up a notch in the second innings, however, as both teams repeatedly threatened to get ahead before losing a wicket.

Eighteen of the 19 second-innings’ partnerships reached double figures but only four passed 50, with the highest being Australia’s opening stand of 61 between Khawaja and David Warner.

Similarly, 19 of the 21 batters scored 10 or more runs, with only Zak Crawley (seven) and Steve Smith (six) falling in single digits.


Australia captain Cummins and spin bowler Nathan Lyon were key figures in the thrilling Edgbaston victory, having also played a central role in a heartbreaking defeat at Headingley in 2019.

Cummins conceded the winning runs four years ago as Stokes led England to an unlikely win, while Lyon missed a crucial run-out chance in the penultimate over.

This time, the pair inspired their side to victory with an unbroken partnership of 55 from a perilous position of 227 for eight when Alex Carey – the last recognised batter – was dismissed.

Cummins and Lyon had already performed heroics with the ball to limit Australia’s target to 281.

They took a combined eight wickets for 143 runs from 42.2 overs in England’s second innings, compared with two for 121 from 24 overs by Australia’s remaining bowlers – Josh Hazlewood, Scott Boland and Cameron Green.

Australia’s Usman Khawaja revealed some ill-timed verbals from the Edgbaston crowd set him up for an emotional century on day two of the first Ashes Test, marking the moment by throwing his bat into the air.

The tourists were struggling after Stuart Broad dismissed David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne with successive deliveries, but Khawaja rebuilt the innings with a superb 126 not out.

The opener dug in for almost six and a half hours, building important partnerships with Travis Head and Cameron Green, before a late offensive push with Alex Carey saw Australia end the day 82 behind on 311 for five.

Khawaja marked his century with an impassioned celebration that saw him throw his bat high over his head. The 36-year-old has been enjoying a renaissance in recent years, notching hundreds in Australia, India and Pakistan along the way.

Yet runs in England had always eluded him – with a top score of 54 and an average of 19.60 prior to this century – and the fact was not lost on the home fans at the ground.

“I genuinely do not read the media but when I’m getting sprayed (taunted) by the crowd as I’m walking out there today and as I’m going to nets being told that I can’t score runs in England…I guess it was just a bit more emotional than normal,” he said.

“I think it (the celebration) was a combination of having three Ashes tours in England and being dropped in two of them. Not that I have a point to prove, but it’s nice to go out there and score runs for Australia and just to show everyone that the last 10 years hasn’t been a fluke.”

Khawaja, who attended the end of day press conference with his daughter Aisha in tow, spoke of how the realisation that this will almost certainly be his last trip to England had freed him up.

“These young ones keep me young and make me realise that there’s a lot to life and a lot of good stuff, inshallah, after I stop playing cricket,” he said.

“So for me, it’s just about enjoying it. My wife has been awesome to me, she’s been my rock throughout my career.

“That perspective makes it a lot easier for me to go out there and just play and try and enjoy it as much as I can, whether I get a duck or a hundred.

“Every Test match is a bonus for me because we thought my career was over. In my head, it’s the last (Ashes) tour I’ll be on, unless I pull a Jimmy Anderson and come back when I’m 41.”

Stuart Broad blamed the occasion of the Ashes and bowling on a “soulless” pitch for a costly no-ball as England were punished for a series of errors by Australia in the first Test.

Broad sent Edgbaston into raptures by snaring old rival David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne, the top-ranked Test batter, in the space of two deliveries as Australia lurched to 67 for three on day two.

Usman Khawaja was the calm head the tourists needed, anchoring Australia’s innings with his first ton in England before he was bowled on 112 by Broad, only for replays to show the seamer had overstepped.

It was one of 13 no-balls from England – Broad sent down half a dozen – while Jonny Bairstow fluffed a stumping chance off Cameron Green before missing a regulation catch off Alex Carey, who went to stumps unbeaten on 52 out of Australia’s 311 for five, with Khawaja set to resume on 126 not out on Sunday.

Australia are 82 runs behind England but while Broad admitted irritation at his mistake, he suggested straining for something extra on a surface offering little for the bowlers could have been a factor.

“It’s really frustrating,” he told the BBC’s Test Match Special. “I’m not really a big no-ball bowler. I have probably bowled more today than in a Test match day before. There’s no excuse.

“But it is the first innings of an Ashes Test match, you have some big emotions there so you are trying to gain energy from the surface and maybe pushing a little bit too hard. It is something to be aware of.

“It is a very slow, low surface that zaps the energy out of the ball. It is pretty characterless so far, pretty soulless, but you can only judge a surface towards the end of the match and see how it develops.”

Ben Stokes ordered “flat, fast wickets” ahead of the LV= Insurance series but Broad believes tracks such as the one they have encountered in Birmingham are anathema to how England want to play cricket.

“It is certainly one of the slowest pitches I can remember bowling on in England,” Broad added.

“It has been hard work for the seamers and ultimately we are looking to entertain, have fun and get the crowd jumping and it is quite a difficult pitch to get play and misses on and nicks to slip on. Hopefully it is not a trend for the whole series.”

Had Bairstow held on after part-timer Joe Root had drawn the outside edge of Carey or Broad not overstepped when bowling Khawaja through the gate, England would have been into Australia’s bowlers.

But Broad believes England are still in a “really positive place” while assistant coach Paul Collingwood still feels the hosts are in the driving seat, pointing out how they took 20 wickets in all three Tests against Pakistan at the back end of last year on similarly lifeless pitches.

“We were probably half an inch away from taking all their wickets,” Collingwood said. “We weren’t far away but we’re still in a magnificent position in this game. That wicket isn’t going to get any better as it goes on.

“We’ve come up against some slow pitches in places like Pakistan and found a way to take 20 wickets, I think this bowling unit taking 20 wickets on all surfaces has been a strength of this team.”

Having boldly declared on 393 for eight on Friday, Stokes threw another curve ball on Saturday when he brought on the medium pace of Harry Brook after Broad and James Anderson’s initial foray.

The Yorkshireman sent down just one over and then two more later in the day before the second new ball was taken, conceding just five runs and even delivering a maiden to Khawaja.

“It was Ben’s plan at the time,” Collingwood added. “It just shows how maverick the team can be at certain times. Harry said if he gets a newer ball he reckons he can take four or five wickets, but I’m not too sure he’s getting a newer ball!”

Stuart Broad took two huge wickets in as many balls and Ben Stokes defied injury concerns to land a crucial blow as England seized control on the second morning of the first Ashes Test.

Having sprung a surprise declaration at 393 for eight on the first evening, England were on the hunt for wickets at Edgbaston and enjoyed a stirring first session as Australia’s much-vaunted top order caved to 78 for three.

Broad, picked here ahead of Mark Wood for his experience and big-game mentality, cracked the game open in the first hour as he renewed his dominance over old rival David Warner and then snapped up the world’s number one batter Marnus Labuschagne with the very next ball.

With the lunch break hoving into view, Stokes banished concerns over his longstanding left knee issues and backed himself to break up a burgeoning stand between opener Usman Khawaja (40no) and Steve Smith.

Smith has a formidable Ashes legacy and scored twin centuries at this ground in the corresponding fixture four years ago, but this time succumbed to the force of Stokes’ will as he was dispatched for 16.

Showing no signs of discomfort, Stokes skidded through the final ball of his second over, nipped it back in off the pitch and beat Smith’s defensive prod to strike him just above the knee-roll.

Stokes flung both arms into the air, bellowing an appeal at Marais Erasmus, who pondered for a few seconds before driving a sold out Birmingham crowd wild by slowly raising his finger.

Smith was quick to signal for DRS, presumably hoping the delivery was set to clear the stumps, but replays merely confirmed his fate as Stokes led rampant celebrations in the middle.

Broad had earlier raised the roof with a brilliant double strike. After half-an-hour of searching, he delivered the breakthrough as Warner attempted to muscle his nemesis through an inviting gap at cover.

But the left-hander got himself in a terrible position, dragging down his stumps via a thick inside edge to fall to Broad for the 15th time in 27 Tests.

Labuschagne has spent a long spell on top of the ICC rankings but banked a golden duck as Broad sent him packing instantly.

The 36-year-old had spoken earlier in the season about developing an outswinger designed with Labuschagne in mind and his plan worked a treat as the ball shaped away, took the outside edge and was brilliantly caught as Jonny Bairstow tumbled one-handed in front of first slip.

Stokes had earlier given a single over to the very occasional seam of Harry Brook, continuing to rip up established protocols, while Moeen Ali threatened with a dangerous spell late in the session.

Josh Hazlewood admitted Australia were still trying to come to terms with a “new Ashes” after England came out firing to score at five an over on day one of the first LV= Insurance Test.

The tourists employed defensive fields for long periods, posting a host of boundary riders but could not find a way to stem the scoring as their rivals raced to 393 for eight before a surprise declaration late in the evening session.

While Australia would probably have taken the total after losing the toss and bowling in serene batting conditions, the speed at which England made their runs may have bruised some egos along the way.

The typically miserly Scott Boland went at more than a run-a-ball, Pat Cummins was blasted for two sixes and Nathan Lyon bought his four wickets at a steep price of 149.

Hazlewood fared best of all with two for 61 from 15 overs but admitted England’s attempts to force the game represented uncharted territory.

“We’ve got to start to look at things differently, not so much at strike-rates and economies and things like that. It’s just about wicket and the score,” he said.

“We’ve taken eight for just under 400 and you’d take that on this wicket, whether it takes 80 overs or 160. It’s the same score. If we can keep it as simple as that it will go a long way to wrap our heads around the new Ashes. We’ll keep learning but it’s a good start.”

Hazlewood at one stage hinted Australia were content with England’s scoring rate, suggesting they feared something even more dramatic had they kept the field up.

“There was a lot more ones out there probably but if we shut down the boundaries, then the score doesn’t really go through the roof at seven or eight (an over),” he said. “If we can keep it at five an over and keep taking wickets throughout the day, that somewhat keeps things in check.

“We had different fields at different stages and some worked, some probably didn’t. It’s a good fun challenge to have, although I don’t think we got dragged into it as much as we could have if things went really south. I thought we held our guns pretty well.”

Hazlewood was happy with his side’s standing in the game, with David Warner and Usman Khawaja negating England captain Ben Stokes’ declaration gambit by safely reaching 14 without loss at the close.

“They’re at 390 and we’re none-for, so it’s pretty even I’d say,” he said.

“If you’re none down, you’re pretty happy obviously. That’s a tick.”

England have moved the needle in unprecedented fashion in a whirlwind past year but how a buccaneering approach would fare against a relentless Australia was the big talking point amid all the Ashes hype.

The debate will linger, for while England landed telling blows and left Australia reeling at times, the world Test champions kept dragging the hosts back on an a fluctuating opening day of the LV= Insurance series.

What is undeniable is how compelling this England team are under head coach Brendon McCullum and captain Ben Stokes, who promised supporters entertainment in these five eagerly-anticipated Tests.

They delivered that in abundance at Edgbaston.

The sold-out crowd lapped up Zak Crawley drilling Pat Cummins’ first ball of the series for four, marvelled at Joe Root’s enduring class as he compiled a majestic 118 not out while the vocal Hollies Stand delighted in serenading Nathan Lyon about being an inferior Moeen Ali – or words to that effect.

Just two maidens were bowled in England’s 393 for eight declared, where none of Australia’s bowlers offered any kind of containment as all of them leaked upwards of four an over.

Scott Boland experienced his first tough day at the office. Having arrived in the midlands with a bowling average in the mid-teens after nine Tests, he leaked an eye-watering 86 runs in 14 overs here.

This was not ‘Bazball’ at its most extreme, though, with England and Root in particular dashing between the wickets after Australia curiously spread the field – there was a deep point in the first over while boundary riders piled up in an ill-fated attempt to stifle the home side’s run-rate.

The tourists’ charitable fielding – they also dropped a couple of chances and failed to appeal when Crawley nicked off on 40 – led a “shocked” Eoin Morgan to remark on Sky Sports commentary: “Australia have been the first to blink.”

However, just as England looked to properly cut loose, they were frequently pegged back. Crawley may have temporarily silenced his doubters with 61 but his dismissal on the stroke of lunch meant Australia had three wickets in the first session – having been asked to bowl first on a surface with few demons.

A position of 175 for three became 176 for five following Harry Brook’s bizarre dismissal and Ben Stokes’ misguided waft but Root and Jonny Bairstow changed the tone with a 121-run stand – their 11th century partnership – in just 140 balls.

Bairstow picked up from where he left off last summer in his first international innings since his horrific leg break with a dashing run-a-ball 78 before he then Moeen were stumped attempting to take down Lyon.

Australia’s chief spinner will point out he took four wickets but he was also alarmingly expensive, clattered for sixes by Root, who also audaciously reverse ramped Boland and Cummins in a show of bravado.

Just as England seemed poised to emulate the class of 2005 in racking up in excess of 400 in a day at this venue, Stokes threw a ‘Bazball’ curve ball for a chance to have a crack at Australia’s openers.

The declaration came as a surprise but the decision was rooted in logic given David Warner’s struggles against Stuart Broad. There was no reward as Australia closed on 14 for none but the four overs were a marvellous spectacle as a cacophony of noise greeted Broad opening the bowling to his adversary.

And perhaps this is the point. None of the 25,000 fans who turned up on Friday can claim to have been short-changed in an era where the supremacy of Test cricket is being challenged by the proliferation of domestic T20 franchise leagues.

England may yet rue not landing a knockout punch to Australia on a flat pitch, where Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith could really make hay against the one-paced fast bowling line-up of Broad, James Anderson, Ollie Robinson and Stokes.

But winning is not the only source of enjoyment and if Test cricket is to thrive in the years ahead then bottling what transpired over 82 gripping overs in Birmingham might be just the tonic.

Jonny Bairstow applauded an adventurous declaration from Ben Stokes after the England captain rolled the dice on the first day of the LV= Insurance Ashes.

Stokes threw caution to wind on day one of the first Test, waving his side in at 393 for eight in the hope of snapping up a late wicket at Edgbaston.

Joe Root was batting beautifully on 118 when the signal came from the balcony and would surely have kept the scoreboard ticking had he been left to his own devices, but Stokes swapped the promise of extra runs for four late overs at the Australia openers.

That meant a quick skirmish between long-time sparring partners Stuart Broad and David Warner, but England were unable to generate a breakthrough that would have capped a thrilling day of action.

It was the fifth time Stokes has declared in the first innings in his 14th Test as full-time captain and Bairstow praised the intent of forcing the change where others might have let the game drift to a natural close.

“I’m sure there’s many decisions Ben has made that have taken commentators and other people by surprise, but it was no surprise to us,” said the wicketkeeper.

“We didn’t know anything about it, it was a scramble to get the tape on, the pads on and all the rest. But when it’s something that’s not expected, it can be the best form of attack.

“Having played the game for as long as we have, we’re aware a 20-minute slot for an opening pair is something that’s not very nice. It can be a bit niggly.

“It’s a bit of a shot to nothing – there might be an unbelievable ball in there, or a loose shot in there.

“We’ll come back tomorrow with a ball that’s four overs old, a fresh bowling attack and team that is really looking forward to the challenge.”

Bairstow, who contributed a punchy run-a-ball 78 in first Test innings back after a 10-month lay-off, was part of a vital 121-run stand with his long-time friend and foil, Root.

The Yorkshire duo have shared some memorable partnerships across the years and Bairstow beamed as he reflected on Root’s outstanding century.

It was his 30th in Test cricket but a first against Australia since 2015, ending a sequence of 12 unconverted Ashes fifties.

“It was brilliant. There are some special traits that he’s got and he does special things,” he said.

“As someone who has known him for a really long time, been through thick and thin, ups and downs and lots of different things together, it was an absolute pleasure to be out there with him.

“He’s a fantastic player and talent. He loves batting, loves being out there, loves the occasion, loves representing his country. It takes a lot of skill, a lot of endeavour and patience.”

Bairstow also savoured his own contribution. A freak golfing accident last August left him with three separate fractures in his left leg, a dislocated ankle and ligament damage and he revealed recently he feared for his career.

After 12 boundaries and a seemingly-endless supply of hard-run ones and twos, it was like he had never been away.

“I’m delighted to be back out there on the big stage, during the big dance. It’s something you want to be part of and it didn’t disappoint,” he said.

“There were a few nerves kicking about as you can probably imagine, but when I found my flow and got into the battle, it was really enjoyable to be out there again.”

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.

Steve Smith is happy to be kicking off another Ashes series at Edgbaston, four years on from a performance he ranks as the most enjoyable of his 97 Tests in a Baggy Green.

The notoriously raucous Birmingham crowd subjected Smith and team-mate David Warner to a volley of boos and jeers in 2019, as the pair made their return to Test cricket following year-long bans for their roles in the sandpaper scandal.

Some fans in the notoriously merciless Eric Hollies Stand even donned cardboard face masks of Smith crying at a press conference during the height of the ball-tampering drama, but the Australian was all smiles by the end of the match.

Not only did Australia win that first Test by 251 runs, Smith made centuries in both innings as he reeled off knocks of 144 and 142 to re-assert himself as a master of his craft after 12 months in exile.

“I think that Test match is probably my favourite out of my career so far, given the circumstances and the importance of a first Ashes Test, particularly away from home,” he said ahead of Friday’s series opener.

“I’ve had a couple of good ones. It would be nice to repeat it again but I’m just going to go out there and go through my routines and do what I need to do, and hopefully I can score some runs and help the team out.

“Coming back here I’ve got some wonderful memories and some things I can draw from.

“However I know it’s a new series, it’s a new year, a new Ashes, so I can draw on those experiences but not read too much into it.

“You go to different grounds around the world that you’ve done well at and you can take some positives out of those and sort of move forward with them, but ultimately it’s another game.”

Smith hit 774 runs in just seven innings in 2019, averaging a remarkable 110.57, and his ability to bat long and deep has the potential to cause England plenty of problems again.

He restated his fondness for the conditions with a 31st Test hundred against India during last week’s World Test Championship win over India at the Kia Oval, but while he will undoubtedly be a prize scalp he is not alone.

On Tuesday the latest set of ICC player rankings were published, giving Australia all three of the world’s top three batters. Smith settled in at two, behind Marnus Labuschagne and narrowly ahead of the in-form Travis Head.

“I think it’s cool to see us all at the top of the tree,” Smith said.

“I think those two in particular, the improvements they’ve made over the last four or five years have been exceptional. We all do it completely differently, obviously Trav comes out and plays very aggressively and takes the game on. It’s sort of a ‘see ball, hit ball’ mentality.

“Marnus and I probably think our way through situations a little bit differently, but it is cool to see the hard work of those guys pay off and for them to get themselves up there in the rankings.”

West Indies pacer Kemar Roach continued his good form with Surrey in the County Championship Division One by taking eight wickets in total to help them secure a dominant nine-wicket win over Warwickshire inside three days at Edgbaston from April 27-29.

Firstly, Roach took 3-33 off 15 overs to help bowl Warwickshire out for a paltry 150 inside 56 overs. Australian pacer Daniel Worrall led the way with 4-38 from 17 overs. Youngster Dan Mousley made 55 for Warwickshire.

Surrey then built a 131-run first innings lead after being bowled out for 281 in 91.1 overs. Jamie Smith led the way with 88 while England Test keeper Ben Foakes (39) and Worrall (35) provided some handy contributions against pacers Chris Rushworth, Hasan Ali and Oliver Hannon-Dalby who all took three wickets, each.

Roach then, once again, showed his class with the ball on his way to 5-34 from 13 overs as Warwickshire were bowled out cheaply for the second time in the match, this time for 141 in just 40 overs, leaving Surrey needing just 11 to win. Worrall took 3-55 from 15 overs in support of Roach.

Surrey needed just two overs to reach 16-1, securing a nine-wicket win.

The 34-year-old Bajan now has 14 wickets in three games, good enough for eighth on the leading wicket-takers list.

With his sixth wicket in the game, Roach also brought up 500 wickets in First-Class cricket.


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