Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - England heal Ashes 2013-14 scars with clinical win in Ashes 2015 opener courtesy of Joe Root
July 11, 2015 - Ashes 2013-14 had been a disaster for England as they were whitewashed 0-5. The team never even came close to winning on their tour Down Under.
In fact, the Alastair Cook-led side even failed to compete as none of their batsmen featured in the list of top 5 run-getters in the 2013-14 Ashes, with no one touching an average of 35. Kevin Pietersen who was their top-scorer managed only 294 runs from 5 matches at an average of 29.40.
Australia were playing some dominating cricket and when they arrived at Cardiff for the opening Test of the 2015 Ashes, they were firm favourites.
The England team was carrying scars of the last Ashes and with Mitchell Johnson, the wrecker-in-chief of the last series with as many as 37 wickets at an average of 13.97, it was not going to be easy for the hosts. Johnson's short pitch bowling threat had been too much for the England batsmen to combat the last time. A lot depended on how the England batters faced the Aussie quicks in the first Test.
Making good use of the home advantage, England curated a slow pitch at the Sophia Gardens thus blunting the the edge of the Australian pace attack.
England batted first and posted 430 runs on the board. Joe Root was their most successful batsman with 134 runs off 166 deliveries. Root got his runs at a decent clip and had a crucial 153-run partnership with Gary Ballance. All-rounders Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali also did the job with a half-century each.
Mitchell Starc did pick up 5 wickets but conceded 114 runs at an economy of 4.73.
Australia were bowled out for 308 despite Chris Rogers falling just five short of a century. Steven Smith, Michael Clarke, Adam Voges and Shane Watson would have been particularly disappointed with their dismissals as all the four batsmen got starts and got past 30 but failed to make it count.
All the England bowlers contributed to give the team a 100+ plus lead in the first innings. Ian Bell and Joe Root scored 60s while Ben Stokes chipped in with 42 to take England to 289 in the second innings and set Australia a target of 412, which was highly improbable.
However, the pitch was flat and with a chance of the last day getting washed out, Australia did have a good possibility of saving the Test.
When Chris Rogers was dismissed on 10 and missed out on a chance to score his eighth consecutive half-century in Test Cricket, England saw an opening. David Warner and Steve Smith did have a 78-run partnership but once Warner was dismissed by Moeen Ali at the stroke of lunch, Australia suffered a collapse.
From 97/1, the team was reduced to 151/7 within 25 overs. Stuart Broad and Mark Wood played a major role in Australia's downfall through the middle overs.
Mitchell Johnson then had some fun, especially against the spinners, racing to 77 off 94 deliveries with 9 fours and 2 sixes. When he added 72 runs with Mitchell Starc for the the eighth wicket, Australia came close to surviving the day and then hoping for the weather to come to their rescue on the last day.
Skipper Alastair Cook made an inspired move of bringing Joe Root, the hero of the match, into the attack. Root dismissed both Johnson and Starc to ensure that the match was done and dusted on day 4.
For his 194 runs and two wickets in the match, Root was awarded the Man of the Match as England won by 169 runs. Against the odds, England went on to register a 3-2 Ashes victory.
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