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Joe Root (left) and Ben Stokes added an attractive 84 runs to boost England © Getty Images

Joe Root, Gary Ballance, and Ben Stokes played defining knocks to take England from a precarious 43 for 3 in the first session to a commanding 343 for 7 at stumps on Day One of the first Ashes Test against Australia at Cardiff on Wednesday. Root scored a terrific 134 off only 166 deliveries — it was the sixth fastest Ashes ton by an Englishman — while Ballance dug in for a 149-ball 61, and Ben Stokes hit a stroke-filled 52. For Australia, Mitchell Starc was wayward but managed to take wickets nonetheless, though Mitchell Johnson was largely ineffective on a low and slow Cardiff pitch. Live Scorecard: England (ENG) vs Australia (AUS) Ashes 2015 1st Test at Cardiff, Day 1

After Root and Ballance ensured a wicketless second session, Josh Hazlewood struck early to remove the latter. Ballance missed a straight ball and was out LBW for 61 after doing all the hard work and getting in. Stokes, batting at No. 6, came out swinging and hit six fours and two sixes in his stay at the crease. Live Blog: England (ENG) vs Australia (AUS) Ashes 2015 1st Test at Cardiff, Day 1

Stokes played a sensible innings, keeping up England’s momentum without slogging at everything. He kept the runs coming at a fair clip, even after Root suffered a lapse in concentration and edged an innocuous Starc delivery to Shane Watson at slip. He was bowled by an excellent swinging full delivery from Starc, who gave him a bit of a send-off by putting his finger on his lips. READ: Phil Hughes’ final Test series in Ashes 2013

Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali then mixed caution with aggression to ensure that England kept the runs coming. However, with just about five overs left in the day’s play, Buttler played an unintelligent shot, hitting Hazlewood to Johnson at mid on. Hazlewood was the only consistent pacer on the day, and his returns reflected that, with three wickets. Moeen was unbeaten on 26 at stumps. Read: History of Ashes — How the urn changed hands, Part 1 of 4

Earlier, Root and Ballance dug in brilliantly to ensure that Australia took no wickets in the second session as England were firmly in command at 190 for 3 at tea. Root was closing in on yet another century, while Ballance was looking solid in his half-century after a shaky start. The duo, who came together at 43 for 3, added 153 runs for the fourth wicket. Read: History of Ashes — How the urn changed hands, Part 2 of 4

Starc and Mitchell Johnson were both wayward, each going at more than four runs per over. Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon were tidy, and Shane Watson was steady without ever been probing. Brad Haddin would be ruing dropping Root when the latter was still on 0. Read History of Ashes — How the urn changed hands, Part 3 of 4

Root continued from where he left off in the first session, slowing down slightly in terms of strike rate, but maximising his impact on the match. Continuing from 33 not out, he ended up adding 60 runs and hitting a total of 12 boundaries in his unbeaten 93. Ballance meanwhile was not out on 59 after facing 146 balls, hitting eight fours. READ: Ashes 2015 no less than test of character for Clarke and Cook

The Ashes 2015 took its time to begin after a few minutes delay due to rain and a prolonged opening ceremony. England won the all-important toss and Alastair Cook decided to bat first. After England suffered from early wickets to fall to 43 for 3, Root and Ballance added an unbroken 65 to take England to a relatively secure 88 for 3 at lunch. READ: Joe Root scores half-century in The Ashes 2015 1st Test at Cardiff

One over into the match, Cook would have been pleased with his decision; there was no obvious bounce on display though Mitchell Starc managed to get some swing. Adam Lyth became the first man to be dismissed in The Ashes 2015 when he got a leading edge off the last ball of Josh Hazlewood’s first over — and the second over of the series — for a 10-ball 6. Ballance made his way out at No. 3 and looked shaky at the start of his innings. His feet did not move as well as they should have, and he kept playing inside the line. He managed to survive though, and lunch remained unbeaten on 28. READ: Gary Ballance scores half-century in The Ashes 2015 1st Test at Cardiff

Cook was looking good, but suffered a lapse in judgement when he tried to cut a ball from Nathan Lyon that was neither short enough nor far enough outside off. The resultant outside edge was snapped up by Brad Haddin as Cook walked back for 20 off 40 balls. Ian Bell continued his forgettable recent form, lasting only seven balls for 1. He tried to take on Lyon early on, but only top-edged one safely. He was then on the receiving end of a terrific in-swinging yorker from Mitchell Starc and was out LBW. READ: Adam Lyth becomes first wicket of The Ashes 2015

That united Root with Ballance, and the duo put on an unbroken 65 runs at lunch. Root was by far the best batsman on display, scoring a stroke-filled 33 not out off 24 deliveries. However, he was lucky to survive past his second ball, when he edged one from Starc to Haddin, who made a mess of it. The chance has already cost Australia 33 runs. It could prove to be far worse for the visitors on the other side of the break. READ: Alastair Cook, Ian Bell dismissed in quick succession in The Ashes 2015 1st Test at Cardiff

Brief scores:

England 343 for 7 (Gary Ballance 61, Joe Root 134, Ben Stokes 52; Mitchell Starc 3 for 84, Josh Hazlewood 3 for 70) vs Australia.

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(Shiamak Unwalla, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek who loves cricket more than cricketers. His Twitter handle is @ShiamakUnwalla)