Australia under the pump in Ashes opener

Moeen Ali tormented Australia with bat and ball on day two of the Ashes opener in Cardiff.

Ali added 51 runs to his overnight score, eventually falling for 77 as England posted a first-innings total of 430 on Thursday morning.

At stumps, the tourists were 5-264 in response, Ali having dismissed their two classiest batsmen in Steve Smith and Michael Clarke.

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England’s lead is now 166 runs.

Shane Watson will resume on 29 alongside nightwatchman Nathan Lyon, with the second new ball available after 10 overs on Friday.

Moeen Ali celebrates taking the wicket of Steve Smith for 33. Photo: Getty

Moeen Ali celebrates taking the wicket of Steve Smith for 33. Photo: Getty

The game is still alive, but there were concerning signs for Clarke’s men.

It started in the field.

Ali mixed streaky with sublime, but the runs came quickly and the tail wagged furiously.

England resumed at 7-343 and within 10 overs had roared past 400 – a feat they never achieved in any innings of the 2013 and 2013-14 Ashes.

Darren Lehmann would have been furious with the way his side let England off the hook after having them 3-43 in the 15th over.

Pundits could point to a slow-and-low pitch.

But it’s not as if the docile deck deteriorated when it was Australia’s turn to bat.

Smith, Clarke, David Warner and Adam Voges all made starts and showed promise, but none of them were able to kick on like Chris Rogers.

Rogers batted superbly and fell five runs short of what would have been his fourth Test hundred against England.

The 37-year-old has scored more first-class runs in England than any other batsman since 2006.

Rogers played like it at Sophia Gardens, until an outstanding spell from Stuart Broad unsettled him after tea.

There was clearly something wrong when the veteran opener top-edged the first and only six of his Test career in response to a Broad bouncer.

Michael Clarke was another Ali victim, caught and bowled for 38. Photo: Getty

Michael Clarke was another Ali victim, caught and bowled for 38. Photo: Getty

Rogers did enough to ensure Ali couldn’t reel in a catch at fine leg, but it was a close thing.

Five overs later, Rogers became Mark Wood’s first Ashes scalp when a miscued cut shot provided Jos Buttler a simple catch.

It was Ali’s offspin that did the bulk of the damage.

Smith helped himself to 13 runs from Ali’s fourth over, but the allrounder then started to curb the run-rate.

Ali fired a quicker ball down the leg side to dismiss Smith, ranked No.1 on the ICC’s batting charts after an incredible run of five centuries in six Tests.

He was hoping for a stumping.

Instead, Smith awkwardly chased after it with his bat and spooned the ball straight to Alastair Cook at short mid-on.

Clarke also fell when he danced down the wicket to Ali, smashing the ball back to the bowler.

The visitors found it incredibly hard to score during the final hour of play, when Voges chipped a ball to Jimmy Anderson in the covers.

Anderson created the initial breakthrough after a 52-run opening stand between Warner and Rogers, when he had the former caught for 17.


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