Joe Root ended his Ashes century-drought as England made 393-8 before skipper Ben Stokes’s bold declaration on the opening day of the first Test against Australia at Edgbaston on Friday.
England were in danger of squandering the advantage of winning the toss on a good pitch as they fell to 176-5 after losing two wickets in quick succession.
But former England captain Root was 118 not out — the 32-year-old’s first Ashes hundred in eight years and 17 Tests — when Stokes called a halt to give his side 20 minutes’ bowling against Australia before the close.
In the corresponding Ashes campaign four years ago, Australia opener David Warner averaged a meagre 9.50 in 10 innings and was dismissed seven times by veteran England bowler Stuart Broad.
But despite Broad taking the new ball on Friday, Warner survived to be eight not out in a total of 14-0 at stumps.
Earlier, Root received excellent support from Yorkshire team-mate Jonny Bairstow, who made a run-a-ball 78 during a sixth-wicket partnership of 121.
Australia’s Nathan Lyon was taunted by sections of a capacity 25,000 crowd.
But he still took 4-149 as he moved to within nine wickets of 500 in Tests after bowling 29 overs — an unusually high number for an off-spinner on the first day of a Test.
England have won 11 of their last 13 Tests, with an aggressive approach, dubbed ‘Bazball’ in reference to coach Brendon McCullum’s nickname, exemplified by the aggressive batting that was a hallmark of Bairstow’s irun-a-ball innings.
“It hasn’t changed over the last 12 months,” Bairstow told Sky Sports of Englad’s approach. “If the ball is there to hit we have tried to hit it. If we miss, it’s part and parcel of the game.”
Bairstow and Root both hit hundreds during a match-clinching stand of 269 against India at Edgbaston last year, with Bairstow compiling centuries in both innings of a seven-wicket win.
As for his latest big partnership with Root, the wicketkeeper added: “We were five down and thinking ‘lose a couple here and we are in trouble’. But I’ve been lucky enough to bat with Rooty for far too long. We’ve shared some special times in the middle.”
England signalled their intentions from Friday’s first ball, with Zak Crawley driving Australia captain Pat Cummins through the covers for four in elegant fashion.
But recently-crowned World Test champions Australia, hit back when Ben Duckett (12) was caught behind off recalled paceman Josh Hazlewood.
And Crawley fell for 61 off what became the last ball of the session, when paceman Scott Boland produced a superb delivery that leapt off a length and brushed the glove, with England 124-3 at lunch.
Harry Brook was out for 32 in bizarre fashion when he shouldered arms to Lyon, with the ball looping off the thigh pad and spinning into the stumps after Brook had lost sight of it.
Stokes then lasted just eight balls, caught behind on the drive off Hazlewood.
Australia thought they had the prized wicket of Root when he was given out lbw to Lyon, but the batsman’s immediate review confirmed he had gloved the ball.
Bairstow thrashed Hazlewood for four.
But having been dropped by a diving Alex Carey on 68, Bairstow was dismissed when he charged at Lyon only to be stumped.
Moeen Ali, in his first Test for nearly two years since retiring from red-ball cricket, had made 18 when, just like Bairstow, he was needlessly stumped off Lyon.
Root, who reverse swept both Boland and Cummins for extraordinary sixes, however, took a single off Lyon to complete a 145-ball hundred that included seven fours.
England are bidding for a first Ashes series win since 2015, with Australia aiming for a first Ashes campaign victory in England in 22 years.