Ben Stokes questioned over historically bold Ashes move

England and Ben Stokes made the earliest declaration in Ashes history in a bid to heap pressure on Australia after day one at Edgbaston.

England captain Ben Stokes.
Ben Stokes made the bold decision to make the earliest declaration in Ashes history, ending England's first innings at 8/393. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

England captain Ben Stokes made a historically bold decision on day one of the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston - the earliest declaration in Ashes history. With the hosts having had the run of play courtesy of Joe Root's 30th Test century and swashbuckling innings from Zak Crawley and Jonny Bairstow to boot, England found themselves in a string position at 8/393 nearing the end of the first day of play.

The 78th over declaration was far and away the earliest made in Ashes history, with Stokes hoping to use the dying overs of day one to snare a cheap wicket. Fortunately for Australia, the opening partnership of Usman Khawaja and David Warner withstood the late onslaught from Stuart Broad and Ollie Robinson to enter day two without loss.

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Stokes' captaincy has often mirrored England's aggressive approach with the bat under head coach Brendon McCullum. No less than five times in the 15 Tests he has captained has Stoked called an end to their first innings, memorably doing so against New Zealand after just 58 overs earlier this year.

However with Joe Root at the crease unbeaten on 118 and still with wickets in hand, the gamble to snare an Aussie wicket late in the day didn't pay off as England could easily have extended their first innings beyond the 400-run mark. While most observers respected the logic of the decision, England great Michael Vaughan questioned whether England had left runs on the table against an Australian line-up that showed a propensity for scoring in last week's World Test Championship final against India.

“I wouldn’t have declared,” Vaughan told the BBC's Test Match Special. “You just don’t know what is going to happen.

"England are trying to send a message no team has ever done before. I, as a captain, would’ve wanted a few more runs, especially with Joe Root out there.

“Even though England didn’t get the wicket, it creates what the Ashes is all about — Warner and Khawaja, two experienced pros, were running like kids.”

While the bold move didn't quite pay off, Bairstow still backed in his skipper's call. England will have a job on their hands on day two, particularly with the likes of Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith and Travis Head waiting in the wings on a fast and flat wicket which looks to be favouring the batters thus far.

“It was a bold call, it was a good call,” Bairstow told Sky Sports at stumps. “There will be conversations around it, but no-one likes going out there with 20 minutes and four overs, when you’ve got Stuart Broad and Ollie Robinson running in at the end of a day that has been a bit of a toil.”

England in control after hectic Ashes day one at Edgbaston

England have made a habit of upping the pace in their Tests since the arrival of McCullum and the first Test was no exception, with opener Zak Crawley hitting Aussie skipper Pat Cummins for a boundary on the first ball of the series. It soon set the tone for Australia, who opted for a defensive field to stop boundaries in relatively short order.

The field placements were described as 'un-Australian' by former England skipper Alastair Cook, while former Aussie counterpart Ricky Ponting was also not a huge fan.

England were scoring at nearly five runs an over in the first hour of play, as Crawley in particular looked to make a swift impact. However Josh Hazlewood said after stumps that it had been important to keep England 'in check', himself the most economical of the Aussie attack, going at barely over four runs per over.

Joe Root raises his bat to the crowd.
Joe Root was unbeaten on 118 when England made the surprise decision to declare their first innings shortly before stumps on day one of the first Ashes Test. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

“If we shut down the boundaries in that score it doesn’t really go through the roof, seven or eight an over,” he said. “So if we can keep it at five an over and keep taking wickets throughout the day, that somewhat keeps them in check.”

Nathan Lyon's four wickets spared some of Australia's blushes, helping them keep in touch after a dominant day with the bat from Root. His century was his first against Australia since 2015, crucial runs and England look to heap as much pressure as possible on Australia's top order.

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