Zak Crawley shows England’s intent from first ball of Ashes series

Zak Crawley shows England’s intent from first ball of Ashes series

Zak Crawley punched the first ball of the much-awaited Ashes through the covers for four but England’s progress was stymied within the first half hour by Ben Duckett’s dismissal at Edgbaston.

The opening exchange of this series has frequently gone Australia’s way, from Steve Harmison’s alarming wide in 2006 to Rory Burns being bowled round his legs by Mitchell Starc 18 months ago.

Australia’s decision to omit Starc – with Josh Hazlewood returning to the line-up – led to captain Pat Cummins taking the new ball and he served up a full and wide delivery that was clattered by Crawley.

An expectant crowd roared their approval as the ball raced away to the boundary, with Crawley and Duckett settling quickly to vindicate Ben Stokes’ decision to bat first under gloriously sunny skies.

The first hint of trouble came when Duckett (12) inside edged Hazlewood for his second four but his luck immediately ran out. Hazlewood continued to dangle the carrot, sticking to a fuller and wider line which this time drew a thin outside edge that was gratefully accepted by wicketkeeper Alex Carey.

Crawley, despite speculation about his place in the side after a lean run of form, and Ollie Pope continued to keep England ticking at more than four an over, prompting Cummins to turn to Nathan Lyon’s off-spin in the 10th over.

After Lyon’s opening foray, England were on 47 for one after Crawley (22 not out) clattered the off-spinner authoritatively just wide of mid-off for his third four.