Birmingham, June 16 (IANS) Australia made a steady start in their first innings after Joe Root’s excellent century steered England to a surprise declaration on an intriguing opening day of the first Ashes 2023 Test, here on Friday.

Root’s unbeaten 118 not out, his 30th century in Test cricket, was the stand-out contribution on a surface that offered little for the bowlers, and was the 32-year-old’s fourth hundred against Australia but his first since 2015. His ton drew him level with Matthew Hayden and Shivnarine Chanderpaul in the all-time list, just three behind Alastair Cook’s England record of 33.

England opted for a first-evening declaration with the score on 393/8 in their first innings after scoring at a rate of more than five-an-over across the day. And Australia’s openers Usman Khawaja and David Warner will resume on 14/0, 379 behind, having survived a tricky mini-session at the end of Friday’s play.

Earlier, England won the toss and opted to bat first with Zak Crawley setting the tone for an entertaining opening day when he creamed a drive to the boundary off the very first delivery of the series from Pat Cummins.

And Crawley was instrumental in getting England off to a fast start, racking up his 11th score of 50 or more in Test cricket before falling on the cusp of lunch to an excellent Scott Boland delivery for a 73-ball 61.

Crawley’s was one of three wickets to fall in the opening session. Josh Hazlewood — replacing Mitchell Starc in the one change from the XI who won the ICC World Test Championship Final — had Ben Duckett (12) caught behind early on. And Nathan Lyon removed Ollie Pope for 31 with the first of his 4/149 on the day.

England began the afternoon session well, with Root and Harry Brook forming a 50-run partnership before the youngster fell in bizarre fashion. A leg-side delivery from Lyon struck Brook on the thigh pad and looped up and out of the eye-line of the batter, keeper and close fielders, before dropping the other side of Brook and spinning back onto the stumps.

It was a highly unfortunate dismissal for Brook, who was forced to depart after a promising 32. And his captain was soon to follow, with Ben Stokes edging behind off Hazlewood for 1.

Australia’s tails were up with the score at 176/5, but Root and Jonny Bairstow batted beautifully to get England up to a reasonable score on a good batting track.

Bairstow was undone when he charged down the wicket to Lyon, stumped for a run-a-ball 78. And Moeen Ali’s 18-run cameo ended in similar fashion as Alex Carey whipped off the bails.

However, some solid contributions from Broad and Robinson gave Root some assistance to get to his hundred, which the former England captain did in style.

A reverse sweep and a ramp shot, both of which went for six, had the Edgbaston crowd on their feet in an innings that saw Root playing largely within himself, reaching his ton with a flicked single and finishing on 118* from 152 balls.

Root played a few shots as the clock ticked towards 1800 hrs (England time) to set up a declaration that came as a surprise to many around the ground.

And England pushed hard for a breakthrough to no avail in a four-over spell before the close, with Usman Khawaja and David Warner set to return to the middle with the score on 14 without loss on Saturday morning.

Brief scores: England 393/8 decl. (Joe Root 112 not out, Zak Crawley 61; Nathan Lyon 4-149, Josh Hazlewood 2-61) lead Australia 14/0 by 379 runs.