CARDIFF - Joe Root proved a thorn in Australia's side yet again as England defied many pre-series predictions to leave their arch-rivals needing to set a new record to win the first Ashes Test at Sophia Gardens on Friday. The most either side have made to win in the fourth innings of an Ashes Test was Australia's 404 for three at Headingley back in 1948 when Arthur Morris scored 182 and Donald Bradman, widely regarded as cricket's greatest batsman, an unbeaten 173.

If Australia -- who have two days to get the runs albeit on a pitch of increasingly variable bounce -- succeed it will be the third-highest fourth innings total to win any Test and highest in England. West Indies made 418 for seven against Australia in St John's, Antigua in 2002/03 and South Africa scored 414 for four, also against Australia, in Perth in 2008/09.

First-innings century-maker Root and Ian Bell each made valuable scores of 60, with both batsmen facing 89 balls apiece on Friday as England maintained a brisk of run-rate of just above four an over. Off-spinner Nathan Lyon took four for 75. Bell's fifty was a return to form for the experienced batsman after his previous nine Test innings had yielded just 56 runs in total.

England were wobbling at 22 for two when Bell came in after skipper Alastair Cook and Gary Ballance had fallen either side of lunch. The 33-year-old Bell, appearing in his 111th Test, had struggled since making 143 against the West Indies in Antigua in April. But he reeled off four fours in his first 13 balls faced on Friday including a textbook cover-drive boundary off left-arm paceman Mitchell Starc, who appeared to be struggling with an ankle injury.

Australia captain Michael Clarke brought Lyon into the attack but opener Adam Lyth responded by slog-sweeping his sixth ball for six. Lyth, looking to establish himself in the England set-up, was out for 37 when, pushing forward to a Lyon delivery that bounced and turned to take his outside edge, he was brilliantly caught left-handed by a diving Clarke at slip. The left-hander's exit brought in Yorkshire team-mate Root, who made 134 in England's first innings after being dropped on nought by wicket-keeper Brad Haddin. Root's opening three scoring shots all went for four -- a clip off his pads against Mitchell Johnson followed by a back-foot force and steer to third man off Josh Hazlewood.

Bell, who scored three hundreds during England's 3-0 home Ashes series win two years ago, then completed a 75-ball fifty in which 40 runs came in boundaries. He launched Johnson over extra-cover but next ball was bowled by a delivery that seamed off the pitch. Bell's exit meant Johnson finally had a wicket this Test in the left-arm fast bowler's 36th over of the match -- a far cry from when he was taking 37 wickets during Australia's 5-0 home Ashes rout of England in 2013/4.

Root's elegant punched cover-drive for four off Johnson both saw the 24-year-old to a 66-ball fifty and gave England a lead in excess of 300. His innings ended when a Hazlewood delivery kept low and hit Root's back pad before deflecting into the middle stump. Ben Stokes chipped in with 42 before Durham team-mate Mark Wood, belying his position at No 10, went down the pitch to drive Lyon for a huge straight six and next ball reverse-swept him for four to give England a lead of exactly 400.

Ashes debutant Wood finished on a Test-best 32 not out off 18 balls. Earlier, England dismissed Australia for 308 and a first-innings lead of 122. Australia, bidding to win their first Ashes series in Britain in 14 years, resumed Friday on 264 for five but lost their last five wickets for 44 runs in the face of disciplined pace bowling led by Stuart Broad and James Anderson.




(OVERNIGHT: 264-5):

C Rogers c Buttler b Wood 95

D Warner c Cook b Anderson 17

S Smith c Cook b Ali 33

M Clarke c and b Ali 38

A Voges c Anderson b Stokes 31

S Watson lbw b Broad 0

N Lyon lbw b Wood 6

B Haddin c Buttler b Anderson 22

M Johnson c Ballance b Broad 14

M Starc c Root b Anderson 0

J Hazlewood not out 2

EXTRAS: (b6, lb11, w3) 20

TOTAL: (all out, 84.5 overs) 308

FOW: 1-52, 2-129, 3-180, 4-207, 5-258, 6-265, 7-265, 8-304, 9-306, 10-308

BOWLING: Anderson 18.5-6-43-3; Broad 17-4-60-2 (1w); Wood 20-5-66-2; Ali 15-1-71-2; Stokes 14-5-51-1 (2w)


A Lyth c Clarke b Lyon 37

A Cook c Lyon b Starc 12

G Ballance c Haddin b Hazlewood 0

I Bell b Johnson 60

J Root b Hazlewood 60

B Stokes b Starc 42

J Buttler c Haddin b Lyon 7

M Ali c Haddin b Johnson 15

S Broad c Hazlewood b Lyon 4

M Wood not out 32

J Anderson b Lyon 1

EXTRAS: (b7, lb6, w6) 19

TOTAL: (all out, 70.1 overs) 289

FOW: 1-17, 2-22, 3-73, 4-170, 5-207, 6-236, 7-240, 8-245, 9-288, 10-289

BOWLING: Johnson 16-2-69-2 (5w); Hazlewood 13-2-49-2; Starc 16-4-60-2 (1w); Lyon 20.1-4-75-4; Watson 5-0-23-0;

TOSS: England

UMPIRES: K Dharmasena (SRI), Marais Erasmus (RSA)

TV UMPIRE: Chris Gaffaney (NZL)

MATCH REFEREE: Ranjan Madugalle (SRI)

TOSS: England

UMPIRES: Kumar Dharmasena (SRI), Marais Erasmus (RSA)

TV UMPIRE: Chris Gaffaney (NZL)

MATCH REFEREE: Ranjan Madugalle (SRI)