Yas Rana was at Edgbaston to see Joe Root make a remarkable hundred on the first day of the 2023 Ashes.

You can bet on the 2023 Ashes with our Match Centre partners, bet365.

Two hours before the fun started at Edgbaston – after the rehearsals for the opening ceremony had concluded and before the warm-up began in earnest – there was a sole batter getting his eye in.

Alone on the vast Edgbaston playing area with a coach feeding him ball after ball, Joe Root was in the zone. For all the talk of a more relaxed culture that gives the option of as little practice as they wish, here was the former captain with his head down, quietly doing his business before the main event.

England under Ben Stokes have rewritten the rule book of Test cricket. A reverse ramp shot off a seamer over the slips is now seen as a viable percentage option for their most classical player.

But amongst that change, there remains one constant and ultimate truth. Joe Root remains their great accumulator. So much about the England Test team has changed over the last few years. Only four members of the England side that took the field in Brisbane 18 months ago started the series here, while just one player from the top five that lined up at Edgbaston in 2019 made the cut in 2023.

For all the sense of occasion on an extraordinary first day of the series, Root’s was the most important contribution, emerging above the flood of pre-series noise to ensure that all the fun led to something substantial.

This was Root’s fifth 50-plus score from six knocks this year. Since resigning as captain he averages over 65 with a strike rate of more than 75. This was his 30th Test hundred. In New Zealand earlier this year, Root talked about not quite finding his rhythm at times in the last year but those concerns are now well in the past.

Such was the speed with which the opening day progressed, judgements on the balance of power shifted quickly. As always it’s hard to really ascertain the true nature of the pitch before both sides have had a hit, but this wasn’t just a flat Edgbaston surface, it was a relatively slow one, too.

Lateral movement was at a historical low for a Test in England as the sun baked down on a straw-coloured strip. It’s the sort of pitch where you’d expect the likes of Smith and Labuschagne to make hay. In the last decade, Australia have made six 310-plus scores in England. On each occasion they have eventually surpassed 480. Essentially, when it’s flat they really make it count which makes you wonder if England’s request for these sort of pitches was perhaps impulsive rather than calculated. 393-8 is a good day, but there is a sense that they could have really rammed home their authority had proceedings gone ever so slightly differently.

There will be those who will rush to attribute that missed opportunity to their aggressive approach, but really, Stokes was the only top six batter who fell playing an attacking shot. The real test tomorrow will be for their bowlers to produce moments like Boland’s ball to Crawley, or Lyon’s prising out of Pope when England were purring, on what is likely to be as good a day for batting, if not better.

For all the change of the last few years, just like it was in 2015, a Joe Root hundred on the first day of the Ashes has potentially spared England’s blushes. England won that Test and ultimately the series 3-2 – will history repeat itself?