AFTER seeing £4.4million of Swalec Stadium debt written off, Cardiff council taxpayers will tell you that the Ashes can be an expensive business.

So will the punters paying £2.80 a coffee, £4 a pint and £7.50 a burger in addition to a pricy ticket.

But only time will tell just how costly Brad Haddin’s drop of Joe Root will be in sporting terms this summer.

One thing is for certain, those who have shelled out for Saturday and Sunday seats will have hailed the Australian wicket-keeper for his error when the centurion was yet to get off the mark.

How delightful that a frugal Yorkshireman cashed in on his chance to hopefully help ensure the weekend spectators get their money’s worth.

It was an Ashes opener that saw white roses among the daffodils with Root making a glorious 134 and clubmate Gary Ballance making a well-crafted, typically unfussy 61 to dig his side out of the manure.

England ended on 343 for seven – not much difference from the 336 for seven of 2009.

The 2015 event has a lot to live up to after the drama of six years ago when Monty Panesar and James Anderson clung on for 69 balls to provide a moment of Ashes gold.

That ended in a tense draw and, despite England recovering to perhaps edge day one, the chances are that it will also be scoreless heading to Lord’s next week.

It is a slow wicket with a bit of variable bounce as England understandably attempt to negate the pace of Mitchell Johnson – only a madman would produce a WACA-like deck for the left-armer.

“Goodness me!” uttered Sky Sports commentator David Lloyd after one kept low shortly after drizzle had led to a slightly delayed start.

“On early evidence the roller broke down,” responded former West Indies great Michael Holding.

The nature of the wicket meant that it was an initially steady day played in front of the aficionado rather than the beery event-goer before Ben Stokes added some late oomph.

England would have settled for that after a tough start in gloomy conditions that had one fearing of a long, grim summer.

Yet as they headed for the pavilion in the lovely evening sun they could reflect on just about having the edge of a compelling day.


It was a good start to five days when the eyes of the cricketing world are once again on Cardiff.

In truth the Ashes should not really be here but pin the blame for that on the ECB, who tempted so many counties to chase international cricket at great cost.

There wasn’t the novelty factor of 2009 and while there was a bit of pre-match pomp the focus was largely on the sport rather than dissecting the venue’s credentials.

Nor was it an ‘overly Welsh’ occasion with there being as many flag of the Isle of Man – one – pinned up in the stands as that of the host nation.

Australia have some bad memories of Cardiff, Bangladesh and all that, yet they were all smiles after three early wickets.

A leading edge saw Ashes debutant Adam Lyth depart early for 6, caught by David Warner at gully off Josh Hazlewood, and captain Alastair Cook (20) went when his attempts to take the attack to off spinner Nathan Lyon resulted in an edge through to Haddin.

Ian Bell made a single, leg before to Mitchell Starc, and a tough day was in the offing when Root was close to being leg before first ball and then dropped by diving Haddin second ball.

But the Yorkshiremen steadied the ship to make it to lunch without further loss and they played beautifully to move from 88 for three to 190 at tea, Root playing majestically and Ballance dropping anchor.

The latter fell early in the third session, trapped leg before by Hazlewood for 61, before the former brought up his century.

Root and Stokes then piled on the runs against an Australian attack lacking in ideas and desperate for the new ball only for the hero to depart with the score on 280, caught off Starc by Shane Watson at first slip.

The left-armer then cleaned up Stokes for an excellent 52 with a swinging delivery before Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali put on 50 for the seventh wicket.

However, the Aussies had a late pick-me-up when Buttler (27) tamely chipped Hazlewood to Mitchell Johnson at mid-on.