Ashes: All-round Moeen Ali stars in opener

Cardiff, United Kingdom: England's Moeen Ali starred with both bat and ball on the second day of the first Ashes Test against Australia at Sophia Gardens on Thursday.

Ali scored a quickfire 77 in England's first innings 430 -- the first time in three Ashes series they had passed 400.

The off-spinner then captured the key wickets of Steven Smith, the world's number one ranked Test batsman, and Australia captain Michael Clarke -- both out in the 30s.

England’s Moeen Ali celebrates the wicket of Australia captain Michael Clarke
England’s Moeen Ali celebrates the wicket of Australia captain Michael Clarke. PIC/AFP

Ashes-holders Australia, looking for a first series win in Britain in 14 years, were 264 for five at stumps. That left them 166 runs behind and with much depending on their lower order if they were to prevent England establishing a significant first-innings lead.

All-rounder Shane Watson was 29 not out and nightwatchman Nathan Lyon unbeaten on six.

After stumps, Ali told Sky Sports: "We were happy yesterday (Wednesday) and then today (Thursday) with the start we had and then taking five wickets.

"A couple of wickets tomorrow (Friday) with the new ball and we're right in it."

Reflecting on his innings, the 28-year-old Worcestershire all-rounder revealed he had taken his cue from England captain Alastair Cook.

"Cooky said for everyone to play the way they play, I felt I wanted to play my shots and entertain everyone," Ali explained.

There was heartache for Australia opener Chris Rogers who set a new record for most successive Test fifties without a hundred when his seventh straight half-century ended on 95.

The 37-year-old Rogers, who plans to retire after the Ashes, tried to hide his disappointment by saying: "I don't start series well so it's nice to start off OK."

He added: "I'm old -- I can feel it. Days in the field are hard work. Sometimes you think it's a young man's game."

England dismissed Australia dangerman David Warner for 17 when the opener edged James Anderson and Cook held a sharp catch at first slip.

Smith drove Ali for three fours in four balls but the bowler had his revenge. An ungainly Smith, trying to avoid being stumped after Ali spotted his charge, got a leading edge and Cook, belying his reputation for cautious captaincy, held a catch having stationed himself in an unusual short mid-on position.

Rogers was 74 not out at tea, having joined West Indies greats Everton Weekes and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Zimbabwe's Andy Flower and Sri Lanka's Kumar Sangakkara in scoring seven Test fifties in a row. Rogers then came tantalisingly close to a fourth Ashes hundred. He got away with a top-edged hook off Stuart Broad, the ball sailing over Ali's head at long leg for Rogers's first Test six.

Rogers then went to 95 when an inadvertent uppercut off Broad flew over the slips for four. But trying to cut a ball from fast bowler Mark Wood that cramped him, Rogers was caught behind. Non-striker Clarke shook his head but his disappointment was unlikely to have surpassed that of Rogers.

Ali struck again when he caught and bowled Clarke for 38 as he held on to a hard-hit drive. Shortly before stumps,

Australia lost Adam Voges for 31 when the Ashes debutant's loose one-handed drive off all-rounder Ben Stokes was caught by Anderson at short extra-cover. It was just the boost England needed after their pacemen had worked hard on a still-good pitch at a sun-drenched Sophia Gardens.

Earlier Ali, batting at No 8 posted his second-highest Test score, following his 108 not out against Sri Lanka at Headingley last year.

Mitchell Starc led Australia's attack with five for 114 in 24.1 overs. But fellow left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Johnson -- whose 37 wickets were central to Australia's 5-0 Ashes rout of England in 2013/14 -- bowled 25 wicketless overs for 111 runs.

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