Joe Root
Root went to his seventh Test century to help England rebuild on day one. Getty Images

Joe Root ignited England's Ashes hopes with a brilliant 134 to help stage a fine comeback on day one of the first Test against Australia at the Swalec Stadium.

Root, dropped by Brad Haddin on 0, struck his seventh century in the long form of the game, while Gary Ballance (61) and Ben Stokes (52) both made fifties after England were reduced to 43 for 3.

Adam Lyth (6) Alastair Cook (20) and Ian Bell (1) were all dismissed in the opening morning of the series as Australia took advantage of an uncertain top order, but that would be where the tourists' positives would end.

Ballance and Root put on 153 for the fifth wicket, while a late cameos from Stokes, Jos Buttler (27) and Moeen Ali (26 not out) helped push England to 343 for 7 at the close.

Mitchell Starc took 3 for 84 and Ashes debutant Josh Hazlewood 3 for 70 but a docile Cardiff pitch nullified the threat of Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Lyon, the former of whom was left wicketless from 20 overs.

The day emphatically belonged to England and though there remains a full series to play, the side led by Trevor Bayliss provided plenty of encouragement they can at least compete with their rivals from Down Under.

England v Australia
Rain, fireworks and four anthems ensured the start of play was delayed. Getty Images

Perhaps most significantly, with England's run rate approaching four an over, Cook's side showed plenty of signs of being able to successfully transfer the impressive intent they showed in the one-day series against New Zealand into the Test arena.

The series began under a cloud as rain, and the pomp and circumstance of the occasion with national anthems and fireworks marking the start of the match, delayed the start of play.

The belated start and overhead conditions seemed to catch England cold and any hopes they had of imposing themselves on favourites Australia had to be readjusted as the tourists took a flurry of early wickets to grab the ascendency in the morning session.

Hazlewood claimed the opening scalp, seducing an edge from Lyth which was caught by David Warner in just the second over.

A brief revival was halted with two further wickets in consecutive overs, first as Cook edged to Haddin off Lyon and then when Bell's torrid run of form continued as Starc trapped him lbw to reduce the hosts to 43 for 4.

England were fortunate not to be four down just two balls later as Haddin spurned a chance to oust Root when he fumbled an edge off Starc.

Josh Hazlewood
Hazlewood struck in his first over of Ashes cricket to dismiss Adam Lyth. Getty Images

The Yorkshire-born batsman made 180 against Australia in 2013 after being dropped by Haddin, and Root set about responding in similar fashion with sublime boundaries off successive Starc overs.

Ballance meanwhile was being forced to soak up some punishment from Johnson, who despite being nullified by a benign surface, was still able to inflict pain on the the left-hander.

The pair slalomed their way to 88 for 3 without further alarm at lunch before embarking on an afternoon session where they pilled the misery on Australia.

While Ballance continued to fend off Johnson, Root was at his fluent best with the 24-year-old flashing drives through the on-side, as Hazlewood's early success became a distant memory.

Root went to his half century from just 56 balls, while Balance reach the milestone after a lean period in international cricket with the bat, from 127 balls.

The partnership stood at 153 when the tourists grabbed a crucial breakthrough as Ballance missed a straight ball from Hazlewood, and the ball clattered into his back leg.

The plumb lbw did nothing to disrupt England's progress however, nor reinvigorate Australia's attack, as Root cruised to his seventh century in 28 matches.

Ben Stokes
Stokes produced a quick-fire 52 to pile the misery on Australia. Getty Images

Stokes then produced the ideal cameo in the twilight of the opening day with sixes off the increasingly wayward Johnson and Lyon as England took a firm grip of the opening day.

The gloss was taken off the day with a spate of late wickets, the first coming as centurion Root edged the returning Starc to Shane Watson at first slip for 134, the highest score by an England player on the opening day of an Ashes series for 113 years.

Stokes threw caution to the wind and went to his half century with a clip through mid-wicket but he was soon castled by a beauty from Starc.

Ali and Buttler put together a typically flamboyant half-century partnership from 51 balls before the latter fell in the dying embers of the day to the resolute Hazlewood, as the new ball proved fruitful, but it did nothing to diminish England's dominance in the Welsh capital.