Moeen stars as England's pressure brings rewards
Australia 264 for 5 (Watson 29*, Lyon 6*) trail England 430 (Root 134, Moeen 77, Ballance 61, Stokes 52, Starc 5-114) by 166 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Any England supporter with the vaguest sense of Ashes history would have felt mild trepidation as they defended a first-innings score of 430 on a sunny Cardiff day. The last time an Ashes Test ventured into Wales, England made pretty much the same score, only to concede 674 for 6 and need some heroic resistance from James Anderson and Monty Panesar to escape with a draw.
That being so, England, even while believing the total was a par score, will have been relieved to prise out five Australian batsmen by the close of the second day with a largely disciplined bowling performance. They lead by 166 and will hope to cut deep into the tail with the second new ball, which is 10 overs away.
Six years on, the Land of Song has produced another placid Ashes surface - when the ball goes soft, it is less Tom Jones' Green, Green Grass of Home than the Manic Street Preachers' Some Kind of Nothingness, slow enough on occasions to crush any happiness you know. That this first Investec Test has generally been so fascinating is testimony to the attacking resolve of both sides.
The businesslike figure of Chris Rogers fashioned Australia's response. A prolonged career in English county cricket before Australia finally came calling has made such slow, low pitches his natural habitat.
His wicket carries slightly less kudos than some, outside a dressing room at any rate, but his 95 was the innings of a solid citizen, replete with watchful off-side drives: he pushed the ball into the covers as if emerging warily from a T-junction on the lookout for oncoming traffic. It sounds unfair to term him careful when he feels, with justification, that he is careering along, but his squat deflections and placements are shots of calculation.
He fell five runs short of what would have been his fourth Ashes hundred, cutting a ball quite tight to him from Mark Wood and edging to Jos Buttler. From 180 for 3, gambolling along at more than four in over, in keeping with England's progress, Australia dried, with James Anderson to the fore, and the rate slipped to three an over against a softening ball, for the loss of Michael Clarke and Adam Voges, before the close.
Rogers did have a world record to ponder. His feat of seven successive Test fifties had been achieved only by Everton Weekes, Andy Flower, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Kumar Sangakkara. Perhaps not surprisingly for a record that reveals consistency rather than grandeur, all of them, with the exception of Weekes, the domineering West Indian, have often been described in the same workmanlike terms befitting Rogers.
That sequence was interrupted by the concussion that forced him out of a recent Test series in the West Indies and Stuart Broad might have exposed one or two leftover signs with the short ball. Rogers, though, did achieve his first Test six - a sort of coming of age in his 21st Test - when he hooked a bouncer to long leg, brushing the fingertips of the leaping Moeen Ali who crossed the line in a vain attempt to fashion a catch.
Rogers also survived a review. There was swing initially for England's new-ball attack and Broad came close to removing Rogers, on 2, only for England's review - encouraged as ever by Broad, his ravenous desire for wickets colouring his conclusion - to be rejected as Rogers was saved by a thin inside edge.
David Warner was the first Australian batsman to fall, driving Anderson on the up and well taken by Alastair Cook at first slip. It was Warner at his least aggressive (in Walkabout bar terms, 8pm at the latest) and he also needed to overturn an lbw decision on 13 when Anderson struck his back pad but replays showed the ball had pitched outside leg stump.
As Australia hurtled ahead, England were grateful for the resilience of Moeen, who cut down Steven Smith and Clarke with their innings established. That Australia would target him was inevitable, just as they had targeted Graeme Swann so successfully on their own pitches two years earlier. Smith seemed to have his measure, one assertive over bringing three boundaries in four balls: stylish straight drive, dragged straight drive and a resounding dance down the pitch to loft him gloriously over mid-off.
But Cook persisted with Moeen and he was rewarded with a prize wicket - a reward, too, for a carefully-plotted field position. Smith, on 33, advanced down the pitch, but Moeen floated the ball down leg, a little turn taking the ball further away from the batsman, who became entirely squared up and toppled over to the off side as he chipped the ball to short mid-on.
Clarke also came down the wicket with intent and, if his shot was more balanced than Smith's, the outcome was equally ill-fated as he drove back a firm return catch. Voges' dismissal owed much to England's ability to create pressure with the old ball, Ben Stokes being rewarded for one of his most disciplined England spells by having Voges caught at short extra as the ball took a puff of dust from the pitch.
Moeen's graceful batting, sprinkled with occasional fortune, had also been to the fore in the morning before England succumbed for 430, adding another 97 in only 14.1 overs. Moeen played with delightful freedom in extending his innings to 77 from 88 balls before he edged Mitchell Starc to Shane Watson at slip. He also edged Starc to the keeper on 34, but Australia, strangely introverted, did not appeal as they were fooled by the bat scraping the ground.
Starc then bowled Anderson to return 5 for 114 but he has ankle trouble and, although he will hope to get through the Test unscathed, he must be doubtful for the second Test at Lord's which follows so soon afterwards.
As for Mitchell Johnson's Reign of Terror, the first signs were that it may not be fit for export as he returned his worst Test figures. Johnson remained wicketless, he doffed his cap to the crowd as his bowler's century was cheered ironically and he had the misfortune to have to pedal back at long-off in a futile attempt to try to catch a lofted drive from Moeen as he toe-ended Nathan Lyon's offspin down the ground.
Take Broad, add an Ashes series, and the result is invariably some hoo-ha or other. On this occasion he was the potential victim as Voges claimed a dubious catch at short leg. For the only time, Broad tried to stand tall to a bouncer from Johnson, squirmed the ball into the leg side and Voges was entangled between the batsman's feet by the time he claimed the catch.
The review showed that the ball dragged along the ground and boos predictably resounded, but Broad and Voges, former team-mates at Nottinghamshire, just had a quick chat and got on with it, Broad soon falling trying to slog sweep Lyon's first ball.
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps