The Ashes 2019: Just how important is the first day and Test?

Much is made of the importance of starting the Ashes well. We look at how often a strong opening day and Test leads to a series victory.

Steve Harmison opens the 2006-07 Ashes with a shocking wide.   -  Getty Images

England and Australia will both be desperate to make a strong start in the 2019 Ashes opener at Edgbaston on Thursday.

But just how important is it for a team to gain an early advantage in the series?

We look at how the first day and Test unfolded in each of the past 10 Ashes contests, to determine whether initial success is key to claiming the urn.

2001

Winner of first day: By the end of day one in the 2001 series, Australia were in the driving seat at Edgbaston. England initially collapsed to 191-9 before recovering to make 294 as Alec Stewart (65) and number 11 Andy Caddick (49 not out) rallied. The tourists then made it to stumps on 133-2, with Michael Slater unbeaten on 76.

First Test result: Australia went on to rack up a mammoth first-innings score of 576 and skittled England for a paltry 164 to secure an emphatic innings-and-118-run victory.

Ashes result: The first Test set the tone for a one-sided series, which Australia won 4-1.

2002-03

Winner of first day: Poor old Nasser Hussain is regularly reminded of the time he made the shock decision to bowl first on a batting-friendly surface at the Gabba in November 2002. Hussain must have wanted the ground to open up and swallow him when Australia ended day one on 364-2, Matthew Hayden having compiled 186 not out.

First Test result: England rallied to dismiss their hosts for 492, but still suffered a thumping defeat. Set 464 for victory on the fourth day, they subsided to 79 all out, handing Australia victory by 384 runs.

Ashes result: Another 4-1 win for Australia and another series where England's only win, this time in Sydney, came with the Ashes urn beyond them.

2005

Winner of first day: England went into the 2005 Ashes high on optimism and that was only heightened when they limited Australia to 190. However, Australia were on top by the end of day one. Glenn McGrath decimated the England top-order and Michael Vaughan's men limped through to stumps on 92-7.

First Test result: Kevin Pietersen made a pair of fifties on his Test debut, but Australia ultimately won at a canter, triumphing by 239 runs after making 384 in their second innings.

Ashes result: In arguably the greatest Ashes series of all time, England secured a 2-1 victory to regain the urn for the first time in 16 years.

2006-07

Winner of first day: Another miserable Brisbane experience for England famously began with a woeful Steve Harmison wide straight to second slip. Australia had an imposing total of 346-3 at stumps, with skipper Ricky Ponting unbeaten on 137.

First Test result: The hosts went on to reach 602-9 declared, setting the platform for another crushing victory. Paul Collingwood and Pietersen delayed the inevitable on the fourth day after England had been set 648, but Australia won by 277 runs.

Ashes result: Things got no better for Andrew Flintoff's England thereafter as Australia wrapped up a 5-0 series whitewash.

2009

Winner of first day: A tense opening day in Cardiff ended with honours even, England having battled to 336-7 thanks to contributions throughout the order.

First Test result: The contest ended in a draw, but only just. Australia were one wicket from victory before England's last pair of James Anderson and Monty Panesar dug deep to deny the tourists.

Ashes result: As had been the case in 2005, England won the series 2-1, earning successes at Lord's and The Oval either side of an innings-and-80-run loss at Headingley.

2010-11

Winner of first day: Australia were the happier side after day one of the 2010-11 series in Brisbane. A hat-trick from Peter Siddle, on his 26th birthday, helped limit England to 260 before the hosts reached 25 without loss in reply.

First Test result: After conceding a first-innings lead of 221, England sensationally rescued a draw by piling up 517-1 declared in their second innings. Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott made hundreds, while Alastair Cook's unbeaten 235 spanned more than 10 hours.

Ashes result: Cook finished with 766 runs in the series as England ran out 3-1 winners. All three of their victories came by an innings as they enjoyed Ashes success in Australia for the first time in 24 years.

2013

Winner of first day: England were seemingly ahead by a narrow margin after the first day at Trent Bridge, after reducing Australia to 75-4 in reply to an underwhelming total of 215 all out.

First Test result: An absorbing match - highlighted by debutant Ashton Agar contributing 98 to a 10th-wicket partnership of 163 for Australia in the first innings - ended with England prevailing by 14 runs.

Ashes result: England won the series 3-0, following up their narrow victories of 2005 and 2009 with a much more convincing triumph.

2013-14

Winner of first day: Stuart Broad's five-wicket haul ensured England were thought to be in front at the end of day one at the Gabba, with Australia 273-8 on a pitch that appeared benign.

First Test result: Australia dominated the remaining days, dismissing England for 136 and 179 to prevail by 381 runs.

Ashes result: Another 5-0 whitewash for Australia.

2015

Winner of first day: A relatively even opening day in Cardiff four years ago ended with England, who opted to bat, on 343-7, thanks largely to a century from Joe Root.

First Test result: After reaching 430, England limited Australia to 308 and kicked on to win by 169 runs on day four.

Ashes result: A 3-2 win for England represented their fourth consecutive Ashes success on home soil.

2017-18

Winner of first day: Although they only lost four wickets on day one of the 2017-18 series at the Gabba, England's painfully slow progress meant it was tough to determine who was ahead at the close, with the tourists on 196-4.

First Test result: The match remained hard to call when the hosts eked out a first-innings lead of 26, but Australia ended up winning by 10 wickets, after bowling England out for 195 in the second dig and cruising to a target of 170.

Ashes result: Australia charged to a 4-0 victory, the eighth home win in the last nine Ashes series.

Summary

It would be foolish to read too much into the first day of this year's Ashes series, but the outcome of the opening Test is a much more significant pointer to what will follow.

Australia have won five opening days compared to England's two over the last 10 series, with three too close to call.

However, the teams have won five Ashes series apiece in that time and there have been three examples (2005, 2010-11 and 2013-14) of teams recovering from being second best on the opening day to win the series.

A defeat in the first Test is, understandably, a tougher barrier to overcome. England's 2005 Ashes triumph is the only example this century of a team winning the series after being beaten in the opening match.

Australia's five other first-Test wins since 2001 were all converted into Ashes successes, while England triumphed in 2013 and 2015 after starting those series with wins and also secured victory in the two rubbers that began with draws (2009 and 2010-11).