England win toss and bat against Australia

CARDIFF: England captain Andrew Strauss won the toss and elected to bat against Australia in the first Ashes Test at Sophia Gardens here Wednesday.

England left out seamer Graham Onions and batsman Ian Bell from their squad of 13 and opted to play both spinners in Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar on a Cardiff pitch expected to take turn.

They welcomed back Andrew Flintoff for his first Test of the season after a knee injury saw him miss the home series against the West Indies.

Australia fast bowler Brett Lee's withdrawal on Monday because of a rib muscle injury meant they went into this match with none of their attack having played a Test in Britain before.

They selected both swing bowler Ben Hilfenhaus and Nathan Hauritz, even though the off-spinner's two wickets on tour so far had cost 260 runs.

Experienced seam bowler Stuart Clark was omitted from the side and named as 12th man.

Australia hold the Ashes after whitewashing England 5-0 on home soil in 2006/07.

But when the Ashes were last played in England, in 2005, England won the five-Test series 2-1.

This match was the first Test ever to be played in Cardiff although one-day internationals have been staged here before, notably in 2005 when Bangladesh, in one of cricket's greatest upsets, beat Australia.

England: Andrew Strauss (capt), Alastair Cook, Ravi Bopara, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Matt Prior (wkt), Andrew Flintoff, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Monty Panesar

Australia: Phillip Hughes, Simon Katich, Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, Marcus North, Brad Haddin (wkt), Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Hauritz, Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus

Umpires: Billy Doctrove (WIS) and Aleem Dar (PAK)

TV umpire: Richard Kettleborough (ENG)

Match referee: Jeff Crowe (NZL)