Sunday 18 August 2019

Lyon expects Starc to open England's old Ashes 'wounds'

Australia’s Nathan Lyon bowls during a nets session yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
Australia’s Nathan Lyon bowls during a nets session yesterday. Photo: Getty Images

Paul Hayward

It fell to the slowest of Australia's bowlers to warn England what the quickest will do to them, with a demonic chuckle rising from Nathan Lyon as he claimed Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins were "100 per cent" as dangerous as Mitchell Johnson four years ago and that the hosts would seek to "end" the Test careers of some of Joe Root's men.

Two days before the resumption of hostilities, Lyon delivered an extraordinarily chilling message, which Australia will now have to live up to at the Gabba and beyond.

The home side's senior spinner claimed Matt Prior wanted to leave the 2013-'14 tour because he was "scared" and recalled: "Watching Mitchell Johnson going around scaring all the Poms was unbelievable. I was at leg slip, and I had to push a couple of (English) guys back (towards) the stumps. So, it was good fun."

On the last Ashes tour, Jonathan Trott, Prior, Graeme Swann and Kevin Pietersen were all hastened to the end of their Test careers, for a variety of reasons. Same again this time? "Hope so," Lyon said. "I didn't end them. I think Mitchell Johnson ended them. If you ask Mitch, it was quite satisfying if you look at his past and the pressures the English put him under, with the Barmy Army, and everything like that."


Lyon added: "I know Joe Root got dropped last time he was here, so it would be good to get him dropped again, wouldn't it? If we can start with opening up that crack, it's pretty crucial. There's a lot of scars for the English side, especially coming out here, especially when we've got two guys who bowl over 150 kmph, not just one."

Historical banter is to be expected in the days leading up to a first Ashes Test, which starts here tomorrow night UK time, but Lyon was equally forthright about the here and now.

He tipped Starc to pick up where Johnson left off: "Yep, 100 per cent. On my birthday (he was 30 yesterday), I'm not getting into the nets to face them, because they are bowling way too quick for my liking. I saw (Steve) Smith (Australia's captain) land on his backside the other day. Johnno didn't do that."

The way Lyon spoke, it was tempting to think he might miss the Brisbane Test in favour of an extra seamer. If he plays, he can expect some blowback from England for his provocations, though he calls Root "a good mate".

He exulted in Australia's crushing of England last time out.

"Unbelievable feeling," he said. "Knowing that they're broken, leading into Perth. We knew they were broken. We knew Matt Prior wanted to fly home before the game started, and he was one of the senior players." Why did Prior want to go home? "He was scared," Lyon replied. "Four years ago. I think he's all right now."

Prior rejected Lyon's version of events. "That's absolutely laughable. If that was the case and I was scared why didn't I go home then? I have no idea where this has come from. Of all the things he could have come up with. That's completely ridiculous and all I can do is laugh. It's untrue.

"I stayed out there and what hurt me more was that I got dropped for the last two Tests because I wasn't playing well. I think Nathan Lyon has got other things to worry about without thinking about me. I hope the first Test goes really well for him because otherwise I'd suggest he's concentrating on the wrong things. I will be watching with interest to see how he goes."

Lyon has no doubts about his ability. "At the Gabba (in 2013), four of us took six for nine and broke the spine of the English there and then. And that was the second day of the Ashes series. I think my role in the team is crucial. I know the English are going to come out and probably target me. They did in England, they've done it before."

Do they underestimate him, despite his 269 Test wickets? "Yeah, definitely. Ask Joe Root. He definitely does."

It was hard to know whether Lyon was acting on instructions to poke the hive or speaking from personal conviction.

Either way, he earned high marks for theatricality, as befits a man who recently stopped a Sheffield Shield match for 30 minutes by burning a piece of toast and triggering the fire alarms.

He says: "Never burnt a piece of toast in your life? I got stuck talking cricket to someone and one of the fellas popped it up and put it back down. So, technically, it's not my fault but I'll take the blame." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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