Cricket: Milestone man Lyon spins Australia to thumping first Ashes Test win
MELBOURNE (REUTERS, AFP) – Nathan Lyon captured a long-awaited 400th cricket Test victim and spun Australia to an emphatic nine-wicket victory in the first Ashes Test on Saturday (Dec 11), with England losing eight wickets in a stunning morning collapse on day four at the Gabba.
The spin-bowling cult hero grabbed four wickets as England’s batsmen crumbled by lunch, leaving 20 runs for Australia to mow down after the break.
Having dominated with bat, ball and in the field, Australia head to Adelaide for the day-night test with a surge of confidence under new captain Pat Cummins.
England, meanwhile, will pore over their failings after another horror show in Brisbane. They have now lost seven of their past nine matches at the Gabba, a venue from which series defeats seem to spring.
Captain Joe Root said his team must fix their fielding and batting to get back into the Ashes series, while defending the decision to leave Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad out of the first Test.
Question marks hang over their selections and tactics, and there seem few ready solutions for their batting woes before the pink ball test starts in Adelaide on Thursday.
“If I’m being honest, we can’t create as many chances as we did and put them down,” said Root.
“Our bowlers were excellent. We have got to be better in the field and with the bat.
“We know where we need to get better, but the way we responded in the second innings showed a great amount of character and fight which will stand us in good stead.”
Australian Cummins, in his first match as skipper, said he thought someone was smiling over him.
“A lot of things did go right, probably from the toss,” he added.
“I thought it was a really complete performance.
“I was really happy that just about everyone fired.”
England resumed on 220 for two with the match still within their grasp, but lost their last eight wickets for 77 runs to be bowled out for 297.
England paceman Ollie Robinson burnished his match stats with the dismissal of wicket-keeper Alex Carey (9), who stood in for opener David Warner as he nursed bruised ribs.
But Marcus Harris (9 not out) hit seamer Mark Wood to the fence to complete the rout.
Root was disappointed after he and Dawid Malan’s big day-three partnership proved in vain.
However, the match was all but over after Root won the toss and sent his batsmen in to be routed for 147 in the first innings.
“Frustration,” he said. “We worked really hard to get ourselves back in the game last night. It’s a shame that we just couldn’t quite manage to get through that initial phase because it could have been very different.”
Lyon, who took 4-91 for the second innings, had been stranded on 399 wickets since the series-deciding defeat by India in January at the Gabba but wasted no time turning the contest on its head on Saturday.
In his second over, the 34-year-old veteran deceived Malan (82) and produced a bat-pad catch to Marnus Labuschagne, breaking a crucial 162-run stand with Root.
“It was incredible,” said Lyon. “Amazing crowd and to tick off a personal milestone is fantastic but even better to top it off with a pretty outstanding win.”
England promptly lost three wickets for 11 runs with young all-rounder Cameron Green capturing the key wicket of Root for 89, the England skipper yet again denied a maiden hundred in Australia.
Batsman Travis Head was named Man of the Match for his quickfire 152, which set up Australia’s first innings 425 in response to England’s paltry total.
Carey, who replaced former captain Tim Paine behind the stumps, took a record eight catches on test debut.
However, it was Lyon’s day to savour as he became only the third Australian in the 400-wicket club led by Shane Warne (708) and Glenn McGrath (563).
He had Ollie Pope caught for four at slip with a ball that reared out of the Gabba pitch. He took another two wickets to help clean up the tail.
England talisman Ben Stokes (14) combined with wicket-keeper Jos Buttler (23) for a 32-run partnership but the all-rounder fell to Cummins again, with a similar short ball to the one that got him for five in the first innings.
With Warner ailing and paceman Josh Hazlewood also nursing an abdominal strain, Australia will be glad for the extra day off.
English fans may hope salvation lies when Adelaide Oval lights up, and with the pink ball in the hands of rested pace warriors Anderson and Broad.
Despite the Gabba ground tending to favour seam bowlers, England opted to leave their two greatest wicket-takers out of the starting XI.
It sparked bewilderment and criticism which Root did not address directly when asked in his post-match television interview whether he would have chosen differently if given his time again.
“One thing I will say is we wanted variation in our attack, to be able to change the pace and move through different gears throughout the innings,” he said.
Off-spinner Jack Leach, who came in for Broad, was punished by the Australian attack, but Root said he took responsibility.
“If anything, it falls on me for giving him too aggressive fields too early, not allowing him to settle and give him a bit more of a chance early on,” he said.
“Jack is a fine spinner in the 20-odd Tests he has played, he has shown what an instrumental part he can play within this team and I’m sure he will play a big part in the series moving forward.
“It’s really important in a five-match Test series we don’t feel too sorry for ourselves on the back of this,” the England captain added. “We have got to remember there is a huge amount of cricket to play.”
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