Australia's spinner Nathan Lyon has defended his controversial pre-Ashes comments, joking that he had successfully diverted attention and pressure from debutant Cameron Bancroft and wicketkeeper Tim Paine, who is playing his first Test for seven years.
On Monday, Lyon suggested that he would be happy if Australia ended the careers of some of England's players during this series, and claimed that former England wicketkeeper Matt Prior had wanted to go home during the 2013-14 Ashes because he was "scared". Prior called Lyon's comments "laughable".
"Well, I took a lot of pressure off Tim Paine and Cameron Bancroft, so I thought you guys were a little bit smarter than that," Lyon said after the second day's play in Brisbane. "It is what it is. I'm not going to stand back from what I said."
Lyon declined to be drawn on whether his comments about Prior in particular were unkind. "Let's go, next question," he said.
Whatever the case, the storm around Lyon's comments did no harm to his bowling form. Despite finishing with only 2 for 78 in England's first innings, Lyon bowled outstandingly, turning the ball sharply from his first ball on day one. England managed only 2.16 an over off Lyon, whose sky-high confidence was also shown by his sharp direct-hit run-out of James Vince on the first day.
"My confidence has grown a large amount over the last 14 months," he said. "I've worked hard in the nets with John Davison and I've really nailed down my consistency and knowing my game inside out, and knowing what works really well for me. The comments that I said before the match, it has nothing to do with the way I'm bowling now. It's a team game. I know my role in the Australian cricket team.
"I know I'm a leader, I know I'm one of the most experienced guys in that change room. If I can go out there and share my experience with the younger guys, then hopefully we can put Australian cricket in a good place. I'm very confident with where my bowling is at, at the moment. I feel like I'm bowling very well. The way it's coming out of my hand, it's probably coming out the best it's ever come out. I know my role and I'm looking forward to the rest of this series."
Lyon said he had been surprised by the spin and lack of pace in the Gabba surface from the first day. Although he has had success at the Gabba in the past, rarely has he found such assistance from so early in the match.
"I've never seen the Gabba spin this much," he said. "I've seen it spin before, but not the amount I was able to generate out there. It's probably a tad softer to what we're used to. Today was probably more like a typical day one wicket for the Gabba, so hopefully it will harden up over the next couple of days, there'll be more pace in the wicket."
The lack of pace in the pitch also had the effect of negating Australia's plans to pepper England's batsmen with short bowling, as Mitchell Johnson had done in 2013-14. When Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood did dig the ball in, it rarely reach head height, but Lyon said it was still pleasing to see the way the fast men had operated to prevent England from getting away.
"Our bowlers have taken a lot of confidence out of that, especially on a slow wicket, that we were able to stick to our plans and not go away from that as a bowling group. I think the boys are pretty proud, but they're also pretty excited to hopefully come across some fast decks around the summer to really see how the plan goes."