England v Australia, 4th Investec Ashes Test, Durham, 1st day August 9, 2013

Lyon leads strong Australia display


England 238 for 9 (Cook 51, Lyon 4-42) v Australia
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

As he wheeled away through 38 quite exemplary overs at Old Trafford for the reward of one wicket and the loss of the Ashes, Nathan Lyon must have wondered when fortune would deign to smile on him and Australia. The answer was not long in coming at Chester-le-Street, on a day when Lyon's remarkably incisive contribution was central to England's sharp decline from 149 for 2 to 238 for 9.

Alastair Cook's men may have the urn in their keeping but any sense of superiority is steadily eroding. They were guilty of profligacy at some times and paralysis at others, never finding the right gear for a pitch that was slow and nibbly but far from treacherous. Ian Bell in particular will curse his maddening choice of shot in the first over after tea, while Australia's seamers ensured the blows applied to English confidence in Manchester were followed up in Durham.

Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle and Shane Watson all contributed at various times, and Jackson Bird had a notable first day in Ashes matches, nagging away and capturing the prized wicket of Cook after England's captain had set himself for the kind of stony occupation he trademarked in Australia in 2010-11. But the major plaudits were reserved for Lyon, who won a significant battle with Kevin Pietersen and troubled every batsman with his flight, drop and changes of pace from around the wicket. His omission from the first two Tests of the series increasingly appears an error as grievous as that committed by Bell four balls into the evening session.

The early overs had lacked a certain energy, as Harris fought to relocate the rhythm and swing of Old Trafford, while Bird settled into a line and length that encouraged defensive dead bats but did not coax any edges into the Australian slips cordon. There was the merest hint of seam movement but the surface was otherwise slow, as was the outfield. Cook and Joe Root battled to find their timing, England's captain leaving plenty outside off stump while also coping with the full length Australia have forced him to deal with throughout the series.

Clarke again resorted to Watson before Peter Siddle, hoping for some new-ball movement, and after a somewhat wayward start it was the newly demoted allrounder - expected to bat at No. 6 in this match - who struck. Root was somewhat tardy getting forward to a ball sliding away from him, and the sound of the nick was clear to all except the umpire Tony Hill, who was soon crossing himself and raising his finger after Clarke's referral showed up a noise, a deflection and even a Hot Spot.

The wicket brought Trott to the crease, and he immediately showed signs of improved fluency after a poor third Test. His one boundary before the interval was an edge through the slips but there was also a more decisive flick through midwicket and a pair of confident strides out to drive. Clarke did not chance an over from Lyon during the morning, preferring to let his seamers push during a session that yielded them less than they might have hoped for.

Trott and Cook were largely unhurried and unfazed in the hour after lunch, and it was a shock to many when England's No. 3 squeezed a Lyon offbreak to short leg, where Usman Khawaja held a neat catch. Pietersen swung lustily at his very first ball and was fortunate to mistime it into the expanses beyond midwicket, but some better struck boundaries ensued and Lyon was withdrawn.

It was not until he returned that England were troubled again, a ball looped teasingly from around the wicket drawing an edge from Pietersen and a fine catch by Brad Haddin up to the stumps. If that wicket had altered proceedings, that of Cook's changed the complexion of the day completely, Bird finding just the right amount of seam movement to have the captain pinned in front of off stump with his bat never intended for use.

Cook had underestimated Bird's capacity to move the ball, and in the first over after tea Bell would pay for treating Lyon with contempt. Four balls into the evening, he advanced to drive at a flighted delivery, failing to get to the pitch and shelling a catch in the general vicinity of mid-off, where Harris clasped a sharp chance. It was a vainglorious stroke, and consigned Matt Prior and Jonny Bairstow to a major salvage task.

They started well enough, working the ball around, but as Clarke and his bowlers tightened up in response both batsmen were rendered near enough to shotless. Only 34 runs had been added in a union nearing 20 overs' duration when Prior was pinned in front of the stumps by Siddle. Aleem Dar declined the appeal, but Australia's referral showed the ball to be striking enough of leg stump for the decision to be overturned.

Bairstow fought desperately, denying his usual aggressive tendencies, but ultimately the pressure told. He went down on one knee to sweep Lyon from around the wicket and missed, Hill's finger was raised and Bairstow's anguished review showing the off break had straightened enough and would have clipped the top of the stumps. Stuart Broad soon followed, spooning Harris ineffectually to cover, and Graeme Swann picked out deep square leg.

Tim Bresnan and James Anderson played the day out comfortably, adding 24 from 20 balls. It was a sight that cheered the crowd but had to discomfort England, given their earlier wastefulness.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • H on August 10, 2013, 18:42 GMT

    @Greatest_Game no offence to Philander, and I'm not suggesting Bird's better, but I would say that ball was better than anything I saw Philander bowl last year. Bird's not quite as consistent as Philander, who's a human metronome, but he's also a lot less experienced (in terms of First Class cricket, at least).

    Of course, Philander offers a lot more with the bat than Bird too.

    That said, this performance from Australia did remind me of the way South Africa's bowlers choked England's batsmen last year by applying consistent and unrelenting pressure. There were a few bad balls, but they were incredibly rare and while there might be question marks over Watson's batting, his role with the ball has been very similar to Kallis'. He hasn't taken many wickets, but the fourth seamer's primary job is to keep the pressure up and give the quicks a rest, and he's done that).

    A fully fit Harris is the key, though. He elevates this Australian attack right up there with the South Africans.

  • damien on August 10, 2013, 10:27 GMT

    @2nd slip I noticed you didn't mention Siddle and Harris in your analysis of the aussie attack. You are right Watson is no Philander but Harris compares favourably with him. The bowlers have once again done the job for us now it's over to the batsmen. I guess with their recent history you just never know what you will get. Hopefully we can post 350-400 and make it really hard for the English. I suppose England have done what they have to do and concentrated on winning the ashes but they won't get back to number 1 playing this type of cricket. We will see how good of a coach Flower is over the next 12 months and whether he will be able to make changes in game style too take them to the next level. With Cook captaining I doubt it.

  • Marvellous on August 10, 2013, 10:17 GMT

    bird is an incredibly good bowler, never mind jimmy, your laras and tendulkars would have struggled to bat some of the deliveries he sent down in that one over.

  • Graham on August 10, 2013, 10:15 GMT

    I only managed to watch half the first days play, although Australia should be very happy to bowl England out for under 250, it is not going to be easy to get those runs. I dont think the pitch has been too difficult to stay in but the slowness of the surface has made scoring difficult. We will only find out how good it was after the Aussies bat.

  • ESPN on August 10, 2013, 10:13 GMT

    Well, I have to eat my words today. After posting criticism of Nathan Lyon's selection yesterday, he came out and bowled beautifully, very impressive troubling England's top order. Well done fella, made me look like an imbecile.

  • Nicholas on August 10, 2013, 10:06 GMT

    Congratulations to Lyon - very well bowled, and once again excellent captaincy by Clarke to have the right people on at the right time, and wonderful field placements. I think it would be fitting for Lyon to pick up his 5-fer here today. 350 was a par score for here, and England are well short of that; they will need to bowl out of their skins and MUST silence Warner if he opens. Weather forecast fine, so should be another fantastic day of cricket.

  • Colin on August 10, 2013, 9:49 GMT

    A good day for the Aussie bowlers. They deserved their wickets by applying pressure and having patience. I would begrudgingly agree that England do, at times, play dull attritional cricket but that is Test cricket; on this occasion, the Aussie bowlers deserve credit as much as the England batters deserve derision. Let us not forget that this England team are unbeaten in 11 Tests and this Aussie team have probably forgotten the 'Under the Southern Cross' song, so let us not get carried away! England have missed a trick by not selecting Onions, who looks perfect for this wicket.

  • Gaurav on August 10, 2013, 9:39 GMT

    australia needs to stick with these new faces, they are the future

  • Hamish on August 10, 2013, 9:33 GMT

    Australia dominant again. Funny to see how people were suggesting the dropping of Lyon... One even said that I was the "odd man out" regarding support for Lyon. Hilarious to see FFL's bagging of Lyon over the last year, and even more hilarious to see his justification of Lyon's 4-40 now.

    Funny to see how people suggested that England's top 3 would have more "freedom" now that the Ashes are secure... Truly the most overrated batting line up in world cricket. When was the last time they collectively failed?

    Also to people suggesting that Eng's performance is justified with the County results (lol), the spinners have averaged 42 here this season. 42. What exactly does that make Lyon? His 4 for is just reward for his bowling at OT/reward for seamers' pressure.

    Now that it's established that we have the superior bowling attack regardless of what pace trio put up (our pace depth is so good), let's see if we can beat England's batsmen like we did at OT.

  • R on August 10, 2013, 9:17 GMT

    it is a dead rubber yes, and so there is a fair bit of who cares about it, but even so, the averages still go in the book... and I see after his two small tons the one swallow has left bell's summer and he has reverted to type, with even the affable athers suggesting bell's as the worst shot of the day, which really is saying something when one sees the other aberrations.. and so the Eng bowlers have to bail the boring bats out yet again... gooch def not earning his expensive corn at the mo and what has he done to JB...?? this ''Eng style'' of batting certainly does not suit the young tyro...