Australia draw first blood in Ashes series
Nathan Lyon took six wickets as England’s resistance crumbled at Edgbaston.
Australia turned ‘Fortress Edgbaston’ into a Lyon’s den as they drew first blood in the Ashes with a thumping 251-run victory over England in the opening Test.
The hosts arrived on day five looking to recreate the rearguard that saw them escape from Cardiff with a draw in the first match of the 2009 series but instead found themselves knocked over for 146, with Nathan Lyon spinning his way to six wickets.
England had not lost a Test at their Birmingham stronghold since 2008 and toasted victory in each of their previous 11 matches here across all formats. Australia, meanwhile, had lost 15 successive games on Warwickshire’s turf, dating all the way back to 2001.
But, just three weeks on from an historic World Cup success, the second part of English cricket’s golden summer got off to a dreadful start as they were rolled over well before tea.
Rewind to the first morning and it seemed as though all those sequences would be extended, with Australia stumbling to 122 for eight after winning the toss. From there the game orbited around Steve Smith, who made wonderful centuries in each innings to swing the course of the game.
Lyon provided the finishing touches, bowling with verve and precision to sink any hope of a stoic salvage job, while Pat Cummins played the supporting role with four for 32.
For England there are tough conversations to be had ahead of the second Test at Lord’s, with Moeen Ali and Joe Denly under the most imminent threat after hapless outings.
Jonny Bairstow’s worrying Test form also continued, while Jason Roy and Jos Buttler did little to counter the idea they are batting in the wrong positions at this level.
Beginning 384 behind with all 10 wickets in hand the hosts had no hope of winning the game but realistic prospects of pushing for a draw.
A decent crowd had taken up the offer of £25 tickets to watch them try but it took less than three overs for the first blow to land.
Rory Burns had soaked up 312 deliveries for his first-innings century but was an early casualty this time, fending a brutish ball from Cummins to gully.
New man Joe Root was given out lbw by umpire Joel Wilson twice while still in single figures, two terrible decisions which the batsman successfully overturned as the West Indian official took his tally of upheld reviews to eight for the match.
No umpire has ever fared worse in the DRS era and his scheduled appearance in the third Test at Headingley is sure to draw attention.
It took Australia skipper Tim Paine 10 overs to unleash Lyon, but on a turning surface which was badly under-utilised by Moeen he was always set to cause havoc.
Roy’s approach was encouraging at first, notably when sweeping powerfully for four and driving carefully down the ground. But after 76 minutes and 28 runs his patience snapped, charging wildly down the ground to a delivery which turned wickedly through the gate.
Having already seen one edge evade Paine there was no escape this time, with the ball clattering off-stump to spare the wicketkeeper the bother of flicking the bails himself.
Denly was next and made easy pickings for Lyon, nudging a simple bat-pad chance to Cameron Bancroft and taking a review with him.
Australia, and Lyon, were swarming and they landed the big one just before lunch. Root matched Roy’s 28 but this was not destined to be a captain’s epic, Lyon and Bancroft combining once again, with the latter showing razor-sharp reactions under the helmet.
Stokes and Jos Buttler blunted a combined 30 balls for one run before lunch, but any hopes of the pair who combined so brilliantly in the World Cup final doing so again were blown apart after the break.
Buttler fell to the sixth ball of the afternoon, pushing indecisively at Cummins and losing his off-stump to one that kept just a fraction low. The game was up by now and all that remained was to land a few more psychological blows ahead of the trip to Lord’s.
Jonny Bairstow deflected Cummins to the cordon via glove and torso, giving the paceman a 100th Test scalp. The very next ball provided an even loftier landmark for Lyon, who made Ben Stokes his 350th victim with a beauty that nipped back away from its off-stump line and kissed the edge.
Number 351 had a crushing inevitability to it, Lyon dismissing Moeen for the ninth time in their last 11 meetings, caught at gully. After a dreadful match with bat and ball, Moeen’s series might already be over.
Lyon made it two in two by seeing off Stuart Broad for a golden duck before Chris Woakes, top-scorer with a bright 37, was last man out miscuing Cummins to slip.