BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom, Aug 5 – Nathan Lyon took six wickets as Australia demolished England by 251 runs at their Edgbaston ‘fortress’ to win the first Ashes Test on Monday.
The crushing defeat means England’s hopes of a World Cup and Ashes double have suffered a major blow a month after the eventual champions beat Australia at the same ground in the semi-finals of the 50-over tournament.
To make matters worse, England could be without James Anderson, their all-time leading wicket-taker, for the second game of the five-match series at Lord’s.
The paceman managed just four overs in the match before breaking down, depriving captain Joe Root of his main weapon.
Root must also work out how to cope with the threat of man-of-the-match Steve Smith, who scored twin hundreds at Edgbaston and now has 1,116 runs in his past 10 Ashes innings.
The home side, set a daunting 398 for victory, needed to bat out the final day to save the Test but a clatter of wickets either side of lunch left them staring at a heavy defeat.
They were eventually dismissed for 146, with off-spinner Lyon taking 6-49 and fast bowler Pat Cummins 4-32 in the first match of the new ICC World Test Championship.
Victory gave Australia their first win at Edgbaston in any format since 2001 — the last time they won an Ashes series in England — and ended the home side’s run of 11 successive wins at Warwickshire’s headquarters.
Australia were in dire straits at 122-8 in their first innings but were rescued by Smith’s 144, which lifted them to 284.
The star batsman then made 142 in the second innings of his comeback Test following a ban for his role in a ball-tampering scandal, with Australia captain Tim Paine declaring on 487-7 late on Sunday.
“I thought we were certainly up against it at that stage (122-8) but we had the best player in the world at the crease,” Paine said.
“We’re running out of things to say about Smithy. He’s probably the best Test batsman we’ve ever seen.”
Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were all returning to Test cricket following ball-tampering bans and the trio were repeatedly jeered by spectators at Edgbaston.
“We know every Test we play in England, the crowd will be against us. I thought the guys handled themselves really well and we’ve come out on top,” said Paine.
No England batsman made more than No.9 Chris Woakes’s 37 in their second innings and captain Joe Root admitted: “It is bitterly disappointing.”
“Credit to Australia,” he added. “They fought hard to get back in it. (Smith played) two brilliant innings.”
– England collapse –
Rory Burns, whose first-innings 133 was his first century at this level, became just the 10th cricketer to have batted on all five days of a Test.
But he had added just four runs to his overnight seven when he was caught in the gully off an excellent seaming and rising Cummins delivery.
Root was twice given out leg before by Joel Wilson but challenged both verdicts as the West Indian umpire equalled an unwanted record with eight overturned decisions in a Test.
World Cup-winner Jason Roy appeared to still be in one-day mode when he charged down the pitch and was bowled by Lyon for 28.
Lyon, whose return was his best against England, was dangerous on the wearing pitch and he had Joe Denly caught off bat and pad by Bancroft at short leg.
The Australia pair combined again to dismiss Root for 28.
England’s 85-4 at lunch became 85-5 when Cummins bowled Jos Buttler and wickets continued to tumble as the home side slumped to 97-7.
All-rounder Woakes defied Australia for a time but Smith had the last word, catching him off Cummins to seal the win for the tourists.
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