Aussies turning up heat ahead of Ashes series vs England
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — David Warner isn’t the only Australian player talking about hatred when it comes to the Ashes.
Nathan Lyon, one of two other remaining members of the Australia squad which swept England 5-0 in the last Ashes series Down Under, backed his vice-captain on Monday when asked if hatred would be a factor in the series.
“Yeah, 100 percent. It’s Ashes cricket, mate,” the veteran spinner said. “It’s England vs. Australia. There’s going to be banter. There’s going to be heated moments ... and so there should be.
“It’s Ashes cricket. I’m all for it. There’s a line. We’ll head-butt the line but we won’t go over it.”
The Australians aren’t keeping their game plan a secret heading into the series, which starts on Thursday at the Gabba in Brisbane: A barrage of pace bowling from Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, tipped to be in the same vein as Mitchell Johnson’s intimidating bursts in the 2013-14 series, accompanied by a barrage of banter.
Vice-captain Warner drew criticism from Britain last month when he spoke openly about his feelings for England when the countries are meeting for the oldest prize in test cricket. Warner said he developed a “hatred” of the England team to motivate himself.
Lyon, who is coming off his best tours to India and Bangladesh and is an automatic choice in the team — even at the Gabba, where headlines in past years have predicted an all-pace attack — didn’t shy away from picking up the thread.
Retired wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, now fielding coach, has been urging the likes of Warner, Lyon and skipper Steve Smith to share their Ashes memories with the players in the team who haven’t experienced success against England. They’ve been watching replays of the Johnson spells that intimidated some of England’s batsmen as he took 37 wickets in the series.
“Different players will get themselves up to challenging and competing,” Lyon said. “I’ve played enough test match cricket to know what I need to do to make certain I’m firing at 100 percent. Davey Warner is the same, Steve Smith is the same. No doubt, whoever it is, there’s going to be banter there ... It’s going to be heated. It’s going to be a great contest.”
England regained the Ashes at home in 2015 and has had three tour matches against inexperienced opposition in Perth, Adelaide and Townsville — in north Queensland state — to prepare.
Starc, Hazlewood, Cummins and Lyon shared the ball in a first-class game for New South Wales state and have been working their way into form.
Lyon said Hazlewood was “by a long way” the best fast bowler in the world at the moment, while Starc and Cummins were among the quickest.
“You look at Patty (Cummins), who’s exciting and fast and then you look at Mitchell Starc as an X-factor,” he said. “Those guys are exceptional.
“So I think our bowling squad is probably the strongest attack we’ve had in a couple of years.”
Cummins is set to play his first test on home soil, six years after bursting onto the international scene with a man-of-the-match haul in Australia’s series-leveling win in South Africa in 2011 at the age of 18. Back injuries curtailed his career but he returned this year to play two tests in India and two in Bangladesh, where he was the only paceman in the attack in a match at Chittagong.
He said he’d learned a lot from that, and from watching highlights reels of Johnson.
Hazlewood has been watching those tapes, too, but he has a different vision seared into his mind. He has 118 wickets at 25.75 in 31 tests, and has been compared with pace great Glenn McGrath because of his line, length and rhythm.
This will be his first Ashes test on home soil and for inspiration he’ll be drawing on his last series in England, where he was disappointed with 16 wickets in four tests before missing the last match after the hosts had clinched the Ashes.
“Watching them celebrate after Trent Bridge last time, it definitely drives you for next time,” Hazlewood said. “It’s pretty vivid in the imagination — I remember it well.”
Hazlewood agreed there’d be plenty of heated moments in Australia, but the Australian bowlers wanted to make sure it wasn’t a distraction.
“It’s not about going over the top with the aggression,” he said. “It’s about making a statement and taking those early wickets and putting those middle-order batters under the pump.”