Alastair Cook sees the funny side of Nathan Lyon’s pre-Ashes rant about the frightening challenge facing England this winter.
Cook bumped into Lyon on his way to England’s practice session at the Gabba, two days before the first Test, and reports the Australia off-spinner was sweetness and light as they asked about each other’s families.
Around 24 hours earlier, however, Lyon was delivering a remarkable press conference which took the Ashes hype to a new level once it hit the newsstands.
He recalled England being “broken” by Mitchell Johnson’s pace on their last trip down under, and claimed Matt Prior was so “scared” he wanted to head home after just two Tests – a recollection strenuously denied by the wicketkeeper-batsman.
For good measure, Lyon insisted England will find it even tougher this time against Australia’s new seam attack of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood in a series which he hopes will again end some careers for the tourists.
Cook has experienced dramatic extremes in Australia, losing 5-0 to Johnson et al four years ago and by the same margin in 2006/07 but helping to engineer a memorable 3-1 win in between.
Recalling his chance meeting with Lyon before speaking to the press himself, the England opener said: “It’s really strange. I had a really nice 10-minute chat with Nathan.
“He was the first person I saw when I got to the ground... asking how my kids were, how his kids were. It’s funny. It makes me chuckle.”
Cook, meanwhile, had a minor ‘sledge’ of his own in store as he issued a respectful but distinctly undaunted assessment of Australia’s current pace attack.
“They’re very good bowlers; they’ve got good records,” he said.
“But there’s nothing we haven’t seen before. They’re not suddenly bowling at 150mph. They’ve not got magic balls that start way outside the stumps and swing miles.
“You want to challenge yourself against the best, and this is a decent bowling attack.”
Cook is back at a ground where he produced one of the most memorable innings in Ashes history, his 235 not out seven years ago to save the first Test en route to series victory.
In 2013/14, however, he was one of several who found it devilishly difficult to keep Johnson at bay.
Even with his experience and status as England’s all-time leading runscorer, the 32-year-old still feels the tension before another huge occasion.
“You do – it certainly gets the emotions going.
“Coming into ground today, seeing it again, brings back some good and bad memories – and you’re unsure what the week is going to be like.”
If it turns out as he hopes, of course, Australia’s proud record of 30-year invincibility in Brisbane will be endangered – and Cook was happy to throw that possibility into the mix
“One day Australia will lose a game at Brisbane in the Ashes,” he said. “Records don’t go on forever. You wouldn’t want to be the Australian side who does lose at the Gabba!”
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