Nathan Lyon claims Matt Prior was so scared he wanted to fly home less than halfway through England’s last Ashes tour – and warned Joe Root’s team to expect an even tougher time this winter.
Australia off-spinner Lyon recalls watching Mitchell Johnson’s extreme pace intimidate the 2013-14 tourists to such an extent that they were already “broken” after the first Test.
Johnson’s 37 wickets at 13.97 did the bulk of the damage as England were whitewashed, and Lyon is hoping to end some more England careers this time around.
Graeme Swann retired mid-series four years ago, Kevin Pietersen never played for England again after his axing that winter, Jonathan Trott returned briefly in 2015 and Prior won a further four caps before succumbing to a career-ending injury.
Lyon remembers standing at leg-slip with Johnson in full cry, and feeling as if he needed to push English batsmen back into the line of the ball.
“Seeing Mitchell Johnson scare all the Poms was unbelievable,” he said.
“Leading into (the third Test at) Perth we knew they were broken; we knew Matt Prior wanted to fly home before the game started.”
Lyon said the whole team, “one to 11”, were just as frightened as Prior.
“He was scared,” Lyon added.
“It’s four years ago … I think he’s all right now.
“I was at leg-slip and I nearly had to push a couple of the guys back towards the stumps … it was good fun!”
Lyon believes the Australian attack is even better now than in 2013-14, with Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood the men seeking to undo England this winter.
“I saw (Australia captain) Steve Smith land on his backside (in the nets) the other day – Johnson didn’t do that,” Lyon said.
“It’s good, isn’t it? I know Root got dropped last time, so it’d be good to get him dropped again – that would be good, wouldn’t it?”
Prior described Lyon’s claim that he wanted to leave the series early as “laughable”, “ridiculous” and “wholeheartedly untrue”.
Dawid Malan and James Vince are among the batsmen hoping to stop another rout, as Australia bid to win back the urn they lost in England in 2015.
Asked about England’s 2013-14 travails, Malan said: “I don’t think they really thought that was going to happen.
“When it did hit them it took everyone a bit by surprise – and we’re talking about some fantastic players, (Ian) Bell, Pietersen and Trott, guys with fantastic techniques and records.
“Coming into this series we are prepared for that.”
Number three Vince is wondering whether Australia’s boasts may backfire.
“The way they are talking is almost…if they don’t come out and start well, they put themselves under a lot of pressure,” he said.
“They’ve got to back up their chat, and if they don’t the crowd might wonder why they haven’t done what they said they were going to do.”
It's safe to say, however, some England figures, including Prior himself, are not impressed with what Lyon has had to say.
Prior, meanwhile, senses Lyon’s remarks have put the onus on him to deliver on the pitch.
“I think Nathan Lyon has got other things to worry about without thinking about me,” he said.
“I hope he lets his cricket do the talking now.”