Australia captain Tim Paine believes Nathan Lyon is “a huge weapon” against Ben Stokes, whose back-to-back centuries have turned the tide of the Ashes series.
Stokes’ unbeaten 115 at Lord’s put England in the box seat only for Australia to secure a draw, while the all-rounder propelled the hosts to a dramatic one-wicket victory at Headingley courtesy of a majestic 135 not out.
During both innings he was given let-offs by Australia either dropping catches or failing to send ‘not out’ appeals upstairs, most notably on Sunday afternoon when, with England requiring two for victory, off-spinner Lyon would have overturned an lbw verdict had Australia not squandered their reviews.
When asked about how to stop Stokes, Paine replied: “Holding our chances would be a good start. Nathan Lyon, in the last two Tests alone, has got him out five or six times had we held our catches or referred our lbws.
“Lyon is still a huge weapon against him and there are some things we’ve spoken about with our fast bowlers where we think we can do things a little better than him.
“But he’s a world-class player and he puts bowlers under pressure and makes them and captains do things that they wouldn’t normally do.
“That’s a huge weapon that England have got and one that we’ve got to try to contain in the next two Test matches.”
Australia were back in action just four days after England had squared the series, with Paine among a number of those rested for a tour match at Derbyshire.
However, Paine conducted media duties after the first day’s play, where much of the attention was on Steve Smith as he made a low-key return from a delayed concussion that led his absence in the third Test.
Reflecting on the loss, Paine added: “You’ve just got to address it. We had some honest conversations and we know we made some errors as a team and as individuals but we can’t be holding on to that.
“We’re in the middle of a massive series and it can happen. We’ve moved on. The group is in a really good spot.
“If we were 1-1, I think most people would have taken it. With Steve Smith not playing I don’t think we were given any chance of winning that Test match.”
Mitchell Starc took three wickets in an over on Thursday to enhance his prospects of featuring in the fourth Test, which gets under at Old Trafford next Wednesday.
Starc has been conspicuous by his absence in the series so far but, after he had Matt Critchley strangled down the leg-side, the left-arm paceman then rearranged the stumps of Alfie Gleadall and Tony Palladino.
While numbers seven, eight and nine succumbing in quick order to Starc will not have England quaking, he bowled with enough purpose in his second spell to suggest he could come into the reckoning in Manchester.
Paine added: “We know what Starcy can do in terms of blowing teams away. We also know that coming to England in the past, that hasn’t worked, so he’s been working really hard on getting his length right, more so than anything.
“He’s got the ability with his skill and pace to clean up tails pretty quickly.”
Derbyshire were all out for 172 after opting to bat first, with Australia closing on 77 without loss in reply.