Nathan Lyon needs to bounce back at Old Trafford.
Nathan Lyon needs to bounce back at Old Trafford.

Aussies face massive job to wrestle back advantage

THE thrilling finish to the Headingley Test has brought the Ashes series roaring back to life and the noise of controversy surrounded the Aussies as they boarded the team bus for a trip to Derby for a tour match.

With the series now locked at 1-1 and key players set to return for the fourth Test at Old Trafford, both sides have everything to play for.

But before they get to focus on cricket, they have been forced to hose down criticism of captain Tim Paine and spinner Nathan Lyon and dodge the fallout from a public row between Shane Warne and former England wicketkeeper Matt Prior.

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Paine's side are aware they have squandered the advantage they had after the second Test, with the skipper coming under fire over several decisions at Headingley, including his ill-judged use of the DRS.

Meanwhile, the home side is ready to welcome back veteran paceman James Anderson, who broke down on the morning of the first Test.

For Australia, Steve Smith will bat in the tour match and is strongly tipped to return in the Old Trafford Test, although it is not yet clear who will make way from him. Certainly his replacement Marnus Labuschagne has done enough to keep his spot, which means Usman Khawaja and Marcus Harris may be shifting uncomfortably in their seats on the bus.

Australia are resting David Warner and the three fast bowlers who played the Headingley Test from the tour game.

England are cock-a-hoop. Days after mourning the state of the game and the administrators' focus on short forms, the fans, press and participants are on a high that matches 2005's historic series win and 1981's miracle at Headingley.

Ian Botham, hero of that game, told Ben Stokes that his life would never be the same again while Lyon is probably hoping his life can move on after a costly error in the dying overs at Headingley.

Lyon fumbled a run-out which would have won the Test and allowed Australia the luxury of going 2-0 up in the series.

The disappointed Australian players have rallied around each other in the aftermath of the incident. The entire squad presented as cheerful and unified in the days after the game, heading en masse for a walk around Leeds and onto breakfast.

Lyon can’t reel in the ball and Leach sneaks home.
Lyon can’t reel in the ball and Leach sneaks home.

Pat Cummins, who threw the ball to Lyon as tailender Jack Leach scrambled to make his crease, has held up his hand to accept some of the blame for the run out.

"I probably didn't help him out with the throw there, it could have been a bit better," he said.

"But yeah, like everyone, you just want to win so desperately and the emotion gets to everyone slightly differently.

"On another day he's the matchwinner.

"It's that fine line, if you lived and died by a win and a loss you'd be out of this business pretty quickly."

Tim Paine needs to pick up his troops.
Tim Paine needs to pick up his troops.

Botham has warned Stokes things won't be the same again and believes the allrounder is now the difference between the two teams.

"Five-day games ebb and flow," he said.

"We were bowled out for 67 (in the first innings of the third Test) and in any other format it'll be all over. Test cricket gives you room for something extraordinary to happen, and it happened.

"It might take 48 hours to sink in, and he'll think, 'I can do it, and I will do it again'. He's got wood on Australia and I tell you, there's no better feeling as an England cricketer.''

Lyon's mistake has sparked a war of words between Warne and Prior, who mocked the spinner on Twitter, suggesting the game had taken revenge for Lyon's past comments.

Ben Stokes was the hero at Headingley.
Ben Stokes was the hero at Headingley.

"Excuse me? Just because Lyon knocked you over for fun, there's still no need for that kind of silly and immature behaviour," Warne said.

"Grow up, and enough of those stupid comments. Let's celebrate the wonderful game of Test cricket and the Ashes please!"

Prior reminded Warne that Lyon had labelled the English wicketkeeper "scared" in previous series and said the 2017-18 contest would end English careers.

"Now it's silly, immature and childish? Jeez you guys have short memories! I don't think you can pick and choose when to hide behind 'it's just banter' and then decide it's now childish and immature. Anyway as you say moving on …'," Prior replied.

Tim Paine, who picked Lyon up off the spot on the field where he fell in despair after Stokes hit the winning run, has urged the side to take the emotion out of the one-wicket loss.

Cummins says the squad is keeping it in perspective.

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