Pat Cummins steamed in, produced a well-directed bouncer and Chris Woakes gloved it to second slip. Fittingly, it was Steve Smith that pouched it as Australia completed a resounding 251-run victory in the first Test at Edgbaston on Monday.
It was only the second occasion in ten matches played at the venue, since 2001, when a side batting second took the first innings lead but couldn’t register the win.
A solid batting order and an even more settled squad titled the scales in England’s favour prior to the start of The Ashes.
What most predictions didn’t quite take into account comprehensively was the fact that Australia boasted a weapon, a potent one at that – Steve Smith.
The mastermind that Smith is, he plotted England’s downfall in the first Test at Edgbaston with the visitors opening their campaign, in pursuit of a first Ashes series victory since 2001, in blistering fashion.
Chasing an improbable 385 on the final day with the pitch getting slower as time passed, England collapsed drastically folding for 146 just before tea.
Credit must go to Cummins who bent his back on a pitch that offered little or no assistance to pacers. The New South Wales speedster started the rut dismissing first innings centurion Rory Burns, and then went on to finish with impressive figures of 4/32.
England would have been aware of the threat of the rough but still couldn’t do much against Nathan Lyon.
Barring an ordinary shot from Jason Roy, who unnecessarily waltzed down the track and missed the ball with a wild heave, Lyon’s wickets were yielded from terrific deliveries that were literally unplayable.
Ending with numbers of six for 49, Lyon became the first Australian spinner since Shane Warne to take an Ashes five-wicket haul in England.
England began with a herculean task at hand but Burns went early after gloving a rising delivery to point.
Considering how deep the hosts bat, a draw would not have been something impossible and Roy joined forces with skipper Joe Root as they raised 41 runs.
Call it a brain fade or a moment of madness but it was poor cricket from Roy, to say the least. Lyon tossed one up and the English opener fell for it, dancing down the track, nowhere close to the ball, and slogging to the leg-side, only to hear the sound of timber.
That set off a chain of events exposing the middle order frailties – Root, Buttler, Bairstow, and Stokes – all departing cheaply to leave England in a precarious position at 97 for seven, Australia could definitely smell blood at this point.
Moeen Ali has been in woeful form of late but the left-handed all-rounder, in the company of Woakes, provided some resistance to slightly brighten England’s fast-fading hopes.
With tea fast approaching, Moeen was bamboozled by a ripper from Lyon that turned sharply from the rough and took his outside edge en route to David Warner at short gully.
The very next ball, Stuart Broad endured the long walk back for a golden duck, perishing much like Moeen did, only difference being the catch was taken by Smith at first slip.
Woakes and the injured James Anderson delayed the inevitable but Australia and Smith refused to be denied, completing a handsome drubbing.
The match had Smith stamp his authority all over it and England will now be more wary than ever. Will this cramp their free-flowing style? Can the Aussies drive home the advantage? Only time will tell as the two teams lock horns at Lord’s again for the second part of this series, on August 14.