Ben Stokes dismissed by Nathan Lyon as Ashes rivalry renews

Nathan Lyon
Nathan Lyon had Ben Stokes caught for two at Stanley Park - Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Ben Stokes v Nathan Lyon has been one of the most dramatic duels in Ashes cricket over the last decade. At the Headingley Test of 2019, Lyon could not dismiss Stokes during his finest hour, but he did when playing for Lancashire at Blackpool in Stokes’s first match of this season.

Lyon had already demonstrated what a lethal off-spinner he is against left-handed batsmen, dismissing Durham’s captain Scott Borthwick with a ball that bounced – almost kicked, such is the Australian’s over-spin – on a fresh out-ground pitch and had Borthwick caught at first slip.

It was much the same scenario when Lyon bowled to Stokes, who had scored two: Lyon, round the wicket, and turning sharply if not bouncing on this occasion, while Stokes played back – much as he had in India last winter, very open-chested – and edged a low catch to second slip.

There might be long-term implications, for the next Ashes series, in that for as long as Lyon continues to bowl, Australia can keep control over England’s batsmen, whether they are playing Bazball or not. But in terms of this comeback by Stokes, a cheap dismissal hardly signifies, because what matters is that England’s captain is now bowling again at full lick.

On the second morning of this match Stokes had one more over, after 17 on day one, before Lancashire’s first innings ended. It had been some workload on the first day of his comeback yet Stokes was able to get out of bed and put his left knee through its paces all over again. That is what mattered: those two wickets, not his two runs. Stokes then took a third wicket of the match at the start of Lancashire’s second innings, dismissing Luke Wells.

Lancashire’s total of 356, after they had been sent in, came to look ever more impressive after Lyon went to work. Durham are mid-table. Lancashire are bottom of it, so they need their Lyon to roar and their first victory of this season.

“The new Jofra Archer” was meanwhile announcing himself at Chelmsford. On his Warwickshire first-class debut, within five overs, Che Simmons had taken three wickets and was on a hat-trick.

Simmons leans forward more than Archer when he runs in and delivers, but there were echoes of the same pace, especially in the fieriness of his bouncer. When Simmons bounced Nick Browne, the Essex left-hander felt for the next ball and was caught behind. Next ball Matt Critchley felt for one outside off-stump and was again caught behind. The hat-trick ball was fuller and straighter and worked for two but it was still some debut spell.

Simmons attended Combermere school in Barbados, like Wes Hall among other West Indian greats, and was recommended to Warwickshire by Ottis Gibson, once England’s bowling coach, now Yorkshire’s head coach. Signed on a three-year contract, he has just turned 20 and is qualified for England as his father has a UK passport.

Fellow Warwickshire bowler Oliver Hannon-Dalby was impressed with Simmons’ impact: “Che is an exciting young bowler. He first burst on the scene in the indoor nets bowling a lot of bouncers and put Carlos Braithwaite on his backside, which was quite funny. That’s what we saw today: a young guy with lots of energy, again lots of bouncers flying around and he is an exciting prospect for the Bears hopefully for 10-15 years.”

The immediate effect of Simmons’s spell was to eliminate Essex further from the championship race, following their defeat by Somerset in their last game, and to leave the field open for Surrey to retain their title. Having wobbled in the opening hour of their game against Worcestershire on a grassy Oval pitch, Surrey have soared ahead with ruthless efficiency and no little style in taking their lead beyond 400.

England’s wristspinner Rehan Ahmed was given the chance of a long bowl while Gloucestershire piled up 706, and he took two of their six wickets for 153 runs, but was not quite so successful when he batted. Leicestershire, alone in having drawn every one of their five games, will be hard pressed to save this one with two days to go.