Snubbed for the first two Tests of the Ashes, Nathan Lyon has hit back to drive home his value with a starring role as Australia continued their momentum from Manchester to take the early ascendancy in the fourth Test at Durham.
If you hadn't seen any of Friday's play in England's north-east and taken a casual glance at the scorecard, you might think Lyon (4-42) had been bowling on a wicket that was turning square.
In fact, it was barely spinning at all at the Riverside but that did not stop the off-spinner running through the hosts' middle order, claiming four wickets as England, via a mix of disciplined all-round bowling and careless batting, slumped to 5-155 before a last-wicket flurry left them 9-238 at the close.
England had been 2-149 and while self-destructive batting played a key role in their capitulation it was no small thanks to Lyon, who after deciding early to come around the wicket removed key men Jonathan Trott (49) and Ian Bell (6) and took sweet revenge on spin bowling bully Kevin Pietersen (26).
Australian coach Darren Lehmann hinted that the tourists might have seized the momentum in England with their display at Old Trafford, where they believed they would have won on the fifth day had it not rained. It certainly looked the case on Friday. The Ashes have been conceded but Australia had a spring in their step while for much of the day England, in a mystifying performance, were largely either playing poor strokes or bogged down.
Lyon was targeted by Pietersen at Old Trafford last week, and was shown little respect again briefly on Friday, but the off-spinner had the last laugh.
Shane Warne branded England arrogant in the lead-up to this match and Pietersen, from the moment he strutted onto the ground after lunch, did nothing to dispel that theory. Of course, that is all part of his schtick; built like a rugby league second-rower, he plays with the same aggression and general indifference to consequences.
With the first ball he faced on Friday he skipped down the wicket to Lyon and lofted him into the deep. He mistimed it but got away with the false stroke as the ball fell behind the retreating fielder.
"I'm not surprised at all," Lyon said of Pietersen's tactics. "That's who he is and that's the type of cricketer (he is). He's one of the best players in the world and he likes to take bowlers on. I expected that."
In Lyon's next over Pietersen went at the spinner again, taking him down the ground for two fours in a row, one of which sailed not far wide of mid-off.
Michael Clarke dragged Lyon out of the attack, having bowled only four overs, but seven overs later brought him back with immediate success. This time he drifted one across a prodding Pietersen with the fifth ball of his second spell and caught the edge of the bat on the way to Brad Haddin's gloves.
Pietersen walked, fleeing faster than he took to Twitter this week to furiously shoot down claims of batsmen cheating Hot Spot with silicon tape.
"They're the challenges that I love, someone taking the game to you. That's why we play our cricket," Lyon said. "There's no doubt he's one of the best batters in the world."
Lyon, by then, already had Trott caught at short leg by Usman Khawaja, and shortly afterwards had Bell snapped up by a diving Ryan Harris at mid-off, England's recklessness on show again with a stroke that went against the pattern of his batting in a series in which he has scored two hundreds.
Later in the afternoon Lyon would also see off Jonny Bairstow, who needed 77 balls for his 14 runs at the height of England's scoring drought, with Matt Prior also having the brakes on with 17 from 58 deliveries.
On his success around the wicket Lyon said: “That came down to my natural variation, a mixture of my variations and trying to spin it back through the gate. That pitch isn't offering a great deal right now. But no doubt later on in the game it's going to offer something. But just to have the natural variation, bring 'Hadds' behind the stumps and 'Pup' (Clarke) at slip [into the game]...I was fortunate enough it worked out OK today.”
England's middle order had destroyed the foundations laid in a painstakingly assembled half-century by captain Alastair Cook, who took 153 balls to reach fifty.
It was appropriate then that Cook's innings came to a stop on 51 when leaving a ball, sent on his way by a superb delivery from the recalled Jackson Bird (1-58) that jagged back and trapped him lbw, not offering a shot. Bird was included at the expense of Mitchell Starc for his first Test since being named man of the match against Sri Lanka in Sydney in January, with selectors believing the Durham wicket would suit his stump-to-stump style.
There was also reward in a effective all-round bowling performance for Harris (2-70), Shane Watson (1-21) and Peter Siddle (1-41).
England bemoaned their profligacy, but pointed to 250 being a "par" first-innings score at Durham, where 339 is the highest total at the venue in this county season. "Generally in cricket you get yourself out or it's good pressure from the opposition that makes you play a shot you shouldn't have," Trott said. "Generally the fault's in yourself as a batsman and I think we could all say that today. It's a little bit uncharacteristic of us as a side because we put a lot of emphasis on our wickets and when that doesn't happen you're disappointed so there are a few disappointed guys."
While Australia had the best of day one another winner was the much-maligned Hot Spot, passing through the only review it was needed for, when Watson had Joe Root caught behind for 16, without controversy.