JAMES VINCE blunted the much-hyped Australia attack but fell foul of England’s new No 1 enemy Nathan Lyon just when he was all set to tame The Gabba on day one of the Ashes.
READ MORE - Day One reaction from The Gabba
Vince (83) responded to the departure of lynchpin opener Alastair Cook in just the third over of the series by sharing a century stand with Mark Stoneman which belied inevitable nerves on this huge stage.
After he was dropped by wicketkeeper Tim Paine on 68 pushing forward to Lyon, England’s latest No 3 appeared on course for a maiden Test century only for the off-spinner to snatch it away with a brilliant direct-hit to run him out attempting a faulty single to cover.
It was a moment which reinvigorated Australia and their hostile home support as captain Joe Root then also fell, lbw to Pat Cummins’ old-ball swing and pace, in a stumps total of 196-4.
With Lyon at the centre of Vince’s exit, it had an added significance after the spinner spoke out so forcefully earlier this week - apparently out of character - about Australia’s uncompromising intent this winter.
Vince had stroked a succession of stylish off-side boundaries among his 12 fours from 170 balls, as he vindicated pre-tour predictions from the England camp that he has the ideal game to prosper in Australian conditions.
He previously flattered to deceive in seven Tests, the last more than a year ago, averaging under 20 with a joint top-score of 42.
Ultimately, there was an undeniable element of job half-done here too, just when the notoriously partisan Brisbane crowd was becoming becalmed.
An untypically sluggish Gabba pitch was arguably in Vince’s favour, and the lack of sideways movement off the surface - a menace to his aspirations at home - was very handy too.
Nonetheless it was an admirable effort after Vince and Stoneman (53) joined forces at two for one when Mitchell Starc had made short work of England’s all-time record runscorer Cook - caught at first slip pushing forward to some well-directed new-ball swing from the left-armer.
There were precious few further edges or plays-and-misses as Vince unfurled some of his favourite cover-drives and back-foot forces, and Stoneman played the percentages to continue his sequence of passing 50 in every innings on tour so far - following his three half-centuries and a century in England’s warm-up fixtures.
The opener departed just before tea, during a rain-shortened second session, hanging back slightly in defence and done for pace by Cummins from round the wicket.
Lyon was then the most constant threat into the final hour, finding both turn and bounce and giving the batsmen precious little leeway, but it was Cummins who ousted the England captain before Dawid Malan and Moeen Ali’s spirited partnership closed out the evening.
Much of the pre-match chat from Australia had centred on how fearsome a prospect their three-man pace attack was going to be.
England were not put off, though - and despite the shock of losing Cook so early after Root had won the toss, and then Vince’s partially self-inflicted disappointment, they established a foothold in the series at least.