“By scripting a memorable spell of 5-4-4-4 before lunch, Lyon not only boomeranged his way to further stardom but also gifted his side, reeling under the unceremonious incidents, with a huge chance of an upset win”
Akin to the green light that Gatsby was chasing in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, the Australian cricket team had their eyes firmly fixed on a triumph in Asian conditions that would once again reinforce their supremacy in the world of sports. Standing across the dock and looking ahead at the glory that seemed beyond reach, the players stared away towards the ideal that would go a long way in making them world-beaters again. But it eluded them again and again, even when they tried harder and pushed themselves with all their might.
Sans a win in Asia since 2011, Australian Cricket had evaporated from the champions they had been known to be into mere challengers and the transition phase – that is yet to yield satisfactory results – threatened their supremacy in the cricketing realm. Replacements were hard to find and with inconsistency running riot, a good display in Asia – where technique trumps brashness – was hard to come by.
However, the sole criteria for a poor showing in the placid tracks of the subcontinent were the lack of a match-winning spinner of the calibre of Shane Warne. For well over four years since his retirement, Australia experimented and tried out different players for the role but without continued success. It took a ground curator to break the shackles; to emerge through the ranks – first in T20s for South Australia – and then first-class cricket, and rise as an unlikely hero for his country. Seven years hence, he is the fourth highest wicket-taker for them, along with being their guardian and custodian when things refuse to go to plan.
With a 5-wicket haul on debut against Sri Lanka in 2011, Nathan Lyon displayed all that he was capable of. Knowing the art of bowling a particular delivery to a batsman has been an art so intrinsic that many have succumbed in its pursuit, but the off-spinner, by cleverly reading his opponents, was able to thrive. The player can equally adapt to seam-friendly wickets as he can to dry surfaces – never hesitating to adopt an “ugly” bowling style, without flight and spin.
This unattractive bowling is what helped him create history in the second Test match against Pakistan at UAE. The side had come into the series with the scandal of the ball-tampering incident stealing away two of their integral players, which doubled the responsibility on the senior-most Lyon. After a gritty knock with the bat helped Australia draw the first game, Lyon was expected to come to the party with the ball in the second. With four wickets in six deliveries, not only did he respond in style, but also pushed forward a team that had the tendency to take their “foot off the throat” to further vengeance.
He built up Azhar Ali’s wicket by cramping up the player for room, dragging him forward and then beating him with an unplayable turn. Ali was forced forward to drive a ball, but he was unable to get to the pitch of it and the result was a simple return catch to the bowler. In the very next ball, Lyon attempted the same modus operandi – forcing Haris Sohail forward, only to beat him with the drop and the bounce.
The player was on a hattrick but Asad Shafiq cleverly denied him the same, keeping out a perfectly-pitched ball away. However, he could survive only that one ball as Lyon shifted to bowling a straighter delivery next but with the batsman unable to get to the pitch of the ball once more, chances of an LBW increased, which was proved by the DRS.
It was not over, as Babar Azam fell to a classical off-spinning delivery, crashing onto his stumps, to take Lyon past Mitchell Johnson onto the all-time list, behind Warne, Glenn McGrath and Dennis Lillee.
“I’ve never been one for personal success and personal goals. Or at least talking about them. But it’s a massive honour to pass the likes of Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson today. I’ve been very fortunate to play 80 Test matches for Australia and to be in this position to take 314 wickets, personally, it’s a great achievement and it’s something I will look back when I retire from the game and sit back with family and friends and have a beer and talk about it. I know my mum and dad will be pretty proud. But, right now it’s about me doing my best for the Australian cricket team and winning Test matches.”
By scripting a memorable spell of 5-4-4-4 before lunch, Lyon not only boomeranged his way to further stardom but also gifted his side, reeling under the unceremonious incidents, with a huge chance of an upset win. Standing tall in adversary will be his epitaph, and if he is able to guide his side well in the next series against India as well, there will be no doubting Lyon’s place in Australia’s cricketing history.