“The entire Australian team should draw inspiration from Nathan Lyon’s performance”
Nathan Lyon has been seen going down on his haunches on the cricket field probably many times in his career. That sight is pretty common, not only with Lyon, but with most of the spinners, whenever their appeals for wickets are turned down by the umpire. But they pick themselves up, shrug off the disappointment and concentrate on making the most out of the next delivery.
In the closing hours of the final day of the recently concluded Adelaide Test, Lyon was seen on the field sitting on his haunches once again. However, the situation this time was totally different from the numerous occasions he had found himself in that position previously.
Ravichandran Ashwin struck the final nail in Australia’s coffin as Josh Hazlewood edged his delivery straight into the hands of KL Rahul in the slips. With his dismissal, the Indian fielders went into a celebratory mood as they had won their first Test match on Australian soil since 2008.
As the Indians celebrated on one side of the pitch, Nathan Lyon sat on his haunches on the other side, with his head held low, staring down at the ground with disappointment and probably withering in pain and agony inside. He had every reason to be disappointed and every reason to be hurt. After all, he was left stranded on a score of 38 made off just 47 deliveries.
He had brought Australia so close to the Indian target of 323 runs. He got them so near yet it proved to so far in the end.
Walking out to bat at No. 9 with Australia staring down the barrel at 228/8, Lyon stitched a partnership of 31 runs with Pat Cummins first and then went on to stitch another stand of 32 runs with Hazlewood before that fateful delivery from Ashwin claimed the latter’s wicket.
It was not the first time in the match that he was left stranded at one end. He remained unbeaten on a score of 24 in their first innings too as Australia fell short of India’s first innings score by 15 runs, a margin which was small but yet went on to be decisive in the match.
Batting is not Lyon’s forte but he made sure that he had prepared well as India came calling to register their first ever series victory Down Under. His main job is bowling and he had played his part in that role brilliantly in both the innings.
In the first innings, he claimed two wickets—one was of Rohit Sharma who was on a rampage back then and the other of Rishabh Pant who seemed absolutely clueless about his bowling—for 83 runs. And in the second innings, he went on to pick 6 wickets for 122 runs—five of which were of top order batsmen— after a hard toil of 42 overs.
After picking up a total of 8 wickets for 205 runs and scoring 62 runs—the second highest run getter in the match amongst Australian batsmen—without being dismissed in the entire match, in the face of crisis and adversity, Lyon has reminded everyone of what the Australian nerves of steel look like.
He was being taken on by the Indian batsmen in the match on many occasions. Yet he did flinch even once and came roaring back to dismiss them. He didn’t have a single moment of weakness in the entire match until that feeling of being undone had taken him over when Australia lost their final wicket.
Australia had been in tatters as a team in recent times. They haven’t tasted a Test victory in a long time and hence have probably forgotten what it feels like to win. The team has played catch up games in most of their recent matches. But Lyon’s performance gave them a real chance of beating the World No 1 side this time.
For a brief period , Lyon had made them believe that he can take them over the line. It could also have been true if his partners at the other end could have survived. As other Australian players seemed tentative and nervous throughout the match, which is quite unlike their character, Lyon showed nerves of steel to hold on to each situation for his team.
The entire Australian team should draw inspiration from his performance. Lyon has reminded them once again of how their predecessors always displayed grit and confidence in the face of crisis. And if not for anyone else, each individual in the team needs to pull their socks up for Lyon from next time onwards.
Who knows, this kind of performance may just be the turn around Australia needed, a point that everyone would reflect back upon in the coming years as Australia’s rise from the ruins.