From tending the wickets of the iconic Adelaide Oval, to bringing up a half century of matches in the baggy green, Nathan Lyon has taken the path less travelled to become Australia’s most prolific finger spinner. We map the peaks and troughs of an ever-blossoming career. Jordan Crick
(Image: All smiles. Nathan Lyon at the peak of his powers. Ian Kington.)
September 1st 2011 – Galle. The obsessive scouring of the domestic competition to find a new spin king had long turned into a game of roulette for Australian selectors. After continued unsuccessful attempts in the form of McGain, Beer and Hauritz (to name a few), the wheel landed on a young, unknown curator from Adelaide. Another potential winner. He becomes the 11th spinner to be tested since the departure of the irreplaceable Shane Keith Warne 5 years earlier. As he comes onto bowl in the 15th over, a brand new baggy green cap proudly hoisted atop his head, he is faced with the task of bowling to Sri Lankan maestro Kumar Sangakkara, who had recently amassed 184 runs in a three match tour of England. In an attempt to repay his skippers boat of confidence, he tosses the ball up outside off-stump, drawing Sangakkara forward to take his outside edge which, fittingly, finds its way to the dependable hands of Michael Clarke in 1st slip. He follows it up with a further 4 high-profile Sri Lankan wickets to grab a five-fa on debut, a sign of the heights he is to reach across the next 49 test matches of his esteemed career.
December 9 2011, Hobart. The final game of the Trans-Tasman trophy was more than just a crushing victory for Australia, it was the defining moment for Nathan Lyon as a cricketer, and, most importantly, a person. Playing just his 7th match as the 421st Australian player to pull on the baggy green, Lyon was faced with his biggest adversity yet. With the Australians needing a further 42 runs to win the test match and secure the Trans-Tasman trophy, a sanguine Nathan Lyon strides to the wicket alongside the untapped batting talent of David Warner, who has made his way to a maiden hundred in just his second test. With 7 runs left to get, his innings ends. Bowled by Bracewell for 9. It was the first real adversity Lyon had to overcome in the baggy green. It taught him the most important virtue necessary for success at test level – perseverance.
The Ashes 2013-14. Playing second fiddle to in-form Mitch Johnson in a series dominated and defined by searing pace, Nathan Lyon managed 19 wickets at 29.26. He revitalized round the wicket bowling, taking the prized scalps of Bell, Prior and Bairstow in an aptly devised leg side trap. A scheme that has provided a bountiful supply of international wickets and will surely be etched into Nathan Lyon folklore. While the effect Lyon had on this series will be largely overlooked, his partnership with Harris and Johnson was crucial in delivering a clean sweep of a one-sided Ashes series.
As he walks off the ground in Hobart against the West Indies, he will join a club that, to Australian cricket, has about as many members as the lunar landing module of Apollo 11. Only the great Hugh Trumble (421 wickets) comes close.
Though Lyons career will not be celebrated in a myriad of champagne showers come its completion, he will have had a pivotal role to play in the outcome of a number of Australia’s great victories.
Here’s to fifty more!