Europe

Flyin’ Lyon, the man whose feet don’t touch the ground

When Nathan Lyon left the Adelaide earth, I already knew he was going to catch it.

That might sound silly. Manifest destiny. Hindsight genius. It's probably wrong for every reason you can point to.

But sometimes you feel like you know. You watch a fieldsman circle under a high ball, and can tell when confidence has leached from their limbs.

Like Steve O'Keefe on the Revolver dancefloor, you're just waiting for the drop.

This time around, Moeen Ali checked a drive towards mid-on. He hit it solidly enough. The ball was going well wide of the bowler. A streaky single for sure.

Except at the same time the bowler was in movement, a streak of white like an albatross hitting the South Atlantic. Not a downward dive though, horizontal.

While he was diving and the ball was flying, still so impossibly far apart as to make any association absurd, my brain was saying he would catch it.

When he hit the ground and rolled in a tangle of limbs, the ball must have gone down. At best he'd saved a run. There's no way he could have got there.

Except he caught it, because of course he did.

Nathan Lyon smiles and jumps in the air celebrating with three teammates facing away from the camera

Bowling from around the wicket, taking off from well wide of the stumps on the left-hander's off side, he ended up landing with the ball in hand at least a metre off the pitch on the leg side.

That's the kind of confidence in Lyon's game right now.

With his surety of movement, the coinciding paths of two objects seemed inevitable. And so it was, pink and white coming together perfectly as a strawberry Chupa Chup.

Photographers caught the instant perfectly. Lyon is at full stretch, parallel to the ground.

It's nothing so stilted as a Superman, that symbol of rigid Americana.

Instead Lyon has one leg drawn up at the knee, louche, like he's just rolled over amid the late morning's rumpled sheets.

His head is turned to the front, looking for something on the beside table. His right hand forms a useless T-Rex arm, folded and dangling.

His left is extended as far as it can go, reaching for a ball that it clutches in its fingers. The physics of it are impossible, but the overall effect is shoulder-shrugging casual.

England's Moeen Ali in helmet and holding a cricket bat walks from the pitch

Within minutes, an image was circulating online. Lyon's form, cut from that photograph, then pasted into the Creation of Adam.

Instead of God descending from a cloud to touch his progeny's hand, a Canberra off-break bowler descends to impart the spark of life by way of the pink Kookaburra.

Call it a contemporary reimagining. But how likely would it have been a couple of years ago to see Lyon cast in the role of divine creator?

Ethan Meldrum isn't a household name, but has a following assembling absurdist sport jokes online. He's good at what he does. If he's covering a subject, it has traction with fans.

This is the excitement that Lyon is generating. People want to see him play. They want to see what he does next. It's built on the confidence he has in the field.

The catch had the same feeling as the way he ran out James Vince in Brisbane, the surety of movement and the supreme trust in his skill.

There was no sense in either case that he thought he might miss. A once timid and overawed cricketer is becoming a showman.

There was that sense when he came out to bat in this match. Again, he spent his first innings clubbing harder than O'Keefe.

There was no sense that England's short bowling bothered him. He just wanted to score.

Then the cheer from the crowd as he got one where he wanted it. Coming inside the line, catching up, spanking it fine for six. No edge. No streak. Deliberate.

As with every innings he played in the last Australian Ashes, he walked off undefeated.

But it isn't just a matter of just showing off and playing to the crowd. Lyon is doing the yards.

Lyon's relentless work

While he may look like a laundry sack full of coat hangers, all angles and jangles, he's never been unathletic. He took a diving catch off his own bowling on debut.

But the way he now moves in the field, he has obviously worked relentlessly.

Two days before the second Test, during an otherwise deserted afternoon, he was out there on Adelaide Oval doing fielding drills.

With the ball, he has just gone back to equalling Ravi Ashwin as the world's top wicket-taker this year.

On this third day, with his 4 for 60, he went past the great spinner Clarrie Grimmett for wickets at the Adelaide Oval.

Lyon is now fifth overall. Ahead, the names are McDermott, Lillee, McGrath and Warne. He could catch them all in a few more years.

Mitchell Starc juggles a caught and bowled to dismiss England batsman Jonny Bairstow.

Before this series, when Lyon starting talking the talk, you worried about him walking the walk. As it stands, there is no Zoolander chink in his armour.

He can turn left. He can dive right. He can do a catwalk pirouette to smack a ball into the crowd. He can read minds. He knows the files are in the computer. There's no denying that he's so hot right now.

Coming out as nightwatchman, you could tell he was relishing the chance. The crowd loved him again. He soaked up the strike. He made the most of being hit in the box to shave some time off the clock.

I never thought I'd refer to anyone milking a groin injury, but these are the places cricket takes you. Again, England was annoyed, Joe Root nattering away as the players walked off at stumps.

Lyon didn't mind in the least. His day was summed up in his beaming smile and his glove-punch with Peter Handscomb, at yet another job successfully done.

Even better, he'd farmed the strike for the first ball of the fourth day. I'll bet you he makes 50 too.

External Link: Second Ashes Test scorecard

Original Article

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