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Nice, Garry: The rise of the GOAT

Dylan Carmody Roar Guru

By Dylan Carmody, Dylan Carmody is a Roar Guru

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    Less than eight years ago, Nathan Lyon was the curator of the Adelaide Oval, and cricket as a living was nothing more than a dream. Now, he is the greatest off-spinner in Australian cricketing history.

    It has been a remarkable rise for the man now dubbed as the ‘GOAT’, and is probably the shining example of where hard work and dedication can lead to.

    Moving from New South Wales to further his career, Lyon found himself a job as one of the curators of the Adelaide Oval.

    Before long, he was playing on the very ground, picked in the South Australian T20 team, in the early days of Big Bash cricket. There were no long sleeve shirts, no bald head and no long drawls of “Niceeeeee Garryyyyyy”.

    There was just the skinny off-break bowler, who had no amazing attributes other than the fact that he had great flight, dip, bounce, and could give the ball a good rip.

    Therefore, many were taken by surprise when after only a handful of first-class games for the Redbacks, Lyon was on the plane to Sri Lanka, another spinner selected as the selectors were in the middle of their quest for the next Shane Warne.

    That surprise was soon quelled though, as Lyon ripped through the Sri Lankan batting line-up, claiming 5-34 on debut, including the prized wicket of arguably the greatest Sri Lankan batsmen to play the game, Kumar Sangakarra. Oh, and he did it first ball too.

    Going through the highs of a 5-fer in the Boxing Day Ashes Test, to the lows of his inability to lead Australia to victory in Adelaide against South Africa, where a Faf Du Plessis century secured a draw for the Proteas, Lyon’s lowest point came when he was dropped in favour of the teenage Ashton Agar for the first Test of the 2013 Ashes in England.

    This was caused by his struggles in India, where the Australians were soundly beaten 4-0.

    More than anything, this served as the catalyst to his rise. He returned to the Australian squad, and answered his critics only a year later, bowling the Australians to victory at Adelaide against the Indians, collecting match figures of 12/286.

    This started to become a trend, with Lyon only getting better and better. He returned to India this year, and was the standout bowling, taking 19 wickets at an average of 25.26, including career best figures of 8-50.

    Now, in the dustbowls of Dhaka and Chittagong, Nathan Lyon is the leading wicket-taker, having collected 21 wickets for the series against Bangladesh.

    He has reached incredible heights. He broke Richie Benaud’s wicket taking record (he is now the second-best spin bowler in Australian history by wickets taken). He is the most successful bowler in 2017 so far. He has three consecutive five wicket hauls (first to do so since Shane Warne in 2004).


    (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

    He has the highest match haul by an Australian in Asia (13-154) and is only 31 scalps off being the sixth Australian to have taken 300 Test wickets.

    Not only has Lyon made impacts on the field, but he has done so off-field also. The cult following of Matthew Wade’s drawl of “Nice Garry” behind the pegs every time Lyon bowled caught on rapidly.

    Social media can be a strange thing, and it resulted in a Facebook event where everyone at the first day of the Boxing Day Test at the MCG last year was going to scream “Nice Garry” as loud as they could on his third ball.

    Lyon himself ruined this though, as he took the wicket of Sami Aslam on his third ball. Instead of having over 80,000 people yell in unison “Nice Garry”, they went ballistic instead.

    When you take a look at Lyon, there’s nothing about him that screams ‘superstar’. He is pretty skinny, balding and is fairly quiet when it comes towards the public side of things.

    The only difference between him and myself is that he is the greatest off-spin bowler in Australian history, and I’m writing about the greatest off-spin bowler in Australian history.

    The key to Lyon’s success isn’t well he flights the ball, or how much bounce he gets, or even how much he spins it (though that does help). Nathan Lyon works extremely hard, and is incredibly resilient.

    Remember, cricket is 25 per cent physical, and 75 per cent mental. Nathan Lyon has been smashed on the field by the best batsmen in the world, and off the field by armchair experts on Facebook. He’s had everything thrown at him, and he’s still managed to come out on top.

    Mentally, he’s incredible, and has worked so hard at his game. It should be a lesson to every junior cricketer out there, that even with a little bit of talent, you can make it far, with resilience and a determination to succeed.

    Nathan Lyon started out less than ten years ago as a groundskeeper, playing club cricket. Now, he has 269 Test wickets, having just taken a career best of 13-154 in Chittagong. He sits as Australia’s greatest ever Test off-spinner, and the second greatest spin bowler for Australia.

    And he’s only 29 years old. Not bad for a curator.

    With his Test career still so young, and with Lyon nearing the 300 wicket mark in only his 69th Test, you have no choice but to sit back and think to yourself: ‘nice, Garry.’

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    The Crowd Says (7)

    • September 8th 2017 @ 9:38am
      Ouch said | September 8th 2017 @ 9:38am | ! Report

      Nicely written.
      Lyon has been outstanding this year and deserves all the accolades that come his way. I’m thinking there aren’t any better all-round spinners than the GOAT at the moment.
      He takes wickets away and at home as opposed to Ashwin and friends who are pretty much useless out of the sub-continent.

    • September 8th 2017 @ 10:36am
      Aransan said | September 8th 2017 @ 10:36am | ! Report

      A good article about a very good and often underestimated player.

    • September 8th 2017 @ 12:03pm
      bazza said | September 8th 2017 @ 12:03pm | ! Report

      Second best spin bowler for Australia sounds like someone with a very short memory.

      Maybe if you say second most test wickets then that’s fine as that’s a fact but second best spin bowler we have had i doubt that.

      He’s had a golden patch

    • September 8th 2017 @ 12:03pm
      AGordon said | September 8th 2017 @ 12:03pm | ! Report

      Lyon has certainly matured in terms of applying his craft in SE Asia and completely deserves the accolades that come with hard work. He is also a “lock” for the spinners role over the Ashes series, but he needs to re-adapt to bowling in Australia where obviously the pitches are mostly unhelpful for spinners. The public should also not expect the same sorts of “bags” every time he bowls, for the same reasons.

      The Australian attack should be able to take 100 English wickets but the share of the spoils will be much more even across the bowling group. Lyon will hopefully take key wickets, tie up an end and generally keep pressure on the batsman – and maybe take a few 5 fors!

    • September 8th 2017 @ 4:06pm
      spruce moose said | September 8th 2017 @ 4:06pm | ! Report

      A fine player

      He’s not the second best Australian test spinner. Nor would he be in the top 5 either.

      But he does deserve the positivity surrounding him.

    • September 9th 2017 @ 5:58am
      Jarijari said | September 9th 2017 @ 5:58am | ! Report

      A few figures on Gaz since his Test debut in Sri Lanka in August 2011, when he took six wickets in the match.

      He’s played 69 Tests for 269 wickets @ 31.83, economy rate 3.13, strike rate 60.89.

      In his first 12 months it was 13 Tests, 42 wickets @ 27.83, ER 2.90, SR 57.54.

      Last year and a bit (since late July ’16, again in Sri Lanka): 15 Tests, 74 wickets @ 29.10, ER 3.13, SR 55.79.

      So in the 13 Tests before Bangladesh he took 52 wickets (4 per Test) compared to 3.2 in his first year.

      Pretty consistent overall.

      But his record in Asia is, of course, exceptional: 9 Tests for 57 wickets @ 22.91, ER a miserly 2.57 and SR 47.80.

      At home, in 32 Tests he has 118 wickets @ 34.55, ER 3.18, SR 65.18. That’s still just a little under four wickets per Test.

      His 22-wicket haul was the second best in a two-Test series, one shy of Sri Lankan Rangana Herath’s 23 against Pakistan in 2014.

      Lyon’s three successive five-wickets hauls emulated a host of Australian bowlers, headed by Charles Turner with six in a row, Dennis Lillee, Rod Hogg and Shane Warne, each with four in succession, Clarrie Grimmett, who got five-for Test spells three times, and also John Ferris, Ashley Mallett, Alan Davidson, Geoff Lawson, Merv Hughes, Glenn McGrath, Stuart MacGill and Mitchell Starc.

      As for 22 wickets in successive Tests in a series, it lines up pretty well against so many of them, quite a few who had earlier matches to warm up: George Lohmann 27, including an 8-7, in South Africa in 1896, Tom Richardson 24 against Australia later in the year, Sydney Barnes 27 in South Africa in 1913, Jim Laker’s incredible 30 of Australia’s scalps at Headingley and Old Trafford (with his seemingly unbreakable match record of 19), Fred Trueman 23 against West Indies in 1963, and Harbhajan Singh with 28 against Australia in Calcutta and Chennai in 2001,

      I’m the first to admit scepticism when he came into the side. Just a bloody offie. But he’s proved himself superior to blokes like Ashley Mallett (ave 29.84), and Bruce Yardley (31.63), who I thought was our best off-spinner of the past 50 years until Lyon established himself.

      Talk about playing four quicks in any of the Ashes Tests is ridiculous. Lyon will be there for all five.

      • September 11th 2017 @ 3:14pm
        John Erichsen said | September 11th 2017 @ 3:14pm | ! Report

        I am very glad to see Lyon finally delivering some consistent performances but perhaps we need to look at the context of his great success. Consecutive test series in India and Bangladesh on pitches that were prepared to give spin bowlers a massive advantage. You mention Mallett and Yardley and claim that Lyon has proven himself superior to both of them. Yardley perhaps but certainly not Mallett. Lyon has merely been selected more often than Mallett was. Mallett’s test average and economy rate is far superior to Lyon’s. Mallett’s lone tour of India brought him 28 wickets at 19.11. Lyon has a long way to go before he passes Mallett in anything except wickets taken. We all know the amount of cricket played now contributes to that.
        Last summer’s poor form is still a major concern for Lyon and he will need to maintain his confidence and control in the Ashes before we start making grandios claims. For now, it is promising that after a tidy Indian series, Lyon made the most of the helpful Bangladesh pitches by bowling very well. More to follow? I hope so.
        We can certainly agree on the no chance of 4 quicks in the Ashes. The only way this will happen is in the pink ball test and if we drop a batsman. Given our inconsistent batting performances, I doubt selectors will be that rash. Lyon certainly deserves his spot in our test 11, but this GOAT stuff is pure fiction.

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