Wounded Lyon roars to end SCG curse
THE Sydney Cricket Ground is still the house of pain for Nathan Lyon - but with his fingers not his figures.
Nicknamed the GOAT - for his standing as the greatest (offspinner) of all time - Lyon on Sunday produced the first five-wicket haul of his career at his home ground, and all with a bleeding hoof.
A nasty blow shot back to him while bowling lifted his finger nail and required heavy strapping on his right thumb, but Lyon only resolved to rip the ball harder as he bowled Australia to what history says is an impregnable position in the last Test of the summer against New Zealand.
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Australia is 0-40 and lead by 243 runs heading into day four, after Lyon's SCG-best 5-68 earlier bowling New Zealand out for 251, three runs short of a follow-on mark Australia declined to enforce.
Country boy Lyon will donate $5000 to the Red Cross Bushfire relief as a result of his haul, while Pat Cummins will donate $3000 on the strength of his three scalps.
Despite its reputation as a spinner's haven, until Sunday, the SCG was bizarrely on par with the WACA as Lyon's bogey ground in Australia.
On Sunday he again had to work exceedingly hard for his wickets, but on a slow Sydney wicket, the master worked his magic.
Shane Warne said in Fox Cricket commentary that David Warner had quipped to Lyon before play that he still hadn't made his way onto the SCG honour board.
But Lyon got the SCG haul he has long craved and moved to 385 Test wickets in the process.
Luck wasn't on his side when he put down two sharp caught and bowled chances fired back at him by Kiwi debutant Glenn Phillips - the first of which left him dripping blood from the thumb on his bowling hand.
But the injury only further defined the toughness of an incredible cricketer who is on track to move into an even higher echelon of the game later this year when he passes 400 Test wickets.
Selectors looked for ways to end Lyon's career before it ever got going in the early years as they gambled on the likes of Xavier Doherty and Ashton Agar, desperately searching for the antidote to overcome Shane Warne's retirement.
Lyon certainly didn't look like Warne reincarnated in those early years, with his self-doubt manifesting itself in asking his wicketkeeper Brad Haddin for reassurance after every over.
The hairstyles and personalities are still very different, but a flick switched in Lyon a couple of years ago and now he owns the crease like Warne once did.
The belief was palpable and Glenn McGrath noted before the Test that Australia once again had a spinner with a Warne-like ability to influence a game.
New Zealand has now bowled on every day of this series, and on Monday it will be the 12th day from 12 of back-breaking work for the Blackcaps.
Phillips batted admirably for a man who flew in the night before the Test to make his debut, even if the cricket God's were smiling on him, gifting him three lives on his way to 52.
As well as having the good fortune of Lyon putting him down twice, Phillips was resigned to his fate after hooking James Pattinson straight into the mits of Travis Head on the Bill O'Reilly Stand fence.
However, Phillips was able to skip back to his mark when replays revealed Pattinson had committed the cardinal sin of overstepping.
It was a chastening moment, but the fiery quick found support from former Australian fast bowler Trent Copeland and Test great Ricky Ponting on Channel 7 commentary.
Copeland found Pattinson's wicket-taking no-ball was in fact his fifth front-foot offence in his past two overs - and called on the ICC to come up with a way for officials to improve their accuracy in calling, adamant bowlers deserve to be warned.
Ponting said umpires were being negligent in never calling no-balls until wickets are taking and replays are shown.
"Without pointing the finger at anybody … I'm not having it for one minute that umpires are looking down at that front line," Ponting said7.
"… For mine, that's not good enough. It's part of umpiring and part of what comes with the job."