Nathan Lyon has been on crutches since Thursday. He was expected to be a mere spectator for the rest of the second Ashes cricket Test at Lord’s.
Then he stunned onlookers on day four Saturday when TV caught him clambering slowly down the stairs from the Australia dressing room all padded up and ready to go in as the last batter.
He waited close to the field in the Lord’s Pavilion so he wouldn’t be timed out hobbling to the middle. With him was resting 40-year-old England bowler Jimmy Anderson.
“He asked, am I stupid? And I said, ‘Yes, but I may have to do you and go to 40.’ He said, ‘If you keep loving the game and keep trying to get better there is no reason why you can’t,’ so that was a nice little moment with Jimmy.”
When the time came to bat, the 35-year-old Lyon received a standing ovation from the packed Lord’s crowd.
Australia wasn’t exactly desperate for the tailender at 264-9 in its second innings with a lead against England of 355 runs.
But when Lyon came hobbling back off after a gutsy half-hour to more applause as the last man out, he’d helped Australia add 15 more vital runs and provide new inspiration.
Lyon was already seemingly indestructible to the Australia team. He helped them win at Edgbaston last week with an unbeaten bat, and his appearance at Lord’s made him the rare player to string 100 successive Tests. It was a cruel twist of fortune, then, when the innocuous act of running to a fly ball on the field caused a right calf tear that Cricket Australia called “significant.” That put his participation in the rest of the series in doubt, let alone the match.
But there he was on Saturday afternoon, taking guard against England captain Ben Stokes.
“I knew the risk,” Lyon said. “But the way I look at it, I will do anything for this team and you never know how big a 15-run partnership can be in an Ashes series.
“So, yes I am proud of myself for going out there and doing that. If it was tomorrow, I would do it again and again and again because I love this team, I love playing for Australia.”
The first ball he turned to backward square leg, and would normally have run one, maybe two, but he took two halting steps and remembered he couldn’t run. His teammates on the pavilion balcony were laughing.
England wised up and spread around the boundary to contain Lyon and fellow specialist bowler Mitchell Starc. With Lyon apparently unable to run, he and Starc had to find gaps to the fence.
But Lyon somehow ran one for Starc when substitute fielder Rehan Ahmed saved a six. The effort was obviously painful and doubled him over. But he kept going.
Lyon handled a maiden over of bouncers from Stuart Broad while Starc hit a boundary and a six.
Then Lyon drew a roar from Australian fans when he crashed another Broad bumper to the boundary for his first and only runs. He was out caught in the same over, slicing to midwicket.
Both teams and Lord’s saluted his bravery.
“I have been absolutely shattered, I have been in tears, upset, and I have been hurting,” Lyon said, “but this team means everything for me.”
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