Old Trafford deck puts a spring in Lyon’s step
THE stage is set for Nathan Lyon's Ashes redemption, with captain Tim Paine saying his star spinner has overcome the heartache of Headingley and has renewed focus to prove his doubters wrong.
Lyon cut a forlorn figure in the wake of Australia's agonising one-wicket defeat in Leeds, having been responsible for fumbling a run-out chance which would've sealed an incredible one-run win.
The brilliant off-spinner has moved into third on Australia's all-time Test wicket takers, passing fast bowling great Dennis Lillee this series, but there were fears the devastating nature of the third Test defeat could rock his confidence.
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But Paine believes, if anything, it's steeled Lyon for the remaining two Tests.
"The instant disappointment was there for all of us to see after, on the field," Paine said when asked if Lyon took some time to recover from the loss.
"But I think you go off the field for five minutes and sit down and put it all in perspective and realise that we are in the middle of an Ashes and he's a huge asset for us and I think he is ready to go.
"I would say he is really driven for these last two Test Matches.
"He's found out a bit who his friends are in the last week and he's continued to prove people wrong, like he has his whole career."
The pitch itself may be reason enough for Lyon to crack a smile. It is believed to be the bounciest pitch of the five venues, which plays into Lyon's hands as a crafty spinner who uses the extra bounce in Australian wickets to his advantage.
Even more encouragingly, five of the past seven Test five-wicket hauls at the ground have been claimed by spinners and with Paine noting the dryness of the pitch two days out from the first ball there is sure to be some turn as the match wears on.
"I think on most surfaces now, if you can get them into day 4 and 5, the spinners play a huge role," Paine said.
"So I think as well with the big fast bowlers that both teams have got, there tends to be quite a bit of wear and tear around the footmarks. That's another challenge of Test cricket.
"We saw (England's Jack) Leach was a real handful for us at Lord's when he had some rough, as Lyono has been for them.
"So that's nothing new - guys have got plans to try to cope with it. It's about executing that under pressure out in the middle."