He made his intentions clear from the outset.
“I was disappointed,” said Nathan Lyon, after being overlooked for Australia’s squad for the limited-overs series against England earlier this year.
“There’s no point hiding behind it; I want to be the No.1 spinner in all three formats.”
From grade cricketer to Test cricketer in a year, Lyon has proved many a critic wrong in becoming Australia’s best, most consistent spinner since Shane Warne in the red ball arena. The pink ball proved an easier nut to crack. The white ball, however, continues to remain elusive.
Speculation of Lyon’s white-ball comeback – he’s played in eight ODIs – has been building. Before today’s match had begun Australian selector Mark Waugh was grilled on the subject by Ricky Ponting in the commentary box.
Quick Single: Waugh comments on Lyon’s World T20 chances
When Lyon picked up 1-28 in the Sydney Sixers’ opener against the Thunder last week, the headlines started in earnest. “A handy opening audition,” read one.
It wasn’t a spectacular outing for the off-spinner, but already he was being deemed worthy. If only he could produce something that really was spectacular. The stage was set.
Opening the bowling in Sunday’s game, the second of the Sixers’ BBL|05 campaign, Lyon started with three probing dot balls. The pressure took its toll and Hobart Hurricanes captain Tim Paine slotted the next delivery down mid-wicket’s throat.
Quick Single: Sixers thrash Hurricanes at the SCG
It was the perfect all-round bowling display; have a plan and execute it. This class of bowling transcends any one format because it’s just that: world-class bowling.
The next ball didn’t need a plan. Lyon bowled it as only Lyon can do, and he had Kumar Sangakkara – one of, if not the best batsmen in the world – out for a golden duck.
It was Sangakkara’s first ball in Big Bash cricket. Four years earlier, Lyon’s first ball in Test cricket took Sangakkara’s wicket too. Irrelevant, but part of the tapestry of Lyon’s ongoing story.
WATCH: Lyon’s amazing first over
Lyon ended today’s match with figures of 5-23, the best by any slow bowler in the history of the BBL. If doubts hadn’t been cast in selectors’ minds before, they have now.
“I love playing this format full stop,” Lyon said after his five-wicket haul, which set-up a convincing victory.
“If I bowl the first or last over, it doesn’t worry me. I have to do a job for my team and that’s my role.
“That’s all I want to do, put my hand up for selection. I want to play all three formats. I’m confident I’ve got the skill to get the job done and bowling to whoever.
“I’m looking forward to whatever comes my way.”
Brad Haddin, who has seen more of Lyon than most as wicketkeeper to the offie for 31 Tests, is unashamedly a big fan.
“It’s no secret that I think he’s the premier spinner in Australia,” Haddin said at the end of play.
“Over the last 18 months he’s just getting better and better every time he bowls. That wicket was just perfect out there for him tonight. It had a bit of bounce and turn, it was good to watch.”
WATCH: Haddin steers Sixers to massive total
Every excuse not to include Lyon in Australia’s white ball sides appears to have been aired already.
Rod Marsh speculated a run in limited overs cricket might dent Lyon’s Test form.
Glenn Maxwell, bringing his explosive all-round game to the side, was deemed sufficient as the lone spinner for this year’s World Cup. When Australia wanted something different, they opted for Xavier Doherty, his left-arm spin turning it in the opposite direction to Maxwell.
“You just pick your best bowlers,” said Haddin on a day the Sixers selected three, with Botha and O’Keefe joining Lyon.
“Nathan can’t do anything more at the moment. He’s doing all the right things when he gets the opportunity to play white-ball cricket.
“Selection is the easy part. He’s just got to keep performing when he gets the chance.”