Nathan Lyon starts the second Ashes Test at Lord's on 352 wickets a mere three shy of equalling the great Dennis Lillee as Australia’s third-highest on the all-time list.
Nathan Lyon starts the second Ashes Test at Lord's on 352 wickets a mere three shy of equalling the great Dennis Lillee as Australia’s third-highest on the all-time list.

Ageless appeal of Nathan Lyon

TWO of Nathan Lyon's earliest cricket mentors were breaking down Australia's famous first Test victory at Edgbaston last week when the topic turned to the off-spin legend they'd helped tutor.

Neither former Cricket ACT high performance manager Andrew Dawson nor accomplished state player, and ACT coach, Mark Higgs would ever dare to lay claim to having truly set Lyon on his path to greatness. He did that mostly on his own, they reckon.

But they were there at the start, when he turned up at Manuka Oval as a 17-year-old still completing his HSC.

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They saw something special in him, of course - largely in his work ethic - but someone in line to one day take 350 wickets?

Not exactly. And so when the conversation turned to Lyon last week, Dawson and Higgs started laughing.

"Who the hell thought a bloke that lived off chicken schnitzels or parmies and bits and pieces would end up with 350 Test wickets?" Dawson roared with laughter at Higgs.

In truth, very few people would've seen it coming when Lyon followed his older brother Brendan in making the journey from Young to Canberra to join the Cricket Australia program there.

A hirsute Nathan Lyon in action for the ACT Under-23 team.
A hirsute Nathan Lyon in action for the ACT Under-23 team.

It proved the understatement of the century, but it was enough to catch Cricket ACT's attention and paved the way for Lyon to start his journey in the senior game - firstly as a curator's apprentice.

Lyon's groundskeeping duties have been well-documented, however it is that which Dawson credits for the durable 31-year-old turning into one of the world's elite cricketers.

Nathan Lyon’s achievements are built on a relentless work ethic.
Nathan Lyon’s achievements are built on a relentless work ethic.

Far from being pandered as a cricketing prodigy, Lyon's insatiable work ethic was forged before dawn at Manuka Oval when he was arriving at 5am to help the ground staff preparing for the Prime Minister's XI game, before launching into cricket training with the CA program and finishing off the day helping the head curator with more tasks.

The days would start at 5am and finish at 10pm.

"It cemented his work ethic and there's that element there," Dawson explains.

"From a bowling perspective, it's like a bottle of good red, or a single malt … it just gets better with age. Unshakeable confidence, his knowledge of the craft and his game craft, what he's doing is getting better and better."

Nathan Lyon is just three Test wickets shy of Dennis Lillee’s haul.
Nathan Lyon is just three Test wickets shy of Dennis Lillee’s haul.

It brings us to Lord's, where Lyon starts the Test on 352 wickets - a mere three shy of equalling the great Dennis Lillee as Australia's third-highest on the all-time list.

That in itself seems a staggering feat. But at 31, and with only Glenn McGrath (563 wickets) and Shane Warne (708 wickets) ahead of him should he pass Lillee, there's no end on sight for Lyon according to his skipper Tim Paine.

"He could get plenty - as long as he wants to go for I reckon," Paine said after the first-Test victory in Edgbaston.

"He's a bit the same as (Steve Smith), I feel like every Test match or series they seem to get better which is astonishing at their age.

"But I think if you come and watch both of them train you see why they keep improving and keep getting better and are a great example for the rest of our group."

Australia captain Tim Paine celebrates with Nathan Lyon after the pair had combined to dismiss Ben Stokes during the fifth day of the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston on August 05, 2019. Picture: Stu Forster/Getty Images
Australia captain Tim Paine celebrates with Nathan Lyon after the pair had combined to dismiss Ben Stokes during the fifth day of the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston on August 05, 2019. Picture: Stu Forster/Getty Images
News Corp Australia

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