Friday, June 21, 2024

Lyon returns to the summer Test with “batting superstar” challenge

Australian veteran off-spinner Nathan Lyon heaped praise on Pakistan “batting superstar” Babar Azam and is ready to take the baton against him.

Babar is one of the few bright spots from their most recent trip to Australia in 2019-2020, where he scored 97 and 101. He recently resigned the Pakistan captaincy, averages 44.38 in 10 Tests against Australia and made a magnificent 196 in Karachi last year to save the match before Lyon removed him at a crucial stage of the decider in Lahore.

“Babar, firstly, has been a pleasure to play against but he’s also been a massive challenge,” Lyon told ESPNcricinfo. “He’s one of the best batters in the world in my eyes, especially against spin. He’s a class player. But think he’s a class player against all types of bowling.

“They’ve got some superstars in the side, and if I’m talking superstars he’s the No. 1 in the Pakistan side in my eyes. He played reasonably well out here last time so it’s going to be a big challenge for us for sure.”

However, Lyon has got rid of Babar five times since 2016, and with Optus Stadium, Perth being the venue of the opening game, he will start his summer on 496 wickets and given his record of 22 wickets in three matches, there is every chance he can become the eighth bowler, and third Australia, to reach five hundred during the match.

“The hunger level for playing Test matches is probably higher than ever, if I’m being honest,” he said. “I’m proper excited about it. Love playing in Perth at Optus Stadium. It’s going to be a challenge against Pakistan, so it’s going to be an exciting battle.”

Returning after the Ashes-ending calf injury earlier this year Lyon has put together three Sheffield Shield outings over the past month after lengthy rehab from the first major injury of his Test career.

Lyon took four wickets in his three Shield outings for New South Wales and did not have a massive workload in the last match at the SCG which was pace-bowler-dominated. But he has been putting in plenty of spells in the nets, including a three-hour stint with mentor John Davison, and is very comfortable with his build-up.

“My rehab has been exceptional,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of good people in my corner helping me out, making sure I was ticking every box and making sure I was doing everything required. If I wasn’t coming off cricket I’d been questioning it, but three Shield games, a one-day game a grade game, and a lot of training, [leaves me] feeling really happy with way things are.”

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