Nathan Lyon rejects suggestions that he is the ‘pantomime villain’ of this winter’s Ashes, who has spooked England’s batsmen from ball one.
In fact, the Australia off-spinner’s impact on the series dates back well before then, three days from stumps being pitched in the first Test at the Gabba, when he spoke in his off-the-scale press conference of ending English careers.
He threw in gleeful reference, for good measure, to players running scared during the tourists’ 2013/14 Ashes whitewash defeat.
Since that opening gambit, Lyon has backed up his words with deeds – far from flattered by his five wickets as Australia surged to a resounding victory to go 1-0 up.
He has had time for two more press conferences too. But, there have been none of the pre-series histrionics as he has chosen a much more measured tone and, in his latest before the inaugural day-night Ashes Test at the Adelaide Oval, made a particular point of voicing his respect for the opposition – several times.
The 30-year-old veteran of 60 Tests even appeared momentarily wrong-footed by one notion about his new-found status of notoriety.
“The villain?” he asked. “Er, dunno about the villain.”
Equally, he was not about to agree he has already put the wind up the left-handers in England’s line-up – despite having made short work of both Mark Stoneman and Dawid Malan in the second innings in Brisbane.
“I don’t think I’ve spooked anyone,” Lyon said, before adding he is not about to back-track on any of his pre-series claims. “I still stand by my comments. That’s the Australian way.
“I’m here to play cricket. I’m here to represent my country in the best possible way. I know how to bowl here in Australia. I know how to compete. That’s probably where my confidence is coming from.”
Nonetheless, he is at pains to stress Australia are not about to take Joe Root’s tourists lightly.
“It’s one of the dangerous periods when teams are far down, or in turmoil if you want to call it that,” he said. “I don’t think they are, but if you don’t respect teams that’s when they can come back and bite you.”
England have issues off the field as well as on, with Jonny Bairstow briefly in shock at the furore after Australia ribbed him about the friendly ‘head-butt’ greeting he administered to opener Cameron Bancroft on their first meeting in a social setting last month in Perth.
Lyon does not seem to believe they are on the run yet, though.
“We respect the English, we know they’re going to come back bigger and better and stronger – and we know they’re going to try and take us down here,” he said.
“We’re expecting them to bounce back and hit us hard … so it’s going to be a massive challenge for us. They are a classy side … it’s not going to be a walk in the park.”
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