Nathan Lyon looks dejected ater fumbling the ball and missing a chance to run out Jack Leach
A distraught Nathan Lyon was the raw face of Australia’s gut-punched emotions after seeing their chances of winning the Ashes in England in the minimum three Tests go up in smoke or, more accurately, Ben Stokes, on an unforgettable afternoon at Headingley.
Having missed a certain run out when he dropped Pat Cummins’ return and then been denied an adjacent lbw appeal against Stokes within the space of three balls, all with Australia still one run ahead, Lyon sank to his knees when the winning runs were struck, and needed consoling by numerous teammates for a prolonged period after the conclusion of the match.
Lyon started the day in celebration, dismissing Joe Root via a superb catch from David Warner to surpass Dennis Lillee’s mark of 355 Test wickets. But he ended it in a state of desolation, and captain Tim Paine admitted he had tried to cajole Lyon into picking himself up to set an example for the younger members of the squad, given the fourth and fifth matches of a now-tied Ashes rubber are still to play out at Old Trafford and The Oval.
“It was just about getting Gazza up,” Paine said. “He’s a really important player in our side and I said to him that if our players see him dealing with it really quickly and moving on then our younger players are going to do the same thing and we turn up to Manchester or our next training session in a much better frame of mind, rather than have guys sulking or whatever you want to call it. It hurts, deal with it, move on.
“Gazza is obviously extremely disappointed, but no one’s perfect, people make mistakes and that happens. The important thing is that when it happens you cop it on the chin, you hold your head up and you stick together as a team and you walk off together. We’ve got two more Test matches, we’ve been doing a lot right, instead of being caught up in the emotion of it we need to be able to deal with it.
“Talk about where we went wrong, where we can do things better and turn up to Manchester full of confidence because we have been in a position to win every Test match and that’s a great position to be in. Yes, those losses hurt and you are allowed to show that but I don’t think you can get caught up in it, it’s right in the middle of a series.”
Paine himself had plenty of questions to answer for the way he had managed the tactical side of the day, most notably when he surrendered virtually all his catching men to boundary defence when Stokes was joined by the last man, Jack Leach, with 73 runs still required. Looking at the mayhem created by Stokes, lapped up by a raucous Sunday crowd in Leeds, Paine denied his men had been “rattled” by it all.
“I wouldn’t say we were rattled,” he said. “No doubt there was pressure, that’s Test cricket, and it was close, tight, the crowd was loud, that was as hard as it gets for a touring side. Sometimes people make mistakes and we made a couple today. In the end it cost us the Test match. That and an unbelievable innings – that can happen. We have time now to make sure we stick together, bounce back. We’ve got a tour game against Derby. As I said to the boys before I got in here, if we get caught up in the emotion of it all and get too down on things the series can be taken away from you really quickly.
“We think we’ve got some pretty good plans. If we can continue to execute on skill and not get caught up on emotion we think the next two Tests will be the same. We’ll be in a position to win them if we continue to do what we do, then it comes down to taking your opportunities. Today, we missed a few and a guy played out of his skin to take a Test match away.
“The beauty of the Ashes is it’s a series. We’ve played good enough cricket to this point to be in all games to win. Going forward if we stick to that hopefully we’ll be in those positions again and next time we take those chances – but mistakes happen.”
He stressed, too, that he did not want his team to wallow in such matters, with the benefit of a few days to settle down via a tour game against Derbyshire that will also see Steven Smith‘s return from concussion.
“Instead of worrying and wasting time on a missed run out or a dropped catch or a referred lbw let’s put our energy into what we are doing wrong and the things that we are doing to get ourselves into winning position and if we do that we will take that chance and we will win that Test match,” Paine said.
“I just think we are playing some really, really good cricket. Sure, we can get better in certain areas, we won the first Test, we drew the second, we just lost the third by a wicket and we had opportunities to win it.
“We need to address some areas and we are not going to paper over the cracks and not talk about it – we will have some honest conversations about where we think we can get better but we’ve got to keep focusing on the process we have got in place, the things that have been helping us to get into winning positions.”
Perhaps aided by the perspective he had gained from coming close to finishing his cricket career entirely in 2017, before an international recall led to the unlikely inheritance of the Australian captaincy after the Newlands scandal, Paine was able to reflect on the greatness of the drama in which his team had been a part. Even if he conceded it would not be until all the players are long retired that they will be able to look upon events without a wince.
“I thought it was an amazing game of cricket. We finished up on the wrong side of it. In terms of an advertisement for Test cricket, I think that was bloody exciting,” he said. “It was great to be involved in so I can only imagine what it was like to watch. At times you have to give credit to some pretty good play. I thought Ben Stokes was unbelievably good, it was one of the great innings. I thought Joe Denly and Joe Root yesterday were excellent.
“I thought our bowling yesterday afternoon was as good as it gets. I thought it was really high quality Test cricket. I thought those two played it extremely well, got through it and gave their team a chance leading into today. A bit of individual brilliance today from a world-class player, they were just too good.”
Source: ESPN Crickinfo