Jthere was a moment in the trajectory when the impossible announced that it was, in fact, possible. Nathan Lyon had just played a shot, which was nothing out of the ordinary. His only shots in Test cricket are the shot shot and the swept shot, which for Lyon is the shot shot which he plays on his knees. He knows that fast bowlers will throw bouncers at him, and he’s figured out a method to deflect them.
It is therefore normal to see Lyon lean back and climb the line. It’s not unprecedented for him to hit one of those shots for six, which he had done nine times prior to this game on 2,335 face balls. It was unprecedented for him to hit more than one in an inning, a stat improved on day two in Hobart by going over the fence three times. The most amazing thing was the timing of the second six, a ball that came out of the middle of the bat so cleanly, at such a perfect swing point, that it went flying.
At the point where a high-end Nathan Lyon for six would have to descend to land just behind the rope, this Nathan Lyon six was still climbing, high, into the blue sky, above a small brown-roofed pavilion at the far end of the city of the ground and while traveling in the front yard some distance from Church Road.
It was the crowd’s favorite moment of the day. The kind of people who want to despise women’s sports will often state that they only want to watch the best in the world against the best in the world. Except they don’t. They want to see Glenn McGrath do 61 at the Gabba. They want to see Nathan Lyon hit a six. They want to watch Ross Taylor play a dirty wide shot in his final Test for New Zealand and land the winning wicket. Because these things are fun. We don’t have a mixed round at the Olympics where we require kayak racers to do rhythmic gymnastics, but it would be complete if we did.
There’s more to the exploits of Australian bowlers than a bit of crowd-pleasing. Crushing 31 carries from 27 balls, Lyon with Scott Boland and Alex Carey added 51 for the last two wickets, taking the score from 252 to 303. This addition may not be necessary against the underpowered stick of the opposition, but he certainly deflated England. On the other hand, when England’s lower order has been called upon to strike, the end has rarely been far off. The last four Australian partnerships in the series have brought in 619 races. England’s last four have made 151.
Pat Cummins had a quiet streak with the bat by his standards, dropping from No. 8 to No. 9 in this test, but 59 runs from four innings exceed what Jack Leach, Stuart Broad, Ollie Robinson and James Anderson have passed from five or Suite. Mitchell Starc with a total of 154 edged out Mark Wood and Chris Woakes.
It’s not just about the two lower orders. Cummins has more runs than England fly-half Rory Burns, who has played an extra set. Starc edged Haseeb Hameed, Jos Buttler and Zak Crawley. The statisticians noted the second-day oddity here that Australia’s 10th wicket partnership with an average of 14 for the series was better than England’s opening partnership of 12.77.
These figures go much further. Australia’s eighth wicket partnership is 44 which is better than any partnership in England except for the third wicket job between Joe Root and Dawid Malan. Australia’s ninth wicket partnership of 29.6 trails only England’s third and fifth wickets, where Ben Stokes has done a tough job with a range of partners. Throughout the series, England’s specialist hitters struggled while Australian bowlers increased the pain in the form of runs.
No wonder, then, that Lyon played with the light freedom of a man whose two shots seemed quite enough to deal with what was in front of him, as Wood threw bumper after bumper having already lured Starc and Cummins to their downfall in the same way. . As has been the case with all series, everything Australia did worked. One side watches the field with concern, the other watches something rare take flight against the blue, blue sky.