Australia off-spinner Nathan Lyon said he’s proud of his team for fighting against all odds, including abuses from crowds, in a tough season of cricket in England that included the World Cup and the Ashes.
Australia made it to the semifinal of the World Cup, where they were beaten by England. They then retained the Ashes urn with a 2-2 draw. Lyon said they deserved to celebrate even though they didn’t win the series, taking a dig at England celebrating their victory in the World Cup following the tied final against New Zealand.
“We went over there knowing everyone was going to hate us, that we were going to have 2,000 Aussies in the crowd and our families, but everyone else hates us and wants to see us lose," Lyon told cricket.com.au.
“To have that adversity and be up against the wall … it meant as a cricket side we had to become tighter and closer and I think we did that, especially during the Ashes. And we were able to come out on top.
“Even though it’s a 2-2 series and England were telling me I couldn’t celebrate a draw, but they did exactly that during the World Cup.
“I wanted to make sure we were celebrating that moment."
Lyon had a decent series, picking 20 wickets from five Tests. It was his best performance in England, but the off-spinner was not exactly as big as threat as he usually is.
“I set myself a goal of 20 wickets, hopefully a little bit more. I took 20 wickets," he explained. “I was happy with the way I went but think there’s still more room for improvement.
“You’ve got to give England credit, the way they played me, it was a lot more off the back foot which on those type of wickets where it’s a bit slower, nullified my bounce and pace a bit."
Lyon’s series included heartbreaking moments in the dying stages of the Leeds Test when he fumbled a run-out opportunity and was then denied a leg-before the very next ball, with Australia having no reviews left. It denied Australia a win, with Ben Stokes famously taking England to a one-wicket win.
“The way I look at Headingley: I’ve been part of probably the best ever Test match to be played," Lyon said. “I think Ben Stokes was absolutely incredible, and Jack Leach should buy me a carton of beer every year for the rest of his life.
“We probably should have won that Headingley game a lot earlier than taking it right down to where it went.
“You soon realise it is a game."
The 31-year-old Lyon, who has 363 wickets from 91 Tests, said he’s looking forward to the home summer where they face Pakistan and New Zealand.
“I’ve always said I want to challenge myself against the best players in the world, and Pakistan and New Zealand bring players up there with some of the best batters in world," Lyon said.
“So it’s about being well-prepared and clear on what we need to do and how we’re going to do it.
“Off the back of a pretty special winter it’ll be a great opportunity for us as the Australian Cricket Team to really step it up.
“If we want to be the best team in the world and go well in this World Test Championship we need to start consistently winning series at home and away.
“We’re taking small steps to get there but if we continue to have that team goal, that will put us in good stead."