Gazelle with a sniper’s rifle

When I first encountered Nathan Lyon he was a wannabe successor to Shane Warne as the Australian cricket team’s incumbent spinner. A country boy, former groundsman at Adelaide Oval… plucked from obscurity in many ways.

There were a few contenders in those early years after Warney retired. I mean what do you do after the greatest leg spin bowler on the planet, in the history of the game exits Stage Left? Lyons was in and out of the team, maligned for not taking wickets, accused of having no real wicket-taking talent, selectors criticised for picking him again. And, oh dear, when it came to fielding, I used to cringe when the ball went to him. He was far from the best fielder in fact he was probably the worst.

But a man can be transformed. Practise, the challenge of people who are better than you, encouragement from your captain, elite mentors and clearly, a quiet determination. And now, from those scratchy beginnings, he’s the GOAT – Greatest of All Time off spinner for Australia. It’s phenomenal the number of wickets he’s taken, considering the slow start. But even more unlikely, his growth as a fielder.

The run out yesterday, had to be seen to be believed. Garry Lyon, the famous Australian Rules footballer — where the ability to pounce on a ball, bouncing around on the deck, is prized — would have been proud. And since Garry Lyon is the namesake for Nathan’s world famous nickname — immortalised by Matthew Wade’s cheerleading cry of “Nice Garry” from behind the stumps — I’m sure the footballer would be proud.

I could hardly believe the run out yesterday. Like a gazelle with a sniper’s rifle. So graceful, the movement towards the ball, his clean and sure pick up on the half volley and the all in one fluid motion of the throw was poetry. I’m sorry for the cliché but there’s no other word to describe it. In fact, I’ve written a poem to (hopefully) do justice to the cliché.

Gazelle with a sniper’s rifle

A vast expanse of green, one small red ball
Ready now, watching, bowler approaching,
Moving in anticipation of the stroke,
The ball hurtles down the pitch,
Breakneck speed, the sweet ‘clip’ of ball on bat.
Sighted. Coming my way now,
Power push off to the right, sharp, cat-like,
Four steps and there it is, eyes on,
Smack in my hand, first grab,
Clean as a surgeon’s cut,
Looking at the target now,
Split second, gazelle steps sideways,
I draw my arm back, whip-like,
All one motion, eyes on the stumps,
Adjust for physics, momentum, aim left,
Release, full strength, legs airborne, feet towards the pitch
Flat, hard, a red missile,
One bounce and ‘crack’,
Off stump splaying backwards,
Beautiful. Brilliant. Out.
Outer than out.

Well done Nathan Lyon. And thanks for providing me with inspiration for my first 500 words of the 31 day writing challenge. It’s all about practise right?

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