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Lyon grabs latest Australia chance with both hands

August 9, 2013

CHESTER-LE-STREET, England (AP) — When Ashton Agar was surprisingly selected for the first Ashes test and then produced his memorable knock of 98 as a No. 11 batsman, there appeared to be little chance of rival spinner Nathan Lyon getting his place back in the Australia team.

With Pakistan-born legspinner Fawad Ahmed also pushing hard for a callup after being granted Australian citizenship, Lyon’s status as the country’s No. 1 slow bowler was suddenly at risk.

Not anymore.

After an impressive display in the third test at Old Trafford on his recall to the team, Lyon had team-high figures of 4-42 on the opening day of the fourth test at Chester-le-Street to help restrict England to 238-9 on what was by all accounts a good pitch for batting.

“Being the No. 1 spinner over the last couple of years, you’re the hunted so everyone wants to take your spot,” Lyon said Friday.

“It didn’t knock my confidence around. I knew the reason why I wasn’t playing. I was obviously disappointed, there’s no doubt about that. I knew what I had to do to keep putting my hand up for selection and I’m happy with the way I’m bowling at the moment. I’ve just got to keep bowling well and keep contributing to the Australian team.”

Chester-le-Street, the home of Durham’s county side in the north-east, is as far from a spinner’s paradise as you are likely to find in England but it didn’t show on day one.

Australia’s pacemen may have built up the pressure but it was Lyon who took the glory, running through England’s middle order to take some prized wickets. First came Jonathan Trott and it finished with Ian Bell and Jonny Bairstow.

And in between, a certain Kevin Pietersen, whose attempts to attack Lyon from his very first ball came up short when he edged him behind to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin for a reckless 26. That sparked England’s meltdown from 149-2 to 197-8 at one point.

“They’re the challenges that I love, someone taking the game to you,” Lyon said. “There’s no doubt he’s one of the best batters in the world.

“I was lucky enough to come out on top but cricket’s a funny game.”

Lyon has played 24 tests for Australia after making his debut against Sri Lanka in August 2011 but it feels like he is starting his international career from scratch.

“It felt like my debut again in Manchester — I was full or nerves, playing in my first Ashes series,” Lyon said. “It’s a dream come true for an Australian kid growing up to tour England and play in an Ashes series ... It was a great personal effort from me today, you could say.”

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