There are a few GOATs in world sport.
Roger Federer. Tiger Woods. Margaret Court.
The list is instructive rather than exhaustive which is why Nathan Lyon has a valid place among the athletes regarded as the greatest of all time in their fields.
Lyon, known in cricket circles as Garry after the footballer and the GOAT for the past three years after passing Ashley Mallett and Hugh Trumble to become Australia’s most successful off-spinner, relishes bowling at Adelaide Oval.
“Adelaide is one of the best wickets in the world,” Lyon said. “I love bowling there.”
He won the Test against India here four years ago with 7-152 on the last day and while his return on the first day of the current match did not match that effort, its value may become evident in the coming days.
Lyon finished with 2-83 from 28 overs, the wickets coming from a skier into the deep and a straightforward defensive edge to the keeper from a delivery that did not turn as expected, yet his haul failed to reflect his impact.
Four times the ball went firmly to hand, or rather fingertips, only for the chance to go down while a dozen or more flicks and whips passed the despairing close catchers on the full.
It was clear that India had decided to target Lyon, a tactic that was evident early when Ajinkya Rahane clipped a sweet on-drive over the fence and Rohit Sharma surrendered his wicket with a heave to deep square leg only a ball after he had survived a catch to the same position.
Yet Lyon was up to the task as he maintained his attacking line and delivered the revved up overspin which provides his extra bounce and makes him such a hard bowler to combat.
The spinner had bowled 3346 overs in 80 Tests before this match, giving him vast experience of the various permutations that he might encounter on any given day.
His first spell of six overs before lunch probed the remnants of the Indian top order not wrecked by his pace colleagues before he came into his own in the middle of the day.
Lyon wheeled through 16 overs from the Torrens River end in this period, claiming Sharma and Rishabh Pant as reward for his labours, then finished with another six overs from the Cathedral End.
The Sharma wicket was similar in concept to Lyon’s experience at Optus Stadium last week when he tempted WA batsman Marcus Stoinis into a fatal repeat of a successful blow into the crowd.
“It was game on,” Lyon said at the time. “I love that sort of contest and love being challenged and thrive on it.”
Marcus Harris made a valiant effort to catch Sharma, who was credited with this third six when the diminutive debutant could not avoid touching the ground outside the rope as he attempted to hurl the ball back into the field.
But Sharma failed to make the most of his fortune and perished the next ball when Harris accepted the offering.