Aussies must rally around shattered Lyon: Ponting
Things didn't go Nathan Lyon's way as Ben Stokes led England to a famous win but the Aussies must lift their off-spinner quickly says the former captain
Sam Ferris at Headingley, Leeds
26 August 2019, 08:15 AM AEST
Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting has called on the Australian squad to rally around Nathan Lyon following the dramatic final stages of the third Test at Headingley.
Lyon was at the centre of two pivotal plays that could have won Australia the Test but instead the thrilling victory went to England by just one wicket, with Ben Stokes the hero for his breathtaking, unbeaten 135.
Having been set 359 to win, England were nine wickets down with just two runs required when Stokes reverse swept Lyon to Pat Cummins behind square on the off-side. Non-striker Jack Leach bolted off for the match-tying run but Stokes sent the No.11 back mid-pitch as Cummins threw the ball to Lyon at the bowler's end.
Needing only to take the ball and remove the bails, Lyon fumbled Cummins' throw to let Leach off the hook.
The very next ball and last of Lyon's 39th over, the off-spinner rapped Stokes on the pads but the lbw appeal was turned down by umpire Joel Wilson. Australia could not refer the decision having burnt the last of their two reviews the over before desperately trying to dismiss Stokes.
Ball-tracking replays showed three red lights.
Four balls later, Stokes hit the winning runs to cap off the remarkable win.
Teammates helped Lyon to his feet as Stokes and the sold-out crowd celebrated, and Ponting says the off-spinner's teammates must support him through this unquestionably difficult time.
"He'll feel terrible at the moment, he'll feel like he's let his team down," Ponting told cricket.com.au.
"But that happens in the game. He's won so many games for Australia as well. He's got 350-odd Test wickets, so he's done lots right through his career.
"And we've all had moments like that where you've dropped a catch or missed a run-out or played a bad shot at the wrong time and you do feel bad about it for a while.
"But it's up to his mates to get him up. That's the bottom line."
Lost among the frantic fourth day's play in Leeds was Lyon taking his 356th Test wicket to move into outright third on Australia's list of all-time leading wicket-takers.
The 31-year-old now sits behind only Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath as the country's most prolific Test bowlers.
But it is hard to imagine whether Warne or McGrath would have been able to stop the rampaging Stokes on Sunday.
The left-hander hit 11 fours and eight sixes – including one of the most audacious switch-hits ever seen in Ashes cricket – to stun Australia's world-class bowling attack.
1. @ShaneWarne 2. @glennmcgrath11 3. @NathLyon421 What a moment for the 🐐 #Ashes pic.twitter.com/sB3goykpN1— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) August 25, 2019
He put on 76 for the 10th wicket with Leach, scoring 74 runs of the partnership.
Ponting, who played 168 Tests and has watched and commentated on dozens more, was blown away by what he saw from Stokes.
"I've seen some great innings in the past and I've seen better batting than that when you think about classical Test match innings," Ponting said.
"But when you consider the situation of the game and where the series is at, with nine and down 70-odd to win and then just to put your foot down like that knowing it's all up to you and to keep your team in the series, it's pretty special."
Despite the series now being locked at one-all, Ponting is confident Australia can rebound in the fourth Test at Manchester, which starts on September 4, and says the visitors have outplayed the hosts across the first three Tests.
"I don't care what anyone says, Australia's had the best of this game. Simple as that," he said.
"(Australia) played really well, they've had the worst of the conditions, no doubt.
"Losing the toss day one, they did a good job getting to 179. They could have been bowled out for 80 easily on day one and then to bounce back and bowl England out like they did for 67 was an awesome effort.
"But this wicket has been flat as a pancake all day today, it did nothing with the second new ball. We all thought it would do something.
"It was a great toss to win for Joe Root a few days ago and Australia have done a good job to stay in the game and should have won the game.
"They can bounce back, they have just got to believe what they've done so far is good enough to win every Test match they've played.
"They had their chances to win at Lord's as well with a couple of catches put down and a couple of reviews they didn't use.
"If you look at the two teams there is no doubt in my mind Australia have played the better cricket through the series so far."
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.
England squad: Joe Root (c), Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Chris Woakes.
First Test: Australia beat England by 251 runs at Edgbaston
Second Test: Match drawn at Lord's
Third Test: England won by one wicket at Headingley
Tour match: Australians v Derbyshire, August 29-31
Fourth Test: September 4-8, Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval