April 15, 2023

Nathan Lyon on Steven Smith’s catch to dismiss Cheteshwar Pujara – ‘It was a massive moment’

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There is no one Nathan Lyon would rather have stood at slip to him than Steven Smith after Australia’s stand-in captain pulled off a spectacular catch to remove Cheteshwar Pujara and leave the visitors in a position where they can be confident of victory in Indore.
As Australia, and mostly Lyon, worked their way through India on the second afternoon, Pujara was standing in their way and threatening to engineer a target that would give India’s spinners a realistic chance. It is unlikely 76 will be made easily on the third day, but it’s precious little for even R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja to work with.
With Pujara defying all the tactics Australia threw at him, including a leg-side heavy 7-2 field that restricted his scoring and appeared to be frustrating Rohit Sharma in the dressing room, he was eventually persuaded into flicking at a delivery outside leg stump.

Smith showed incredible reflexes to dive low to his right and pluck one of most astonishing catches of his 95-Test career, in a series where he has spilled a few that he would be expected to take.

“It was massive,” Lyon said. “To be honest with you, and this is no disrespect to anyone else in the team, but I don’t think anyone else is catching it. That’s just me bowling from one end and looking up and seeing Steve Smith at slip or leg slip and having that confidence as a bowler.

“Yes, he has dropped a couple here and there, but I wouldn’t trade him for anyone. It shows the quality of cricketer he is that we see at training the different methods he is coming up with to try and get better and try and improve. This is someone who has played 95 Test matches.

“Hats off to Smithy, he did all the work, I’m not surprised but it was a massive moment to finish off the day strongly.”

Smith has enjoyed an excellent game as captain having taken on the role in the absence of Pat Cummins. He has been proactive and innovative in his field settings and has been willing to rotate his spinners even when one has enjoyed some success.
On the second day he also brought back Mitchell Starc at a vital stage after tea when Shreyas Iyer was threatening to cut loose and it created the breakthrough courtesy of another stunning catch from Usman Khawaja at midwicket.

“I have obviously played a lot with Smithy throughout my career, so we are very good mates on and off the field and are able to have some very good cricket conversations,” Lyon said. “He is one of the best batters in the world, especially over the last decade, the way his brain works with cricket tactics provides me with good conversations.

“But saying that I thought Pat skippered the game really well last week. We had really good plans under both of them and that’s where Australian cricket is in good hands with one of the best bowlers in the world and one of the best batters in the world being our two leaders.”

Khawaja, who is Australia’s leading run-scorer, allayed concerns over his fitness with the acrobatic take to remove Iyer after he had spent the initial stages of India’s second innings off the field nursing a back complaint.

“It was an unbelievable catch,” Lyon said. “Uzzy’s been known to do that. He took a pretty spectacular one in Adelaide a few years ago to dismiss Virat. A big moment in the game so hats off to him.”

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