FLEM’S VERDICT: Lyon starts new tradition for us tailenders as Carey helps Aussies show no mercy on Proteas

    Alex Carey was magnificent, Cameron Green took another of his giant steps towards becoming a world-class all-rounder and Anrich Nortje was again lionhearted for the outclassed South Africans but the highlight of day three was Nathan Lyon starting what I hope will become a long-standing tradition.

    Australia are perfectly placed to finish off the Proteas on day four and head to Sydney with the series already wrapped up after Carey and Green combined for their lengthy partnership to snuff out any hopes the tourists have of salvaging a draw.

    But for those of you who are unaware, Lyon raising his bat for making 25 is the culmination of an idea I had way back on the 2001 Ashes tour.

    Unfortunately it was shot down at the time by the captain, Steve Waugh, not surprisingly a batter. Myself and the other members of the Fast Bowling Cartel on that trip – Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee – put forward the idea that if a bowler took five wickets in an innings they should raise the ball to the crowd like the batters do for 50s and hundreds.

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    It was given the stamp of approval at the team meeting, we started doing it and it caught on and now you see bowlers all over the world perform the ritual when they take a five-for.

    (Photo by Darrian Traynor – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

    I was feeling encouraged by this getting the green light so at the next team meeting I suggested that if a tailender batting nine, 10 or 11 got to 25 they should be able to raise the bat but it didn’t get enough support from the guys higher up the order who poo-pooed it straight away.

    I ran into Lyon earlier in the summer and told him about it and he was keen but he’d hardly got a bat until this match.

    I reminded him again today and he didn’t let me down. He was a little apprehensive at first but then he unleashed a bigger bat raise.

    The off-spinning GOAT is now also an honorary member of the FBC … they were very happy on the WhatsApp group.

    Gaz 25 ????
    21 years on since i suggested to The 2001 Aussie Cricket Team that tailenders at 9,10 and 11 should raise their Bat for 25 and was knocked back by the captain.
    Nathan Lyon brings up his 25 and raises his bat ???? #Proud#Tailend25#ausvsa pic.twitter.com/bPCQrhJFNI

    — Damien Fleming (@bowlologist) December 28, 2022

    To see the reactions on the faces of the other commentators, mainly batters like Ricky Ponting, Justin Langer, James Brayshaw and Simon Katich was priceless.

    They tried to say that if a part-time bowler takes a wicket they should be able to celebrate by raising the ball. No chance. They’d have to take at least three to get that honour.

    Carey well and truly deserved to raise his bat to the MCG crowd for his ton, joining an elite club of six other Australian wicketkeepers to achieve the feat.

    It was also fitting that the only other keeper to do it at the G was Rod Marsh – who did it in the Centenary Test of all occasions – after he passed away earlier this year. This Test was about honouring Shane Warne’s legacy but he was another giant of Australian cricket.

    After Nortje had knocked over Travis Head and David Warner with two very quick straight balls in a row, I thought the Aussie innings could be over pretty quickly.

    But Carey got similar deliveries soon after and hit them both with the full face of the bat to mid-off and I remember thinking ‘gee he looks so compact’.

    Alex Carey of Australia celebrates his century. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

    All through his innings he looked like he had so much time, a bit like Warner the day before. He’s a very attractive batter to watch, his cover driving is classical, square of the wicket on both sides he is strong and his reverse-sweeping to Keshav Maharaj doesn’t look unsafe at all.

    It’s a massive plus for Australia to have Head, Green and Carey in the five, six, seven slots. At the start of last summer there were a few question marks there but those three have made those spots their own.

    I can see Green ending up higher in the order at No.4 and Carey could definitely do the job at six when Australia need to play an extra bowler. I thought Green could be bothered by having a broken finger on his bottom hand but he played an important knock as well in his unbeaten 51.

    Mitchell Starc is also playing through a dodgy finger but even though he didn’t get a wicket, it’s promising to know he will be able to bowl some overs.

    If rain hadn’t cut short day three, I thought we would’ve been into the middle order. The pitch is still good for batting but the ball is moving in the air and there should be good swinging conditions on day four.

    South Africa’s only real positive was Nortje, again. He charged in and was always going to give 100%. He keeps his emotion in check but is good with the Dale Steyn-like celebration with the chainsaw. He deserves it and for Warner to say it was the fastest spell he’s faced, along with his steep bounce, shows the quality of quick that he has become.

    Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi haven’t been at their best but they’ve got an attack that should get 20 wickets in most Tests around the world. As far as their batting goes, all I can say is they have an opportunity to prove their up to Test standard against a depleted Australian attack but still a tough one.

    (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

    The challenge is to show they have a future at this level.

    Australia’s selectors have a few issues to resolve for the SCG Test with Starc and Green resting their finger injuries.

    If the pitch doesn’t look like it’ll spin, I’d be bringing in young West Australian all-rounder Aaron Hardie for Green. He’s the closest like for like replacement in the country. Will Sutherland is a player of the future but he is more of a bowling all-rounder even though he’s got a ton at first-class level.

    But if it looks like it’s going to turn, I’d go with Ashton Agar as the second spinner. As a a left-arm finger-spinner, Agar is the one who is most likely to play in India where orthodox tweakers like Ravindra Jadeja tend to do better than wrist-spinners.

    Josh Hazlewood is the natural to come in but if his grunter is not quite right or Scott Boland needs a rest, I’d be happy to see “The Wild Thing” Lance Morris get a run.

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