'I thought they hated me' - Lyon on Ashes, Lancashire and Bazball

Nathan Lyon in his Australia 'baggy green' cap
Nathan Lyon is looking to make a big impact with Lancashire [Getty Images]

Nathan Lyon was heartbroken, but wishes he had allowed himself the time to take it all in.

Ten months ago, the Australia off-spinner was limping down the Lord's pavilion steps and into Ashes folklore, his calf shredded and his series over.

At that moment, the home crowd stood in spine-tingling applause in a show of respect towards one of England's most formidable opponents.

"My wife, her parents and a good family friend were all in the crowd in tears," Lyon tells BBC Sport. "I probably didn't understand the level of respect that was shown there and then.

"That's something that I'm grateful to be able to look back on and reflect. I always thought the majority of England hates me."

Two days earlier, Lyon had collapsed to the turf, injured in innocuous fashion when retrieving the ball in the deep. He needed wife Emma to help him into the shower and to get dressed, but it never crossed his mind to not bat in Australia’s second innings.

"I was always batting," he says. "People have different jobs and they go to work when they are sick or unwell. There was no decision not to bat. It was always 'no matter how bad I am, I’m going to go'."

When Lyon flew home, Australia were 2-0 up and on the verge of a first Ashes series win in England since 2001.

As he watched through the night down under, the 36-year-old saw his team pegged back to 2-2, probably only saved from a 3-2 defeat by the Manchester rain.

While the impact of Australia losing the skills of one of the greatest finger spinners of all time was obvious, less tangible but equally important was losing Lyon's combative and competitive character.

"I do believe if I was here it would have been 4-0 to Australia," he says, almost proving the point.

Lyon is sitting at his adopted home of Old Trafford, now a county cricketer with Lancashire. Not quite a fox in English cricket's hen house, but certainly a double-agent.

For Lyon, a stint with the Red Rose is part of the plan to get him on the Ashes tour of 2027, when he will be 39. In return, county cricketers can learn from playing with and against one of the best in the world.

A particular spotlight fell on the Lyon-Lancs deal after left-arm spinner Tom Hartley's England breakthrough on the tour of India. These Aussies, coming over here, bowling our overs and taking our jobs.

But holding back Hartley is not Lyon's ambition.

"I'm not here to take Tom's spot," says Lyon. "I'm here to bowl with Tom in a partnership.

"Hopefully I'll be able to pass on a bit of knowledge here and there, but I'm learning from him as well."

There's a lot to unpack with Lyon. As a cricketer, he is a throwback, a classical finger spinner whose orthodox methods could be dropped into any era of the game. With 530 wickets, he is seventh on the all-time list of Test wicket-takers and a run to the 2027 Ashes would push him much higher.

Lyon is the former groundsman who became an Australian legend, a man who will be "mates for life" with Joe Root after the time they spent playing Adelaide club cricket together.

Well known to be a nervous player, Lyon is always assured in front of a microphone. He talks of being "humble" as a result of a country upbringing in rural New South Wales and the values instilled in him by his parents.

But he also famously said he wanted to "end the careers" of England players before the 2017-18 Ashes and believes the bowling quartet he forms with pacers Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood is the "best in the world".

With David Warner gone, Lyon is most likely to be Australia's attack dog in the media and, in November, he aimed a foul-mouthed attack at England's divisive 'Bazball' approach.

Even now, Lyon is dismissing the England camp's claims that they don't like the term that defines their tactical set-up in the Brendon McCullum era.

"Yeah they do," he says.

"I don't mind hearing about it. It's their type of cricket. I just feel like we've been playing entertaining cricket for a number of years now, we just don't need to call it a name to justify it.

"I've seen David Warner score centuries in a session well and truly before Bazball was invented.

"It's up to them to keep doing it now. They've literally got to go at six runs an over otherwise they're not playing Bazball. If you're going to talk about it, you've got to do it."

There was a time when Australian cricketers would pop over to the UK every four years and hand out an Ashes walloping without breaking sweat.

Lyon, along with the likes of Warner, Cummins, Starc, Steve Smith, Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin and Shane Watson are now among a generation of highly successful Aussies that have never outright won the urn in the UK.

For Lyon, the calf injury of 2023 came after a 2019 when his fumbled run-out of Jack Leach probably cost his side a series win.

"I have been part of two teams that retained the Ashes here, let's not forget about that," he points out. "But, yeah, 100% the bucket-list dreams for me are to win Test series here and in India."

In Australia, it's a different story. In three series, Lyon is 13-0 up on England, who travel down under at the end of 2025 for what is likely to be the finale of the Ben Stokes and McCullum regime.

"I haven't really thought about that Ashes series," says Lyon. "We've got India at home this year and that is one of the biggest series you can be involved in.

"Then again, 18 months doesn't seem that far away. It's going to be special."

The last time they saw him, he was a wounded animal. Next time, England will be in the Lyon's den.