Copeland, Lyon share debut as friends
One morning during their first week in Sri Lanka, Trent Copeland and Nathan Lyon quietly ate breakfast together in the opposite wing of the hotel from which the Australian team was staying. As the rest of the squad had a communal start to the day in the other breakfast room, Copeland and Lyon kept each other company, reflecting their station as first-time tourists. Neither have a Cricket Australia contract, and neither had taken part in Australia's training camps in Brisbane ahead of this tour. At breakfast in Colombo they did not look Australia's 420th and 421st Test cricketers quite so much as students sitting mistakenly in the wrong classroom.
Lyon and Copeland stood apart once more on the second day of the first Test in Galle, though for entirely different reasons. Each took a wicket in their first over in Test cricket, heralding Sri Lanka's disintegration for 105. Copeland's second-ball dismissal of Tillakaratne Dilshan arrived courtesy of a rasping catch at short cover by Ricky Ponting. The moment was perhaps outstripped for drama when Kumar Sangakkara prodded at Lyon's sharply spinning first delivery and was snaffled low by Michael Clarke's left hand.
Copeland's start provided a lift for Lyon, who went on to claim the startling figures of 5 for 34. They have a friendship dating back more than a decade to their shared origins in regional New South Wales. Lyon's words when faced by cameras and microphones are few, but he saved his warmest for Copeland and the help it had been for both to have a familiar face on a tour where so many others are not.
"For Trent Copeland to get his first wicket too was fantastic to see. Someone I grew up with playing country cricket in NSW, debuted with him and seeing him get his first wicket was something pretty special as well," Lyon said. "I'm 100% stoked for Trent, just to be here with him, spent the time with him for Australia A, but to make my debut with someone you watched play cricket when you were younger and come from the same zone in NSW cricket was something pretty special.
"[It helped] loads. We both spoke about it, I've known Trent since I've been around 13-14, so I'm always a good mate of Trent's and it is pretty special to have him there."
Reflecting on his day, Lyon said none of the wickets outshone the feeling of walking onto the field as an Australian cricketer for the first time. To receive his cap from Greg Chappell, who actively sought Lyon's inclusion for the tour after watching him with Australia A in Zimbabwe in July, also sat prominently in the memory.
"It's been one of the best days of my life, best couple of days, receiving the baggy green off Greg Chappell and to be able to take five wickets on debut is something pretty special and something I'm going to hold pretty close to my heart," Lyon said. "I couldn't breathe in the huddle [after dismissing Sangakkara]. I was so full of excitement. I wouldn't say it was the perfect ball, I thought it was a bit wide, but I was quite happy with it in the end.
"I was pretty nervous, I don't really know how to explain it but the nerves were going pretty hot. I was still pretty nervous when the fourth wicket fell and I had to walk out to Ryan Harris at mid off and ask him a few different things, but I was pretty stoked with everything.
"[Michael Clarke, the captain, said] just be confident and back my own skill-set pretty much. I've got here pretty quickly, and what's worked for me at South Australia and back in the ACT, he just said stick to your strengths, so I'm not going to come out and do anything different.
"Every game, no matter if it's a Test match or a grade club, I always want to achieve different goals I've set for myself, and always looking to play better."
As for the Galle pitch, which offered so much spin and bounce to the slow bowlers, Lyon offered an understandable sentiment both as a spinner and a career groundsman taking time off work to play for Australia.
"It's fantastic, I want to take it [the pitch] everywhere," he said. "But in saying that it's the same for both teams so I've got no dramas with it. I'm worrying about cricket, I'm not worried about [curating] work right now."
Lyon relies on subtle variations in pace, length and spin rather than any visible changes in his action to deliver a doosra, and said he was quite content to keep that going. A similarly simple method served Lyon's friend Copeland so well.
"I've only got one stock ball," Lyon said. "I'm pretty happy with the stock ball at the moment. If I can keep up the loop and the drop and the drift, I'll be quite happy with myself."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo