Strange as it may seem, before this match the SCG was Nathan Lyon's worst Test venue in Australia. He had fewer wickets at Bellerive and the WACA, but nowhere was his bowling average worse than at the SCG, where in five Tests he had 13 wickets at 54.15. Perhaps even more remarkably, his overall first-class record at the venue was even worse: 14 wickets at 64.85 from seven matches. So much for the spinner's pitch.
So, Lyon could have been forgiven for approaching the Test with a certain amount of trepidation, especially at the end of a summer in which he has struggled for wickets, would have lost his spot for the Adelaide Test had Steve O'Keefe been fit, and appeared on the precipice again at the MCG before bowling Australia to victory on their last day of Test cricket for the year. As it happened, Lyon has started 2017 as he hopes to go on.
He finished the third day of the Test against Pakistan with 3 for 98, figures that, temporarily at least, were his best in a Sydney Test. He had Misbah-ul-Haq caught at deep midwicket, then added the wicket of Mohammad Amir, who was beaten by flight and drove a catch to mid-off. And finally, he produced the perfect wicket for an offspinner, gaining sharp bite off the pitch to turn the ball through an admittedly large gate to bowl Wahab Riaz.
"It was a beautiful offspinner's wicket," Australia's bowling coach, David Saker, said after play. "He'd be very happy with it and we were very happy with it. He threatened to do that quite a bit today, with that sort of ball.
"But that one, it was really pleasing to see it spin that much, and the pleasing also was it didn't bounce too much - it still hit the stumps. He bowled really well. I thought he hasn't had a lot of luck all summer, but he bowled really well and got some good rewards."
Earlier in the summer, Lyon had endured a 660-ball drought between first-class wickets, but he still finished the year with 41 Test wickets at 36.34 - one lesser than Josh Hazlewood's 42 wickets from the same number of matches, although Lyon's average was much higher. Only Mitchell Starc, with 50 wickets, made more Test breakthroughs than them for Australia in 2016.
"He obviously felt a little bit of pressure on him, because of the results he didn't want," Saker said of Lyon. "But we thought he's been unlucky at times. He hasn't bowled on wickets that have helped him all that much this summer. To come out and do what he did in Melbourne, to get some really crucial wickets for us in that second innings, and then come out today and bowl like he did - I think he'd be on top of the moon."
Lyon's late dismissal of Wahab, which came in the penultimate over of a day that was shortened by early rain, left Australia needing just two more breakthroughs to finish off Pakistan, with 68 runs still needed to avoid the follow-on. However, Saker indicated that Australia might lean towards batting again if given the follow-on decision, to have Pakistan bat last on a pitch that will offer more and more spin.
"It did spin quite a bit," he said. "It's been under the covers a bit more than a normal game because of the rain, so it's holding together a bit better than a normal Sydney wicket. Hopefully it'll start playing some tricks. We've still got a decent lead, but we've got to get two more wickets.
"We'll probably assess what we're going to do with the game after we get the two wickets. But I would probably assume we'd go out and have another bat and put some more wear in the wicket, and then have a bowl on the last day and a bit."