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Nathan Lyon itching for Ashes contest after longest downtime

The offspinner hasn't played since April but is hopeful of three matches before facing England

Alex Malcolm
Alex Malcolm
Nathan Lyon will take a landmark wicket during the Ashes  •  Getty Images

Nathan Lyon will take a landmark wicket during the Ashes  •  Getty Images

Nathan Lyon has never gone this long between matches in his professional career.
And the wait is set to continue as New South Wales are still yet to confirm the start of their domestic season, with hopes they can play at least two Sheffield Shield matches and two Marsh Cup matches against Victoria in late October and November.
Lyon, who sits on 399 Test wickets, is preparing for the first Ashes encounter on December 8, having not played a Test since January or a first-class match since April.
He revealed he was frustrated to not be considered for Australia's winter limited-overs tours, to the Caribbean and Bangladesh, and was therefore not in contention for the T20 World Cup.
"Yeah, 100 percent I was disappointed," Lyon said. "That drives me even more to be honest with you. I was disappointed I didn't get selected in both those squads if I'm being honest. But that's something that I can keep working on, keep putting my hand up for selection. It's been really productive this offseason being able to work on a couple of different balls in white-ball cricket.
"I'm looking forward to hopefully playing a couple of one-day games for New South Wales and putting that into practice."
Sydney's long lockdown has wreaked havoc with the domestic schedule but Lyon says it hasn't hindered his training whatsoever.
"The only thing we haven't been able to do is go to the pub," he said. "This is the first time I've been asked to do a full pre-season so it's something I've been really enjoying. Firstly, getting in there with all the boys and doing all the hard work but also hopefully passing on a little bit of knowledge as well with a couple of younger players as well."
New South Wales have had to train in groups of 10 due to Covid rules but he has had three centre-wicket practices as well as endless days in turf nets at Sydney Olympic Park and Blacktown. Lyon was able to get three Sheffield Shield games in prior to his last Test series against India and has previously stated that four matches would be his personal preference as the lead-in to a major series. But he was comfortable he would have enough training and cricket under his belt prior to the first Ashes Test.
"I wouldn't be surprised if there's a three-day trial game, intrasquad squad game somewhere leading towards the first Test match," Lyon said. "So in my eyes, there are still going to be three games, three really decent hit outs. I think we've got two [practice] games next week, so I'm more than confident with my preparation.
"If the Test started tomorrow, I'll be itching to go and knowing that my skill set is where it should needs to be. So I'm very happy with my preparation, thus far. I know there's a couple of things I'll still want to work on. But saying that if it started next week, I'll be more than happy to go."
Lyon is braced for the prospect of some sort of quarantine in Brisbane ahead of the Test series. Australia's 18-man T20 World Cup squad and their coaching staff will also undergo 14-days of quarantine on the way back from the UAE.
Lyon and any other New South Wales or Victoria-based Test squad members, such as James Pattinson, Marcus Harris and Will Pucovski might need to quarantine separately depending on the rules provided by the Queensland government.
"I've got no dramas with quarantine," Lyon said. "I'm happy to jump in there and get it done. To be honest with you, it's a pretty small price to pay to go out there and have the opportunity to play cricket for Australia."
Lyon never doubted England would send a strong touring squad despite some concerns about quarantine arrangements for players and their families.
"I'm expecting England to come out pretty well full strength," Lyon said. "Ashes series, they make people's careers. So if people don't come out and someone comes out and has absolutely blinder of an Ashes series that really sets their careers up. So I know if I was in their shoes, I'd be putting both hands up for selection and jumping on that tour if I could."

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo