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Nathan Lyon boosts Sydney Sixers as Test stars return to BBL

The defending champions are in a race to secure a spot in Qualifier final after defeat against Adelaide Strikers

AAP and ESPNcricinfo staff
Nathan Lyon would be a huge gain for Sixers' spin department  •  Getty Images and Cricket Australia

Nathan Lyon would be a huge gain for Sixers' spin department  •  Getty Images and Cricket Australia

Test star Nathan Lyon looms as the final puzzle piece in the Sydney Sixers' historic bid for a third successive BBL crown.
Lyon's international commitments have concluded following Australia's 4-0 Ashes triumph over England. He has indicated his desire to be part of the Sixers' finals tilt and has been included in the squad to face Brisbane Heat as they aim to secure a spot in the Qualifier final.
Lyon was among a group of Australia Test squad players who took a chartered flight to Melbourne on Tuesday to link up with their BBL clubs. Scott Boland will be back in action with Hobart Hurricanes on Wednesday along with Marnus Labuschagne for the already eliminated Heat.
Adelaide Strikers will have the big boost of Travis Head, the Player of the Series in the Ashes, and Alex Carey being available for their Eliminator final while Jhye Richardson will link up with Perth Scorchers and Usman Khawaja will be back to captain Sydney Thunder.
The players joining from the Test squad will have to remain separate from the rest of their BBL squads during a reintegration period as part of the tournament's Covid-19 protocols as the Ashes bubble ended when the Hobart match finished. It will involve the same rules that Andre Russell had to operate under when he arrived which included separate changing areas and sitting away from team-mates.
"He's pretty keen to come back and always says he loves playing for us," Sixers captain Moises Henriques said of Lyon, who captured 16 wickets at 23.56 against England. "I'm pretty sure he'll be available for our next game in Brisbane [on Wednesday] or the finals.
"He's just played five Test matches pretty close together and he's been in the bubble, so he might want three or four days to chill out and relax before he comes back, but we'll manage that with him."
Lyon's likely inclusion, coupled with the sizzling form of fellow veteran tweaker Steve O'Keefe, could pave the way for the Sixers to make their charge for the silverware behind a surge of spin.
Despite capturing 10 wickets at 12.90 and a miserly economy rate of 5.86 this campaign, O'Keefe has indicated his desire to retire after the finals, describing his body as "old, fat, slow and sore". Henriques is doing his best to convince O'Keefe to change his mind.
"Absolutely I am," he said. "I've been trying to do that every day so far. I face him in the nets every day, have done for 20 years, and I still can't hit him. You can imagine how hard I want him to keep playing on."
Henriques believes the Sixers missed a trick by resting O'Keefe in Monday's eight-wicket loss to the Adelaide Strikers. O'Keefe, 37 and still not fully recovered from a finger injury, was always going to miss either the Adelaide Oval clash or the upcoming meeting with Heat.
"We took a risk with him playing the last game [against the Sydney Thunder last Saturday]," Henriques said. "We would have had four games in four different cities in six days, so it's a pretty high risk.
"He was always going to have this game or Brisbane off. Maybe if we had our time again we might have looked at two [spinners in Adelaide]...the spinners had a bit of success on that wicket."