Cricket Australia cut Lyon’s Lancashire stint short

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Cricket Australia have told Nathan Lyon that he will only be available to play half of Lancashire’s County Championship season and have blocked his plan to play white-ball cricket for them. Lyon was due to feature in all formats but CA want to manage his workload ahead of their home Test series against India at the end of this year.

Lancashire announced on Wednesday that Lyon will only be allowed to play in seven of their first nine Championship fixtures. He is due to arrive in Manchester next week, ahead of their opening match against defending champions Surrey on April 5, and he will be available until their match against Nottinghamshire on July 3.

Lyon is the second player that CA have pulled out of a county contract this month, after opting to block Aaron Hardie’s early-season deal with Surrey although Australia’s chairman of selectors George Bailey stated on Thursday that CA had not been the driver of Hardie’s decision.

“Naturally, we are disappointed that Nathan will no longer be joining us for the full 2024 season,” Mark Chilton, Lancashire’s director of cricket, said. “However, we are still incredibly excited to be able to welcome him for seven matches in the Vitality County Championship.

“After speaking with Nathan since this decision was taken, I know that he is still really excited about joining up with us and remains very committed to Lancashire Cricket, supporting the group and helping us to achieve our goals this summer.”

Bailey said that the Australian selection panel had sat down with Lyon during their recent scheduled contract meeting and discussed whether a full winter in England was in the 36-year-old’s best interest given he is set to play a huge role in five home Tests against India starting in November before Australia tour Sri Lanka in late January.

“When we sat down with Nathan and sort of mapped out what the next 12, 18, 24 months looked like and just what we thought and eventually what he thought was in his best interests, he was still really excited he gets that opportunity, I think he’s in England until around July so he gets a great opportunity there,” Bailey said.

“It’s still a really great outcome. But just that conversation of actually, every now and then lifting the player’s eyes and having them have a more longer-term look at what’s happening and making sure that they’re absolutely right to go when the Australian matches are there.

“But it’s not something that we necessarily do [with every player]. I saw that it was reported that we’ve done the same for Aaron Hardie but that wasn’t the case. That was Aaron working through the opportunities that he’s got across those 12 months and coming to that conclusion himself.”

Lyon’s move to Lancashire had already proved controversial, given the potential for his signing to block Tom Hartley‘s opportunities in the County Championship. Brendon McCullum, England’s coach, said during their recent tour to India that it would be “slightly mad” if Hartley and Shoaib Bashir are not given the chance to continue their development this season.

“Even if Tommy had to miss out, the reality of the situation is it’s April, we’re in the UK and if it’s not going to turn as much, you’ve got arguably the best offspinner the game has seen. Tommy is going to learn a huge amount from that guy and Tommy is going to play a huge part in Lancs’ cricketing history,” Jennings said.

“You see the quality he has produced on that Test match debut… it puts myself and Benks [head coach Dale Benkenstein] in a really tough situation. When we made the signing in August or September, you can’t foresee what’s going to happen in six months’ time. You’ve got such high quality available and you try and make the best decision you can.”

Chilton said Lancashire are in talks to secure a replacement overseas player for the T20 Blast and One-Day Cup. “We are now assessing our options regarding overseas players and a number of discussions are currently taking place on that front,” he said.

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