As England fought to bat through the final day of the Fourth Test at the SCG, the major talking point wasn’t whether they would be saved by the rain or if Scott Boland would get another five-fer.
It was about Australia’s best spinner and the England captain joking and grinning like a couple of kids on a day out at Luna Park.
It all started on the morning of Day Two when footage emerged of Lyon giving Root a crash course on spin bowling technique before the start of play.
Which, given Australia was about to resume batting at 3/126 and Root was certain to be sending down his right-arm off-breaks at some stage of the innings, seemed somewhat surprising to say the least.
Nathan Lyon (pictured, left) and Joe Root (right) are seen sharing a laugh as they walked off the field due to lightning during day two of the Second Test in Adelaide on December 17
Joe Root (pictured, right) shakes hands with Nathan Lyon during day four of the First Test back on December 11, with the pair having formed quite the friendship
As one TV commentator said: ‘Here’s the cordial nature of the modern-day battles between England and Australia. I wonder what Allan Border would make of that?’
It’s a fair question, especially since Root – following Lyon’s sage advice about finger placement – managed to pick up the wicket of Alex Carey later in the day, caught Jonny Bairstow, for just 13.
Unfortunately, Border wasn’t in the Fox commentary box to give us the answer, having been relegated to watching the match from his loungeroom in Brisbane due to Covid restrictions.
It doesn’t take much imagination to guess though. After all, this was the Australian captain who, when English batsman Robin Smith asked for a glass of water while at the crease during the fifth Test of the 1989 series, answered: ‘What do you think this is, a f**king tea party? No, you can’t have a f**king glass of water. You can f**king wait like the rest of us’.
Nathan Lyon (pictured with partner Emma McCarthy) was spotted enjoying a day out at Luna Park with his England rival
Which makes one wonder how Border would have reacted to the scenes on the field when Lyon bowled the last over before lunch on Sunday.
With Ben Stokes facing, Lyon bowled the second last ball of the session. Stokes poked it back down the pitch; Lyon retrieved it and feinted to have a shy at the stumps, then turned and walked back past Root at the non-striker’s end.
The England captain smiled and made a comment. A grinning Lyon said something in reply and the friendly banter continued as he returned to his mark.
In the Fox commentary box, former Australian batsmen Mark Waugh and Michael Hussey were stunned.
‘Chit-chat in the middle of the over,’ said Waugh. ‘It wouldn’t have happened in our day.
Nathan Lyon (pictured, right) is seen grinning after an exchange with Joe Root at the MCG on December 28
‘There’d be a bit of chit-chat when Warney (Shane Warne) was bowling,’ Hussey added. ‘But I don’t think it would be friendly.’
The love-in continued into the break, with Lyon bowling the last ball of the session then falling into step with Root as they walked off the field, both smiling and chatting.
Those who believe that there is nothing wrong with friendly interaction between opposing players during play would no doubt point out that Lyon and Root have been friends since they played grade cricket together for the Prospect Pirates in Adelaide during the 2010-11 season.
Others have been less open-minded, with the comment on Twitter by a purist named Kusmar, who describes himself as ‘a fan of Bangladesh cricket’, being typical of many views, even if delivered more forcefully than most.
‘What’s so funny Root?’ he asked. ‘What’s so f**king funny? Stop bantering with Lyon.’