India in Australia 2011-12 January 21, 2012

Ashley Mallett's counsel heeded on Lyon

Consciously or not, Nathan Lyon's bowling is being remodelled in precisely the way Australia's most successful offspinner, Ashley Mallett, had most ardently suggested.

Ahead of the fourth Test against India at the Adelaide Oval, Lyon has been counselled to work on delivering his off breaks from closer to the stumps, in order to accentuate the drift he will be able to gain away from the right-handed batsman.

Since his debut, Lyon has delivered most of his looping spin from a point about halfway between the return crease and the umpire, but he is now endeavouring to bowl from closer, in the manner of many classical slow bowlers, not least Mallett himself.

In an ESPNcricinfo column, Malett had said Lyon needed to get closer to the stumps in order to create the ideal angles for his craft, rather than venturing around the wicket as frequently as he had done since taking 5 for 34 on debut against Sri Lanka in Galle.

"Lyon promises much, in that he is not afraid to give the ball air. He spins hard and bowls an attacking line outside the right-hander's off stump," Mallett wrote. "However, he also bowls from way too wide on the bowling crease, thus creating a huge angle in to the right-hander. Delivering from so wide on the crease, Lyon cannot afford to pitch too close to off stump, because on that angle, landing just outside off stump, the ball is going to miss off stump.

"The Indian batsmen have been aware of this, and have aimed to take him down, whipping the ball to the leg side almost at will. To compensate, Lyon has been forced to land too wide outside off stump - in which case, if he errs in length, he is punished through the off side.

"In Melbourne and Sydney, he sometimes came around the wicket to create an 'away' angle to the right-handers, but he'd be far better off staying over the wicket and operating from a position on the crease closer to the stumps. Then he would curve away from the right-handers and spin back, and start to cause the Indians some concern."

Australia's coaching staff were aware of Mallett's observations, but are believed to have begun discussing the change of angle ahead of the India series. Some extra time in the nets during the Perth Test, when Lyon was 12th man, has helped in the adjustment.

Use of the crease is a popular topic when older spinners and pacemen suggest how their successors might improve, and Lyon is not the only Australian bowler to make a technical change this summer. Ben Hilfenhaus was encouraged during the off-season to bowl from a wider variety of angles on the crease, and has benefited greatly from the subtle variations this offers by scooping 23 wickets in three Tests so far against India.

As a spin bowler in the classical vein, Lyon's variations are more to do with angles, pace, line, loop and length than any radical gymnastics in the fingers or wrist. He has said he is not about to indulge in the pursuit of the mystical doosra that Saeed Ajmal has just used to embarrass England in Dubai.

"My ability is to hang the ball in the air and get some drop and drift on it, so I'm not worried about the doosra or Sudoku ball or anything like that," Lyon said. "I'll just stick with my offies."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here