Lyon hails Watson's Gabba bowling
Nathan Lyon picked up five wickets during Australia's win at the Gabba. Josh Hazlewood starred on debut with seven, Mitchell Johnson rattled India with four in the second innings, Mitchell Starc came back after a shaky start and collected two. But in among the bigger wicket tallies from the frontline bowlers, Lyon said Shane Watson's efforts in keeping up the pressure could not be overlooked.
The hamstring injury sustained by Mitchell Marsh on the first day meant Watson had to play the all-round role through nearly the whole Test and sent down 27.4 overs - the most he has delivered in a Test for two years. On that occasion, the 47.4 overs he bowled against Sri Lanka in Hobart, where Ben Hilfenhaus was injured mid-match, led to his breaking down in the next Test at the MCG.
Watson's workload in Brisbane was not such that the Australians will be worried about his body, but again plenty of bowling will be required of him in Melbourne with Marsh replaced by the specialist batsman Joe Burns. Watson collected just one wicket in the Brisbane victory, but went at just 2.38 runs per over and his nagging accuracy and swing helped his colleagues pick up wickets at the other end.
"I think Shane bowled fantastic," Lyon said after the squad arrived in Melbourne on Monday. "He really held one end down, and we talk about bowling in partnerships. I think a lot of credit has to go to Watto. I know a lot of people don't see it that way - he got one wicket and none in the second.
"But the way he held together one end and created pressure from one end was allowing us to take wickets at the other end. A lot of credit goes to Shane. I'm pretty sure he can bowl a lot worse than that and come out and take five-for. He can be damaging on any pitch. I'm looking forward to hopefully bowling in tandem with him out there on Boxing Day."
Lyon himself delivered 35.4 overs at the Gabba, barely half of the 70.1 he sent down at Adelaide Oval in the first Test, as the fast men found pace and bounce from the Brisbane pitch. However, the corollary of that was that captain Steven Smith was fined 60% of his match fee for a slow over rate and faces suspension if he as captain is again responsible for another over-rate offence in the next 12 months.
"I think that just means I get to bowl more overs," Lyon joked. "That's up to Steve. It was pretty hot conditions up at the Gabba, so I can see how it was slowed down. I didn't realise it was that slow, and we won in four days so I'm not really sure how that works. But it's not up to me to worry about, it's up to the captain and the coach. But I think I'll just get to bowl more overs. Steve [jokingly] mentioned I was going to open the bowling I think."
Lyon will likely be part of an altered bowling attack at the MCG on Boxing Day, with Ryan Harris expected to come back in for Starc after missing the Brisbane Test due to a quadriceps injury. Peter Siddle has also remained in the squad after being left out and made 12th man at the Gabba.
"I spoke to both those guys yesterday and they bowled well at the Gabba," Lyon said. "It's a great position to have those guys putting their hands up for selection. We've got a good stock of bowlers at the moment."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale