Australia v New Zealand, 1st Test, Brisbane, 4th day December 4, 2011

Lyon and Clarke spin web together

Nathan Lyon has plucked 19 wickets from his first six Tests and Australia may have found a spin bowler capable of commanding international respect

For the first time since Shane Warne's retirement in 2007, it is possible to conclude that Australia have found a spin bowler capable of commanding international respect. Six Tests into his career, the quietly spoken Nathan Lyon has plucked 19 wickets from Sri Lanka, South Africa and New Zealand, and marked his first home match with handsome figures of 7 for 88 in Brisbane.

Critical to Lyon's success is the fact that for the first time since Mark Taylor's exit in 1999, Australia have a Test captain with a genuinely sympathetic and aggressive attitude to spin bowling. Steve Waugh often preferred to batter his opponents with pace, marginalising Warne, and Ricky Ponting never quite managed to find the right approach to the bevy of spinners tried in his teams. But Michael Clarke has shown empathy, sharpness and imagination in his use of Lyon, and the 24-year-old is now flourishing. It seems the start of a beautiful friendship.

"He's a great fella," Clarke said of Lyon after completing victory over New Zealand. "He's got a lot of talent. He bowled with beautiful shape out of his hand and he's learning every day. He's a great guy to have around the group. His enthusiasm is something that not everybody provides in a team. I really love seeing him have success. He's working hard. It's nice to see someone working so hard have some success."

The work done by Lyon, nicknamed "Gaz" has been aided by Clarke's belief in spin's role as a key component of the attack, and by the field settings he has concocted for the young bowler. Clarke's use of angles in the field, the near-constant presence of close-in fielders, and the placement of mid-off and mid-on in positions to challenge opponents to loft Lyon over their heads, has shown his delight in setting traps for unwary batsmen.

"He's pretty open minded and doesn't stress too much about the field placements I have," Clarke said of Lyon. "That's probably been really good for me knowing that he can be consistent with his line and length, and I can attack more with the fields or defend at the right times. He's been great to work with. He'll continue to get better."

Success in Sri Lanka and South Africa showed Lyon's versatility and resilience, while wickets against New Zealand have demonstrated exactly how predatory he can be in the right circumstances. Ahead lies a Test on a Hobart surface less likely to offer bounce, and four matches against India's spin-conversant top-six. Clarke will continue to shepherd his bowler with care.

"There'll be tough times no doubt. We'll probably see that in Hobart on a flatter wicket," Clarke said. "Against India, who are very good players of spin bowling. So as long as the expectation from outside stays consistent, I think Gaz will be fine.

"He knows there's going to be some tough times. Hobart is a tough place to bowl spin. And India, when we come to them, are a tough opposition to bowl spin to. He will have success, no doubt, but it's a long journey for Gaz now. It's about making the most of the opportunities."

Another man who helped Lyon's progress this week was Mickey Arthur, the new coach. Arthur foresaw a greater role for Lyon in Brisbane in a four-man attack, and said so. Lyon responded to the encouragement, and Clarke said Arthur had already been of great help to the team room.

"He's taken a lot off my plate for sure," Clarke said. "It's fantastic that Mickey is on board though because his knowledge and experience as a coach is as good as anyone I've played under. He's had some success in South Africa. He's a gentleman. He's a wonderful man to be around, especially for the youngsters.

"He will continue to teach them a lot about life and a lot about respect and how you should treat people and that's probably what I already like so much about Mickey is that he treats people in the right way. He's such a gentleman. As a coach, he'll continue to provide us with great information, great knowledge, but he's going to help us a lot off the field as well. I think we're in really good hands to be honest."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Craig on December 6, 2011, 3:03 GMT

    The jury is still out with lyon, if you remember hauritz looked a class act against pakistan and west indies a few seasons ago and then england showed how good he really is! hauritz would be the better bowler as well. lets see how well lyon bowls to class batsmen in sehwag, gambhir, dravid, tendulkar, laxman and dhoni on a flat deck, if he is still taking 7 wickets for the match australia will go a long way to winning and i will be happily proven wrong! im sorry, i cant see it happening

  • Andrew on December 6, 2011, 3:02 GMT

    @landl47 - mate, that's the job of spinners, getting what's on offer! @davidpk - so because Warney didn't master India, nobody else can???? Swanny better not bother touring India hey??? Well actually - I expect Swann to do OK, providing his pace buddies make some incisions at the top of the order. If you read my post, I actually said 10 wickets in 4 tests would be a commendable achievement against them for Lyon. Also - India do have a habit of stuffing up against either obscure bowlers or bowlers on debut, (no reference to the 4nil hiding). Most Indian bloggers will bemoan that trend over the last 10 yrs or so. I do believe he is better than what people think, & I think his loop can trouble India because they may be pinned on the crease, not able to come forward & not sure of going back. That is only only a gut feel.

  • Randolph on December 5, 2011, 13:52 GMT

    @johntycodes, because we have a new selection board and policy now. Lyon is already better than Swann and shouldn't be dropped any time soon. This team will crush the United XI in the next Ashes.

  • david on December 5, 2011, 13:50 GMT

    meety as warne could not master india, i cannot understand the logic that lyon can with his loop. using that logic lyons a better bowler than warne. dpk

  • Dummy4 on December 5, 2011, 12:33 GMT

    @Rahul_78; That is, of course, if Sehwag and Gambhir can hang around long enough to get a go at him. Unlike some sub-continent pitches there aren't exactly many places in Australia where spin would/could open the bowling for anything more than a couple of overs to try and steal an easy wicket. I doubt we'll see Lyon getting the new ball, especially to that opening partnership, and my money's on our pace battery to tear through the Indian line-up anyways :)

  • brenta on December 5, 2011, 10:53 GMT

    Surely when lyon fails in perth against india he will be dropped. Isn't that how it works. I mean krezja took 12 wickets on debut then failed in perth and got dropped. Krezja was someone that turned the ball more than any off spinner australia has ever had and just because he couldn't get wickets on the worst pitch in the country for spin bowling he gets dropped. I expect lyon to be dropped if he doesn't perform in perth and if he isn't why not?

  • Cameron on December 5, 2011, 6:53 GMT

    wefinishthis; still giggling: Copeland & SOK the keys to winning back the Ashes. That is classic

  • Cameron on December 5, 2011, 6:51 GMT

    @wefinishthis: please. Steve O'Keefe ripped through the English batting order? If you are referring to the England IX v Aust A tour match: (4/88, including Cook out for 60 & KP for 5 + numbers 9 & 11). Not sure he ripped through them, when the English routed Aust A well inside four days & made 523 (with Bell making 192) to set up a massive 10 wicket win.

  • Roo on December 5, 2011, 6:37 GMT

    Lyon is looking like a good prospect... time will tell... Only 6 Tests so to soon to judge... Watching him live at the Gabba was great & he looked like he fitted into the team perfectly... He has done well in S.L. & S.A. as well as the Gabba... Looking the goods... while Cummins 1 Test on a bouncy Joburg & Pattinson 1 Test at the Gabba have been excellent they will have to perform on much less attractive pitches over summer & beyond... Lyon looks like the anchor Oz needs in stormy conditions...

  • Roo on December 5, 2011, 6:26 GMT

    @Peterincanada... Agree... for the good of the team & himself, Watson needs to bat at 6 or 7... He is the best gamebreaker bowler Oz has had over the last 4/5 years when the opposition are digging in... Khawaja has been the 'fill-in' player so has had no chance to settle within the team... 5 Tests / 9 innings / 2 n.o.'s & runout by Ponting... Usies batting has been a lot better than the figures suggest...

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