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
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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

  • Claydo78 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

  • Meety 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.

  • RandyOZ 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.

  • bumsonseats 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

  • 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 :)

  • johntycodes 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?

  • Vishnu27 on December 5, 2011, 6:53 GMT

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

  • Vishnu27 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.

  • zenboomerang 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...

  • zenboomerang 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...

  • Claydo78 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

  • Meety 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.

  • RandyOZ 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.

  • bumsonseats 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

  • 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 :)

  • johntycodes 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?

  • Vishnu27 on December 5, 2011, 6:53 GMT

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

  • Vishnu27 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.

  • zenboomerang 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...

  • zenboomerang 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...

  • Rahul_78 on December 5, 2011, 5:14 GMT

    No doubt Lyons real test will come against India. Indian batsmen will definitely try to attack and score of Lyon specially Sehwag and Gambhir and will try to put him under pressure. What is refreshing to see is Clarke is aware of the situation and by all means will be patient with his offie. World cricket needs to good spinners and with emergence of Ajman and Ashwin it is exciting to see attacking off spinners playing test cricket.

  • landl47 on December 5, 2011, 5:11 GMT

    Let's not go overboard. In this test he took 9, 10 and 11 in the first innings and 10 and 11 in the second. so 5 of his 7 wickets were non-batsmen. It's good that he's getting experience and improving, but there's a long way to go before he 'commends international respect'.

  • Behind_the_bowlers_arm on December 5, 2011, 4:36 GMT

    He has played 6 Tests and has showed some good signs, is enthusiastic & is learning. Agree that he is lucky to be working under Clarke who has a greater empathy & appreciation of his art but as acknowledged he isn't the finished article and India will be a massive test for any spinner. Of course Warne started with 1/150 against them but expect to be told that Lyon was never any good & I told you so by cricinfos Mondays Experts if he doesn't destroy them. Also love that they've nicknamed him Gaz which will mean nothing to any other country and look forward to him having to explain AFL to the Indian media reporting the Tests.

  • unregisteredalien on December 5, 2011, 3:30 GMT

    @Wefinishthis: I'm with you on selections but it ain't over yet! The new selectors are going to take a while to look at all the players of interest and phase new ones in. Fingers crossed they won't continue to ignore the quality in front of them in favour of hunches on unproven 'talent'.

  • Meety on December 5, 2011, 1:15 GMT

    @chilled_avenger - it should in theory be a mis-match, the Indians SHOULD monster him, the big thing in Lyon's favour is a) the Indians haven't played him before, b) the indians may underestimate him, c) Lyon is better than what people think, his loop is superb. Whatever way it is looked at - if he can get say 10 wickets @ 40 with an rpo of less than 4, over the course of the series, he'll of succeeded! @ RandyOZ - no credit for Pup's captaincy? @crikey - he's still learning, but he did well in Sri Lanka & Saffaland - so its hardly just against NZ! @Wefinishthis - mate, I'm a big fan of O'Keefe & he should of played test cricket before Beer did. That being said, Lyon is fast building up a resume in Tests that IMO has him ahead of Hauritz & fast closing on O'Keefe. @ insightfulcricketer - I think Lyon's loop may prevent some of India's batsmen from dominating him, only a gut feel, from an Ozzy perspective - I'm hoping the pace bowlers crack the batting wide open!

  • gothetaniwha on December 5, 2011, 0:10 GMT

    Why is it when a spinner takes more than one wicket for Aus he,s a world beater ,lets get real he got Martin (11) out x2 not hard ,southee (10) out x2 slogging , not hard , Bracewell (9) out once ,Ryder out going down swinging ,the only wicket he earned Williamson ,Yeah he bowl well, but lets see if he,s still in the team in a years time .

  • dunger.bob on December 4, 2011, 23:59 GMT

    @insightfulcricketer & chilled: The bloke gets a bit of dip, curve and grip and seems to have at least half a brain, but he simply hasn't bowled to anyone of the calibre of VVS and his mates. As some of your compatriots have quite rightly pointed out, the jury is out until he has played against the best in the business.

    I like his story. He's played more tests now than first class games (or very close to that) and was working as a groundsman at the Adelaide oval when he got his big break. I think he was noticed when he was drafted in as a net bowler or something along those lines. It's a genuine Cinderella story, and because he seems a nice bloke and we really need a good spinner, I hope it has a happy ending for him.

  • on December 4, 2011, 22:50 GMT

    Overall, I am very impressed with Clarke's captaincy and his use of the bowlers. Lyon for sure looks like an interesting prospect and if he can keep his control and improve, he will be a handful against India, who would under estimate Lyon. I predict a 2-0 or 3-1 favoring Australia. India are slow starters and Gambhir or Sehwag don't seem to care much about their wicket. And we rely heavily on Sehwag's performance for wins. It sure should be an interesting series...

  • OhhhhMattyMatty on December 4, 2011, 21:58 GMT

    Nathan Lyon is decent. But Hauritz's display in the 2009 Ashes was still far better than anything Lyon's produced so far. Lyon would still be England's 4th spinner, behind Swann, Panesar and Briggs. Even Adil Rashid looked as good as Lyon last Winter in the Big Bash! And Rashid's terrible! At least Lyon can spin it though, unlike the hapless Beer, O'Keefe and Doherty!!! LOL!

  • sifter132 on December 4, 2011, 21:51 GMT

    Clarke does have marginally more confidence in the spinner than previous captains, but man I'd love to see Lyon get the ball before the other 3 quicks sometimes. Every morning he is the 4th bowler used. Most sessions he is the 4th bowler used too. I'd like to see him used first up sometimes.

  • Peterincanada on December 4, 2011, 20:39 GMT

    @insightfulcricketer I think the batting will look better if Watson comes back at 5 or 6 and Marsh replaces Hughes, who looked like the the Phantom's bunny. The problem is their fitness records. Khawaja was looking set for a score until Ponting stupidly ran him out but I think he will be o.k.

  • insightfulcricketer on December 4, 2011, 19:59 GMT

    I liked the way Lyon bowled in SA and now back in Oz. I think he will do well against us because he bowls wider outside of the off stump and looks for athe drift.That means Indian batsmen would go after him through the off side but they will keep the slip and return catch always in the offing.In that respect he looks a lot like Greg Matthews of '85 and he always did well against India. Lyon will have to keep nerve about him but he will do well with Pup continue to give him good fields.

    It is great to see Oz surely rebuilding the core back. Batting is a little iffy but guys will mature soon. The new Australia (bowling-wise) and the old India (batting) looks like the match-up but I suspect the main front will be India bowling against Australian batting. We have a couple of young quicks and a young off-spinner who are promising.Can't wait for Boxing day.

  • CheeseOnAStick on December 4, 2011, 17:51 GMT

    I don't know why people do keep hyping up players off of expected performances. If Lyon can take 15+ wickets against India then that's something to commend. I don't see any big difference between Lyon and Hauritz and in my opinion it is really Clarke that's the difference. Ponting, for all his greatness, just was not good at setting fields for spin bowlers.

  • chicko1983 on December 4, 2011, 16:07 GMT

    From watching him for SA last year I knew he had control but he appears to be getting better. Will definitely be international level by the end of the year and set for a long international career.

  • Wefinishthis on December 4, 2011, 15:02 GMT

    It's a shame we have to wait for the ashes to see how ineffective he is. Steve O'Keefe already proved prior to the ashes selection disgrace that he can rip through the English batting lineup and he can bat as well. O'Keefe has a better record than Shane Warne (not taking into considering international experience) and oh and did I mention he can bat as well?

    Now with Pattinson getting 5 wickets against a pathetic batting order, we'll never see Copeland and O'Keefe play for Australia again and we'll therefore never win back the ashes.

  • on December 4, 2011, 14:22 GMT

    Captain Clarke too can bowl orthodox left arm spin. He should bowl too to stay in the game longer.

  • AidanFX on December 4, 2011, 13:18 GMT

    Whilst I am aware potentially he could be made to look ordinary against a team like Indian - what does strike me about Lyon is he seems to have a lot of control and is generally very accurate. Contra Bollinger and Krejza bowled a number of loose deliveries when they were in the team for their short stints. If Swan somehow made it to be #1 (not denying he is class bowler but...) then I can see this guy becoming a success

  • satish619chandar on December 4, 2011, 11:17 GMT

    Lyon bowled well to plan and the field.. He was somewhat aggressive.. His real test though will be the next series.. He troubled SL batsmen when the ocnditions were aiding spin.. Australia can bank on him to some extent..

  • on December 4, 2011, 10:13 GMT

    oh please how soon will it be before the knockers come calling for Lyon's head

  • crikey on December 4, 2011, 9:48 GMT

    Let's see how all this goes if the wheels start falling off. One thing to get results against NZ. India however is a totally different prospect. Hope he goes well.

  • RandyOZ on December 4, 2011, 9:27 GMT

    Lyon is already better than Swann, and probably only behind Ajmal in world cricket. This guy is going to be a star!

  • chilled_avenger on December 4, 2011, 9:19 GMT

    I have always wanted Lyon to succeed in International level! He looks like a nice,hard-working chap and I'm sure he could make himself a permanent fixture of the Test as well as ODI Squad! And though I'm an Indian,I'd certainly like to see him bowl well against our team in the upcoming Border-Gavaskar Series!

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  • chilled_avenger on December 4, 2011, 9:19 GMT

    I have always wanted Lyon to succeed in International level! He looks like a nice,hard-working chap and I'm sure he could make himself a permanent fixture of the Test as well as ODI Squad! And though I'm an Indian,I'd certainly like to see him bowl well against our team in the upcoming Border-Gavaskar Series!

  • RandyOZ on December 4, 2011, 9:27 GMT

    Lyon is already better than Swann, and probably only behind Ajmal in world cricket. This guy is going to be a star!

  • crikey on December 4, 2011, 9:48 GMT

    Let's see how all this goes if the wheels start falling off. One thing to get results against NZ. India however is a totally different prospect. Hope he goes well.

  • on December 4, 2011, 10:13 GMT

    oh please how soon will it be before the knockers come calling for Lyon's head

  • satish619chandar on December 4, 2011, 11:17 GMT

    Lyon bowled well to plan and the field.. He was somewhat aggressive.. His real test though will be the next series.. He troubled SL batsmen when the ocnditions were aiding spin.. Australia can bank on him to some extent..

  • AidanFX on December 4, 2011, 13:18 GMT

    Whilst I am aware potentially he could be made to look ordinary against a team like Indian - what does strike me about Lyon is he seems to have a lot of control and is generally very accurate. Contra Bollinger and Krejza bowled a number of loose deliveries when they were in the team for their short stints. If Swan somehow made it to be #1 (not denying he is class bowler but...) then I can see this guy becoming a success

  • on December 4, 2011, 14:22 GMT

    Captain Clarke too can bowl orthodox left arm spin. He should bowl too to stay in the game longer.

  • Wefinishthis on December 4, 2011, 15:02 GMT

    It's a shame we have to wait for the ashes to see how ineffective he is. Steve O'Keefe already proved prior to the ashes selection disgrace that he can rip through the English batting lineup and he can bat as well. O'Keefe has a better record than Shane Warne (not taking into considering international experience) and oh and did I mention he can bat as well?

    Now with Pattinson getting 5 wickets against a pathetic batting order, we'll never see Copeland and O'Keefe play for Australia again and we'll therefore never win back the ashes.

  • chicko1983 on December 4, 2011, 16:07 GMT

    From watching him for SA last year I knew he had control but he appears to be getting better. Will definitely be international level by the end of the year and set for a long international career.

  • CheeseOnAStick on December 4, 2011, 17:51 GMT

    I don't know why people do keep hyping up players off of expected performances. If Lyon can take 15+ wickets against India then that's something to commend. I don't see any big difference between Lyon and Hauritz and in my opinion it is really Clarke that's the difference. Ponting, for all his greatness, just was not good at setting fields for spin bowlers.