Curator backs Gabba pitch to turn
Nathan Lyon enjoyed bowling on the Gabba pitch against New Zealand last year and he should again find some turn and bounce, according to the curator Kevin Mitchell Jr. Australia have not yet decided on the make-up of their attack for the first Test against South Africa, which begins in Brisbane on Friday, but over the past few days all the murmurs from the camp have been that a four-man pace attack is unlikely.
The stereotype of the Gabba being a green-top has not held true in Test cricket for many years, although there is always some assistance for the fast men on the first morning. Mitchell said there was unlikely to be as much seam movement as there was for last year's Test - the preparation 12 months ago was interrupted by too much rain - and there would be plenty of runs available for the batsmen.
"It'll probably be similar to last year's wicket, maybe not as much sideways movement," Mitchell said. "We had a little bit of interrupted weather last year leading-up [to the match]. We're hoping it's going to be fast, good bounce and carry, and then wears on as the game goes on.
"There's always going to be that nip around for the first couple of hours and then it tends to flatten out and the moisture goes out of it. Then it's a pretty good batting wicket, but a new-ball deck. Given a nice day you'd tend to want to have a bat [first]. But sometimes we get humid weather in Brisbane and as you know the ball swings around a bit."
The strong pace attacks of both teams will enjoy some pace and bounce but as the match goes on, Lyon and his South Africa counterpart, Imran Tahir, will be expected to play more of a role. Shane Warne always said the Gabba was one of his favourite venues at which to bowl - he took more wickets there than at any other venue - and Mitchell expects there will again be something for the spinners.
"If the weather dries it out there certainly will be," he said. "We'll probably get a bit of deterioration with some cracking and then the footmarks will dust up for the spinners."
That is good news for Lyon, who took seven wickets against New Zealand last year in what was not only his first Gabba Test, but also the first time he had so much as visited the ground. Since then, he has been back for one Sheffield Shield match and he is looking forward to the chance of sending down some more overs over the next week.
"It was great to bowl out here," Lyon said. "I really enjoyed it. Hopefully I get my chance on Friday morning and we'll see where we get to. I love it because you get great bounce and if it's a bit tacky early in the game, it spins a bit. Then later on it spins even more. I'm just really looking forward to the opportunity of getting out there on Friday."
On Wednesday, Lyon was bowling in the nets under the watchful eye of John Davison, the spin mentor at the Centre of Excellence, and one of a select group of coaches to whom Lyon now turns. A left-field addition to that group is Steve Rixon, officially Australia's fielding coach, who has also been assigned a role with Lyon to allow the bowling coach Ali de Winter to focus on the fast men.
"Stumper [Rixon] is just going to be around at training as someone I can talk to, more so that Ali de Winter can just concentrate on his quicks and they can work together," Lyon said. "I'm pretty excited, Stumper has kept to some great spinners in his career and has worked with some. I'm really excited and it's going to be a great thing."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here