Australia v South Africa, 2nd Test, Adelaide November 21, 2012

Organised support system to aid Lyon


If Nathan Lyon's growing confidence was summed up by the back-spinner he unleashed to dismiss Jacques Rudolph in Brisbane, his valued place in Australian cricket can be measured by how carefully the national team is building a support network around him.

Ahead of the Adelaide Test match, Lyon was advised on bowling by the former Australian spin bowler Ashley Mallett, but not directly. Instead, Mallett had discussions with the senior coach Mickey Arthur, who passed Mallett's advice along to Lyon and also Steve Rixon, who has been appointed as the designated spin coach to allow the other specialist bowling coach Ali de Winter time to work purely with the pacemen.

As the season began, Lyon had spoken of how difficult he had found sorting through a myriad of advice during his first year as an international bowler, whether it had arrived via friends, the media or other bowlers and coaches simply calling him up at random to state what he was doing wrong. Eager for Lyon to learn but equally keen to ensure he is not overloaded with voices, Arthur, Rixon and South Australia's coach Darren Berry have worked assiduously to make sure Lyon's path is consistently defined.

"We're filtering it through the people he knows best," Arthur told ESPNcricinfo. "Darren Berry and SA have done a really good job with him, Steve Rixon within my support staff is a really experienced coach and has been very good with him as well. They've built a good relationship so he's been monitoring those messages, and I wanted to have a chat with Ashley Mallett because he's so knowledgeable on spin bowling and he confirmed what we were doing with Nathan. So I opened up a nice little communication channel there.

"I just asked Ashley if he had anything he could mention to me. I've designated Steve Rixon within our squad as working with Nathan and I'm really happy they've got a good relationship going. Our messages are very consistent with the messages of Darren Berry. Everybody is saying exactly the same thing and that's the message being delivered to Nathan within our team. That to me is really important, that the players are getting the same messages and not a conflicting message."

No one was more delighted to see an Australian spinner benefit from his expanded repertoire than his captain Michael Clarke, who has shown an instinctive feel for leading slow bowlers from the moment he dived to pouch the sharpest of slip catches from Lyon's first ball in Test cricket, against Sri Lanka in Galle last year. In addition to knowing the value of spin bowling, Clarke also finds a great deal of fun in it, and the twinkle in his eye when he spoke of Lyon's variation could only have come from someone who has bowled spin for years himself.

"Well, we're calling it a doosra more than a back-spinner," Clarke said, grinning. "It's something he's worked on and it was nice to see him get a wicket with it [in the] last Test match, so hopefully we'll see him get plenty more wickets for Australia with balls spinning in both directions.

"He can contain if he has to and we can dictate that by the fields we have, but then if there's an opportunity for Nathan to put more pressure on the [batsmen] I think he's got the skill to be able to do that as well. He's bowling well, I thought he came back really well in Brisbane and that shows his character.

"I know he wants to do well in front of his home crowd, but as I've said to Nathan plenty of times he needs to keep doing exactly what he's doing, don't change a thing and he'll continue to have success at the highest level."

South Africa's batsmen have now tried several times to hit Lyon out of Australia's attack in the manner they took to Bryce McGain in Cape Town in 2009, but each time the bowler has responded with better subsequent spells and important wickets. The touring captain Graeme Smith noted Lyon's importance to this match with a good degree of respect.

"Nathan has proven to be a solid performer for Australia. That's exactly how we view him," Smith said. "We haven't taken an arrogant view of him, maybe some other people have. We respect what he is capable of and he will play a role in this game."

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on November 22, 2012, 19:32 GMT

    Nathan Lyon isn't as bad as people are making him out to be, the fact he's consistently showing improvement is encouraging, all the best spinners need to mature. Given how great Warne became, it's easy to overlook how mediocre he was at first, give Nathan time he might become great. One thing I'd personally like to see more of is him tossing the ball up more and fuller. He bowls really safe lengths that don't threaten the batsmen much when he can afford to play more aggressively and try to take wickets to break entrenched partnerships.

  • Dummy4 on November 21, 2012, 21:54 GMT

    Seriously I'll give this guy until the England Ashes 2013, then Australia will be scrambling for the next Warne again.

    To be fair this guys a two-a-penny Off Spinner. He would struggle to get into a County team. Watch his run rate and average drop Randy !

  • Dummy4 on November 21, 2012, 21:50 GMT

    This article tries extremely hard to remind people around that Australia have a spinner too, and his name is Nathan Lyon. While he is the best spinner (sadly) in a country whose cupboards are running bare in all departments except fast bowling, he is unfortunately far from being anywhere near international class. I doubt he would make it into a domestic team in of the subcontinental countries. South Africa are average players of spin (which means they are much better than England or Australia) and even they didn't have much trouble dealing with him. The very fact that statistically he is the best spinner after Ajmal shows you how seriously (not) you should take statistics.

  • Rahul on November 21, 2012, 21:14 GMT

    Even bowlers like dilshan Sehwag shoib Malik r better than this guy

  • Peterincanada on November 21, 2012, 16:51 GMT

    This is an interesting article. Smith's approach is absolutely correct. Be agrressive against spinners and see how they respond. Lyon has responded well so the Saffers are now playing him with more caution. England should take note. They seem to have two approaches. KP and Bell are mindlessly aggressive while the others prod forward from the crease and succumb to the close fielders. Cook and Prior are the exceptions.

  • michael on November 21, 2012, 15:39 GMT

    ......and in reality a club bowler who is about as threatening as a wet sponge. Swann is closing in on 200 test wickets after yet another five for. I doubt Lyon will get near that mark.

  • Dummy4 on November 21, 2012, 14:20 GMT

    I hope he does well in Adelaide. I think he's more likely to take a bag full there than Tahir is. He is perhaps the most important bowler in the team without Watson there as he has to shoulder the burden of the allrounder too. And we should say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to him for tuesday! Hope you had a good one mate!

  • des on November 21, 2012, 14:14 GMT

    'Support system'? Oh dear, what has happened to Aussies recently. This has echoes of Darryl Cullinan's psychiatrist's couch. Although Warney can't comment either given his recent antics.

  • Randolph on November 21, 2012, 11:00 GMT

    Statistically the best spinner in the world behind Ajmal. Will run riot in Adeelaide!

  • Andrew on November 21, 2012, 10:13 GMT

    Good onya Nathan. I really like the way he bowled on Day 3 at the Gabba. I think it does show a lot of ticker to come back from being slaughtered by tailenders & catches dropped in Shield cricket to pick up a good bag of wickets. Can't quite say he has been the stand out spinner in Tests in the last week, but if you factor in the opposition & the conditions - he did pretty well in comparison. I'd have to say Swanny was the best, closely followed by Ojha & Herath, then just behind was Lyon with Ashwin & Gazi.

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