Lyon has Arthur's backing
Australia's coach Mickey Arthur has defended Nathan Lyon after criticism from both Muttiah Muralitharan and Stuart MacGill over the past few days. Lyon did not take a wicket in the second innings of Australia's victory against Sri Lanka in Hobart; he bowled 32 overs including 12 maidens but rarely threatened to lure the Sri Lankan batsmen into a false stroke as they sought to play out a draw on the final day.
After the Test, MacGill told Fox Sports he believed Lyon was bowling too fast and too straight, and he was also rushing between overs rather than slowing proceedings down and letting the batsmen wait. Muralitharan told the Herald Sun on Monday that Australia did not "have the person to take wickets on a turning wicket," and that Sri Lanka's batsmen could have gone after Lyon more in Hobart because "nothing much [was] happening" when he was bowling.
However, Lyon remains firmly in Australia's Test plans, having been the team's leading wicket-taker during the recent series against South Africa. Arthur said Lyon was developing as a bowler and it was important to realise that he was still young, at 24, with relatively little first-class experience to his name, and that his record of 56 Test victims at 31.92 from 17 Tests was a fine start to his career.
"He's young, he's still finding out about his bowling," Arthur said. "[He has] immense potential though. We're backing Nathan because Nathan will deliver for us in the long run. Spinners only reach their peak at 28 or 29. We've got a 24-year-old who has got over 50 wickets [and was the] leading wicket-taker through the South African series. Nathan is doing everything right. He is working extremely hard. Nathan is a very good bowler and will be a very good bowler for Australia going forward."
Lyon is preparing for his second Boxing Day Test, and it will be his 18th match in the baggy green - more than half of his 32 first-class games have been Tests. This summer he has been tested on the fifth day on three occasions and while he understands that his performances in such situations will come under scrutiny, he believes every match has provided him with a valuable learning opportunity.
"I'm learning every time I go out to bowl," Lyon said. "There have been a couple of day five pitches but in Adelaide South Africa batted fantastically and in Hobart we got the result. There are a lot of expectations on the spinner but I'm not worried about that, I'm worried about doing the right thing for the team and working well with Pup and all the other bowlers.
"I reckon it's the best place to learn. You're playing at the top of the tree and that's the best place to learn. If you're not learning up there I'm not sure why you're playing. I'm really enjoying every opportunity of playing cricket for Australia and every time I walk out on the field, whether it's with the bat or ball. I'm relishing the chance and I know in myself I'm growing as a human and with my cricket."
As for the criticism of his bowling speed in some situations this summer, Lyon said he was in constant dialogue with the captain Michael Clarke, who stands at slip, about how to deliver the ball to best challenge the batsmen.
"I'm talking to Michael Clarke and Matt Wade after every over about my pace," he said. "They're my guides. I'm not really fazed about what people are coming out and saying. We're out there in the middle, we know what pace we have to bowl on that pitch. It's easy sitting at home. I'm communicating with Pup and Wadey every over about my pace. I've got a pretty good guide there with one of the best players in the world, Michael Clarke, and the Australian keeper."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here