Confident Lyon roars in 50th Test
In an Australian bowling attack going through considerable change, it was perhaps not surprising to see its most settled member excel against West Indies on a cold Hobart day. Even so, the sight of Nathan Lyon twirling away and befuddling West Indies batsmen was a welcome one, coming as it did on the occasion of his 50th Test match.
Lyon has been through plenty of trials over the past four years - a return catch from Marlon Samuels recalled a mirror image effort against Sri Lanka in his very first Test but also demonstrated how much hair he has lost or shaven off since. Lyon, though, is still young for a spin bowler and, at 28, has plenty more ahead of him - something his mentor John Davison and family are able to savour by being present at Bellerive this week.
"I'm really confident at the moment. I feel like I'm confident in my skill set to get the job done," Lyon said. "The ball's coming beautifully out of my hand in the nets. I've been working hard with John Davison, and it's good to see it come out of the hands really well in the middle.
"He's been around in Adelaide and down here, he's been a big help for me over my career, and he's someone that I keep in contact with pretty regularly, so it doesn't mean he needs to be here with me to hold my hand every day. But it's great to have him down here at the moment, and I'm working really well with him.
"I'm lucky enough to have my family down here with me, so they've been really good, they've been my No. 1 supporters and I've sat down with Dad and spoke about the journey thus far. I'm really proud of the achievement of reaching 50[Tests], but going to have to take it one by one and see where we get to."
Early on, Lyon was able to kick back with his fellow bowlers and luxuriate in the exhibition put on by Adam Voges and Shaun Marsh, their fourth-wicket partnership breaking all records for the fourth wicket and coming within two runs of the mark Sir Donald Bradman and Bill Ponsford set for the highest Australian union of all.
"It was brilliant," Lyon said. "Our batters have been fantastic, that partnership with V[Voges] and SOS[Marsh] has been unbelievable really, to have those guys out in the middle for that long and to do the job they've done and put is in a pretty good position, as bowlers now it's up to us to go out there and take 20 wickets. So credit to V and SOS the way they went about it."
When introduced to the attack, Lyon quickly created problems by alternating deliveries that spun with others that skidded through straight, all delivered with teasing loop. It was one such combination that defeated Rajendra Chandrika, who was surprised by a ball that spun sharply back and was thus drawn into driving at the next one, wider and drifting further to coax an outside edge to slip.
Lyon has often clung to the security blanket of bowling around the wicket, but prospered from over it here, something he said was a product of his own burgeoning confidence and also the prevailing conditions. "I feel right now my shape's really good," he said. "I feel like the West Indies weren't sure if it was going to spin or slide on, especially with a bit of moisture on the wicket.
"I found the ball sliding on a bit, so I was able to use that angle. With the shape I'm able to get I feel like I'm going to create chances over the wicket. I know I've got around the wicket up my sleeve if I think I need to change it up, but I was happy over the wicket today."
"I'm learning every day, every day I go out to the nets, I'm trying to get better, so I feel like I've still got a lot to learn and a lot of improvement to do. I've got a long way to go until I'm happy."
The only moment's conjecture arrived when an LBW appeal and review against Kemar Roach was declined when ball-tracking had the delivery bouncing over the stumps, something several observers, including Lyon, found hard to believe. "I was definitely surprised," he said. "When it first hit Roach I thought it may have been sliding down leg if anything, but when I asked Marais [Erasmus] and he said it was height. It wasn't going over I don't think, but there you go, DRS..."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig