Australia v India, 4th Test, Adelaide January 21, 2012

Lyon turns to Ponting for advice


Nathan Lyon is tuning up for his return bout against India's spin conversant batsmen at Adelaide Oval with Ricky Ponting as his chief source of advice in the nets.

John Inverarity, the national selector, has indicated that Lyon will play for Australia in Adelaide, granting him another chance to scheme for success against India after claiming only one tail-end wicket in each of the first two Tests of the series.

After an eye-catching debut in Sr Lanka, where he took five wickets in his first innings, and significant contributions against South Africa and New Zealand, Lyon's classical offspin has not made the same impact against the Indians, a common problem for many international tweakers when faced by batsmen raised on a steady diet of slow bowling and dusty pitches.

Demoted to drinks duties in Perth, Lyon spent much of his spare time in the nets, and is redoubling his efforts in Adelaide with Ponting as his most pointed advisor as he tries to find the right blend of subtle variations to fool the trained eyes of the visitors.

"I'm just trying to keep executing my stock ball to the best of my ability," Lyon said. "Of course changes of pace and natural variation all come into it, but I've been working hard with Ricky Ponting especially on my bowling in the nets and bowling to him, because I find him one of the best bats to bowl to in the nets.

"A couple of days off there missing out on the Test in Perth was a great opportunity for me to work on my bowling, batting and fielding. I used all that time possible that I could use to make myself a better player."

Ponting's influence on Lyon is intriguing, given his checkered history with spin bowlers while captain of Australia. The national team has cycled through no fewer than 11 slow men in the years after Warne's retirement, and all have had varied relationships with Ponting.

Jason Krejza and Bryce McGain were two to be cast aside rapidly after difficult days in the field, while Nathan Hauritz's moderately successful time in the team came to an end following the 2010 India tour during which he was convinced by Ponting to try to change his bowling action and angle on the crease midway through the Mohali Test, which ended in a narrow defeat.

After the match Ponting said he had been trying to get Hauritz to change his methods almost from the moment of his recall to the team in 2008.

"When he first came back into the side back in South Africa I worked with him long and hard then about trying to get him to create some different angles for a batter and that's talking through a batsman's eyes and what makes it hard about facing off-spinners," Ponting said after the Mohali match.

"The angles that he creates are slightly different to the angles that some of the great offspinners create, like Harbhajan and Murali, if you look at the angles that Nathan creates and where he releases the ball and the shape he gets on the ball compared to what Harbhajan does it is chalk and cheese."

Lyon has enjoyed a far more lengthy run of Test matches and a more solid demonstration of faith from the new captain Michael Clarke and the national selectors, but would dearly like to have a greater impact on proceedings at Adelaide Oval, his home ground.

"I'm pretty positive this one is going to go five days and it's going to be a pretty hard tussle for us," Lyon said. "The pitch is only going to get slower and lower, so hopefully it'll have a little bit more turn out there for me.

"It's just been a great challenge for myself, being a young spinner and bowling against the best batters against spin. Their hands are unbelievable and they're really confident against spin, so it's a great challenge for myself and I'm loving every moment of it.

"I still have clear plans with Pup and always for myself try to be an attacking spin bowler and try to take wickets, but in this series against the Indians our quicks have been doing the damage, so I haven't had the opportunity really to bowl long spells and get in as it's been a couple of short Test matches. Hopefully if I get the nod out here I'll be able to bowl a few long spells and see where we get to."

The inclusion of Lyon will be at the expense of one of the four fast bowlers who rushed through India at the WACA ground, with a decision still to be made on which of Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus, Ryan Harris or Mitchell Starc will miss out.

"The big thing is our quick bowlers are bowling fantastic and I'm 100% behind them," Lyon said. "They've been getting the job done, which has made my job easier, I haven't really had to do much bowling. I'm still confident in my own skill set and we'll see how we keep going."

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Anupam on January 24, 2012, 17:16 GMT

    lyon wickets against the lankans wow. india is playing test cricket badly but still unbeatable in ODIs no doubt. but look at the lankan they were playing sooo bad test as well as odi. and lyon wickets against SL is comes just bcoz SL is playing below cricket than bangladesh & zim.@kavindeven. LYON IS not the worst bowler some fans beliv that lyon is the best spinner in the present world.but a/c to me in LYON's period Oz is not known for legend like warne but known for most worst spinner is also from Oz.

  • Dummy4 on January 22, 2012, 17:07 GMT

    Nathan, is turning to Ricky Ponting for advise on spin bowling a very good move ? Lets face it you didnt have to spin the ball to get Ricky out, all you needed to do was to bowl from a four or five steps and needed to spin your finger´s and you had your man. Ask Harbhajan he will tell you the same ....

  • John on January 22, 2012, 16:16 GMT

    Why on earth would Lyon turn to Ponting for advice? Ponting had no success whatever in bringing on spin bowlers once Warne (who didn't hide his contempt for Ponting as a captain) retired. Since his debut, Lyon has had exactly one match where he might be said to have made a significant contribution; the second test against South Africa where he had match figures of 4-109 (in the first test he took no wickets). His haul against New Zealand included exactly one top 7 batsman in the four innings, although he was a demon against Chris Martin. Does Australia really need someone to get just tailenders out? Lyon came to test cricket with no credentials and I'd suggest he really needs to go back to Shield cricket and bowl a thousand overs to learn his craft. Having Ponting tell him what to bowl in the nets isn't going to do it.

  • Dummy4 on January 22, 2012, 10:39 GMT

    I think Lyon should be given further encouragement. I like his attitude and his bowling will only improve given more experience and confidence. I think Clarke and Haddin have proved helpful to him with confidence (an aspect of Haddin's role in the team often gone unnoticed) - Haurie is a great spinner too and unfairly dealt with... I think Australia needs to keep encouraging the likes of Haurie, Lyon and even perhaps Beer and Krejza... all of have something to offer... O'Keefe too surely much be looked at too... anyway, Lyon is the current guy and should be supported... I admire his approach to all aspects of his game - even his batting! The best No.11 I have even seen!

  • Girik on January 22, 2012, 5:06 GMT

    Both Swann and Lyon struggled heaps against India actually. England and Australia are lucky that the Indian batsmen about under-12 kids level against decent swing and pace bowling since it has masked over the cracks in their spin bowling stock. The wickets which they have taken are either tail-enders or due to the pressure built up on the other end. The opposite happened when someone like Warne or Murali bowled. Warne would build pressure from his end. Then if the next over was loose a Gillespie, Lee, Fleming, etc. could still snatch a wicket. It was even more apparent with the Sri Lanka medium paces especially Vaas who relied on Murali a lot. Going back to the original topic, this defensive approach may not work when England or Australia tour India. They're better off using 4 pacers. The old West Indies team and more recent South Africans won Tests in India through sheer pace.

  • Kynan on January 22, 2012, 5:05 GMT

    @Eli Mahendra 3 tail-enders, Sangakarra first ball and matthews,who scored so much runs that series. Expecting him to get his next 5-for in Adelaide.

  • Andrew on January 22, 2012, 5:01 GMT

    Superficially - this would seem a weird move, give Punter's recent track record with captaincy of spinners. That being said it was mentioned his advice is coming from a batsmen's POV. There is another article which sort of talks about similar things.

  • ali on January 22, 2012, 3:01 GMT

    i would rate Lyon as the best spinner since shane Warne and he is our subcontinent specialist spin bowler and remember when he made his debut at Sri lanka where he took five wicket and in his first delivery he go rid of Kumar Sangkara

  • rob on January 22, 2012, 2:33 GMT

    @Kavindeven: This article was about Lyon, not Ashwin !! LOL ..... Personally I don't care if Lyon can only get the tail-enders out because, lets face it, the current Indian tail starts at about 4 or 5....

  • Nick on January 22, 2012, 0:08 GMT

    @Kavindeven....poor comment. Lyon is one off spinner in the world who still flights the ball. He does turn the ball significantly. He is a great prospect who will take many many wickets for Australia in the years to come. By the way when you refer to a 'sub-content', I can only assume you are referring to your own comments....

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