Lyon likely to be left out of World Cup squad
Twenty-four hours after the Test team's hopes hung on the floating trajectory of his offbreaks, Nathan Lyon is likely to be missing from Australia's World Cup squad of 15 when they announce it at Circular Quay in Sydney on Sunday.
Though regarded as Australia's No. 1 spin bowler, there won't be any room for Lyon in the squad assembled by Rod Marsh's national selection panel, despite encouraging returns for him when he was trialled in the ODI team on recent overseas assignments in Zimbabwe and in the UAE against Pakistan. In the India series, Lyon has also passed 20 wickets in a Test bout for the first time.
Lyon has known of his place on the periphery for some weeks. The squad will instead be heavily laden with allrounders and fast bowlers, with the left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty likely to be included in the 15 and then spend most of his time running drinks as a reserve unless the team encounters an exceptionally dry surface.
Glenn Maxwell should retain his spot as a combustible middle order batsman and part-time finger spinner, while Shane Watson, Mitchell Marsh and James Faulkner will all be part of the team's plans for their first attempt at winning the cup at home since the failed 1992 campaign under Allan Border.
Michael Clarke is set to be chosen as captain, though he will not be fit until midway through the pool phase, leaving George Bailey to deputise until then. The pace attack is likely to feature Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, though a recall for Ryan Harris is not totally out of the question.
Lyon's omission seems to have been based on the contention that it is preferable to have a spinner who turns the ball away from right-handers, in contrast to Maxwell. However his knack for wickets and superior economy to either Doherty or Maxwell in recent engagements leaves open the question as to why the selectors have gone beyond numbers.
During the triangular series in Zimbabwe, Lyon collected seven wickets at 25.71 and an economy rate of 4.86 per over, as against Maxwell's four at 23.75 and 5.58 an over. In the UAE, Lyon's three wickets at 24.33 and economy of 3.65 an over were lined up against Maxwell's 4 at 22.25 and 5.23 an over.
Those statistics do not indicate how the batsmen in each series regarded Lyon as a threat to be countered - Pakistan's batsmen sat on him rather than taking many risks out of respect for his flight, loop and spin. Maxwell's major achievement during the same series was to hold his nerve in a final over escape in Abu Dhabi, when he successfully defended one run while coaxing out the last two Pakistani tailenders.
Meanwhile, Doherty's record of serviceable displays has been accompanied by a steady trailing off in his ability to take wickets. Over the past six series in which he has been involved, dating back to the February 2013 bout against West Indies, Doherty has taken nine wickets, one fewer then Lyon in the two assignments he was called up for.
Nevertheless, Lyon is likely spend the World Cup cooling his heels or playing Sheffield Shield matches for New South Wales. His omission will leave Australia's squad short of a match-winning spinner, something few World Cup winning teams have done without since the second of the West Indies' two triumphs in 1979.
Possible squad: Michael Clarke (capt), Brad Haddin (wk), David Warner, Aaron Finch, Shane Watson, Steven Smith, George Bailey, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh, James Faulkner, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, Xavier Doherty.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig