England v Australia, 4th Investec Test, Chester-le-Street, 1st day August 9, 2013

Lyon's simple ploy that foxed England

Nathan Lyon is not a "modern" offspinner but his old-school values have served him well
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Once upon a time, offspin was an uncomplicated thing. The blokes tried to drift the ball away from the bat in the air and spin it back to the stumps. Most of them had an arm ball, an outswinger effectively, that was bowled with the seam upright as a variation to the offbreak. Offspinners constantly searched for a way to beat the outside edge so that batsmen could not set themselves against the natural movement of the ball which was designed to beat the inside edge.

Fingerspinners were dynamite in the days of uncovered pitches, when, after rain, the ball gripped in the damp surface, often ripping out pieces of the turf and causing general chaos with the extravagant turn and extra bounce. The accepted methods of response were to play back and late, with the spin; to play forward but to lead with the bat, rather than with bat and pad together as this brought short leg and silly point into play, or to come down the pitch and meet the ball on the full toss or half-volley. For this, batsmen needed quick feet and a certain courage. Some said you were better stumped by a mile than a whisker because at least you had committed.

When Jim Laker took 19 wickets at Old Trafford in 1956, the watered pitch was drying to dust in the first innings and wet again after more rain in the second. Only when the sun got to work did it spring to life and force the Australians to panic. Apparently Tony Lock bowled his orthodox left-arm spinners pretty well too but God was Jim's biggest fan.

Ian Johnson's team played mainly back and were collared by the leg trap, though their minds were in disarray after the ball Laker bowled to Neil Harvey, which some say is the equal of the one Shane Warne bowled to Mike Gatting on the same ground 37 years later. It is amazing footage, given the pedigree of the batsmen and the speed of the demise, and available on Youtube.

The very best offspinners - and Laker was surely one - drifted the ball away from the bat nice and late. To do this, the seam had to be released in a perfect 45-degree position. Then it would spin back the other way. On a wet pitch, they would bowl a little flatter and faster. Derek Underwood, a left-arm fingerspinner, was called "Deadly" because he bowled accurately at almost medium pace. On a dry pitch, Underwood was difficult. On a wet one, he was impossible.

Modern covered pitches; unimaginative captains; one-day cricket that led to powerful front-foot hitting; and bigger, more responsive bats changed the life of the fingerspinner. Only the really good ones have hung on and the story has moved from drift, swing and side spin to the angle of the elbow at delivery, invention of the doosra and the skill in achieving extreme overspin in the search for enough bounce to unsettle naturally aggressive present-day players.

The madness of Friday, when Lyon reminded the Australia selectors that the start of his career - 23 matches, 77 wickets at an average of 34 - was worth hanging on to, was also the day that reminded the rest of us that cricket is neither sinecure nor certain

Once the fingerspinner learned to beat the outside edge with the doosra, the rules of the game changed quite dramatically. At times, when Muttiah Muralitharan has been at his most potent, for example, it has been hard not to find sympathy for the batsmen. Picking the delivery has become doubly difficult because a number of the new breed scramble the seam from what appears hugely flexible wrists. Saeed Ajmal is another example of one who profits from this skilful deception.

The great success story of the age belongs to Graeme Swann. Simply by spinning the ball hard with an orthodox method, relishing the challenge and never surrendering, he has morphed from unfulfilled promise into one of the best to have worn an England shirt. Swann torments left-handers with his clever mix of some that spin and some that don't. He exploits rough areas with a missionary zeal and makes life hard for right-handers with the lovely dip he achieves by the amount of revolutions imparted on the ball. He is a superb cricketer, a proper spinner of the cricket ball with an ability to take wickets in all conditions against the very best opponents.

All of which leads us to Nathan Lyon: 20 overs, seven maidens, four wickets for 40 runs. Incredible, especially given he could not get a game at Trent Bridge or Lord's. There isn't much to Lyon. He is what we rather unkindly call an honest cricketer. He came out of nowhere in the famous story of being assistant groundsman at Adelaide Oval one minute, Test player the next. Lyon bowls a nice offbreak and not much else. He is pretty accurate but no Deadly.

He did, however, come up with a wheeze today, one that flummoxed the might of the EngIish batting. He bowled around the wicket - shock, horror. And from there he created an angle that England turned to their disadvantage. The longer he wheeled away, the more each ball was treated as if it could explode. Honestly, even Jim wasn't this good.

Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell and Jonny Bairstow - three, four, five, six, the cream - all perished. Defensive prods were aimed at extra cover rather than towards mid-on ("Hit it back whence it came lad" used to be the mantra). Attempted blows over the top of the infield were executed with sloppy footwork and little conviction. Bairstow's sweep was a thing of the past, the days when English umpires gave you out for the shot. And they were right. Offspinners only ever bowled around the wicket because the ball was turning so much that they needed a more acute angle to bring lbw into play. Now the batsmen were ripe for plucking simply because of the different angle not the spin.

The madness of Friday, the day when Lyon reminded the Australia selectors that the start of his career - 23 matches, 77 wickets at an average of 34 - was worth hanging on to, was also the day that reminded the rest of us that cricket is neither sinecure nor certain. It was a day that utterly confounded us and in dong so brought back the great joy of the unknown. Whatever next? Swann maybe.

Mark Nicholas, the former Hampshire captain, presents the cricket on Channel 9 in Australia and Channel 5 in the UK

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • gop_cricket on August 9, 2013, 20:24 GMT

    Cricket is most uncertain game, you can find many uncertain results achievements downfalls in cricket only, than other sports.Mark, I think the way Lyon bowled today around the wicket, with an angle from where he spun the ball appreciably was a no mean achievement. He must have practiced it a lot at nets or burnt a lots of candles thinking on that ploy. That is how people get their credit is it not? Still a long way to go for Lyon, but he is not a bad bowler at all. No comparison of this guy with Graham Swan or Jim Larker (Saw video footage 1956 ashes on You tube). Since Swan has more spin, variation in air and off the surface he is more dangerous bowler than any off spinner currently in cricket world , including Saeed Ajmal. India which has produced and always had one good off spinner with them or lacking a one at this moment. So these off spinners also are becoming rare breed, like leg spinners. Finally, a very good write on rare art of cricket and it's mysteries.

  • popcorn on August 14, 2013, 2:41 GMT

    In hindsight, notwithstanding Ashton Agar's 98 at Trent Bridge, it was a terrible mistake for Darren Lehmann to have forgotten Lyon's brillliant bowling at Delhi and dropping him. .He should have known that spinners have to be nurtured - not droppd for one or two imperfect performances.Ashton Agar was selected as a spinner primarily-we found he lacked this skill AT BOTH -Trent Bridge and Lord's.

  • wibblewibble on August 14, 2013, 0:06 GMT

    @heathrf1974: you do need to consider his age, but you also need to consider the education Swann had in county cricket before his Test debut. Swann bowled (roughly) 32,000 balls in first class cricket learning how to bowl on any wicket, any conditions, any batsman and be competitive.

    In his whole career Lyon has only bowled just under 10,000 balls in first class cricket. This was good, but looks like he will need to do a lot of learning, which can be tricky if you mainly just play Tests and a few shield games.

  • Jonathan_E on August 12, 2013, 20:15 GMT

    I recently ran a comparison between pretty much every spin bowler that England have used since World War 1, and came up with the following conclusions:

    Since WW2: Laker was a true great. Underwood was also exceptional. Swann, although his bowling average (runs per wicket) and economy rate is higher, actually takes wickets nearly as often: and does it on covered pitches too, whereas Laker and Underwood had uncovered pitches. Lock and Panesar compare well to each other on similar terms, Wardle slightly better than either. The rest are nowhere, probably David Allen leading the mediocrity.

    Between the wars: Verity, apart from one great match, was overrated except for an exceptional economy rate. England's leg-spinners of the time - Freeman, Peebles, Hollies - all took *wickets* faster than Verity, and all could be called unlucky not to play more, although their wickets were more expensive. Doug Wright, the leggie who *did* get more chances, has appalling figures.

  • on August 12, 2013, 13:18 GMT

    a dying art, fast becoming synonymous with containing runs rather than attack. even renowned spinners like harbhajan have failed to be consistent as they have become more cautious. off spin is easy to be accurate but once experimented, it may prove costly.

  • on August 12, 2013, 13:14 GMT

    Being an Off Spinner myself, I truly believe off spin is way more easy to bowl the same line and length but difficult to contain the batsman. a truly brilliant article on the rise ans fall of the art that is fast becoming synonymous with "containing & being economical".

  • Shaggy076 on August 12, 2013, 6:42 GMT

    mzm149 - Cant remember Ashwin turning one in Australia as he averaged 65. The difference between Indian spinners and the rest of the world is the Indian pitches are baked, the ball goes through the surface and gets variable bounce. TO bowl in Indian conditions you need flat, fast spin with a lot of overspin to take advantage of the variable bounce. Thus the pitch is doing most of the work and not the bowler. To bowl this on pitches with true bounce and spin, it sits up to be spanked. It takes true talent to be able to bowl on these pitches.

  • heathrf1974 on August 11, 2013, 2:33 GMT

    People need to remember that Lyon is 25, at the same age Swann was not representing England. Aussie fans need to be patient with Lyon.

  • Chris_P on August 11, 2013, 1:32 GMT

    As for Lyon, the sight of a wicket-keeper of substance keeping to his bowling would have increased his confidence. I am afraid Wade's presence was a disaster for Lyons.

  • Chris_P on August 11, 2013, 1:30 GMT

    @humdrum. True Warne didn't excel over the period, but let's not forget the 2004 series where in 3 tests he took 14 wickets @30 & helped Australia win 2 tests with a best of 6/125. Didn't really come a cropper then, did he? The point is no bowler has enjoyed success everywhere to the same degree, possibly McGrath comes closest, but there is evidence for all bowlers to apply that logic.

  • gop_cricket on August 9, 2013, 20:24 GMT

    Cricket is most uncertain game, you can find many uncertain results achievements downfalls in cricket only, than other sports.Mark, I think the way Lyon bowled today around the wicket, with an angle from where he spun the ball appreciably was a no mean achievement. He must have practiced it a lot at nets or burnt a lots of candles thinking on that ploy. That is how people get their credit is it not? Still a long way to go for Lyon, but he is not a bad bowler at all. No comparison of this guy with Graham Swan or Jim Larker (Saw video footage 1956 ashes on You tube). Since Swan has more spin, variation in air and off the surface he is more dangerous bowler than any off spinner currently in cricket world , including Saeed Ajmal. India which has produced and always had one good off spinner with them or lacking a one at this moment. So these off spinners also are becoming rare breed, like leg spinners. Finally, a very good write on rare art of cricket and it's mysteries.

  • popcorn on August 14, 2013, 2:41 GMT

    In hindsight, notwithstanding Ashton Agar's 98 at Trent Bridge, it was a terrible mistake for Darren Lehmann to have forgotten Lyon's brillliant bowling at Delhi and dropping him. .He should have known that spinners have to be nurtured - not droppd for one or two imperfect performances.Ashton Agar was selected as a spinner primarily-we found he lacked this skill AT BOTH -Trent Bridge and Lord's.

  • wibblewibble on August 14, 2013, 0:06 GMT

    @heathrf1974: you do need to consider his age, but you also need to consider the education Swann had in county cricket before his Test debut. Swann bowled (roughly) 32,000 balls in first class cricket learning how to bowl on any wicket, any conditions, any batsman and be competitive.

    In his whole career Lyon has only bowled just under 10,000 balls in first class cricket. This was good, but looks like he will need to do a lot of learning, which can be tricky if you mainly just play Tests and a few shield games.

  • Jonathan_E on August 12, 2013, 20:15 GMT

    I recently ran a comparison between pretty much every spin bowler that England have used since World War 1, and came up with the following conclusions:

    Since WW2: Laker was a true great. Underwood was also exceptional. Swann, although his bowling average (runs per wicket) and economy rate is higher, actually takes wickets nearly as often: and does it on covered pitches too, whereas Laker and Underwood had uncovered pitches. Lock and Panesar compare well to each other on similar terms, Wardle slightly better than either. The rest are nowhere, probably David Allen leading the mediocrity.

    Between the wars: Verity, apart from one great match, was overrated except for an exceptional economy rate. England's leg-spinners of the time - Freeman, Peebles, Hollies - all took *wickets* faster than Verity, and all could be called unlucky not to play more, although their wickets were more expensive. Doug Wright, the leggie who *did* get more chances, has appalling figures.

  • on August 12, 2013, 13:18 GMT

    a dying art, fast becoming synonymous with containing runs rather than attack. even renowned spinners like harbhajan have failed to be consistent as they have become more cautious. off spin is easy to be accurate but once experimented, it may prove costly.

  • on August 12, 2013, 13:14 GMT

    Being an Off Spinner myself, I truly believe off spin is way more easy to bowl the same line and length but difficult to contain the batsman. a truly brilliant article on the rise ans fall of the art that is fast becoming synonymous with "containing & being economical".

  • Shaggy076 on August 12, 2013, 6:42 GMT

    mzm149 - Cant remember Ashwin turning one in Australia as he averaged 65. The difference between Indian spinners and the rest of the world is the Indian pitches are baked, the ball goes through the surface and gets variable bounce. TO bowl in Indian conditions you need flat, fast spin with a lot of overspin to take advantage of the variable bounce. Thus the pitch is doing most of the work and not the bowler. To bowl this on pitches with true bounce and spin, it sits up to be spanked. It takes true talent to be able to bowl on these pitches.

  • heathrf1974 on August 11, 2013, 2:33 GMT

    People need to remember that Lyon is 25, at the same age Swann was not representing England. Aussie fans need to be patient with Lyon.

  • Chris_P on August 11, 2013, 1:32 GMT

    As for Lyon, the sight of a wicket-keeper of substance keeping to his bowling would have increased his confidence. I am afraid Wade's presence was a disaster for Lyons.

  • Chris_P on August 11, 2013, 1:30 GMT

    @humdrum. True Warne didn't excel over the period, but let's not forget the 2004 series where in 3 tests he took 14 wickets @30 & helped Australia win 2 tests with a best of 6/125. Didn't really come a cropper then, did he? The point is no bowler has enjoyed success everywhere to the same degree, possibly McGrath comes closest, but there is evidence for all bowlers to apply that logic.

  • mzm149 on August 10, 2013, 21:44 GMT

    Apart from far more variations in spin bowling compared to their counterparts, sub continental spinners have different technique of gripping and delivering the ball as well. Given the same conditions sub continental spinners produce more turn, bounce, dip and drift and take more wickets.

  • punter-gilly-haydos-mcgrath-warne on August 10, 2013, 20:56 GMT

    One thing that I think helped Lyon a lot was the fact that there was no Mitchell Starc at the other end. It is true that Starc is a wicket tacker but he is also pretty expensive and erratic. Having Harris Siddle Watson and BIRD all applying pressure something has to burst and I think Lyon now has benefited from it a lot.

  • on August 10, 2013, 18:06 GMT

    That's a brilliant article about off- spin bowling. You don't need to bowl doosra to get wickets. Look at left arm off spinners, they never bowl a doosra, not even to left handed batsmen. In places like India everyone bowls off spin and in lower level of cricket in India you would hardly find specialist off spinners and the ones who are good can also bat a bit. So in such places you'll find a bit unconventional off spinners. Conventional specialist off sooner places are replaced by all rounders.

    To say that players like swann n lyon won't be successful because they can't bowl doosra is not right. To be a good spin bowler you need to learn to deceive and play them into a trap. You can get many wickets with just one or two variety of bowl if you know how to set the batsman up and that is why swann is so successful And also one of the biggest reason why Shane warne was so successful.

  • TheBigBoodha on August 10, 2013, 10:00 GMT

    Yeah, @Charindra. Lyon should bowl the Doosra. And Ryan Harris should bend his arm when bowling the bouncer to get an extra ten kms of pace. It's all good.

  • ParamIyer on August 10, 2013, 9:45 GMT

    In all respect, Lyon bowled very well in the last two test matches in India. He was particularly good at Mohali. The Old Trafford pitch was similar to ones in India and he did bowl decently. The trip to India has done wonders for his confidence levels, he is bowling at a much faster pace and smartly too.

  • ClippedThroughMid-Wicket on August 10, 2013, 9:37 GMT

    I like this article, the first couple of sentences describe lyon absolutely perfectly.

  • on August 10, 2013, 9:13 GMT

    And you forgot the founder of Doosra, The Great Saqlain Mushtaq

  • JustAnotherCricketFan on August 10, 2013, 8:31 GMT

    i actually learnt a bit about offspin. thanks Mark. plus a good article \

  • Lion83 on August 10, 2013, 7:58 GMT

    Still Muralitharan is the greatest Off Break bowler in the history of game

  • SL_BiggestJoke on August 10, 2013, 7:53 GMT

    I started to read this article when I saw the heading with "Nathan Lyon" in it.. but most of it was full of references to other players I haven't heard about. Lyon only makes it in the bottom half of the article.. disappointing!

  • humdrum on August 10, 2013, 7:23 GMT

    @RJHB:It's a great pity that a world class bowler like warne,who has been a great success against most teams-home and away-came a cropper against India-both home and away over a period of a decade when he was in his prime. Any rationalisations for that, mate ?

  • PFEL on August 10, 2013, 7:04 GMT

    @Charinda, Lyon, Swann and co will never bowl a doosra. It needs a completely different action and a bit more flexibility in the elbow area.

  • disco_bob on August 10, 2013, 6:15 GMT

    Australia stuck with Lyon and planned for India and planned for England. India would be an excellent way to sharpen his skills for the Ashes, but lo and behold, dropped for a one day specialist x man. Then when reinstated in India and reestablishing his credentials and waiting for two years to face England, he's dropped for the first two tests in favour of an untested 19 year old.

    That' Lyon can come back from this egregious Australian treatment and then take on KP and Bell the two batters most responsible for England's 2-0 position, and win the war, is nothing short of amazing and he now deserves enough respect not to think he's going to get dropped again on a whim.

  • novocas7rian on August 10, 2013, 5:59 GMT

    @John Duffield the doosra is not necessarily a throw, it just depends on the bowler's action. Yes there have been some that look like out & out chucks, but getting the ball to spin to leg is not new and can be done legally. Jack Iverson and Johnny Gleeson (both Australians) were masters of it using a bent middle finger, and Ajantha Mendis was a more recent bowler using the same grip with a totally straight arm.

  • gsingh7 on August 10, 2013, 5:41 GMT

    one good performance does not make a career. still remember how dhoni dominated lyon in first test in chennai on his way to match winning knock. swann and lyon lack doosra,this cud be their downfall on non turning tracks. even on turning tracks,swann was outbowled by monty with his variations.lyon needs variation if he has to survive on all tracks.

  • MaruthuDelft on August 10, 2013, 5:08 GMT

    Darren Lahman has already committed a huge mistake in this series by not playing Lyon in the first test. Certainly Lyon would have been much more lethal at Old Trafford had he played earlier.

  • MaruthuDelft on August 10, 2013, 5:06 GMT

    It is very satisfying to see someone honest and hard working like Lyon succeed. Muralidharan and Ashwin are shame on cricket.

  • nthuq on August 10, 2013, 5:06 GMT

    @John Duffield, I agree with you about the doosra, but you've gone and picked the two mystery spinners that don't use it. The carrom ball that they use is all in the fingers. And notably, Ashwin found his success in the recent Australia series when he stuck to bowling off spinners, saving the carrom ball to mess with tailender's heads.

  • Sir_Ivor on August 10, 2013, 4:53 GMT

    A wonderfully analytical piece from Marc. Though the prose was missing, I enjoyed reading it for its content. Lyon has in the past suffered because his captains did not instill in him the confidence he looks for. It was much the same with Hauritz, who in my opinion was also above average but was dropped because he suffered against India.Lyon is accurate with his stock ball. He does not have the doosra but from what I saw,has got the one that holds its line. His strength perhaps is the accuracy and consistency of length.With just that marginal change in line he probably gets the surprise element. Add to that the position of the front foot at the point of release.That may explain the reasons for his success yesterday.He has practised a lot between his last Test and this one I think.There may have been a lot of video watching of the batsmen as well. But all that can be useful only if an off spinner has the ability to drop the ball at one distance from his front foot ball after ball.

  • humdrum on August 10, 2013, 2:32 GMT

    Considering that this was day one and there were no rough areas to exploit,Lyon's performance only shows the clever strategy used on a unhelpful wicket. Spinners mature late and their confidence grows if they are not always thinking of their place in the side.Lyon simply has to play all the remaining matches against England,home and away.Period.

  • RJHB on August 10, 2013, 1:44 GMT

    As long as countries the likes of England and India keep producing dry as teak pitches, spin will never die as an art form. It of course doesn't mean that those same spinners will succeed on far less friendly pitches in Australia and South Africa! Swann had only relatively minor impact last time in Australia, and those same Indian spinners that were made to look like world beaters against the Aussies a few months ago, well they were beyond hopeless downunder. Lyon doesn't have a lot of guile, yet, but is very slowly improving. But he's truly up against it at home. What I wish he did have was a really good top spinner. That should be in every spinners arsenal and is a true wicket taking delivery anywhere.

  • dunger.bob on August 10, 2013, 1:37 GMT

    To be fair to Lyon he's still learning his craft in the toughest school of all, Test cricket. The bloke was literally, as Mark mentioned, plucked out of no-where and thrown into Test cricket. In terms of being a wily old spinner, the man's as naive as a new born foal. .. I think the truly amazing thing about Lyon's career to date is that he hasn't been smashed all the way back to the Adelaide oval fertiliser shed already.

    What we are seeing now is the development phase of his career. He has much to learn and, by gorrah, he seems to be doing just that. .. I think the single most important thing Nathan needs is some self confidence. .. If he really starts to believe that he can actually do this and make good batsmen struggle, then who knows how good he might end up becoming.

    @ Charindra Chandrasena : I don't think it's a matter of pride or ego with the doosra. I think it's more a matter of simply not being able to do it. Both of them would if they could I'd say.

  • on August 10, 2013, 0:17 GMT

    Lyon is a fine bowler and there was never anything wrong with orthodox off spin so long as it was bowled properly and the bowler spun the ball hard. The likes of Tim May, John Bracewell and Peter Such were all effective at Test level because they were aggressive and spun the ball hard. That hard spin gives you the necessary drift, turn, bounce and natural variation to get batsmen out.

    The problem with the doosra is that it is a throw. It can't be bowled without deliberately bending the arm through the action and should have no place in the game. If you want to be a top class off spinner work on spinning the ball hard and accuracy rather than magic deliveries of dubious legality.

    Ashwin and Mendis might be a box of tricks but they are not a patch on a bowler like Graeme Swann. The two most potent deliveries an off spinner can bowl is a hard spun off break that turns and the hard spun off break that doesn't. Natural variation is a killer.

  • Iddo555 on August 9, 2013, 23:21 GMT

    Bring back AGAR. As an England fan, Lyon is getting too many wickets for my liking.

  • Ramster60068 on August 9, 2013, 23:15 GMT

    Great article........I am surprised that the article missed 2 of the best off spinners from India - Prasanna and Harbajan Singh. Prasanna was a master at beating batsmen in the flight. Harbajan in the early part of this century was great, especially in the 2001 series against Australia.

  • GenuineNumber11 on August 9, 2013, 22:18 GMT

    A doosra is one more weapon in the arsenal, but I don't think it is necessary for all offies to use it. Granted he was a leggie, but Warne rarely utilised the wrong-un. Instead he used accuracy, gamesmanship and a very good stock delivery combined with a well-disguised one that went straight-on (flipper/slider).

  • on August 9, 2013, 20:26 GMT

    For all their honest and hard work, spinners like Swann and Lyon will one day be hammered out of attacks, which could potentially curtail their careers. Modern day bats and the aggressive nature of the batsmen allied to the batting friendly pitches will make sure of this. I hope they put away their pride and ego and just learn to bowl the doosra. I compare an off spinner without the doosra to a fast bowler who is unable to bowl a bouncer. The batsman will keep playing the ball off the line because it can only turn one way.

  • on August 9, 2013, 20:26 GMT

    For all their honest and hard work, spinners like Swann and Lyon will one day be hammered out of attacks, which could potentially curtail their careers. Modern day bats and the aggressive nature of the batsmen allied to the batting friendly pitches will make sure of this. I hope they put away their pride and ego and just learn to bowl the doosra. I compare an off spinner without the doosra to a fast bowler who is unable to bowl a bouncer. The batsman will keep playing the ball off the line because it can only turn one way.

  • GenuineNumber11 on August 9, 2013, 22:18 GMT

    A doosra is one more weapon in the arsenal, but I don't think it is necessary for all offies to use it. Granted he was a leggie, but Warne rarely utilised the wrong-un. Instead he used accuracy, gamesmanship and a very good stock delivery combined with a well-disguised one that went straight-on (flipper/slider).

  • Ramster60068 on August 9, 2013, 23:15 GMT

    Great article........I am surprised that the article missed 2 of the best off spinners from India - Prasanna and Harbajan Singh. Prasanna was a master at beating batsmen in the flight. Harbajan in the early part of this century was great, especially in the 2001 series against Australia.

  • Iddo555 on August 9, 2013, 23:21 GMT

    Bring back AGAR. As an England fan, Lyon is getting too many wickets for my liking.

  • on August 10, 2013, 0:17 GMT

    Lyon is a fine bowler and there was never anything wrong with orthodox off spin so long as it was bowled properly and the bowler spun the ball hard. The likes of Tim May, John Bracewell and Peter Such were all effective at Test level because they were aggressive and spun the ball hard. That hard spin gives you the necessary drift, turn, bounce and natural variation to get batsmen out.

    The problem with the doosra is that it is a throw. It can't be bowled without deliberately bending the arm through the action and should have no place in the game. If you want to be a top class off spinner work on spinning the ball hard and accuracy rather than magic deliveries of dubious legality.

    Ashwin and Mendis might be a box of tricks but they are not a patch on a bowler like Graeme Swann. The two most potent deliveries an off spinner can bowl is a hard spun off break that turns and the hard spun off break that doesn't. Natural variation is a killer.

  • dunger.bob on August 10, 2013, 1:37 GMT

    To be fair to Lyon he's still learning his craft in the toughest school of all, Test cricket. The bloke was literally, as Mark mentioned, plucked out of no-where and thrown into Test cricket. In terms of being a wily old spinner, the man's as naive as a new born foal. .. I think the truly amazing thing about Lyon's career to date is that he hasn't been smashed all the way back to the Adelaide oval fertiliser shed already.

    What we are seeing now is the development phase of his career. He has much to learn and, by gorrah, he seems to be doing just that. .. I think the single most important thing Nathan needs is some self confidence. .. If he really starts to believe that he can actually do this and make good batsmen struggle, then who knows how good he might end up becoming.

    @ Charindra Chandrasena : I don't think it's a matter of pride or ego with the doosra. I think it's more a matter of simply not being able to do it. Both of them would if they could I'd say.

  • RJHB on August 10, 2013, 1:44 GMT

    As long as countries the likes of England and India keep producing dry as teak pitches, spin will never die as an art form. It of course doesn't mean that those same spinners will succeed on far less friendly pitches in Australia and South Africa! Swann had only relatively minor impact last time in Australia, and those same Indian spinners that were made to look like world beaters against the Aussies a few months ago, well they were beyond hopeless downunder. Lyon doesn't have a lot of guile, yet, but is very slowly improving. But he's truly up against it at home. What I wish he did have was a really good top spinner. That should be in every spinners arsenal and is a true wicket taking delivery anywhere.

  • humdrum on August 10, 2013, 2:32 GMT

    Considering that this was day one and there were no rough areas to exploit,Lyon's performance only shows the clever strategy used on a unhelpful wicket. Spinners mature late and their confidence grows if they are not always thinking of their place in the side.Lyon simply has to play all the remaining matches against England,home and away.Period.

  • Sir_Ivor on August 10, 2013, 4:53 GMT

    A wonderfully analytical piece from Marc. Though the prose was missing, I enjoyed reading it for its content. Lyon has in the past suffered because his captains did not instill in him the confidence he looks for. It was much the same with Hauritz, who in my opinion was also above average but was dropped because he suffered against India.Lyon is accurate with his stock ball. He does not have the doosra but from what I saw,has got the one that holds its line. His strength perhaps is the accuracy and consistency of length.With just that marginal change in line he probably gets the surprise element. Add to that the position of the front foot at the point of release.That may explain the reasons for his success yesterday.He has practised a lot between his last Test and this one I think.There may have been a lot of video watching of the batsmen as well. But all that can be useful only if an off spinner has the ability to drop the ball at one distance from his front foot ball after ball.

  • nthuq on August 10, 2013, 5:06 GMT

    @John Duffield, I agree with you about the doosra, but you've gone and picked the two mystery spinners that don't use it. The carrom ball that they use is all in the fingers. And notably, Ashwin found his success in the recent Australia series when he stuck to bowling off spinners, saving the carrom ball to mess with tailender's heads.