Nathan Lyon has revealed he reassured Shaun Marsh about his ability against offspin after his first innings dismissal by R Ashwin, while being bullish about Australia's chances entering the final day of the Adelaide Test. He declared that Marsh and Travis Head were well placed to be the "heroes" of a 323 chase, requiring 219 to win with six wickets in hand.
Following a long run of low scores, Marsh played with the serenity of his best innings on the fourth evening to reach 31 not out by the close, his most promising Test innings in almost a year. He was accompanied by the first-innings top-scorer Head, in conditions that are challenging but not impossible for batsmen.
In addition to his discussion with Marsh, Lyon said that the captain Tim Paine had invoked the memories of the great Dubai escape in October in a post-play address to the home side.
"We just spoke about Dubai just then," Lyon said. "We still believe we can win this, and that's the best thing. We still believe we're in this game, it's just about coming out tomorrow, winning the first ball, first over, first hour, just breaking it down, very simple. We need to not complicate things, enjoy ourselves, compete hard and fight our backsides off. It was actually Tim, just saying we've had that belief before when our backs have been against the wall, but we've got a massive sniff here, I believe anyway, in this Test match.
"In my eyes I think Shaun Marsh is a superstar. I've bowled to him a lot in [Sheffield] Shield cricket and he's whacked me all over the ground. I think he's one of the best batters going around, definitely one of the best batters in Australia. I think Shaun will be pretty relaxed tonight. He'll hopefully have a good sleep and not overthink things. That's one of the big things as cricketers, we can overthink things and that can be our downfall. Shaun's a pretty laidback fella, especially away from cricket.
"I was speaking to him before; he's got the belief he can come out and make a hero of him and Travis tomorrow. He spoke to me about playing offspin and I said 'Shaun, you've just got to back yourself, you're one of the best batters in the world and you've played me enough in the nets, you know how to play offspin', so I think Shaun's quite confident, he may not look it, but I guarantee he's very confident and he has the belief he's going to be that hero who stands up tomorrow and wins this game of cricket for Australia."
Assessing the pitch prepared by the curator Damian Hough, Lyon argued that it had quickened up slightly over the course of four days, offering better value for shots even if spinners and pace bowlers could still find some assistance. "It's one of my favourite grounds, full stop, around the world," Lyon said after finishing the match with 8 for 205. "My connection here on the ground staff before; I was lucky enough to play cricket on it. It's a great wicket Damian's produced, stuff in there if you're good enough with the bat, you can score runs as well so I think it's a great wicket.
"I think the pitch has quickened up a little bit and is doing a lot less for the seamers. It's definitley spinning and they've got a world-class spinner, so it's going to be a great challenge for our batters out there, with two left-handers, with Ravi spinning away. But the wicket's good enough for us to really knuckle down tomorrow and have the belief we can score these runs."
As for a curious moment when Aaron Finch was given out caught off bat and glove but did not refer despite replay evidence he had not touched the ball with anything other than pad, Lyon said he had checked on the matter. "I don't think he was going to get away with it," he said. "I've spoken to the third umpire [Chris Gaffaney] who said it was out or there was inconclusive evidence to overturn the decision. Finchy's fine, and it's been a great learning curve for Aaron. He'll take a lot out of this first Test match at home and he'll be better for the run.
"We are a very young cricket side and we are striving, building and training our backsides off to be the best cricket side we possibly can be. We're challenging ourselves against the No. 1 Test side, so of course its a massive learning curve. It's exciting. I've been extremely impressed with Marcus Harris and, especially, Travis Head this Test match, they way they've gone about things. Yeah Marcus hasn't got the rewards he'd like, but there's a chance for Travis Head to come out and make a hero of himself on his home ground. He's got my full support, everyone knows I'm close with Travis, and I'm a big fan of him, so it's been a massive learning curve for all of us."