The Ashes 2013-14 November 29, 2013

Nathan Lyon finds his voice

When he cleared his throat to lead "Under the Southern Cross" for the first time last week, Nathan Lyon did so as Australia's undisputed No. 1 spin bowler. The path there has been bumpy
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As sledging rows dominated the Ashes narrative in the days after the first Test, the cricketer least likely to figure in the debate was Nathan Lyon.

Wry but shy, crafty but quiet, Lyon's art is not that of the fast bowling bruiser or verbal enforcer. It is instead a game of subtlety, sleight of hand and hidden danger: batsmen lured to their doom rather than lashed to it. By his own smiling admission, Lyon is the quiet one. "I can't really bounce anyone out," he said this week. "Can I?"

Yet beneath the mild exterior, Lyon has been toughened appreciably by the experiences of the past year. Over that period he has learned the value of assertiveness and even outspokenness, of standing up for himself and his bowling, and making his own case for the best way he can flourish as a spinner in an Australian system largely besotted with pace.

The path by which he has reached self-determination has been difficult, and has at times seemed unfair. How close Australia came to abandoning their long-term investment in Lyon can only be guessed at, but the fact he was twice dropped on flimsy grounds suggested it was a possibility the selectors had weighed up. Flirtations with Ashton Agar and Fawad Ahmed have only strengthened the notion.

For a time Lyon was committed to doing whatever was asked of him, earning the admiration of his team-mates for selflessness and commitment to the collective cause. Michael Hussey so admired these qualities, he bequeathed Lyon the job as team songmaster, "Under the Southern Cross" his anthem. But before he could belt out that four-line chorus in Brisbane, he had to find another voice - one that allowed him to bowl on his terms.

Those terms were very evident on Lyon's storied debut in September 2011, when he twirled his way through Sri Lanka with Galle's venerable Dutch fort in the background. Kumar Sangakkara had seemed an equally permanent presence when Lyon sauntered in for ball No. 1, but he would be memorably confounded by all the qualities that had seen Lyon shoot up from his dual roles as Canberra Comets spinner and Adelaide Oval groundsman in a matter of months.

Blessed with an easy, classical action forged in his youth, Lyon imparts considerable revolutions, comparable to those of Graeme Swann. But he can also alter the axis on which the ball rotates, to create greater overspin or side spin depending on what the pitch and batsman demand. Spinning the ball up before letting it loop, drift and drop, he coerced Sangakkara into an exploratory forward defensive, then found the left-hander's edge with sharp turn on a tinder-dry surface. In the space of a ball, Lyon had the blueprint for a career that may eventually become the most prolific by an Australian offspinner.

But the wondrous clarity of that first dismissal proved increasingly difficult to recreate over the ensuing two years. Lyon bowled neatly for the remainder of the series, and in South Africa, before showing an instant liking for the Gabba against New Zealand. He took a less prominent role against India, and wrestled with his action, while his form oscillated in the West Indies.

"Everyone has their own opinion but I've really tried to block that out and just worry about working with the people I really trust"

Confusion had been created by the increasing number of voices trying to influence Lyon's thinking, from coaches and former players to friends and even non-spin bowling team-mates. Either directly or through third parties, Michael Clarke, Ricky Ponting, Mitchell Johnson, Mickey Arthur, Ashley Mallett, John Inverarity, Darren Berry, John Davison, Mark Higgs, Lance Gibbs and Stuart MacGill all had a say at various times.

As he confessed at the start of last summer: "It's been pretty difficult, to be honest with you, to come into the thing and no one say anything at the start, then come seven Tests you have people ringing you up and stuff. Everyone has their own opinion, but I've really tried to block that out and just worry about working with the people I really trust and know where my game is at and where I need to get to."

Complicating matters further for Lyon was the fact that Australia's strategy for winning Test matches revolved so much around fast bowlers that he increasingly found himself cast less in the role of a wicket-taker than as a maiden-bowling, pressure-building run miser. Notably quick through his overs against South Africa and Sri Lanka, Lyon was acceding to the team plan but finding himself under pressure as a result. Knowingly or not, he was being manipulated.

This was never more evident than at Adelaide Oval, where Faf du Plessis' defiance and Matthew Wade's flawed wicketkeeping turned Lyon's 94 overs for the match into a saga of fruitless toil. Though applauded by captain and coach, Lyon faced plenty of public criticism for rushing. For the moment, he contented himself with the fact he was following orders. "I'm worried about doing the right thing for the team and working well with Pup and all the other bowlers," he said.

The final Test of the summer, in Sydney, marked a critical point. Hussey retired, leaving the middle order vulnerable ahead of tours to India and England, and depriving Lyon of a significant mentor. On the field Lyon was again cast as a minor player in a pace-driven strategy, so much so that MacGill made a rare visit to the SCG dressing room to intervene.

"I was quite critical of him last summer because I was confused and regretful about the fact he wasn't doing what I'd seen him do on debut. Watching him at Sydney, watching him run back to his mark, the penny dropped," MacGill said. "The reason it became obvious to me was because Michael Clarke, captain and selector, was at first slip, clapping. So that meant Nathan Lyon was doing the right thing, what had been asked of him.

"He'd been asked to do the wrong thing, he was doing it very well, he was meeting his targets. It might have been serving a purpose there, but the problem is the public and ultimately the selectors - even though two at the time were the coach and the captain - want a spin bowler to bowl teams out on the last day… It was insanity to me that they chose to go down that path."

So it was that Lyon went to India with thoughts of bowling more aggressively, pursuing the wickets that Australia would need of him if they were to find a way to succeed. In Chennai, it was immediately apparent that the hosts had identified Lyon as the threat, attacking him relentlessly while he probed for breakthroughs.

It is true Lyon's line and length varied at times, but his best was beautiful. One ball to befuddle Sachin Tendulkar, all flight and dip and spin, recalled Sangakkara's demise. But instead of appreciating this, or viewing India's assault as their recognition of the danger Lyon posed, the selectors dropped Lyon for Hyderabad, replacing him with the tamer slow left-arm of Xavier Doherty. Arthur said Lyon was struggling technically, and needed to "come to terms with a few things".

It was at this juncture that Lyon chose to take greater control of his own path. While consulting over the phone with MacGill and Davison, he bravely and publicly disputed the views of his coach. "I thought they came out all right in Chennai," Lyon said. "To bowl Sachin Tendulkar through the gate you must be doing something right. I went for a few runs here and there, but bowling against the best bats in the world in their conditions, they were obviously going to come hard at me, playing one spinner in the side. The technical stuff… it's all the same, I haven't changed anything since I was 16. My confidence has gone up, if anything, bowling the best batsman in the world through the gate. As an offspinner growing up, that's what you dream of."

For a figure as softly spoken as Lyon, these were decidedly punchy words. They were to be backed up with action when Doherty had no real impact on the series in two matches. Employing a line from around the wicket he had discussed with Davison, Lyon scooped nine wickets in the final Test, in Delhi, losing little by comparison with the local slow bowlers who had confounded Australia throughout a dysfunctional trip. With 4-0 ringing in their ears, few Australian cricketers had reason to be happy on the flight home, but Lyon could afford a gentle smile.

After India, Lyon made further steps in his self-determination. He raised the ire of South Australia by returning home to New South Wales, looming fatherhood and the proximity of family playing a large part in his decision. Also significant was the counsel of Hussey, Davison and MacGill, who all encouraged a move to the spinningest state in the country. The transfer complete, Lyon ventured up to Brisbane for more work with Davison, who would accompany the spinners to the British Isles with Australia A, for matches preceding the Ashes tour.

Davison's constructive influence on Lyon cannot be overstated. Many have wondered what possible use Test spin bowlers could have for a man best known as a World Cup pinch-hitter for Canada, but Davison offered considerable experience as a spinner kicked around state cricket by strategies that left him bowling maidens to support the fast men. He switched from Victoria to South Australia in 2002 to seek an escape from defensive commissions, and enjoyed a handful of rosier days under the captaincy of Darren Lehmann before retirement.

"The statistics showed that if you bowled a certain amount of dot balls the wickets would come," Davison said in 2003. "So that's what I was trying to adapt to but, when it comes down to it, people judge you on how many wickets you take. So I was comfortable enough with my role within the side… but the public doesn't really look at that." Sound familiar?

Agar was also present on the A tour, leaving Lyon to compete for overs and attention. His action showed more vigour than it had for some time, and those present at matches and in the nets felt sure his shape, spin and pace off the pitch were superior to that of Agar. By the time the Ashes trip commenced, Arthur had been replaced by Darren Lehmann, and at Taunton Lyon bowled neatly in a win over Somerset. Four wickets for the match included that of Nick Compton in each innings, a key dismissal smoothing the way for Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson.

Nevertheless Lyon again fell victim to experimentation. Agar's left-arm spin was deemed more suitable for Nottingham, his magical 98 nothing more than a happy accident for the selectors who chose him and the captain who batted him at No. 11. This decision flummoxed many, not least Lyon, who had stated the week before Trent Bridge that he had seldom felt better equipped for the task at hand. Others wondered at the wisdom of discarding the best spinner simply because he did not turn the ball away from the bat.

If he was discontented, Lyon did not show it. He was among the more enthusiastic observers of Agar's innings, while in the nets he did not hesitate to offer advice and support. Resilience is one of Lyon's greatest attributes, and his ability to keep thinking of the team in such circumstances was a source of pride to many who had worked with him.

When Agar's time in the sun expired, Lyon was again called upon, this time to have an influence on a series already tilted decisively towards England. His bowling over the final three Tests was a source of considerable succour for Australian supporters, showing the right combination of guile and aggression, and lacking only the vindication of a fourth-innings triumph. How many wickets Lyon might have taken at Old Trafford had rain not intervened can never be known. For the second consecutive tour, Lyon returned home stronger and better than when he had left.

Even so, the selectors still seemed unconvinced. Fawad was granted an ODI audition in England, and was mentioned frequently in dispatches at the start of the summer. Clumps of wickets against Tasmania in the domestic limited-overs tournament and Western Australia in the Sheffield Shield pushed Fawad remarkably close to usurping Lyon for Brisbane. He was only to be foiled by Lyon's NSW teammates at the MCG, where Clarke, David Warner and Steve Smith climbed into Fawad's legspin. Lyon bowled neatly for the Blues and was named for Brisbane.

By this time Lyon had learned to assert himself, knowing what would help him to bowl his best against England. He pushed strongly for Davison to accompany the Test team on the road around the country this summer, preferring a specialist spin coach to the less precise advice offered previously. Important here too was Davison's education during his playing days that it is far better for spin bowlers to be encouraged in what they do well rather than reproached for what they do not.

Lyon's preparation for the Gabba was positive, constructive and specific, three words that can also be applied to his impact on the match. Four key wickets, all achieved through intelligent use of the pitch, the fielders and tentative footwork encouraged by the work of the fast men. Rarely has an Australian spin bowler used the leg trap so effectively. At 26, Lyon now has the trust of his captain, coach and team-mates that he is the best spin bowler in Australia, and one rendition of "Under the Southern Cross" to show for it. He has found his voice.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Biggus on November 29, 2013, 5:14 GMT

    I have a lot of time for Nathan Lyon. Despite what some would have you believe he's been pretty successful and he's still learning. We don't produce many good finger spinners down here but I think he's got a promising future with us, as long as the selectors don't drop him at the first sign of a passable leggie. I think he's a better bowler than Tim May was, which would make him our best offie since Ashley Mallett. I consider it entirely possible that he may end up one of our best ever.

  • MrKricket on November 29, 2013, 5:03 GMT

    I am hoping Lyon has really turned the corner and will hold his place on merit and results. He is not a forceful personality like Warne or Swann so is more likely to be at the beck and call of his captain and coach. So if he is better understood by these gentlemen they will give him the leeway to play the way he wants to. I think we were all scarred by "Faf's Test" and lost a lot of faith in him but there were three other bowlers there too plus if all the catches were taken we'd have a different story.

    Good to see a quiet achiever doing well. Would love to see him on the next tour to India and clean up. Good luck!

  • OzMongrel on December 2, 2013, 18:37 GMT

    Enough already! Lyon has proved that he can get wickets against anyone, anywhere. Why is this still a discussion? Huss trusts him, and that should be sufficient. The selectors need to make him an automatic selection, and worry about getting runs. Boof isn't stupid, he knows the value of four wickets per match.

  • dunger.bob on December 1, 2013, 5:30 GMT

    I think it's a cricketing fact of life that most off spinners mature into their trade slowly and get better with age. It's ironic that some guys hit their peak moments before their body disintegrates.

    Lyon's only 26. What's more, he hasn't been learning his stuff against 1st class players here in Australia. He's been thrown in the deep end at 23 or so and told to sink or swim against the best players in the world. .. It's looking as though he's pretty buoyant and not going to drown after all.

    Good on him. He's a nice quiet bloke and if he ends up being even half the cricketer his mentor Mike Hussey was for Australia then he'll have done ok.

  • cricketsubh on December 1, 2013, 3:40 GMT

    he is a very gud young spin bowler he is just 26 spiner and he is got 10 to 12 years left in him people get inpesence with him u need to support young players and give time to devlop australian pitches is not turning trackes .

  • atulprakashs on November 30, 2013, 17:48 GMT

    I think Lyon bowled really well in the first .He bowled better than Swann. The way the things have gone for him he was never given the confidence by the team management . Every now then Agar and Doherty were chosen over him after few chances . He still did well. In india the delivery he bowled to Tendulkar was a beauty and was a threat to India till Dhoni bulldozed him with his aggressive stroke play .India is the strongest side when it comes to playing spin. Even greats like Murali and Shane Warne suffered .He was dropped in 2nd Test . Best of luck to him and hope to see him take more wickets against English batsmen. Its a great sight sight to see crafty bowlers in action. Hope he does well and selectors persist with him.

  • on November 30, 2013, 15:09 GMT

    Nathan Lyon is now outbowling Graeme Swann. Never thought i would see that happen.

  • Front-Foot-Lunge.. on November 30, 2013, 9:24 GMT

    I guess one positive for us is Swann got a few wickets in Alice Springs, including a 16 year old. That's about it for positives for us lol.

  • milepost on November 30, 2013, 7:46 GMT

    Great cricketer and among the wickets at the Gabba. Prior literally couldn't play him, Lyon had him completely bamboozled, it was hilarious! Well not for those who keep knocking him. The same people were knocking Mitch and he starred with bat and ball.

  • utkarsh219 on November 30, 2013, 7:22 GMT

    i just love this guy's craft, he'll spearhead the spin attack for a long time i hope. I am hope Jason Krejza also returns to form as well, he was a sure thing too.

  • Biggus on November 29, 2013, 5:14 GMT

    I have a lot of time for Nathan Lyon. Despite what some would have you believe he's been pretty successful and he's still learning. We don't produce many good finger spinners down here but I think he's got a promising future with us, as long as the selectors don't drop him at the first sign of a passable leggie. I think he's a better bowler than Tim May was, which would make him our best offie since Ashley Mallett. I consider it entirely possible that he may end up one of our best ever.

  • MrKricket on November 29, 2013, 5:03 GMT

    I am hoping Lyon has really turned the corner and will hold his place on merit and results. He is not a forceful personality like Warne or Swann so is more likely to be at the beck and call of his captain and coach. So if he is better understood by these gentlemen they will give him the leeway to play the way he wants to. I think we were all scarred by "Faf's Test" and lost a lot of faith in him but there were three other bowlers there too plus if all the catches were taken we'd have a different story.

    Good to see a quiet achiever doing well. Would love to see him on the next tour to India and clean up. Good luck!

  • OzMongrel on December 2, 2013, 18:37 GMT

    Enough already! Lyon has proved that he can get wickets against anyone, anywhere. Why is this still a discussion? Huss trusts him, and that should be sufficient. The selectors need to make him an automatic selection, and worry about getting runs. Boof isn't stupid, he knows the value of four wickets per match.

  • dunger.bob on December 1, 2013, 5:30 GMT

    I think it's a cricketing fact of life that most off spinners mature into their trade slowly and get better with age. It's ironic that some guys hit their peak moments before their body disintegrates.

    Lyon's only 26. What's more, he hasn't been learning his stuff against 1st class players here in Australia. He's been thrown in the deep end at 23 or so and told to sink or swim against the best players in the world. .. It's looking as though he's pretty buoyant and not going to drown after all.

    Good on him. He's a nice quiet bloke and if he ends up being even half the cricketer his mentor Mike Hussey was for Australia then he'll have done ok.

  • cricketsubh on December 1, 2013, 3:40 GMT

    he is a very gud young spin bowler he is just 26 spiner and he is got 10 to 12 years left in him people get inpesence with him u need to support young players and give time to devlop australian pitches is not turning trackes .

  • atulprakashs on November 30, 2013, 17:48 GMT

    I think Lyon bowled really well in the first .He bowled better than Swann. The way the things have gone for him he was never given the confidence by the team management . Every now then Agar and Doherty were chosen over him after few chances . He still did well. In india the delivery he bowled to Tendulkar was a beauty and was a threat to India till Dhoni bulldozed him with his aggressive stroke play .India is the strongest side when it comes to playing spin. Even greats like Murali and Shane Warne suffered .He was dropped in 2nd Test . Best of luck to him and hope to see him take more wickets against English batsmen. Its a great sight sight to see crafty bowlers in action. Hope he does well and selectors persist with him.

  • on November 30, 2013, 15:09 GMT

    Nathan Lyon is now outbowling Graeme Swann. Never thought i would see that happen.

  • Front-Foot-Lunge.. on November 30, 2013, 9:24 GMT

    I guess one positive for us is Swann got a few wickets in Alice Springs, including a 16 year old. That's about it for positives for us lol.

  • milepost on November 30, 2013, 7:46 GMT

    Great cricketer and among the wickets at the Gabba. Prior literally couldn't play him, Lyon had him completely bamboozled, it was hilarious! Well not for those who keep knocking him. The same people were knocking Mitch and he starred with bat and ball.

  • utkarsh219 on November 30, 2013, 7:22 GMT

    i just love this guy's craft, he'll spearhead the spin attack for a long time i hope. I am hope Jason Krejza also returns to form as well, he was a sure thing too.

  • xtrafalgarx on November 30, 2013, 4:37 GMT

    @Mark Gerbs: It would seem so, but i have followed his career for a while and he gets a lot of his wickets in that manner, more so the Bell dismissal than the Prior one, though even there, he bowled to his field and caught him in the legside trap. As for the Bell dismissal though, his top spinner dips so he wrong foots the batsmen on length, then once there, it then gains extra bounce and gets the batsmen off guard. He got a few people out like that in India.

  • on November 29, 2013, 23:37 GMT

    While Lyon found his voice, Johnson was screaming. I like Lyon but his wickets in the first innings were from terrible shots, but thought he bowled very well in the second innings.

    Thought the article highlighted more deficiencies in Clarke and Selectors.

  • PoundOfFlesh on November 29, 2013, 18:54 GMT

    You cannot ignore Ashton Agar's potential. He is very young and with the right kind of development can become part a menacing spin bowling attack with Lyon. Ashton's batting also becomes very useful. Although I like George Bailey, Ashton Agar I think will be a better bet for Adelaide.

  • siddhartha87 on November 29, 2013, 16:08 GMT

    Lyon has improved a lot since the India tour.Hoping to see a 10 wicket match haul from him soon

  • on November 29, 2013, 15:22 GMT

    No doubt Australia's best spinner of those I have watched bowl. As RJHB said, I thought Hauritz did not deserve to be dropped, and has he continued in the test side, he may be a top bowler now, as it happens, Lyon has been given the chance. Hope he continues to bowl well, likeable chap.

    The wickets of Bell and Prior were not what I would call good batting and probably arose more from the pace at the other end than the deliveries themselves, which were half trackers, but if he continues getting wickets, who can argue?

  • I-Like-Cricket on November 29, 2013, 14:57 GMT

    I think with this article Dan has taken over Jarrod Kimber as my favourite Australian cricket writer. I've been a Lyon fan since that delivery against Sanga. The article was spot on and beautifully written, Lyon copped far too much flak for doing as he was asked by his captain. In Adelaide against SA it was clear that Clarke thought Siddle was the key to winning Aus the match, so Lyon bowled exactly what was asked of him. I really hope he can spin us to victory in the 4th innings against Eng (since that's what people seem to expect from him). Carberry seems totally confused by him for a start and if he can keep up this excellent bowling he is producing I'll put my money on him winning Aus the match as long as Eng have more 200 runs to chase in the 4th innings in Adelaide this year (as long as Aus bat first).

  • SLslider on November 29, 2013, 14:19 GMT

    He is a mediocre and overhyped spinner. Not in the league of spinner like herath who is the best spinner in the world on any pitch. I have seen players like Ajmal, Ashwin narine struggling so much but Herath is world class and is in the league of Warne and murali.

  • Barnesy4444 on November 29, 2013, 13:57 GMT

    He has what it takes to be a long term spinner. He is young and inexperienced but he has spin, variation and flight. He comprehensively outbowled Swann at the Gabba he made the best spinner in the world look ordinary.

    The English first innings collapse began when Lyon came on, bowled about 4 maidens in a row and frustrated the batsmen. The result: 6 for 9. Lyon did his job by getting 2 big wickets each innings. Well done young man.

  • Front-Foot-Lunge on November 29, 2013, 13:07 GMT

    It's good to see Lyon has the backing of the team, despite the fact that he couldn't turn a ball on a rank turner. There have been a lot of Australian spinners over the years, most of whom's careers were cut short by an Ashes series, but Lyon looks like he's here to stay. England haven't the slightest problem with that!

  • lok900 on November 29, 2013, 12:44 GMT

    I agree with what Biggus has to say, but further add that Lyon is in some ways, already better than Mallett. I watched a test last year between Aus and SA, and they should Starc's test statistics. He had a pretty bad average of 35ish but his Strike Rate was 40 odd. The commentator at the time said, if he has a strike rate of 40 throughout his career, regardless of average, he will be a legend. Now, if we compare Lyon and Mallett, its easy to deduce that Lyon will no doubt be the best finger spinner ever to be produced down under. His SR now is a very reasonable 64, whereas Mallett had a SR of 74. This is in test level, not FC, but since Lyon is ever improving, his SR and Average will inevitably go down.

    Lyon cannot be dropped, he is the future for this Australian Team. He will win games for us in the future, so lets hope he doesn't get dropped.

  • RJHB on November 29, 2013, 12:37 GMT

    Great article! Have always thought Lyon was a bit hard done by all the criticism from people seemingly not willing to accept that no other spin bowler could do what Shane Warne did for so long. Thought the same thing about Hauritz too, though Lyon is definitely the better bowler.

  • Jagger on November 29, 2013, 12:05 GMT

    A lot has been made of the song singer. I think it is a load of rubbish. Mike Hussey does not run the Australian cricket team.

    @jw76 - You need to grow up. Lyon sledges quite well, they say. Kudos to him.

    Comical to see people making the mistake of judging Lyon on his most recent performance, the second innings in Brisbane. (People who comment without having seen the match is disconcerting.) FYI - England were defeated well before their innings began. Lyon was played with respect because Australia's massive total was out of reach. England will not allow Lyon that luxury in Adelaide. It's D-Day for Lyon come Adelaide...

  • Dazako on November 29, 2013, 11:59 GMT

    Good to see Gaz doin well, lets all hope his form continues. Saying that on past performance the oz selectors will probably drop him for the next match and pick some kid out of sydney club cricket just cos he is a lefty.

  • markinperth on November 29, 2013, 10:28 GMT

    Daniel Brettig, herein you have taken your writing to another level! I usually enjoy your articles and interviews, but this one stands alone.

  • Shaggy076 on November 29, 2013, 10:15 GMT

    I think he is clearly the best spinner in Australia. He came into the test team with very little first class experience and is improving all the time. If you look at the records on Australian soil of every visiting spinner, you would realise what a gem we have with Lyon. Vettori around 70, Ajmal over 100, Ashwin went at 80 and Swann is pushing on 50. Even Murali averaged in the 60's. These are all world renowned spinners and I would take Lyons average in the mid 30's anyday. The problem is he has followed the best spinner of all time in Shane Warne and is constantly compared.

  • Digimont on November 29, 2013, 9:02 GMT

    Great article. Wade's poor keeping to Lyon is mentioned briefly, but is a much bigger player in Lyon's results (or lack of them). It's no just whether keeper involved dismissals are in the book or not, the spin bowler's confidence in the keeper has a large say in how well the ball comes out. I wasn't a spinner (slow medium), and never played a high grade, but I know the difference a good keeper made to me, having for a few seasons one that could have played far higher, but instead chose to stay at the club he loved with his mates. He kept up to me - his reputation, combined with some sideways movement from me, kept the batsmen anchored at home. My economy rate plummeted, and I could bowl in plans to the batsmen. That in turn built pressure at one end, giving the bowlers at the other an easier time, it was a team effort. Do not underestimate the value of Haddin in Lyon's perceived sudden improvement. Do not underestimate the Haddin/Lyon combination in the recent success of Johnson.

  • Chris_P on November 29, 2013, 8:59 GMT

    He has been a humble guy from day 1, taking all the critics on the chin & just doing his stuff. I have so much respect for him for his general cricket enthusiasm & the way he approaches the game. Finally glad he has silenced a few of his knockers. He may have outbowled Swanny recently, but to be fair, Swanny has the results on the board over the past few years, he has been an outstanding servant to both English cricket & cricket in general. If any of our spinners can produce somewhat similar results in their career, they would be justifiably proud of their achievements.

  • on November 29, 2013, 8:41 GMT

    @sevugapandian: Although I am an Indian, I must say Saeed Ajmal and Ravichandran Aswin should not be mentioned in the same sentence , at least when test bowling is concerned. There might come a time when Ashwin will come closer to Ajmal of today. but not yet. If Ajmal was born a Pom, The Sun would have dubbed him "The best offie ever" by now ;) Regarding Lyon, he is a very intelligent bowler and understands his limitation. I see the contest for the best off spinner tag taking place between Lyon and Aswin 2-3 years from now.

  • jw76 on November 29, 2013, 7:52 GMT

    Nice to hear of an Australian cricketer who is not a practitioner of the filthy underworld and underhand practice of sledging. I will hope for his success.

  • Front-Foot-Lunge-Needs-A-Hug on November 29, 2013, 7:48 GMT

    @Paul I agree, Swann has had a fantastic career. I actually just get the feeling he might have had enough of the hard life of an international cricketer, I think he is still technically capable but may be lacks the morivation, He'd be a great commentator, he's a really likeable character. A few surgeries too, he might just think a new career might be better for family too.

  • on November 29, 2013, 7:35 GMT

    @Front-Foot-Lunge-Needs-A-Hug...Admittedly the comparison with Swann is purely a shameless bit of Pommie Baiting but maybe not too far from the truth as the 2 are in opposite trajectories with their career and I am not talking overall in their career, as Swann has been close to legendary, but right now in the present. The Australian batsmen are more than coming to terms with Swann it seems (touch wood)but the English batsmen may only just be waking up to the fact that Lyon is a damn fine operator bowling to cunningly set fields at critical junctures in the game.

  • Big_Maxy_Walker on November 29, 2013, 7:29 GMT

    The selectors should stick with Lyon in the tests, but keep him away from the shorter formats. O'Keefe should be the ODI/T20 Aussie bowler instead of the very average Doherty

  • sevugapandian on November 29, 2013, 7:23 GMT

    I don't think Lyon can become magic bowler like Saeed Ajmal/Ashwin.

  • Clavers on November 29, 2013, 7:21 GMT

    You could be right @Biggus, but in the interests of fairness let's mention the names of three other offies who might stand comparison with Mallet: Bruce Yardley, Funky Miller and Greg Matthews.

    Funky actually has the best test average of the lot, even better than Mallett, by a fair distance. But this was mainly because he also bowled fast/swing and could therefore use the new ball to advantage, which spinners typically cannot do.

    Greg Matthews' test average was not much chop compared with the others mentioned here, but it has been argued that this because Alan Border did not use him the right way. In first-class cricket he took over 500 wickets at 31.80, which is better than Lyon (37.52).

  • Front-Foot-Lunge-Needs-A-Hug on November 29, 2013, 7:16 GMT

    I think comparisons to Swann are pointless, the have different methods. England are in tatters again in their tour match, things aren't look too good.

  • on November 29, 2013, 7:14 GMT

    @redbackfan..For the sake of the health and Wellbeing of the English tail; I hope he does take a big portion of their wickets so they arent subjected to too much of MJ's body blows. I love good fast bowling but am not a sadist.

  • Sir_Francis on November 29, 2013, 6:57 GMT

    "Lyon went to India with thoughts of bowling more aggressively, pursuing the wickets that Australia would need of him if they were to find a way to succeed"

    This is exactly what Ponting did to Hauritz and destroyed his career. Even today both Nathan Michaels share a similar ave.; S/R; & E/R

    What a waste. If Hauritz had been retained he would be past 50 Tests now and probably a top class office.

    And what's with the selection of people like Doherty & Beer? Do the selectors really believe a SLA defensive bowler is better than a strike bowler like O'Keefe.

    I guess this is all moot as Agar might turn into our Vettori in a couple of years.

    One last thing, according to the stats, Funky Miller was the best offie since Mallett (though some wickets may have come from MP)

  • Redbackfan on November 29, 2013, 6:51 GMT

    Great article, he has been treated very harsh by selectors and keeps bouncing back. I loved the part about Wade's flawed wicket keeping, if he could keep Lyon would have 15 to 20 more wickets to his name due to missed stumpings and dropped catches. Lyon is not like Warne and wont rip through the tail like Warney but he does get big wickets and breakthroughs. Keep up the good work Lyon

  • ygkd on November 29, 2013, 6:41 GMT

    I too have a lot of time for Nathan Lyon's bowling. That's why I think, when Haddin retires, the selectors need to back him up with the best available gloveman who can bat, not the best available batsman who can glove.

  • landl47 on November 29, 2013, 6:39 GMT

    Lyon has made a change in his action to get more sideways on in his delivery stride so that his body pivot is more pronounced. This imparts extra zip to his deliveries, which was very evident at Brisbane. He has become a very fine off-spin bowler and outbowled Swann in the first test.

    I think he is well on his way to being the best offspin bowler Australia has ever produced.

  • xtrafalgarx on November 29, 2013, 6:27 GMT

    Beautiful article on one of my favourite cricketers under a baggy green. Honest, humble and diligent, Nathan Gaz Lyon. I like that Hussey, my favourite of all time, chose him as the team song leader, the fact that they get a long so well shows that they are made of the same stuff which is probably why I am such a fan of Lyon anyway.

    He is a good chance of developing into a top notch finger spinner for Australia. He has done well so far, but it's worth noting that at his age, Ajmal and Swann were no where near test cricket, he is only 26. Unfortunately, early age hair loss is something else we have in common! Hahaha.

  • on November 29, 2013, 6:00 GMT

    Lyon's secret weapon is the lack of respect afforded him by opposition teams. Everyone who he has bowled against has underestimated him though he is a fine spinner and I am more than happy for that to continue. He is better than Swann and has proven this by outperforming him in every test the 2 have played together.

  • Gurudumu on November 29, 2013, 5:49 GMT

    I for one do not believe Lyon is the premier spinner of Australia, hopefully, he proves me wrong in the Adelaide test! Selectors have continually bypassed O'Keefe and they are now doing the same to Fawad. Let's see how he goes in the next test and in SCG.

  • disco_bob on November 29, 2013, 5:40 GMT

    All Lyon needs now is to develop an "I can't believe it's not butter" stare.

  • disco_bob on November 29, 2013, 5:22 GMT

    An excellent and long overdue appraisal of the travails of our own spanish king. Usually a baptism of fire is from the opposition not ones own selection committee. Lyon has shown continual improvement and I'm looking forward to how he handles the Adelaide pitch where he has the chance to make a major contribution to returning the Ashes from the unprincipled brigands who complained about doctored pitches the loudest before and during India, and then without a hint of shame go and do the same themselves and ruin the Ashes spectacle.

  • disco_bob on November 29, 2013, 5:22 GMT

    An excellent and long overdue appraisal of the travails of our own spanish king. Usually a baptism of fire is from the opposition not ones own selection committee. Lyon has shown continual improvement and I'm looking forward to how he handles the Adelaide pitch where he has the chance to make a major contribution to returning the Ashes from the unprincipled brigands who complained about doctored pitches the loudest before and during India, and then without a hint of shame go and do the same themselves and ruin the Ashes spectacle.

  • disco_bob on November 29, 2013, 5:40 GMT

    All Lyon needs now is to develop an "I can't believe it's not butter" stare.

  • Gurudumu on November 29, 2013, 5:49 GMT

    I for one do not believe Lyon is the premier spinner of Australia, hopefully, he proves me wrong in the Adelaide test! Selectors have continually bypassed O'Keefe and they are now doing the same to Fawad. Let's see how he goes in the next test and in SCG.

  • on November 29, 2013, 6:00 GMT

    Lyon's secret weapon is the lack of respect afforded him by opposition teams. Everyone who he has bowled against has underestimated him though he is a fine spinner and I am more than happy for that to continue. He is better than Swann and has proven this by outperforming him in every test the 2 have played together.

  • xtrafalgarx on November 29, 2013, 6:27 GMT

    Beautiful article on one of my favourite cricketers under a baggy green. Honest, humble and diligent, Nathan Gaz Lyon. I like that Hussey, my favourite of all time, chose him as the team song leader, the fact that they get a long so well shows that they are made of the same stuff which is probably why I am such a fan of Lyon anyway.

    He is a good chance of developing into a top notch finger spinner for Australia. He has done well so far, but it's worth noting that at his age, Ajmal and Swann were no where near test cricket, he is only 26. Unfortunately, early age hair loss is something else we have in common! Hahaha.

  • landl47 on November 29, 2013, 6:39 GMT

    Lyon has made a change in his action to get more sideways on in his delivery stride so that his body pivot is more pronounced. This imparts extra zip to his deliveries, which was very evident at Brisbane. He has become a very fine off-spin bowler and outbowled Swann in the first test.

    I think he is well on his way to being the best offspin bowler Australia has ever produced.

  • ygkd on November 29, 2013, 6:41 GMT

    I too have a lot of time for Nathan Lyon's bowling. That's why I think, when Haddin retires, the selectors need to back him up with the best available gloveman who can bat, not the best available batsman who can glove.

  • Redbackfan on November 29, 2013, 6:51 GMT

    Great article, he has been treated very harsh by selectors and keeps bouncing back. I loved the part about Wade's flawed wicket keeping, if he could keep Lyon would have 15 to 20 more wickets to his name due to missed stumpings and dropped catches. Lyon is not like Warne and wont rip through the tail like Warney but he does get big wickets and breakthroughs. Keep up the good work Lyon

  • Sir_Francis on November 29, 2013, 6:57 GMT

    "Lyon went to India with thoughts of bowling more aggressively, pursuing the wickets that Australia would need of him if they were to find a way to succeed"

    This is exactly what Ponting did to Hauritz and destroyed his career. Even today both Nathan Michaels share a similar ave.; S/R; & E/R

    What a waste. If Hauritz had been retained he would be past 50 Tests now and probably a top class office.

    And what's with the selection of people like Doherty & Beer? Do the selectors really believe a SLA defensive bowler is better than a strike bowler like O'Keefe.

    I guess this is all moot as Agar might turn into our Vettori in a couple of years.

    One last thing, according to the stats, Funky Miller was the best offie since Mallett (though some wickets may have come from MP)

  • on November 29, 2013, 7:14 GMT

    @redbackfan..For the sake of the health and Wellbeing of the English tail; I hope he does take a big portion of their wickets so they arent subjected to too much of MJ's body blows. I love good fast bowling but am not a sadist.