Lyon presses for recall as six rested
Nathan Lyon has the chance to press for a Test match recall against Sussex this week as Australia named a hodgepodge XI for the three-day match starting on Friday that includes the Hampshire Academy scholar Ashton Turner, one of three spinners in the team.
The decision to rest the captain Michael Clarke, plus his deputy Brad Haddin, Shane Watson, Chris Rogers, Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris has bizarrely left a 16-man squad - minus the injured James Pattinson and the absent David Warner - two players short of the numbers required for the tour match, forcing the Western Australian Turner to be included while the young South Australia batsman Travis Head is 12th man. Ashton Agar is selected despite carrying a hip injury through the Lord's Test.
While the likes of Matthew Wade, Mitchell Starc and Jackson Bird will all be pushing for recalls and bowling allrounder James Faulkner straining for a Test debut, Lyon has the chance to regain his Test place after being treated rather brusquely by the selectors for the second tour in succession. In India Lyon was dropped following the first Test in Chennai despite claiming four wickets at some cost, and rebounded with career-best figures in the fourth Test of the series.
Yet he again found himself surplus to requirements at the start of the Investec Ashes, as the left-arm spin of 19-year-old Agar was preferred. While Agar made himself an instant hero by stroking his way to a memorable 98 from No. 11 at Trent Bridge, his understandable struggles to make an impact as a fledgling spin bowler suggest that Lyon will again be called upon as the fall-back option.
Lyon took his demotion for Agar with remarkable grace and was among the most excited figures on the Nottingham balcony when his spin rival played his incredible innings. But he admitted it had been hard to take, particularly as he had started the tour in fine wicket-taking form.
"It's not easy to cop when you're playing Test match cricket," Lyon said. "To be left out of the Australian team for an Ashes Test match is not that easy to take but that comes down to the personality of the person. I believe you still have to give for the team.
"I'm just trying to put the ball into the same spot and trying to get some good drop and bounce. I'm really happy with the way they're coming out, actually. Best I've bowled in a long time. I believe my best ball can get the best batters in the world out. The thing is that I have to keep doing that over and over and over."
At Lord's, Lyon said he sat thinking about how he would bowl at England's batsmen while mixing the drinks with his fellow reserve Starc, who would also prove a useful ally for the offspinner should both play at Old Trafford due to the footmarks he can create outside off stump.
"I've been sitting there with Mitch Starc just mixing the hydrolyte just talking about it how we'd go about it if we were out there," Lyon said. "I'm thinking about that every cricket game, definitely. I'm definitely ready. I'll have to come out at Hove and bowl well and enjoy it firstly and really get this momentum swinging around for Australia."
Turner, who will make his first-class debut, has been playing for Chichester Priory Park as part of the development programme run by Cricket Australia and Hampshire. He has taken 18 wickets at an average of 40.78 for the Sussex Premier League club this season.
Australians to play Sussex: Ed Cowan (capt), Phillip Hughes, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, Matthew Wade (wkt), James Faulkner, Ashton Agar, Ashton Turner, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Jackson Bird. 12th man: Travis Head.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here