Australia v South Africa, Tri-series, Harare August 27, 2014

Bailey defends Lyon exclusion

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George Bailey, Australia's stand-in captain, defended his team's decision to leave Nathan Lyon out of their playing XI against South Africa, insisting that the offspinner's absence "did not turn the match".

Without Lyon, the part-time spin of Steven Smith and Glenn Maxwell leaked 40 runs in five overs and the seam attack fared little better as centuries from AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis helped South Africa to a seven-wicket win.

"I certainly think 327 could have been enough, but knowing that it's a pretty good wicket and only having four out and two new balls, it's always going to be a challenge," Bailey said. "You've got to keep trying to find a way to take wickets, and unfortunately we couldn't do that. I could have probably bowled our part timers a little more, or got them into the game a little earlier, but you can only have XI unfortunately."

The Harare Sports Club pitch played slow and low in the Test featuring South Africa and Zimbabwe earlier this month, and though it has quickened up a touch since then, it remains a track where the toss as well as the quick bowlers' variations once the shine comes off, remain important.

Australia were not helped by losing the toss and being sent in this morning, but Bailey admitted that their attempts to use bowling variations to temper du Plessis and de Villiers had fallen short.

"We tried taking the pace off the ball a little bit and it didn't seem to have too much effect at different times," he said. "There's no doubt that variation is going to be a key, and that's down to mixing up your pace and lengths, and how you bowl at different stages. But we've got to give a little bit of credit to Faf and AB, I thought they batted beautifully."

One thing Bailey and Australia will be pleased about is the performance of their top order in the series so far. Three batsmen passed fifty against Zimbabwe, while Phil Hughes complemented Aaron Finch in an opening stand of 92 before Finch went on to a century today.

"Hughesy batted really well, and particularly once we were sent in I thought that was a really important start for us. It was a little bit challenging at the start and I thought those guys got us off and running.

"They've been pretty consistent. Hughesy has had limited opportunities but keeps putting his hand up. Finchy seems to be getting better and better, and it was great to see him go on and turn that into a hundred today. That's something that we've spoken about, and he'd be pretty satisfied with that. I think that's the challenge for all of our top order players: to get hundreds. As you saw in the chase, it makes it so much easier when you get someone you can bat around for the majority of the innings."

Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • bren19 on August 29, 2014, 1:05 GMT

    I don't understand not picking Lyon as an issue - if a bowler who has an average in the mid 30's in test cricket and a grand total of 4 ODI matches under his belt is the saviour of Australian bowling, then we are in a bit of trouble.

  • Winsome on August 28, 2014, 18:54 GMT

    The entire attack struggles to defend big totals. It's ok that we have a somewhat inexperienced attack round about now. They need to know who is going to be able to operate under pressure when the World Cup comes so facing up to SA is very good for them. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Harris in the mix come the World Cup.

  • Steven_Scott on August 28, 2014, 14:52 GMT

    @Chris_P: Not changing tact, just reiterating my point. Statistics dont not mean anything if you don't win matches for your country. So, the 7-94 is no better than Krejza's 8-200 (at least it was his debut) in India on the previous tour. You have actually agreed with me on most points without realizing it - that Lyon did not make an impact in india (dropped catches or not), that Lyon did not win us matches, and that he is in the team because nobody else is good enough. So what are we even arguing about? :)

  • on August 28, 2014, 14:17 GMT

    The issue is not whether Lyon would have helped the Aus team win: The issue is NO BOWLER BOWLED for less than 5.7 runs per over.

    Until (& unless) Aus manages to get 2 or 3 bowlers who are difficult to score from opposition teams will ALWAYS like their chances of chasing any score the Aus batters put up (even, dare I suggest, 500+)

  • on August 28, 2014, 10:22 GMT

    All of our spinners are, statistically, similarly (non)effective in List A and ODI cricket atm. So you might as well have ones that bat well.

    It's been fascinating to see Lyon overrated to the exact degree that Nathan Hauritz was under-appreciated. I guess some people are just destined to be more popular.

  • Cricmaths123 on August 28, 2014, 9:59 GMT

    Before the day of the match the Australian batsmen were practising six-hitting. Now I think that their bowlers have to practise bowling Yorkers and not give away easy runs. Also I think Aus require a good limited overs specialist bowling coach to help in the bowling. Eg: Wasim Akram. CRICINFO PLEASE PUBLISH THIS.

  • xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx on August 28, 2014, 9:06 GMT

    Ease up guys! Lyon has an amazing knack of taking key wickets at key times in Test cricket (something that does not show up in stats) and was a major factor in the 5-0 result in the latest Ashes. Let's wait and see how he goes in a variety of conditions in ODIs when he is picked before writing him off or declaring him a world beater in this format.

    Some good death bowling from Steyn and a couple of good partnerships from the Saffers so it is now up to the Aus bowlers to respond as they usually do.

  • TheBigBoodha on August 28, 2014, 8:15 GMT

    Lyon would have helped, but the reality is that almost any score would have been chased down on that track. I could see that after 15 overs of the SA innings, when I turned it off. The game was already over. I predicted four down with three overs to spare, so I was not far off.

  • Chris_P on August 28, 2014, 7:25 GMT

    @ Steven_Scott.Changing tact now? You stated he struggled, I showed he did not. Name me one Australian off spinner that was has been a consistent match winner? That;s right, none. They are there to tie up ends, take wickets. Lyon didn't make an impact in India, right, but I must have counted 7 chances Wade missed off him in the 3 tests he played including the first ball of India's last innings when chasing a target, on a hat trick, the batsman charged and Wade fluffed a stumping that not only would have given Lyon a hat trick but allowed the ball to go through for 4 byes. WHat other off spinner deserves a spot ahead of him? Not one! Does he deserve to be there ahead of SOK? Not in my opinion, however he showed last Ashes & in Sth Africa what an integral part of the attack he is.

  • on August 28, 2014, 5:56 GMT

    Very Well Played by South Africans but I need one change is due, should sit Parnell out in place of very impressive ABBOTT or PHANGISO. Spin effects Aussies in this match very badly. CSA can go with extra spiner against them.

  • bren19 on August 29, 2014, 1:05 GMT

    I don't understand not picking Lyon as an issue - if a bowler who has an average in the mid 30's in test cricket and a grand total of 4 ODI matches under his belt is the saviour of Australian bowling, then we are in a bit of trouble.

  • Winsome on August 28, 2014, 18:54 GMT

    The entire attack struggles to defend big totals. It's ok that we have a somewhat inexperienced attack round about now. They need to know who is going to be able to operate under pressure when the World Cup comes so facing up to SA is very good for them. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Harris in the mix come the World Cup.

  • Steven_Scott on August 28, 2014, 14:52 GMT

    @Chris_P: Not changing tact, just reiterating my point. Statistics dont not mean anything if you don't win matches for your country. So, the 7-94 is no better than Krejza's 8-200 (at least it was his debut) in India on the previous tour. You have actually agreed with me on most points without realizing it - that Lyon did not make an impact in india (dropped catches or not), that Lyon did not win us matches, and that he is in the team because nobody else is good enough. So what are we even arguing about? :)

  • on August 28, 2014, 14:17 GMT

    The issue is not whether Lyon would have helped the Aus team win: The issue is NO BOWLER BOWLED for less than 5.7 runs per over.

    Until (& unless) Aus manages to get 2 or 3 bowlers who are difficult to score from opposition teams will ALWAYS like their chances of chasing any score the Aus batters put up (even, dare I suggest, 500+)

  • on August 28, 2014, 10:22 GMT

    All of our spinners are, statistically, similarly (non)effective in List A and ODI cricket atm. So you might as well have ones that bat well.

    It's been fascinating to see Lyon overrated to the exact degree that Nathan Hauritz was under-appreciated. I guess some people are just destined to be more popular.

  • Cricmaths123 on August 28, 2014, 9:59 GMT

    Before the day of the match the Australian batsmen were practising six-hitting. Now I think that their bowlers have to practise bowling Yorkers and not give away easy runs. Also I think Aus require a good limited overs specialist bowling coach to help in the bowling. Eg: Wasim Akram. CRICINFO PLEASE PUBLISH THIS.

  • xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx on August 28, 2014, 9:06 GMT

    Ease up guys! Lyon has an amazing knack of taking key wickets at key times in Test cricket (something that does not show up in stats) and was a major factor in the 5-0 result in the latest Ashes. Let's wait and see how he goes in a variety of conditions in ODIs when he is picked before writing him off or declaring him a world beater in this format.

    Some good death bowling from Steyn and a couple of good partnerships from the Saffers so it is now up to the Aus bowlers to respond as they usually do.

  • TheBigBoodha on August 28, 2014, 8:15 GMT

    Lyon would have helped, but the reality is that almost any score would have been chased down on that track. I could see that after 15 overs of the SA innings, when I turned it off. The game was already over. I predicted four down with three overs to spare, so I was not far off.

  • Chris_P on August 28, 2014, 7:25 GMT

    @ Steven_Scott.Changing tact now? You stated he struggled, I showed he did not. Name me one Australian off spinner that was has been a consistent match winner? That;s right, none. They are there to tie up ends, take wickets. Lyon didn't make an impact in India, right, but I must have counted 7 chances Wade missed off him in the 3 tests he played including the first ball of India's last innings when chasing a target, on a hat trick, the batsman charged and Wade fluffed a stumping that not only would have given Lyon a hat trick but allowed the ball to go through for 4 byes. WHat other off spinner deserves a spot ahead of him? Not one! Does he deserve to be there ahead of SOK? Not in my opinion, however he showed last Ashes & in Sth Africa what an integral part of the attack he is.

  • on August 28, 2014, 5:56 GMT

    Very Well Played by South Africans but I need one change is due, should sit Parnell out in place of very impressive ABBOTT or PHANGISO. Spin effects Aussies in this match very badly. CSA can go with extra spiner against them.

  • Aspraso on August 28, 2014, 3:51 GMT

    In the context of this loss, all the positive vibes about Phil Hughes can only mean that he is going to dropped for the next ODI !! That is the Aussie way.

  • on August 28, 2014, 3:40 GMT

    Apart from Starc and Johnston, it was a mediocre attack. They will have to select a much better attack in order to beat Sth Africa.

  • on August 28, 2014, 2:04 GMT

    IMO three changes to the aussie squad/team. Clint McKay should be in the squad and playing, he has been really good one day bowler for the aussies. Phil Hughes should have replaced one of the bowlers/allrounders (Richardson?) and Lyon should have played. And finally we should have a 2nd spinner Steve O'Keefe. He is overdue for a call up to the test and one day side.

  • Steven_Scott on August 28, 2014, 1:02 GMT

    @Chris_P: And how many tests did Lyon win for us there? Thats right- none! He failed to make any impact even on last day surfaces where spinners are supposed to run through teams. How would you rate a fast bowler who cannot make any impact on a day 1 English wicket with lots of grass an overcast day with the brand new ball in the first session? Lyon's performances in india are a spinner's version of that.

  • lesamourai on August 27, 2014, 23:30 GMT

    @Chris_P. You said it. Lyon looks mild mannered but he makes a heck of an impact. If it weren't for the catches and stumpings missed off his bowling by Wade against South Africa, Sri Lanka and India, his test average would probably be below 30. He's an attacking bowler who takes wickets. Can't ask for much more than that!

  • alstar2281 on August 27, 2014, 22:49 GMT

    Lyon repeatedly took important wickets at key times during the Ashes series, what more do you want from? Some people are only impressed by the hype and fanfare surrounding the fast bowlers to actually take note of how good the job this guy is doing for us. If was really let down by Wade early on but is getting over that now. On another note, why is Australia struggling to defend 300+ targets? It must be a worry come world cup time.

  • PFEL on August 27, 2014, 21:07 GMT

    Bailey is right. If Lyon was playing this game SA would have chased it down in 36 overs.

  • Chris_P on August 27, 2014, 20:05 GMT

    @Steven_Scott. Lyon struggled in India? Leading Aussie wicket taker including a 7/94 and how many chances were missed by Wade in that series off him? Got it, great research!

  • Steven_Scott on August 27, 2014, 19:31 GMT

    Lyon struggles even on rank turners, as he encountered in India. He could not have made any difference. In fact, he has hardly made any contribution to an Aussie win that I can remember. Some people are just lucky to be playing international (that too, test) cricket due to lack of replacements.

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  • Steven_Scott on August 27, 2014, 19:31 GMT

    Lyon struggles even on rank turners, as he encountered in India. He could not have made any difference. In fact, he has hardly made any contribution to an Aussie win that I can remember. Some people are just lucky to be playing international (that too, test) cricket due to lack of replacements.

  • Chris_P on August 27, 2014, 20:05 GMT

    @Steven_Scott. Lyon struggled in India? Leading Aussie wicket taker including a 7/94 and how many chances were missed by Wade in that series off him? Got it, great research!

  • PFEL on August 27, 2014, 21:07 GMT

    Bailey is right. If Lyon was playing this game SA would have chased it down in 36 overs.

  • alstar2281 on August 27, 2014, 22:49 GMT

    Lyon repeatedly took important wickets at key times during the Ashes series, what more do you want from? Some people are only impressed by the hype and fanfare surrounding the fast bowlers to actually take note of how good the job this guy is doing for us. If was really let down by Wade early on but is getting over that now. On another note, why is Australia struggling to defend 300+ targets? It must be a worry come world cup time.

  • lesamourai on August 27, 2014, 23:30 GMT

    @Chris_P. You said it. Lyon looks mild mannered but he makes a heck of an impact. If it weren't for the catches and stumpings missed off his bowling by Wade against South Africa, Sri Lanka and India, his test average would probably be below 30. He's an attacking bowler who takes wickets. Can't ask for much more than that!

  • Steven_Scott on August 28, 2014, 1:02 GMT

    @Chris_P: And how many tests did Lyon win for us there? Thats right- none! He failed to make any impact even on last day surfaces where spinners are supposed to run through teams. How would you rate a fast bowler who cannot make any impact on a day 1 English wicket with lots of grass an overcast day with the brand new ball in the first session? Lyon's performances in india are a spinner's version of that.

  • on August 28, 2014, 2:04 GMT

    IMO three changes to the aussie squad/team. Clint McKay should be in the squad and playing, he has been really good one day bowler for the aussies. Phil Hughes should have replaced one of the bowlers/allrounders (Richardson?) and Lyon should have played. And finally we should have a 2nd spinner Steve O'Keefe. He is overdue for a call up to the test and one day side.

  • on August 28, 2014, 3:40 GMT

    Apart from Starc and Johnston, it was a mediocre attack. They will have to select a much better attack in order to beat Sth Africa.

  • Aspraso on August 28, 2014, 3:51 GMT

    In the context of this loss, all the positive vibes about Phil Hughes can only mean that he is going to dropped for the next ODI !! That is the Aussie way.

  • on August 28, 2014, 5:56 GMT

    Very Well Played by South Africans but I need one change is due, should sit Parnell out in place of very impressive ABBOTT or PHANGISO. Spin effects Aussies in this match very badly. CSA can go with extra spiner against them.