Mitchell Starc's boots made to have Nathan Lyon's victims walking
Starc's bowling will provide ample rough stuff outside the right-handers' off stump, a key consideration given India lack the left-handers Lyon has feasted on of late
Nathan Lyon will welcome Mitchell Starc's return into the Australian camp on Monday following compassionate leave ahead of the Test series against India. More specifically, he will welcome the return of Starc's heavy boots to the bowling crease.
The pair have been close over many years, underlined by how Starc stood up for Lyon back in 2012 when there was talk of a Shane Warne comeback. But there is also a very solid cricket reason: with the benefit of bowling into Starc's footmarks at the other end, Lyon's record in Tests they play together at Adelaide Oval is supreme.
Over five Adelaide Tests since 2015, four of them day-night affairs, Lyon has plucked 26 wickets at 24.11 with a wicket arriving every 52.4 balls, as against his career average of 31.58 and strike rate of 62.9. Each time, Starc's bowling has provided Lyon with ample rough stuff outside the right-handers' off stump, a key consideration given India's touring side lacks the left-handers he has feasted on in recent years in reaching the cusp of 400 Test wickets.
"I've been working quite hard on bowling to right-handers, there's so many of them in world cricket so it isn't a new challenge for me, but we're really just looking to compete against both edges, and try to bring both edges into play with catchers around the bat," Lyon said. "So it's going to be a challenge but very lucky to have Mitch Starc joining the squad tomorrow and I love his footmarks, so it should be good fun.
"He's one of my best mates and we talk every day. Forever talking to him, probably annoying him to be honest, but he's pretty pumped, pretty excited. We're really looking forward to having him back around the squad, we all know firstly the quality of bloke he is but also the quality of cricketer he brings to the table as well. Absolutely exciting to have Mitch join us."
If there were any doubts about Starc's readiness to return to the heavy lifting of Test cricket after he missed one T20I with a minor side issue and then left the squad on compassionate leave, Lyon allayed them by revealing Starc had kept up bowling in Sydney, pink ball and all, in the SCG nets.
"Mitch has played a lot of cricket already, he played two Shield games and bowled well down here in Adelaide, then played during the white ball series that he was available for, so I'm not worried about Mitch at all," Lyon said. "He said he bowled with the pink ball the other day in at the Sydney nets before anyone got there and he said it was where he left off with the pink ball, so that's exciting to know how good he is with the pink ball. He's more than comfortable and more than confident and he's got all our support as well, so looking forward to it.
"We've got a few things lined up which are exciting, there's a great vibe within the Australian cricket team at the moment, so I think we're in such a better place than we were two years ago, it's exciting and this is the tightest Australian team I've ever been a part of, so to have that opportunity come Thursday to get back out there and play some Test cricket, it's going to be pretty exciting. But we've done a bit of homework and we're ready to go."
Lyon's own bowling has evolved considerably in recent years, making a major breakthrough against India in India in 2017 and seldom looking back since. Like the rest of the bowling attack, he is keenly aware of the opportunity to beat India now that the hosts will be bolstered by the extra runs of Steven Smith, Marnus Labuschagne and, when fit again, David Warner.
"It's obviously disappointing when you lose guys to injuries and we all know what quality of player David Warner is, but I think both sides have superstars in each lineup, both got very good bowling attacks, so it's going to be a massive challenge for both teams coming out to Australia.
"We know what happened last series against India out here, we know how well they played, so I know as bowlers we've already spoken about that and we're coming up with a few different plans to hopefully challenge the batters' defence for longer periods of time this time around. We're in a such a better place as a team right now, this team is probably the closest I've ever been a part of, it's exciting, it's a great feeling amongst the team, so it's pretty exciting about the challenges that lie ahead.
"Especially over the last five years my bowling's gone to a new level and I'm very confident with where my bowling's at. But they're a very attacking side so they always want to try to attack a spinner, which is fantastic, I love that challenge."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig