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Lyon's role still up in the air

Nathan Lyon's immediate future in the Test side remains unclear after the coach Mickey Arthur indicated he had been disappointed with Lyon's season, not just his performance in the first Test

Brydon Coverdale
Brydon Coverdale
Nathan Lyon sends down a delivery, West Indies v Australia, 3rd Test, Roseau, 5th day, April 27, 2012

Nathan Lyon hasn't had a productive time since the start of the Australian summer  •  Associated Press

Nathan Lyon's immediate future in the Test side remains unclear after the coach Mickey Arthur indicated he had been disappointed with Lyon's season, not just his performance in the first Test. Lyon was dropped for the second Test in Hyderabad, and during the match Arthur said there were technical aspects of his game that Lyon needed to work on, as well as regaining confidence after collecting 4 for 244 in Chennai.
However, among those wickets was a beautiful delivery that turned through the gate to bowl Sachin Tendulkar before MS Dhoni began his vicious assault. Lyon's replacements, Xavier Doherty and Glenn Maxwell, failed to collect a wicket on the second day of the Test when Cheteshwar Pujara and M Vijay ran away with the game, although they fought back the following day to claim seven victims between them.
Lyon had been Australia's first-choice spinner since his Test debut in Sri Lanka in 2011 and he took only one Test longer than Shane Warne to reach 50 Test wickets. But since the start of the Australian summer Lyon has had less impact, and in seven Tests during that time, he has collected 23 victims at the inflated average of 45.08. His best figures in that period were 3 for 41 against South Africa at the WACA.
"I think Nathan still has a massive future and he probably is up there as our best spinner at the moment, but you fluctuate in and out of form and he's learning the game at international level, which is a really tough gig for him," Arthur said. "He only played four first-class games before he played a Test match, he hasn't played many after that and truth be told he hasn't gone well this year.
"We persisted with him because we put a lot of faith into Nathan but there came a point where we felt he needed to be taken out of the team and allowed to work on the things that we think he should be working on outside of competition games. We will re-assess where he is but he is doing everything right, he is not lacking in any preparation."
Asked if it would be possible for Lyon to do enough before the third Test in Mohali to earn a recall, Arthur said: "To answer that truthfully, I'm not sure. We will have to have a look and see where he is over the next couple of days. I'm not sure on that, time will tell I guess."
Arthur's comments raise the possibility that Doherty might be retained for the Mohali Test, perhaps in partnership with Maxwell again or maybe as the sole spinner alongside a pace-heavy attack. Doherty turned a few balls past the bat on the second day as Pujara and Vijay put on their 370-run stand but few of his deliveries were seriously threatening until later in the innings and he finished with 3 for 131 from 46.1 overs.
Maxwell was costly on the second day and although he eventually broke the Pujara-Vijay partnership, by then India were well and truly in control of the match. He ended up with 4 for 127 from 26 overs, at an economy rate of 4.88, and his lower-order batting was not a factor either, with scores of 13 and 8.
"Doherty did what we know Doherty can do," Arthur said. "He ran in, he went at under three an over and he caused problems when there was stuff for him to work with. That was exactly Xavier Doherty. Maxi was probably a little bit too loose. He's taken four wickets, he's created opportunities, but he's gone at over four and a half an over.
"You need the two of them bowling in a partnership, you need the two of us being able to stop the game with our spinners and we weren't able to do that because Maxi leaked a little bit. There's a massive amount of potential in Maxi though. Do we go back to three quicks again? I think conditions will determine that when we get to Mohali."
The Australians took part in a centre-wicket training session on the Test pitch in Hyderabad on Wednesday, on what was supposed to be the final day of the match. The spinners and the fast men who didn't play in the Test, Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc, did plenty of bowling. The Mohali surface is expected to offer a bit more bounce for the fast bowlers.
The squad will travel to Chandigarh on Thursday and will then have two days off to clear their heads away from cricket before resuming training on Sunday. The third Test starts on Thursday next week.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here