Published on August 29th, 2017 | by Rohit Sankar0
Nathan Lyon puts the game in balance🕓 Reading time:3 minutes
Over 26 – Nathan Lyon to Taijul Islam
Ball lands in front of the batsman, turns away. The process repeats six times in the over. Taijul smacks a four off the first, missed a slog sweep the next ball and then goes about defending the rest of the deliveries.
Over 27.1 – Nathan Lyon to Taijul Islam
Ball lands in front of Taijul. Goes with the arm and strikes him low on the pad. He is a dead duck.
This might be a tail-ender against Nathan Lyon on a turning pitch. But the strategy for Lyon on a crumbling Dhaka pitch remained the same. He would place the seeds of doubt in the minds of the batsmen before nailing them down with the ‘other’ delivery.
And it works. On pitches that turn square, balls that do not turn pose more questions. Ask the South African batsmen who just couldn’t get bat to ball against Ashwin and Jadeja last year. The pitches did turn mightily alright, but most of the dismissals came off the arm ball.
Lyon must have watched countless videos of those dismissals before he headed out to India for the Test series. Half of his five-wicket hauls have come in Asia (5 out of 10) but his average and strike rate are a touch on the higher side. All of that changed in that Indian series. He had the likes of Kohli and Pujara dancing to his tunes, especially at Bengaluru where he ended up with career best figures of 8/50. His average at the end of the series stood at 25.26. Australia might have lost but Lyon had learned some valuable lessons.
When Australia landed in Bangladesh after a hiatus of 11 years, Lyon knew quite well what he had to do.
He worked over the tail-ender before dismissing a shaky looking Imrul Kayes with a sharp off-spinner that turned across the left-hander, caught his edge and landed safe in Warner’s hands at second slip.
Bounce was his biggest weapon in India. In Bangladesh, the ball wasn’t taking as much bounce and he had to alter his tactics a tad. He kept prowling with his off-spinners and the odd one going with the arm. As the 68 run stand between Rahim and Tamim Iqbal was broken, Australia needed to quieten Shakib-al-Hasan. Lyon returned to tempt Shakib into a mistake. The all-rounder, fresh off a five-wicket haul, went after the offie and skied an uppish shot to the cover fielder.
Few overs later, he had Sabbir Rahman with another beauty. This time he spotted Sabbir’s tactic of lunging forward and pushed one that bounced and turned into him. Sure enough, the inside edge was found and forward short-leg completed the formalities to hand Lyon his fourth.
He was thumped for a six by tail-ender, Shafiul Islam, but returned to take his wicket next ball to register his 5th five-wicket haul in Asia. He added Mehidy Hasan’s wicket to finish with figures of 6/82.
His tactic was evident today. Against the left-hander’s Lyon landed the ball on the rough and spun it away while pushing in the odd straighter one. Against the right-hander’s he slowed down his delivery speed, added drift and turned and bounced the ball into them, bringing the forward short-leg into play.
He became just the second Aussie spinner to grab 250 Test wickets in the first innings and looks every bit the hero Australia need in this series. He is nicknamed as GOAT (Greatest of All Time) by his teammates since he is Australia’s most successful off-spinner till date and has done justice to that tag thus far on this tour.
“I studied a lot of what Ashwin does. He is the best spinner in the world, and if I can learn a bit from him, so be it. But credit goes to Davidson and Berry for the work they put in. I find it very very satisfying to get some reward for the work put in”, Lyon had told after his 8/50 against India in March.
After Australia lost 3-0 in Sri Lanka, Lyon had worked hard at the nets with John Davison (former Canadian International and his mentor) and Darren Berry (Sydney Sixers’ assistant coach). All of that seems to be paying off now. From the verge of being dropped during the South African series to some exceptional performances in the sub-continent, Lyon has stood out. This six-wicket haul is another feather in Lyon’s cap.
While the 265 set by Bangladesh on this pitch is no easy task, Lyon’s timely intervention restricted the host’s lead below 300. Australia may or may not get close, but this terrific spell at least gives them a whiff at Bangladesh’s target.