“Lyon did well in spin-friendly conditions in India and Bangladesh last year and now, he has delivered on a pitch that was considered a fast bowler’s paradise”
After their big loss at Perth, the one thing India would have realised after watching Nathan Lyon pick up 8 wickets is the value a spinner would have added on a pitch like this. With Ravichandran Ashwin ruled out of the Test, the obvious choice would have been the have Ravindra Jadeja – who is ranked as the No. 5 Test bowler and No. 2 all-rounder – to walk into the XI, but instead, India decided to go in with an extra pace bowler, given the green pitch and that cost them. The greenness in the pitch slowly started deteriorating and it started to offer something for the spinner as well. Australia managed to read the pitch better than India and as a result, did not have any second thoughts about Lyon’s inclusion in their XI. Lyon clearly showed India what they missed in the match – A quality spinner.
Lyon made the Indians pay right away. In the first innings, he made the old ball talk, getting sufficient turn and some bounce, making life difficult for the Indians. He would have been licking his lips in the dressing room after watching a part-timer like Hanuma Vihari get a lot of purchase from the wicket – dismissing opener Marcus Harris and also Shaun Marsh along the way. 3 of his 5 wickets in the first innings were of the tailenders, which is not a great achievement considering the quality of the Indian tail, but they are wickets nevertheless. Lyon kept pitching the ball in the rough area, which was made by right-arm bowlers bowling around the wicket or the left-arm seamer Mitchell Starc bowling over the wicket. The rough area was just outside the right-handed batsman’s off-stump and with Lyon looking to pitch each and every ball around that kept the batsman on his toes.
While some of the deliveries spun drastically into the right-hander, some just held its line. Ajinkya Rahane in the first innings and Virat Kohli in the second innings at Perth played for the turn, but the ball never really turned and as a result, it took an edge straight into the hands of the ‘keeper and first slip. Australia at times also deployed a silly point fielder. Not only was the fielder breathing down the batsman’s neck, but it also gave an opportunity for the fielder to create a shadow on the pitch, making it more difficult for the batsman to see exactly where the ball was pitching.
Lyon is among the top leading wicket-takers of the year so far with 48 scalps to his name. He has picked up 40 wickets or more every year since 2015 and with another Test to be played this year, this could very well turn out to be just the second time he has managed 50 wickets in the calendar year, only behind his 63 victims last year. He has bowled in challenging conditions in South Africa and UAE and has also bowled in the comforts of Australia. He has managed to pick up wickets regularly wherever he has toured this year. Lyon is more of a nagging bowler, who will keep hitting the same spot all day. His enticing lines and lengths sometimes forces the batsmen to make a mistake. All Lyon needs is a bit of assistance from the pitch and he can make any batsmen uncomfortable.
Given Australia’s current status, it is their batting that is letting them down. In the absence of two of their heavy run-scorers, their absence is clearly being felt. However, the same cannot be said about the bowling department, who are in full strength. Starc, Hazlewood, and Cummins along with Lyon are a formidable bowling unit, capable of producing inspiring spells at any point, anywhere in the world. While the pacers were expected to do well in such conditions, it is always heartening to see a spinner too come in and chip away with wickets. With a spinner bowling at one end, Tim Paine had the luxury of rotating amongst his fast bowler at the other end, which is something India did not have, barring those 29 overs from Vihari and Murali Vijay combined, compared to Lyon’s 53.5 overs in the match. Without a shadow of a doubt, Lyon proved to be the difference between the two sides in Perth. India would have learnt a lesson here, that is, to pick a spinner, regardless of the conditions. As Lyon showed, he could have added a little more variation to India’s one-dimensional bowling attack.
Lyon did well in spin-friendly conditions in India and Bangladesh last year and now, he ha delivered on a pitch that was considered a fast bowler’s paradise. What’s more? He also bagged the player of the match award for his 8 wickets at Perth. He is currently the fourth highest wicket-taker for Australia and the second highest behind Shane Warne when it comes to spinners. He has also dismissed Kohli seven times, which is more than any other international bowler. He is without a doubt the best spin bowler in the world at the moment. The likes of Ashwin, Jadeja and Yasir Shah might have a say in this, but there is no denying that Lyon’s success on any conditions puts him a bit ahead of everyone in the pecking order. He is called GOAT for a reason!