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Gareth Hughes explains how Nathan Lyon snugly fits into the post-Warne era for Australian cricket.
There are two avenues bowlers can utilise to build pressure in test match cricket. The first is to beat the outside edge, strike the pad, coax the batsmen into playing shots they normally wouldn’t, creating chances, and making the striker’s end an unsettling, unnerving, and uncomfortable place to be.
The other method is to apply what is commonly referred to as scoreboard pressure. By choking and restraining the batsmen by simply putting the ball in places from which they cannot score runs. The pressure gradually mounts until the batsman is forced by way of an itching to score runs to attempt to score from areas in which they are not comfortable. Australia’s humble curator turned spinner, Nathan Lyon is a bowler who prides himself upon the latter.
This summer we have seen the Australian bowling attack revert to its roots of a fierce pace attack instilling fear in batsmen and a spinner who complements them by tying down an end. Since the glory days of Warne and McGrath Australian bowling coaches, selectors, and players have been caught up in the wake of their retirement and only now is Australian cricket beginning to stop mourning their loss and move on.
It has taken the best part of five years for Australia’s fast bowlers to stop trying to emulate McGrath’s back of a length delivery which brought him so much success. It has taken the same amount of time for Australian to stop searching for the next Shane Warne, a spinner who can rip through a batting line up on any wicket.
The fact is, Warne and McGrath were sublime bowlers who did phenomenal things that are almost impossible to replicate.
It is rare for Australian pitches to be conducive of spin and for spin bowling to be used an attacking weapon like fast bowling is. That is not to say spin does not play a role in cricket in Australia. In fact, with maybe the exception of matches in Perth, spin bowling is one of the most tactical facets of the game. Michael Clarke should be given a lot of credit for recognising this and using Nathan Lyon in ways few other captains use their spinner.
It has not been uncommon to see Nathan Lyon being thrown the ball with a few minutes left in a session to hurry through an over to allow a dangerous Hilfenhaus, Siddle, or Pattinson a final fiery over at a batsman with the mindset of surviving until the break. Furthermore, Lyon’s ability to land the ball in good spots is always improving and he is quickly becoming one of the hardest spinners to score off around the world.
He also knows how to bowl in Australian conditions, utilising the extra bounce. However, he showed on debut in Galle that on a spin friendly wicket he can take a bag of wickets and not just be an assistant to the quicks.
The other great thing about Lyon is how his tenacity and passion that shows through in his batting as well. In his relatively short career we have already witnessed his fighting spirit in the second innings batting debacle of Cape Town, top scoring with 14 in an innings of 47, and then his gallant effort in the second innings at Hobart, only to be left devastated after hearing his wicket skittled.
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