AHMEDABAD: Nathan Lyon’s first two Indian wickets, or rather, his first innings, demonstrated the type of spinner he would develop into. He achieved a beautiful loop and didn’t hesitate to rev the ball and give it a lot of air. Also, he made great use of his shoulder to gain additional bounce.
In his maiden innings at Chennai, he first dismissed Virat Kohli after his lofted ball failed to clear mid-on, then he bowled Sachin Tendulkar through the gate, a fantastic delivery from an off-spinner. He succeeded in finding Virender Sehwag’s outside edge in the second innings due to the strip’s natural fluctuation. But in terms of numbers, it wasn’t spectacular. At the time, 215 runs were given up over 47 overs, which was the sixth-highest total in an innings in the twenty-first century.
He has improved his ability to take wickets over time and is now among the most deadly bowlers to have visited India. Although finger-spinners R Ashwin and Nathan Lyon are sometimes grouped together, they are two quite different bowlers. In essence, Lyon is an artisan, whereas Ashwin is an artist. There aren’t many secrets to his bowling, which may sound unjust given that he has 479 Test wickets, many of which came on Australian surfaces. While Ashwin plays 8D chess with the hitters (and occasionally with himself), Lyon’s method of choosing his wickets is less mysterious.
He will be the visitors’ main weapon in Ahmedabad. After a relatively subpar performance in Nagpur (to be fair, the ground wasn’t conducive to his style of off-spin bowling), Lyon has really come into his own. He has taken 19 wickets in the series, 18 of which have came in either New Delhi (7) or Indore (11). While other bowlers might have experimented, Lyon, being Lyon, didn’t veer too far off the path. He maintained confidence in his own abilities, and it paid off.
“To be honest, I was pretty happy with the way I bowled in Nagpur,” he had said after his eight-fer in India’s second innings at Indore. “I understand the quality of cricketers we are coming up against. I know the challenges against these guys, but I was pretty happy with the way I bowled in Nagpur… nothing has changed for me. It’s about trusting my stock ball and doing the basics right. It’s what I tell after every game.” The one discernible thing he has changed from his previous tours to India to 2023 is the way he’s coming around the wicket.
He still possesses other skills related to his trade, such as not being scared of being struck. “Whatever wicket I’m playing on doesn’t matter. I’ll be happy if I can get someone to defend.,” he had said. “That’s the nuts and bolts of my secret, to try and get guys to defend me for long periods. That means I’m putting the balls in the right areas. Saying that, I don’t mind if guys try and hit me. I have been hit for the most number of sixes in Test history (278, 88 ahead of Rangana Herath) so I’m not afraid to be hit for a six (smiles). It’s a great challenge but I don’t mind it either way but more challenging to get the guys defending.”
You must keep in mind that he is an attack-oriented bowler by nature. Yet his path to being Australia’s starting spinner since making his international debut in 2011 has been, to put it mildly, fascinating. He thanked his father for having an open discussion with him in 2012.
“I think at the start of my career, I probably felt more the weight of trying to win games in the last couple of innings. But it was actually my dad who sat me down and said ‘there are three or four other bowlers who you’re able to bowl within partnerships and if you do your role. Some days, you’re going to have success and some days, your mates are going to have success, and that’s more important that you’re able to identify that. When it’s your time, grab it and run with both hands’,” said Lyon.
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