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Lyon, from groundsman to the GOAT

  • Published at 05:54 pm September 9th, 2017
  • Last updated at 06:11 pm September 9th, 2017
Lyon, from groundsman to the GOAT
The matured and classy off-spinner Nathan Lyon has showed his class in the tour of Bangladesh, taking a whopping 22 wickets in the two-match Test series, in just four innings. That’s an incredible feat for a bowler from Australia who often remains under the shadow of the formidable Aussie pace bowling attack. Before the series, there was a hype that the series will be decided by the spinners. And as expected, spin played an all-important part in both the games. Many spinners were in the running but Bangladesh were expectedly more dangerous with the likes of all-rounder Shakib al Hasan, youngster Mehedi Hasan Miraz and left-arm spinner Taijul Islam in their rank. Lyon, in contrast, was the trumpcard for the Aussies as he was the leader of the spin attack with both left-arm spinner Ashton Agar and rookie Mitchell Swepson boasting not that much experience between themselves. And after the series, when one looks at the stats, one will find out that Lyon duly proved his worth and led the bowling attack with a flurry of wickets under his belt. He broke a 130-year old record for Australia when he went past JJ Ferris' mark from the two-Test 1887 Ashes series, where the latter snared 18 scalps in his first two matches of his international career. The way Lyon bowled on the first day of the Chittagong Test was absolutely brilliant to watch. It was a relatively flat track at Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium. There was nothing much for the bowlers at that time as it was only the first day of the Test. But Lyon used all his experience and his trickery to trap four Tigers top-order batsmen (Soumya Sarkar, Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes and Mominul Haque) within a short period of time. Surprisingly, all of them were left-handers. It is not so much the venoumous turns or uneven bounce which make him successful, rather, it is his intelligence and ability to use the condition and pitch that made him so successful in the Bangladesh series. The “Lyon impact” caused Bangladesh so much concern that they reshuffled their batting order in the second innings of the Chittagong Test, sending their regular top-order batsman Mominul down to No 8. The offie took his time to make his name in the international arena after the post-Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill era. His biography in Cricket Australia’s official website (cricket.com.au) says, “After a long search for a regular No 1 spinner in the post-Shane Warne era, Australia finally found what they were looking for in 2011 when they opted for a groundsman-cum-off-spinner from country New South Wales, via Canberra and Adelaide. Having shown his ability as a net bowler while working as a curator’s assistant at the Adelaide Oval, Lyon made an immediate impact in T20 cricket for South Australia. “Then, with just a handful of first-class matches to his name, Lyon was rushed into Australia’s Test squad for the tour of Sri Lanka. The wiry tweaker showed no signs of nerves on Test debut, dismissing Kumar Sangakkara with his very first ball and finishing with 5-34 to cap a dream start to his international career.” In a team like Australia where pace bowlers are always given prominence, Lyon was considered as fourth bowler in the first few years. But now, he shows his worth to Australia on a regular basis using all his experience and spin talent, in the process becoming the No 1 weapon for his country, particularly in Asia. His stats in Asia will certainly prove such claims. No visiting bowler has a seven+wicket haul than Lyon’s three. He became only the third off-spinner from Australia and the first in over 110 years to take two 10-wicket hauls. The 22 wickets he has taken in this series against Bangladesh is the joint second-highest in any two-match series, next only to Rangana Herath's 23-wicket haul against Pakistan in 2014. Lyon's first three Asian tours - to Sri Lanka, India and UAE between 2011 and 2014 - were poor. He averaged 49.11, and took a wicket once every 14 overs. However, he came back strong on his next three tours. In nine Tests in Asia since 2015, Lyon has picked up 57 wickets. Among all the bowlers who have bowled in Asia in this period, Lyon has the second-best strike-rate, ahead of subcontinent-specialists Yasir Shah, Ravindra Jadeja and Shakib. He has also taken five five-wicket hauls and now has the second most five-fors for Australia in Asia, behind Warne. Following the Chittagong Test, when queried as to how he solved the puzzle in Asia, Lyon said, “I think it's a lot to do with confidence. This is probably my sixth tour in the sub-continent area so I think leading an attack where I've played the most games, lead the wicket column with the bowling group, I've put enough pressure on myself to go out there and perform well. I've done a lot of work with Sri (former India spinner and currently Australia’s spin consultant Sridharan Sriram) here, but also Jon Davison at home. “I've watched a lot of footage of [Ravichandran] Ashwin, who in my book is probably the No 1 spinner in the world. So in these conditions it's all about adapting and learning and probably putting your ego aside, and what works for me in Australia probably doesn't really work here in the sub-continent. (With that said) it's also my strength as well, so I can't go too far from that, I have to put my ego away and really bowl with confidence, in my terms 'bowl ugly.' “That might be round arm for me, trying to undercut the ball a little bit more but using my stock ball as a variation. I think I've learnt a lot in the sub-continent and I'm embracing the challenge, and that's one of the best things, you've got to want it, you want to go out there and do well for your mates walking out there, but the whole Australian public at home, so it's a good challenge, and I love it." Australia were under tremendous pressure after succumbing to defeat against Bangladesh in Mirpur. So after the second Test win which saw the series levelled, a happy and “relieved” captain Steven Smith praised his main strike bowler with an open heart. “Magnificent performance by Lyon. Probably more the first innings than the second innings in Chittagong Test. The first innings, the wicket really wasn't offering a great deal. I thought the way he just hit that right area, particularly with the new ball, skidding it on and hitting a few guys in front. That was the perfect way to bowl,” Smith told the media. “I'm really proud of him. I think he's come a long way particularly on the sub-continent over the last couple of years. He's developed a different style at times. He knows when to bowl differently and when to bowl his stock ball. I thought the way he bowled throughout this series, to take 22 wickets in a two-match series is remarkable,” he added. So a remarkable series of fascinating Test cricket has ended 1-1 draw between mighty Australia and rising Bangladesh. The series will be remembered in many ways, thanks to some individual brilliance from world-class players. But the way Lyon showed his off-spin magic and used the condition as a spinner was like art and that can be remembered fondly as well. And so, “Well Played Garry, the GOAT.”