Australia had a good win in the third Test having been smashed in the first two Tests.
In the first two, the complete ineffectiveness of Nathan Lyon was a glaring issue.
In Adelaide, Lyon finally played a part in snaring victory, picking up a few wickets getting the ball to rip with turn and bounce. Much to the satisfaction of Shane Warne and the other commentators, happily proclaiming that Nathan Lyon was back.
Warne, who is always looked at as the expert commentator on spin bowling, can’t ever seem to find fault with any spinner.
For him it seems that if the spinner is bowling rubbish it’s all the captain’s fault. Never the fault of the spinner.
If Lyon’s getting the ball to turn and bounce lots, it’s never just because he’s playing in conditions that have lots of turn and bounce, it’s because he’s just bowling really well.
But despite having the most spin-friendly pitch of the summer so far, there were still some major issues in Lyon’s bowling that really need to be addressed: variation and consistency.
I know it could sound strange to say he needs both more variation and more consistency, but in the world of spin bowling, those two things actually are completely logical to list side by side.
Consistency refers to being able to land the ball in a similar place ball after ball.
Even in this Test where Lyon was much better, he was still bowling way too many balls that were either too full, too short or too wide, giving the batsman some easy scoring options and releasing the pressure. This reduces the chance of stacking up dots and pushing the batsman into trying something risky to score.
One of the big things that sets the really good spinners apart is how few bad balls they bowl; able to continually get the ball in areas that make scoring difficult without taking risks. This helps to earn wickets at the other end as well, as batsmen may take risks to score off the other bowler since they are struggling to score off the spinner.
Variation is about being able to land the ball in the same place six times in a row having bowled what appears to be pretty much the same delivery, yet having the ball behave differently.
There was one telling delivery against JP Duminy that Duminy let through to the keeper. The ball that was delivered was on target to hit middle stump if it hadn’t turned. Yet Duminy quite comfortably let it go knowing that it was an off-spinner that was going to turn and beat off stump.
Without the ability to bowl a ball that’s going to go straight on instead of gripping and turning, there’s no deception.
Sure, if you’ve got a good enough spinners pitch some will turn a bit more or bounce a bit more and can cause issues. But without any sort of variation or deception on anything but the most spin friendly pitch, he’s going to be easy pickings for decent players of spin.
With Pakistan the next Test series, and Lyon having done enough remain in the side, this could present an extremely trying series.
Lyon has flirted with “Jeff” in the past, a ball that sort of went the other way. But he’s probably bowled it less than ten times in international matches and not in recent times.
Not only does he not have a real variation ball he bowls, he bowls in a manner than doesn’t even seem to get any natural variation, where he bowls the same ball and has it behave differently.
In the absence of any other option to fool the batsmen, maybe he should just hold the ball slightly differently to cause the ball to come out with a scrambled seam instead of a nice straight one like he bowls with.
Then at least some balls land on the seam and turn, while others miss the seam and are more likely to just skid on without turning. But whatever he does, he needs some option to bring some mystery into his bowling.
Until the batsman watches the ball out of the hand coming towards them and isn’t 100 per cent sure what’s going to happen when it pitches, he’s never going to be a fully effective international spin bowler.