Lyon won’t be king in Ashes showdown

Alec Swann Columnist

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    Prior to the Ashes in 2010-11, an off-spinner was considered by many to be the trump card for one of the protagonists.

    In a series predicted in the build-up to be closely fought, the tourists’ deal breaker was deemed to be the man confounding accepted theory by taking wickets as a spinner by not bowling leg-spin.

    As equally daft as the other belief that you need high-speed to win Test matches – well, they were certainly the theories bandied round this part of the world not so long ago – here was proof that if you did something and did it well then you could have an impact.

    Fast forward a few years and, with a different off-spinner forging a successful path, a few rumours have started as to the pivotal individual now belonging to the home side.

    To pour cold water on such thoughts, Nathan Lyon won’t be the difference between Australia and England in the upcoming edition of cricket’s marquee series.

    Just as Graeme Swann wasn’t the primary reason why England triumphed seven years ago, and he thought his potential influence was seriously overplayed before the hostilities commenced, Lyon won’t decide the destination of the urn come January.

    This isn’t to deride his abilities as he is a fine performer in excellent form, but more a nod towards how games tend to pan out at the Gabba, MCG et al.

    Even if Lyon has a good series, just as he did the last time England showed up, he won’t be the man winning the games.

    It is a bit too easy to point the finger at the man of the moment and serve them up as the one to watch but the necessity to take into account varying factors should see that kind of prediction revised.

    Lyon, who has always seemed to be one poor performance away from having his place in the side questioned (he’s not Shane Warne, get used to it), should be in a position where he is one of the first names written down.

    A solid practitioner who goes about his business in an unfussy and determined manner, Lyon has improved markedly in the past couple of years.


    (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

    Gone are the days where his sole tactic was to operate from round the wicket and bowl, in effect, for catches in the leg-side. It had its uses, especially when it came to holding up an end and keeping a lid on the scoring rate, but it gave the impression of a cricketer selling himself short.

    But the man who is forever taking an iron off the tee will eventually graduate to the driver when he realises he is capable and how much more can be gained.

    The 2017 vintage now offers variety to complement his control and the fact he is closing in on 300 Test wickets should keep the wolf from the door for some time yet.

    Nevertheless, how the respective top orders fare is a more crucial factor because, and this is hardly unveiling the nuclear codes, if they offer little then the door will be left wide open.

    It’s unlikely to be a low-scoring series so parity at the very least in the area will prove vital.

    A glance back at Mitchell Johnson’s tour de force in 2013-14 should serve as a handy reminder of what occurs when paltry totals are posted. No runs on the board negates, to a large degree, what your attack brings to the party and this goes for both sides.

    Mitchell Starc, Jimmy Anderson, Josh Hazlewood, Stuart Broad and others can’t operate as they would wish if they’re fire-fighting and this inevitably trickles down to the spinners who would be marginalised with no safety buffer.

    The England of 2010-11 piled up hefty totals and dominated and the same was true of Australia three years later. This will be where the contest is decided with collectiveness usurping individuality.

    Now, which of the two top sixes fancies it?

    Alec Swann
    Alec Swann

    Alec Swann is a former Northants and Lancashire opener turned cricket writer. Outside of the joys of a Test match, Newcastle United and golf generally occupy his other sporting interests with a soft spot for the Newcastle Knights.