Nathan Lyon needs to be booted

Glenn Mitchell Columnist

By Glenn Mitchell, Glenn Mitchell is a Roar Expert

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    Nathan Lyon is a walking dichotomy. He is currently experiencing a level of adoration from the fans like never before in his 62-Test career.

    Yet, at the same time, he no longer deserves his place in the side.

    Unless he can conjure something special in the last two days at Melbourne he should not be in the XI for the final Test of the series at the SCG.

    It has been a summer of discontent for the man who carries the sobriquet of GOAT – Greatest of All-Time – as a result of being Australia’s leading finger spinning wicket-taker.

    Half way through his fifth Test of the summer he has captured nine wickets at an average of 66.7.

    His performance in Pakistan’s first innings was one of his worst showings this year.

    After sending the crowd into raptures when he claimed the first wicket of the match halfway through his opening over, he finished the innings with figures of 1-115 from 23 overs.

    The delivery that claimed Sami Aslam was a beauty – drifting in the to the left-hander, dropping on a length and spinning away with appreciable bounce.

    When his skipper, Steve Smith snapped up the catch at slip he would have been contemplating a productive innings from his right-arm tweaker.

    Alas, that delivery provided Lyon with his only highlight of the innings.

    He produced only one maiden in his 23 overs and went for exactly five runs per over, including being struck for five sixes, four of which were off the bat of number ten, Sohail Khan.

    While this was his worst economy rate of the season it simply continued what has been a worrying trend.

    His inability to bowl tight spells is clearly causing problems for Smith.

    Australian bowler Nathan Lyon

    Too often this summer Lyon has been guilty of attacking the stumps which has resulted in him being worked with ease into gaps on the leg side.

    Rather than pitching the ball considerably outside off to the right-handers and working it back in, he has landed fractionally outside off and been turned with relative impunity onto the on-side.

    It has resulted in the batsmen rarely having to look for runs by hitting against the spin into the offside.

    He appeared to have adjusted his line for periods in the final Test against South Africa at Adelaide but he has failed to back that up against Pakistan.

    Lyon was a line ball selection for the historic day-night series opener at the Gabba.

    Smith admitted that the call to select Lyon over uncapped paceman Chadd Sayers went right down to the wire.

    Part of the reasoning behind the offie holding his place in the line-up would have been his track record at Brisbane.

    His five previous appearances at the Gabba had produced 24 wickets at 24.0, making it his most productive Test venue.

    Against Pakistan he returned his worst match figures at the ground, 40-5-139-2.

    Five-wicket hauls are often seen as the bowling equivalent of a batsman scoring a century.

    In Lyon’s case his last five-for was 26 Tests ago, when hauls of 5-134 and 7-152 earned him man-of-the-match honours against India in Adelaide in December 2014.

    There has been talk of playing two spinners against Pakistan in the New Year’s Test at the SCG.

    For mine, I would go in with just the one specialist spinner in support of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Jackson Bird.

    And that man should not be Lyon, but his New South Wales teammate, Steve O’Keefe.

    The left-arm orthodox O’Keefe has been a long-time performer at first-class level.

    In 64 matches, he has captured 218 wickets at 23.6.

    Allied to his work with the ball is his more than capable record with the willow.

    He has a first-class average of 29.1 with nine half-centuries, the best of which was an innings of 99.

    With Nic Maddinson and Matthew Wade struggling in the middle order, O’Keefe’s batting would be a welcome addition.

    But it will be his bowling that should ensure his selection.

    Stephen O'Keefe

    O’Keefe has played three Tests to date.

    After debuting against Pakistan in the UAE in October 2014 with match figures of 4-219, he was overlooked until the SCG Test in January this year against West Indies where he took 3-63 off 26.1 overs in the one innings he bowled in.

    On the back of another solid first-class summer he was included in the squad that toured Sri Lanka in July.

    He guaranteed his selection in the first Test at Pallekele with a stunning performance against a Sri Lankan XI in the warm-up fixture, capturing 5-43 and 5-21 as well as an innings of 78 not out.

    In the opening Test he captured 3-74 from his 27 overs but a hamstring tear during the match saw him return home with Jon Holland called in as his replacement.

    It was a cruel blow for O’Keefe who would surely have played all three Tests.

    Having overcome the hamstring injury, he then suffered a broken finger in training that ruled him out of the Matador Cup at the start of the domestic summer.

    Since returning to the fold he has shown solid form, including hauls of 5-65 and 3-41 against Western Australia at the SCG last month.

    Both Lyon and O’Keefe will likely be in the tour party to India in February.

    But at the SCG next week, if one spinner is the option, it should be O’Keefe who gets the nod.

    Glenn Mitchell
    Glenn Mitchell

    After 21 years as a sports broadcaster with the ABC, since mid-2011 Glenn Mitchell has been freelancing in the electronic and written media. He is an ambassador for mental health in Australia, and tweets from @mitchellglenn.

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    The Crowd Says (86)

    • December 29th 2016 @ 6:12am
      qwetzen said | December 29th 2016 @ 6:12am | ! Report

      If Lyons’ record at the Gabba helped him then his record at the SCG should hang him.

      In Tests he has 13 @ 54.1 (4 games) and in the SS, (2 games), it’s 1 @ 204.

      • December 29th 2016 @ 2:09pm
        Hrundi V. Bakshi said | December 29th 2016 @ 2:09pm | ! Report

        Lyons should be dropped as well as the failed experiments with Nic Maddinson. Maddinson, could not make runs on the road MCG with exhausted Pakistani bowlers. Not a test match batsman at this stage.

        Henshaw for mine is skating on thin ice, another near fail.

        Handscomb was a win for the selectors, but two duds out of Maddinson and Henshaw.

        • Roar Guru

          December 29th 2016 @ 2:18pm
          Cadfael said | December 29th 2016 @ 2:18pm | ! Report

          Agree, both Maddinson and Lyon need to go and you can include Wade in that as well. He has missed a few chances since he came back and it will be eminently harder to keep in India than here.

          SOK for Lyon though Agar and Head may get a look in. Lehman or Patterson for Maddinson and anyone but Wade

          • December 29th 2016 @ 6:22pm
            Tony Gentle said | December 29th 2016 @ 6:22pm | ! Report

            Your kidding. Any suggestions Zampa is hopeless
            Let’s forget spin cause there will never be another Warnie

        • December 29th 2016 @ 3:21pm
          Bakkies said | December 29th 2016 @ 3:21pm | ! Report

          Didn’t know that Robbie Henshaw plays Cricket for Australia

        • December 29th 2016 @ 8:02pm
          doogs said | December 29th 2016 @ 8:02pm | ! Report

          who is Henshaw? I feel awfully confused

          • December 29th 2016 @ 8:19pm
            doogs said | December 29th 2016 @ 8:19pm | ! Report

            Whoops. I will remain humble and admit I have had a shocker there. My bad. Apologies all

    • Roar Pro

      December 29th 2016 @ 6:53am
      anon said | December 29th 2016 @ 6:53am | ! Report

      He’s a career 34 average bowler.

      Over a very, very long sample size.

      Might as well play any young spinner with potential in his spot because they can’t do much worse.

      • Roar Rookie

        December 29th 2016 @ 7:26am
        Stevo said | December 29th 2016 @ 7:26am | ! Report

        Your needed on the ‘Football’ tab. Some article about an independent commission to run the A-league. Just giving you a heads up.

        • December 29th 2016 @ 8:46am
          Rossy said | December 29th 2016 @ 8:46am | ! Report

          Stevo, he can’t have an opinion on two sports?

          Gimme a break.

          • December 29th 2016 @ 9:58am
            rasty said | December 29th 2016 @ 9:58am | ! Report

            Is soccer a sport?

    • Roar Rookie

      December 29th 2016 @ 7:10am
      Dan said | December 29th 2016 @ 7:10am | ! Report

      Bring in Maxwell – his figures would have been comparable to Lyon’s and he has the option to make runs.

      • December 29th 2016 @ 10:11am
        Felix said | December 29th 2016 @ 10:11am | ! Report

        Maxwell’s bowling is not the same standard as Lyon’s was and his economy rate this summer has left a little to be desired, barring his second innings effort against NSW.

      • December 29th 2016 @ 6:26pm
        Tony Gentle said | December 29th 2016 @ 6:26pm | ! Report

        Now you have to be kidding. Maxwell is not s specialist spinner. How many test wickets has he?
        I must admit he is good in t 20 .He does score some runs with his reverse sweep

    • December 29th 2016 @ 7:13am
      Dawso said | December 29th 2016 @ 7:13am | ! Report

      Been saying it for years. Does not threaten a number 11 batsmen.

    • December 29th 2016 @ 7:22am
      Rob JM said | December 29th 2016 @ 7:22am | ! Report

      If you think lyon is bad then have a look at maddinsons average at the scg. Only averages 28.4 from 22 innings with 3 scores over 50. How about we pick one of three leading allrounder candidates who bowl off spin in maxwell, turner and head. Maxwell would be my first pick, ave 65 at scg, bowling not to expensive and takes odd wicket. Head more suited to seaming pitches with ave of 22 at scg. Bowling expensive but takes wickets. Ashton turner is very inexperienced but is in superb form averaging 71 with bat this year. Bowling is very tight at 2.9 rpo. Hasn’t taken many wickets because he barely gets a chance to bowl.

      • December 29th 2016 @ 7:23am
        Rob JM said | December 29th 2016 @ 7:23am | ! Report

        And SOK for lyon of course.

      • December 29th 2016 @ 7:53am
        McNaulty said | December 29th 2016 @ 7:53am | ! Report

        Maxwell is not getting in as an allrounder. Smith and for that matter probably Warner are just as useful as bowlers. Pick the best 6 batsmen. I agree with Glenn it is time for O’Keefe at 8.

        • Roar Rookie

          December 29th 2016 @ 9:19am
          Lancey5times said | December 29th 2016 @ 9:19am | ! Report

          You genuinely believe David Warner is as good a bowler as Glenn Maxwell?

          • December 29th 2016 @ 10:45am
            Basil said | December 29th 2016 @ 10:45am | ! Report

            Don’t worry Lancey, those sort of comments usually disappear from here by mid-February when footy pre-season starts up.

          • December 29th 2016 @ 3:34pm
            McNaulty said | December 29th 2016 @ 3:34pm | ! Report

            Yes. I don’t rate Warner. But he is as good as Maxwell.

      • December 29th 2016 @ 9:57am
        armchair expert said | December 29th 2016 @ 9:57am | ! Report

        Turner took 31 wickets@16 in the Lancashire league this year and he was rated a better bowler than Agar by the Australian under 19 selectors, I’d select him before Maxwell for India.

    • December 29th 2016 @ 7:46am
      jamesb said | December 29th 2016 @ 7:46am | ! Report

      Nathan Lyon is one of life’s great mysteries. As a spinner, for majority of the time, he bowls too quick and too flat. Rarely spins the ball. Lack of variation.

      He gets smashed by the opposition tail enders. And as a player, he lacks that killer instinct. He rarely bowls Australia to victory on the last day. Only on the last day against India in Adelaide did he seal the deal.

      And yet, he has 220 test wickets. How he got 220 test wickets, I’ll never know.

      Anyway, for Sydney, O’Keefe has to come in, and bring in Maxwell at six to replace Maddinson. The SCG line up will be a team that closely resembles a team for the Indian tour.

      • December 29th 2016 @ 7:55am
        McNaulty said | December 29th 2016 @ 7:55am | ! Report

        If Maddinson is to be dropped then Pattinson should come in. I don’t think we should disrupt Maxwells Big Bash season.

        • December 29th 2016 @ 8:09am
          jamesb said | December 29th 2016 @ 8:09am | ! Report

          Judging from last night’s batting, Patterson needs a bit of improvement when he faces spin bowling.

          • December 29th 2016 @ 10:22am
            Felix said | December 29th 2016 @ 10:22am | ! Report

            You’re spot on, James. I called out one of the expert’s on this the other day. He was banging on about how he is a much better player of spin than Burns or anyone else – I’ve watched him twice now and his footwork is poor at best. I’m a bit sick of the experts rolling out personal feeling regarding a player’s ability and passing it as fact.

            • Roar Pro

              December 29th 2016 @ 11:27am
              Andy Hill said | December 29th 2016 @ 11:27am | ! Report

              I only saw Patterson bat once against spin. He looked pretty clueless against Jon Holland in the last Vic vs NSW shield match. I would be interested to hear anyone else who has seen him bat against quality spin in a FC match.

              Also would be interested to hear about Head’s track record against spin.

              • December 29th 2016 @ 11:50am
                Rob JM said | December 29th 2016 @ 11:50am | ! Report

                Head has a poor record at the spin friendly SCG.

              • December 29th 2016 @ 4:20pm
                BurgyGreen said | December 29th 2016 @ 4:20pm | ! Report

                Head will be torn apart by Ashwin if he plays.

          • December 29th 2016 @ 7:46pm
            Rob said | December 29th 2016 @ 7:46pm | ! Report

            He should be the next to get a chance because he is from NSW.

          • January 1st 2017 @ 7:10pm
            John Erichsen said | January 1st 2017 @ 7:10pm | ! Report

            You do realise that what a batsmen does in a 20/20 game should have absolutely no bearing on selections or possible selections for a test side!

        • December 29th 2016 @ 9:03pm
          Chris Love said | December 29th 2016 @ 9:03pm | ! Report

          Another left handed in the top 6? Sure if he was absolutely banging the door down like Handscomb was but we already have Renshaw, Warner and Khawaja as lefties, followed by Smith and Handscomb as righties.

      • December 29th 2016 @ 4:22pm
        andrew said | December 29th 2016 @ 4:22pm | ! Report

        @jamesb, he has 200 wickets because the selectors have persisted with him. no other bolwer has taken more 200 test wickets with a worse avearge. instead of GOAT is the MFOAT (most fortunate of all time), in that no other bowler has kept of getting a game, and thus accumulated wickets incrementally, for such a long time (yes, i am excluded a few notable all-rounders from this list who have worse averages)

      • January 1st 2017 @ 7:08pm
        John Erichsen said | January 1st 2017 @ 7:08pm | ! Report

        Lyon has taken 220+ test wickets because he was fortunate to be the 11th test spinner tried after Shane Warne’s retirement. The ten spinners preceding him were tried and dumped after considerably shorter test careers. Nathan Hauritz’s 17 tests is the most of any of these spinners. Hauritz had almost identical success to Lyon, in terms of wickets taken, average, strike rate and economy rate. His batting was also considerably stronger than Lyon’s, yet he was considered not good enough to play any more test cricket and yet Lyon has now played 62 tests. The only reason can be that after 10 try and fails, the selectors drew a line in the sand and made the next spin selection one for a lifetime, regardless of how deserving or worthy that spinner was. Lyon with his 6 shield games experience was in the right place in the right time and benefited from this selection of grace. In fact, every test he still is.

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