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Lyon won’t be king in Ashes showdown

Alec Swann Columnist

By Alec Swann, Alec Swann is a Roar Expert

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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.

    nathan-lyon-cricket-2017-australia

    (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.

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    The Crowd Says (33)

    • Roar Guru

      September 15th 2017 @ 7:48am
      The Bush said | September 15th 2017 @ 7:48am | ! Report

      Why do you say it is unlikely to be a low scoring series? Solely because Australian wickets tend to be roads these days?

      I think both sides have frail batting line ups, when compared to the potential class of some of the bowlers (Broad for England, our entire attack). I can easily see a few batting collapses across the series.

      • Roar Rookie

        September 15th 2017 @ 8:11am
        Matthew Pearce said | September 15th 2017 @ 8:11am | ! Report

        There’ll be collapses, especially if one team finds themselves a good few hundred runs behind fairly quickly, which has tended to happen quite frequently here.

        Can’t see us being as fragile as England though, Broad is their only established bowler who consistently threatens here. Warner, Khawaja & co. play pace bowling very well. When it doesn’t swing easily and you don’t have a real express bowler you’re going to look pedestrian.

        High scores for Australia, England to get some high scores but mostly collapses trying to catch up.

    • September 15th 2017 @ 8:42am
      rock86 said | September 15th 2017 @ 8:42am | ! Report

      I agree Lyon isn’t going to be the one winning a series here and that it all comes down to how the top six handle each pace battery.

      And just looking at both teams it looks as though the batting can be as frail as each other and both prone to a collapse or two, so it will come down to the pace battery and who will be more effective at causing this collapse.

      But isn’t this kind of what everyone is expecting?

    • Roar Guru

      September 15th 2017 @ 8:52am
      Giri Subramanian said | September 15th 2017 @ 8:52am | ! Report

      Lyon may not be the crucial bowler but his contributions are going to be extremely important. Lyon has a great record in Australia and England don’t don’t play spin very well. He is going to take some wickets and it is going to be crucial for Australia to use him as an attacking option.

      • September 15th 2017 @ 8:54am
        jameswm said | September 15th 2017 @ 8:54am | ! Report

        Lyon has a good record in Australia and visiting spinners have poor records here. Even good ones like Harbhajan and Murali average 50-70 in Australia. Lyon’s 31-32 compares very well.

        • Roar Guru

          September 15th 2017 @ 9:52am
          Giri Subramanian said | September 15th 2017 @ 9:52am | ! Report

          I have said the same thing James, if you read my comment again. Lyon has a very good record at home and he should always be used as an attacking option.

    • September 15th 2017 @ 8:53am
      jameswm said | September 15th 2017 @ 8:53am | ! Report

      I can see fragilities in both teams’ top 6 but:

      – Australia has by far the more settled top 5 and if Renshaw finds form, could score heavily

      – Anderson is traditionally ordinary in Australian conditions and loses heart – and that was in his 20s, not at 35

      – Cummins is in red hot form and Starc and Hazelwood are proven strong performers in Aussie conditions

      – don’t underestimate Lyon’s influence, esp at the Gabba and Sydney. We have the better spinner by a margin and that counts, as he combines well witht he quicks and keeps the pressure on

      • Roar Rookie

        September 15th 2017 @ 11:42pm
        Bunney said | September 15th 2017 @ 11:42pm | ! Report

        hmmm, maybe. We also had the better spinner in the last series (also Lyon vs Ali) and I remember Ali taking some vital wickets; often when the Aussies tried to dominate him to get him out of the attack.

        Australia would do well to respect Ali’s bowling so as to not give him any cheap wickets.

        • Columnist

          September 16th 2017 @ 2:30am
          Ronan O'Connell said | September 16th 2017 @ 2:30am | ! Report

          “Australia would do well to respect Ali’s bowling so as to not give him any cheap wickets.”

          Bunney that is what Australia did in the last 4 Tests of the past Ashes and Moeen took only 7 wickets at an average of 60 in those Tests.

          In the first Test they tried to smash Moeen, and gave up easy wickets, but in the final 4 Tests they realised they could score really quickly off him (4.5rpo) without taking many risks.

          If they play Moeen the same way this summer I can’t see how he will average less than 50 with the ball in the Ashes and he may well average 70+…..Yasir Shah averaged 84 with the ball in Australia last summer and he is a far better spinner than Moeen….. Ashwin averaged 50 in Australia two years ago. It’s a graveyard for visiting spinners.

    • September 15th 2017 @ 10:05am
      Ouch said | September 15th 2017 @ 10:05am | ! Report

      If Stuart Broad gets injured,England are in trouble. Their best bowler by far in Australian conditions. Stokes may threaten occasionally. Jimmy and Moeen Ali may chip in but generally will be ineffective provided the Aust batsmen don’t try to hit them out of the park.
      Who is likely to be England’s other bowler?

      After the way England capitulated to MJ last time, it will be interesting to see how they handle Cummins, Starc, Pattinson and Hazelwood. If they get pumped at the GABBA, it will be a very long tour for them.

      • September 15th 2017 @ 11:07am
        George said | September 15th 2017 @ 11:07am | ! Report

        The quickest one – Woakes.

        • September 15th 2017 @ 11:28am
          Ouch said | September 15th 2017 @ 11:28am | ! Report

          How fast?

          • September 17th 2017 @ 8:44pm
            ColinP said | September 17th 2017 @ 8:44pm | ! Report

            87 mph consistently when fit, v repeatable action, weirdly metronomic. When not fit, like headingley test, he bowled 83 mph nearly every ball. Wood has a lot of pace again when fit though, he was bowling 92-95 mph in t20 games a year ago but then got injured again, came back this summer against saffers and bowled around 87 mph at best and was dropped. Turns out he was carrying an injury again, bruised heel, and joe root said it was up to him whether he thought he was fit enough to play. If he is back to full fitness he is rapid, but I can guarantee he won’t be fit, or at least won’t last more than 2 tests bowling that speed as too much force goes through his lower half in his action

            • Roar Guru

              September 18th 2017 @ 2:27pm
              Chris Kettlewell said | September 18th 2017 @ 2:27pm | ! Report

              Of express pace bowlers there really are two types. You have rhythm bowlers and effort bowlers.

              Rhythm bowlers bowl at their quickest when they’ve just got a good rhythm and seem to do it effortlessly. And often when they’ve got that rhythm going they simultaneously bowl more accurately and get more movement. It’s less linked to how tired they are. Even at the end of a long day it’s possible to get a good rhythm going and bowl quick.

              Effort bowlers don’t tend to have the same sort of rhythm. Bowling quick just seems a real strain for them. They put everything into trying to bowl quick. This can often mean they have a choice, either bowl quick, or bowl accurately, but it’s harder to do both. And also as the bowler tires through the day it’s harder to keep the pace up.

              Wood has always struck me as more the effort bowler. So he’ll bowl the odd spell where he’s lightning quick, but trying to just bowl continually quick is harder for him. If he was able to be effective bowling a bit slower, he’d probably be better off bowling a little within himself but maintaining the ability to send down an “effort ball” with that extra pace from time to time to surprise the batsman. But I’m not sure he’s got the tools to be effective when bowling slower. When his pace drops below 90mph he tends to look a lot more impotent.

              Will be interesting to see what happens regarding the 3rd seamer position for England during the Ashes.

    • September 15th 2017 @ 11:23am
      James T said | September 15th 2017 @ 11:23am | ! Report

      I think Lyon can be very effective. If all are fit I’d go four quicks and Lyon. With Pattinson, cummins and Starc steaming in Lyon will be attacked opening up opportunities.
      Also I feel these quicks will be just as effective with the blade as a 6th bat. Pitches will be flat bats should be good enough to score the runs

      • Roar Guru

        September 15th 2017 @ 2:15pm
        Michael Keeffe said | September 15th 2017 @ 2:15pm | ! Report

        I agree. Wade currently offers so little with the Bat and Gloves. I’d love to see us go on an all out attack. Top 5 of Warner, Renshaw, Khawaja, Smith, Handscomb and at 6 either bring in another Keeper (not Wade) or if they wanted to give the gloves to Handscomb then bring in another bat at 6. Then Pattinson 7, Starc 8, Cummins 9, Hazelwood 10, Lyon 11.

        Those four quicks plus Lyon would give the Poms nightmares. Pattinson averages 39 in tests in Australia and while it’s only from 7 innings in his injury layoff’s all reports are his batting has improved further. Starc averages 29 in Australia with the bat compared to Wade averaging 32 and he’s in the team as a bowler who bats at 8. I think it’s the way to go and would show our intent to blow the Poms off the park.

      • Roar Guru

        September 18th 2017 @ 2:29pm
        Chris Kettlewell said | September 18th 2017 @ 2:29pm | ! Report

        It would be a lot easier to do something like that if we had a keeper who was doing well with the bat. If we were at least getting mid-30’s average out of the keeper then that seems more viable, but with Wade struggling so much with the blade, dropping a batsman seems much more risky.

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