Much has been written and spoken about Australia’s fast bowling stocks after the drawn Ashes series.
We’re in the enviable position of having at least three bowlers capable of producing high-quality performances on just about any surface – Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and James Pattinson – while others like Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc can do an excellent job on their day if conditions are right.
Throw in a returning Jhye Richardson and it’s hard to think of a more potent squad of talented fast bowlers in Australian cricket history.
Cummins and Hazlewood were the two standout fast bowlers in the Ashes. Both took 20 wickets or more and neither averaged more than 22 runs per wicket, which are terrific figures.
Spare a thought, though, for ‘Garry’ – Nathan Michael Lyon. He had an Ashes series of two parts, as the table below shows. These are Lyon’s bowling figures for each innings of the Ashes series.
Lyon must have thought bowling in England was wonderful after his first three innings produced 12 wickets at an average of 19.08. No doubt he would have changed his mind by the end of the series when the next seven innings yielded only another eight wickets at an average of 54.88.
Twenty wickets in an Ashes series is certainly something to be proud of, but there’s little doubt Lyon would be disappointed ending up with an average of 33.40.
So what happened to derail Lyon’s Ashes campaign?
There were probably a variety of factors. The pitches tended to favour the faster bowlers, certainly after the First Test. England also adapted their method of playing Lyon, with Joe Root in particular almost camped on his back foot, letting the ball come to him and playing as late as he could. Others attacked him, and Lyon’s response was to bowl just that little bit quicker, which largely negated his flight and dip.
Missed chances were an issue, perhaps more so for Lyon than the other bowlers, with the exception of Pete Siddle. Lyon is a confidence bowler and his confidence must have dropped after being played relatively easily after that great First Test.
Finally, an injury to his bowling finger in the fourth Test meant he was nowhere near as effective as he should have been if fully fit, a fact highlighted by the returns from his English spin counterpart in the same games.
What cannot be underestimated is the value Lyon brings to this Australian team. The side needs a quality spinner, and he’s well and truly that. He also provides balance and is now so good he can tie up an end for long periods or be a serious attacking weapon, as he showed the first Test.
Selectors will no doubt be sweating on a fit and confident ‘Garry’ Lyon being ready to face Pakistan and New Zealand in this summer’s Tests. They’ll also be hoping more guys start to shine in Shield cricket, because after Lyon the cupboard looks pretty bare of Test-quality spinners.
Lyon will be 32 later this year, and assuming he doesn’t suffer a bad injury, he should be good to play Tests for another three or four years. He seems to still enjoy the game, so going back for another crack at England in four years is not beyond the realms of possibility.
Australian cricket fans should be hoping Lyon sticks around for a few more years. He’s exactly what we need as a spinner, but he also epitomises the sort of spirit we need in Australian cricket.