All Hail Nathan the Lyon-heart!
Updated: Apr 13, 2019
Why Australia’s premier spinner could be the key to their series win against India
Australia has always been hailed as the land of Shane Warne and the other spinners. Even phenomenal talents like the legendary Richie Benaud and Stuart MacGill weren’t mentioned in the same breath as the charismatic blonde magician.
Such was the impact he made on World and especially Australian cricket that many a young cricketer aspired to become a leg-spinner in the wake of his astounding success. The wrist spinner single-handedly managed to resurrect a dying art and ushered in a new era for The Baggy Greens. Never before had a spinner captured the imagination of the Australian public and nobody has ever since.
But in recent times a new force has emerged in Australian cricket, one who may very well do for finger spinners what Warne had done for wrist spinners. And that man is the wily Nathan Lyon.
Although the off-spinner has been around for a while –from 2011- only recently has he been acknowledged as a special talent around the cricket globe. Not since Greg Matthews have the Men from Down Under have had such a match winning right-arm orthodox tweaker. In fact their breed used to be looked upon as the weak link in an otherwise formidable bowling attack. Men such as Tim May, Peter Taylor, Gavin Robertson and Nathan Hauritz were called upon to give the big fast bowlers a break or keep things tight while Shane Warne wreaked havoc at the other end. Australia finally seemed to have unearthed a successor to Shane Warne and a high quality off-spinner when Jason Krejza captured 8 wickets in an innings on his debut against India in 2008. But that appeared to be a false dawn as inconsistent form and injuries prevented the offie from harnessing his true potential. The Kangaroos continued their search in vain until the New South Welshman made his debut for them in 2011 against Sri Lanka. He got a wicket with his first ball in Test cricket, that of the legendary Kumar Sangakkara, and from then on there was no turning back.
He had been nicknamed “GOAT” by his teammates (Greatest of All Time) when he overtook Hugh Trumble’s 141 wickets in 2015 to become the highest wicket taker for an Australian off-spinner.
But it is not for his returns against the Englishmen, South Africans or New Zealanders that his talent has come to be finally recognised. It is for his unparalleled success against sub-continent teams, especially the masters of playing spin bowling – India, that has seen him being heralded as the best off-spinner in the world. His 19 wickets in 3 Tests in the 2014-15 series against them was followed up by his career best figures of 8/50 at Bangalore in 2017. Before the start of the current edition of The Australia vs. India series, he had 64 wickets against the Asian powerhouse at a healthy average of around 30 and has played a pivotal role in swinging matches in his team’s favour. His flight and bounce have consistently troubled Team India and that’s what has made everyone sit up and take notice.
In the ongoing series against the Indians, he managed to skittle them out in the second innings at Adelaide, with a return of 6 wickets, when they threatened to run away with the match. At the all new Perth Stadium -where the pitch was tailor-made for the pacemen to run through the tourists- it was Lyon who was again the wrecker-in-chief with a haul of 5 first innings wickets. Even Indian skipper Virat Kohli who crafted a masterful century was unable to dominate the 31 year old. And again today when India looked to rebuild their second innings after early setbacks, he snared the two big wickets of Indian Captain Kohli and the well-set Murali Vijay to all but leave Australia at the doorstep of victory.
Australia had placed their hope of winning the series in their tremendous fast bowling unit but it is the man they call “Garry” who may well be the one who helps the men from Down Under reclaim The Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
All Hail Nathan the Lyon-heart!