When India prepared to face Australia at Adelaide, they would not have seen Nathan Lyon as one of their main threats. On the contrary, they would have been worried about how their batsmen would tackle the fiery Mitchell Johnson and the unrelenting Ryan Harris and, to an extent even Peter Siddle. But, it was Lyon, who had the massive impact on the match, as India crumbled to his off spin in both the innings. Even though the pitch offered assistance, it must be admitted that Lyon bowled exceptionally well under the circumstances, and was the deciding factor in the Test.
Lyon did not go into the Test high on confidence. He had struggled in the two Tests against Pakistan, claiming only three wickets across the two matches, while sending down a load full of overs in helpful conditions in Dubai and the UAE. He could even have been dropped from the side but for the lack of options Australia have in the spin department. But, credit to the Aussie think-tank for sticking to the slow bowler, and he delivered brilliantly at Adelaide to set up a sensational albeit emotional victory for the Aussies.
It is no secret that Lyon is no Shane Warne. The bowler himself is aware of the same, and his Test numbers speak for itself – 36 Tests and 127 wickets at an average of 34.6 are not great stats. Even these numbers have been enhanced by the 12 wickets he claimed at Adelaide. Keeping that in mind, it must be said that Lyon came up with a wonderful performance. It was a Lyon-hearted effort in every sense, especially considering that the pace bowlers in the team were not proving to be effective. In both the innings, he almost single-handedly outdid the Indians.
On the same pitch where the Indian spinners struggled to make much of an impact, Lyon turned out to be a match-winner. The key reason why Lyon was so successful in the game was because he allowed the ball to turn and jump, using his height to good effect. The batsmen were tentative against him for most part, apart from Virat Kohli, and Lyon ensured that he preyed on the Indian batters’ apprehensions. The dismissal of Ajinkya Rahane in the first innings where he got the ball to jump and hit the glove of the well-set batsmen was the perfect proof of the fact that Lyon was extracting a lot out of the pitch.
For the first two sessions on the final day, Lyon looked ineffective, but that had more to do with the wonderful batting of Murali Vijay and Kohli rather than poor bowling. Once Lyon broke the partnership, he was once again at his deadly best. The fact that he managed to blow away the Indians, considered best players of spin, will give him exemplary confidence as he heads ahead into the series. So far, Australia have looked at Lyon as more of a containing option. But, following his match-winning effort in Adelaide, Australia, and Lyon himself, will believe that he can be a great penetrative option for them.
--By A Cricket Analyst