There are two avenues bowlers can use to build pressure in Test match cricket.
The first is to beat the outside edge, strike the pad, coax the batsmen into playing shots they normally wouldn’t, create chances, and make the striker’s end an unnerving, uncomfortable place to be.
The other is to apply what is commonly referred to as scoreboard pressure, choking and restraining the batsmen by simply putting the ball in areas from which they find it hard to score.
The pressure gradually mounts until the batsman is forced to attempt to score from areas with which they are not comfortable.
Australia’s humble curator turned spinner, Nathan Lyon, is a bowler who prides himself upon the latter.
This summer we have seen the Australian bowling attack revert to its roots: a fierce pace attack instilling fear in batsmen, and a spinner who complements them by tying down an end.
Since the glory days of Warne and McGrath ended, Australian bowling coaches, selectors, and players have been tossed about in the wake of their retirements, and only now is Australian cricket beginning to stop mourning their loss and move on.
It has taken the best part of five years for Australia’s fast bowlers to stop trying to emulate McGrath’s back-of-a-length delivery which brought him so much success.
It has taken the same amount of time for Australia to stop searching for the next Shane Warne, a spinner who could rip through a batting line-up on any wicket.
The fact is, Warne and McGrath were sublime bowlers who did phenomenal things that are almost impossible to replicate.
It is rare for Australian pitches to be conducive to spin, and for spin bowling to be used as an attacking weapon like fast bowling is.
That is not to say spin does not play a role in cricket in Australia. In fact, with maybe the exception of matches in Perth, spin bowling is one of the most tactically important facets of the game.
Michael Clarke should be given a lot of credit for recognising this, and using Nathan Lyon in ways few other captains use their spinners.
It has not been uncommon to see Lyon being thrown the ball with a few minutes left in a session to hurry through an over, allowing a dangerous Hilfenhaus, Siddle, or Pattinson a final fiery over at a batsman with the mindset of surviving until the break.
Furthermore, Lyon’s ability to land the ball in good spots is always improving and he is quickly becoming one of the hardest spinners to score off around the world.
He also knows how to bowl in Australian conditions, utilising the extra bounce.
His job isn’t to rip through a top order but pitch in and contribute to the quick demise of the tail.
However, he showed on debut in Galle that on a spin-friendly wicket he can take a bag, and not just be an assistant to the quicks.
The other great asset of Lyon’s is the tenacity and passion that shows in everything he does, whatever the situation.
In his batting, he is another obstinate contributor in an already resilient Australian tail.
In his relatively short career we have already witnessed his fighting spirit in the second innings batting debacle of Cape Town, top scoring with 14 in an innings of 47, and then his gallant effort in the second innings at Hobart to nearly snatch an unlikely win, only to be left devastated after hearing his wicket skittled.
At 24 years of age and with plenty still to learn, Lyon is shaping as a great fit for the Australian bowling attack of the future.
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia.
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia