Domain Tests v Sri Lanka
Lyon’s defence of under-fire paceman
Australia’s star spinner backs Mitchell Starc to return to his best, saying he doesn’t understand the criticism
Sam Ferris at Manuka Oval, Canberra
30 January 2019, 04:08 PM AEST
Veteran off-spinner Nathan Lyon has staunchly defended Test spearhead Mitch Starc, labelling the criticism aimed at the left-armer as "unfair".
Starc has bowled with extreme pace this summer but his form has come under attack from the likes of Test legend Shane Warne, while a host of ex-players have also offered their advice for the maligned quick.
But having watched Starc up close this summer and today as he steamed in at the Manuka Oval nets, Lyon is backing his the 29-year-old to fire against Sri Lanka in Canberra this week.
"I don't understand all the criticism, to be honest," said Lyon.
"Mitch is one of my best mates and I back him to the hilt and back and as I have said in press conferences before, if you want to take my gear and go face him in the nets, go for it.
"He is bowling fast, he is moving it, he had the ball reversing in the nets. Mitch is a good fella and an x-factor.
"He has 200 Test wickets so if anyone can get 200 Test wickets you must know what you are doing and you must be confident.
"Mitch has got all of my support and everyone's support in that change room so it is pretty unfair criticism in my eyes."
While Starc took just two wickets in the first Domain Test against Sri Lanka, he was a solid foil Lyon, Pat Cummins and Jhye Richardson, who as a quartet took 19 wickets in the innings and 40-run victory.
Lyon says as long as Starc plays his role for the side – bowling fast, swinging the ball and intimidating the opposition batsmen – the tearaway will contribute to team success.
"I am looking forward to watching him this week and hopefully bowling really well with him in partnerships, because that's the biggest key," Lyon said.
"If we can bowl well in partnerships it doesn't matter who it is, hopefully we will take 20 wickets and each and every player will enjoy each and everyone's success as well."
Further backing for Starc came from fellow fast bowler Cummins, and ex-Test quick Ryan Harris, who tipped him to bounce back to his best this week against Sri Lanka.
"Starcy feels as if he's not too far away. He's had a tough game or two but he's bowling seriously fast out there," Cummins told RSN Sport.
"I feel like a couple of things haven't gone his way – a couple (of LBW decisions) overturned and things like that. I reckon once he gets one or two he'll be away.
"We talk about bowling partnerships and bowling as a group and I think having someone like him to come on and bowl 150kph... we've all got different roles and I think he's bowling his role really well."
Harris, the Ashes-winning fast bowler who is now a high-performance coach with Cricket Australia, said Starc had "a few technical things" to adjust.
"He's not bowling as well as he can but it's not as bad as it looks, or as what a lot of people are saying," Harris said on RSN.
"Mitch just needs to work on a few technical things. When he tries to really muscle the ball it's going down the leg side or sometimes even the off.
"He'll be working hard in the nets and seeking out his coaches. Sometimes it's about what's in your mind. It's about finding your confidence, being shown what you were doing when you were bowling well."
Lyon spent four years from 2006-2010 working at Manuka Oval as a curator while playing grade cricket and earning a Certificate 3 in horticulture and turf.
So there is perhaps no better person to ask about what to expect from the pitch, but Lyon says a lot has changed since he worked in the nation's capital.
"It's all new, everything is new since I've been back but Brad (van Dam, head curator) looks like he has done a fantastic job," Lyon said.
"It has a great coverage of grass, so I am expecting a really good cricket wicket, something there with the new ball if you are good enough to put it into the right areas and if you are good enough you will hopefully score runs.
"Hopefully it'll spin and if it is warm it more than likely will crack, I reckon.
"So I reckon it'll be a really good Test match cricket wicket."
Domain Test Series v Sri Lanka
Australia: Tim Paine (c/wk), Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Kurtis Patterson, Will Pucovski, Jhye Richardson, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis
Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (c), Dimuth Karunaratne, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Mendis, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Dhananjaya de Silva, Roshen Silva, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Kusal Perera, Dilruwan Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Lahiru Kumara, Dushmantha Chameera, Kasun Rajitha
First Test: Australia won by an innings and 40 runs
Second Test: February 1-5, Canberra