Smith defends tactics after Clarke criticism

Steve Smith defends tactics after attracting criticism for his use of spinner Nathan Lyon during day three of the first Test

Australia captain Steve Smith has defended his tactics on day three of the first Commonwealth Bank Test against South Africa in the wake of criticism from his predecessor Michael Clarke that spinner Nathan Lyon was under-utilised.

And Smith received support from an unlikely source in South African century-maker JP Duminy, who said the fact that Lyon bowled only 12 overs on the third day "was the right call" given the threat posed by Australia's fast bowlers, who found prodigious reverse-swing throughout a day that was dominated by the tourists.

On a scorching hot Perth day where temperatures reached 37C, Smith relied predominantly on Australia's four-man seam attack of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Peter Siddle and Mitchell Marsh as they desperately tried to break the match-turning 250-run partnership between Duminy (141) and opener Dean Elgar (127).

Despite the stifling conditions and the fact that Starc and Siddle came into the match with a small number of overs under their belts due to recent injuries, Smith persisted with his pace bowlers for most of a day that saw South Africa's batsmen give their side a near-unassailable advantage in the match.

It was a tactic that was questioned by Clarke, now a commentator with Channel Nine’s Wide World of Sports, late in the day.

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"I think he's bowling really well, I just think he's been under-bowled today," Clarke said of Lyon in commentary.

"With the amount of overs the fast bowlers have bowled, the fact that (Lyon) bowled really well in the first innings and picked up a couple of crucial wickets, and seeing spin work for South Africa in the first innings as well, I'm really surprised he hasn't bowled 20, 25 overs today.

"He could slow the game down, or quicken the game up and get through a few overs for the captain and the team. He could try over the wicket, around the wicket, just for variation.

"That's why I'm saying I would have liked to have seen more of Nathan Lyon."

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Speaking after play, Smith said the significant movement all four of Australia's seamers manufactured was behind his decision to keep his frontline spinner on ice for most of the day.

"The ball was reversing," the skipper said.

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"I think it (reverse swing) has been a pretty big player in this game for both sides and very uncharacteristic at the WACA. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever seen the ball reverse at the WACA.

"But when the ball is reversing, it’s a tough one. You want to bowl the spin, but the way he (Lyon) holds the ball it can soften that side down and stop the ball from reversing.

"You’ve got to try to use your quicks as long as you can and make the most of the ball while it’s going."

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And Duminy, who was supreme in striking 20 boundaries during his fifth Test century, backed Smith's tactics.

"I thought that was the right call from their point of view," he said.

"The ball was doing quite a bit so I wasn’t expecting them to use Nathan Lyon at all ... in that first session.

"I was surprised (that Lyon didn't bowl more) maybe at the back end of the day, but the seamers were always going to be the threatening part, especially on that wicket. There wasn’t a lot of assistance in terms of spin bowling.

"There were some cracks, a bit of movement, especially with them having four seamers they had a quite a few options."

Lyon went wicketless in the 12 overs he bowled on the third day, but could have had the wicket of Elgar when Starc misjudged a skied catch when the left-hander was on 81.

While Australia's fast men managed just four wickets between them on a testing day for Smith's side, they created plenty of nervous moments for Duminy, Elgar and the other Proteas batsmen.

With the high temperatures baking the dry WACA playing surface, several deliveries reared off a length or seamed wildly off the surface that already has several noticeable cracks, which will undoubtedly make Australia's fourth-innings run chase - which will be a record for the Aussies on home soil should they be successful - even more difficult.

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Meg Lanning Steve Smith