While much of the focus before the summer started was on Australia’s vaunted pace attack, it’s veteran spinner Nathan Lyon who’s been the biggest thorn in England’s side so far in the Magellan Ashes series.
Lyon has taken 11 wickets in two Tests to take his 2017 tally to 57, the most by any bowler in the world this year.
The 30-year-old has a stranglehold on England’s left-handers, with 10 of those 11 wickets belonging to the visitors’ lefties, including allrounder Moeen Ali four times in as many innings.
While Mitchell Starc is the leading wicket-taker in the series with 14, Lyon’s 11 have come in conditions that were meant to favour fast bowling.
Lyon generated an alarming amount of turn and bounce out of the pitches at the Gabba and Adelaide Oval, venues that in recent times have been dominated by the seamers.
England captain Joe Root says it’s up to the individual to find a way to tame Lyon before as the tourists head west to Perth 2-nil down and needing to avoid defeat to keep the series alive.
"(Lyon) has bowled throughout the series,” Root said on Wednesday.
“He is the leading wicket-taker this year, he has performed very well and we have got to make sure we have decent games and counter that in practice to make sure we're ready for it when it comes out in Test matches.
“More than anything it's about making sure you're really clear about how you're going about playing him individually and if we can do that then there will we will be in a really good place.”
The dominance of Lyon over Moeen is of particular concern to England.
In the absence of Ben Stokes, Moeen has batted at No.6 this series, a change from No.8 where he batted most of this winter and was given a license to score freely and up the tempo of the game.
But in Australia he has struggled, with Lyon trapping him lbw twice, stumped once and caught and bowled – in spectacular fashion – in the first innings at Adelaide Oval.
Despite his struggles, Moeen has the backing of his skipper Root.
"Mooen is obviously over the last couple of years has become a vital part of our team and he is an outstanding cricketer,” Root said.
“There are periods where you have a couple of bad games but we know as a side how valuable he is to us and what he can produce.
“He has got to make sure that he continues doing the hard work he does in practice because you're only ever one ball away from things turning in your favour.
“I thoroughly believe that is the case with Mo.”
Australia captain Steve Smith was full of praise for his chief spinner in the wake of Australia’s 120-run win in the second Test.
“I think Nathan is bowling as well as I’ve seen him bowl,” Smith said.
“He’s hitting great lengths, he’s very confident, and he’s bowling exceptionally well.”
2017-18 International Fixtures
Magellan Ashes Series
Australia Test squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird.
England Test squad: Joe Root (c), James Anderson (vc), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Mason Crane, Tom Curran, Ben Foakes, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes.
First Test Australia won by 10 wickets. Scorecard
Second Test Australia won by 120 runs (Day-Night). Scorecard
Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Tickets
Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Tickets
Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Tickets
Gillette ODI Series v England
First ODI MCG, January 14. Tickets
Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Tickets
Third ODI SCG, January 21. Tickets
Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Tickets
Fifth ODI Perth Stadium, January 28. Tickets
Prime Minister's XI
PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Tickets
Gillette T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series
First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Tickets
Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Tickets
Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Tickets
Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14
Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16
Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18
Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21