Aussie spinner Nathan Lyon in full cry on Day Two of the Dharamsala Test yesterday. Pic/AFP
Dharamsala: Before Nathan Lyon could bowl his first over in Test cricket – against Sri Lanka at Galle in 2011 – his skipper Michael Clarke asked him what field he would like. To Clarke's surprise, the response from his debutant was, "You set the field and I will bowl to it." That was Lyon, the curator-turned-off-spinner.
In Dharamsala, 66 Test matches later, Lyon enhanced his reputation as Australia's greatest off-spin bowler by putting on a clinic of spin bowling with a spell of 14-3-36-4 after tea on Day Two.
For most of his career Lyon has been seen as an almost one-dimensional bowler that generally tends to excel on the hard pitches in Australia due to amount of overspin he is able to put on the ball.
The pitch in Dharamsala might have been similar to Australia, but for the first 14 overs, he had been negotiated comfortably by the Indian batsmen. But Lyon is no longer inexperienced and as he hydrated himself at tea time, he felt that he had to think outside the square to be threatening. After the break, Lyon first decided to push the ball through a lot more. The ball was coming out quicker, but the trajectory would remain the same.
Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane were two of his biggest victims. "Ajinkya was sweeping me a lot. My plan was to come over the wicket and try and get him not to sweep me so that I can bring my stock ball to be more effective. It worked well," Lyon said.
One ball was fired in at 108kmh, the next was 20kmph slower, the degree of variation of speed changed from an average of 5-7kmph to around 10kmph.
The best part about it for Lyon was that he was able to execute things without changing his action. In the past, he has been afraid to deviate from his basics, but on this tour of India he has found a method to add that range without alerting his action drastically.
Lyon's spell in Bangalore will still be considered his best due to accuracy and loop, but the one in Dharamsala yesterday will always be regarded highly because Lyon had to think outside the box and still found a solution against the best players of spin in their home conditions.