Monday 19 March 2018 / 08:15 AM

Nathan Lyon’s Test spot is safe, for now

The New South Welshman was the only specialist spinner chosen in the Test squad for the first match against India at the Gabba.

Lyon has played more Tests than any other spinner in the post-Warne era but has still not been able to cement his spot in the team.

Lyon was most recently dropped during the 2013 Ashes series in England – but has now played 10 consecutive tests for Australia.

During the Ashes whitewash last year, Lyon looked on the up, snaring 19 wickets for the series at an average of 29.36.

In the following series against South Africa, Lyon had reasonable returns of eight wickets at an average of 39.

Against Pakistan was where it all fell apart. On pitches that were said to be spin friendly – as evidenced by his Pakistani counterparts’ performances – Lyon struggled.

His figures for the series were 3 for 422. Compare this to the 26 wickets that Pakistani spinners Yasir Shah and Zulfiqar Babar managed from the series.

We are now 11 days away from the first Test against India and Lyon needs to perform or be dropped.

The selectors should give Lyon the full series against India to prove his worth.

If he does not, there is a swag of spin bowlers chomping at the bit to get their chance at Test level.

Steve O’Keefe is next in line to become Australia’s first choice spinner should Nathan Lyon fail to perform.

O’Keefe became the 13th front-line spinner chosen for the Australian Test team since Warne retired when he partnered Lyon in the first Test against Pakistan recently.

The 29-year-old returned modest figures of 4 for 219 against Pakistan but managed to outplay Lyon in the match with his left arm orthodox.

To really get a handle on O’Keefe’s potential we look to his first class figures.

He has taken 139 wickets at an average of 25.71 throughout his career.

After becoming the first-choice spin option for New South Wales, O’Keefe has flourished. So far this season he has picked up seven wickets at an average of 27.28. Last year he topped the wicket-takers’ list with 41 at 20.43.

O’Keefe’s figures put him miles ahead of anyone else in the Sheffield Shield. These numbers that he has produced have forced selectors to take notice. Former Test tweaker Kerry O’Keeffe (no relation) is a fan, and you should be too.

He served apprenticeships at NSW under Stuart MacGill and Nathan Hauritz before getting his chance in the State side – he will be able to take this knowledge into the Test arena.

Another option for Australia is Fawad Ahmed.

Ahmed is a Pakistan-born leg spinner who fled to Australia in 2010 seeking asylum.

Since then he has become a regular in the Victorian Shield team, been granted Australian citizenship and has gained fans in MacGill and Damien Martyn.

Former Test leggy MacGill, recently told the Daily Telegraph that Ahmed was the best bowler in Australia at the moment.

“He bowled to Michael Clarke in the nets before the Ashes series last year and got him out four times just bowling leg-breaks. At that time Clarke was in the form of his life — I think that’s a sign the guy knows what he’s doing,” MacGill told the Daily Telegraph.

This is a glowing endorsement from a bowler who could have played 100 Tests for Australia if he was born in a different era.

Ahmed also has the first class figures to back up the hype.

So far in his career Ahmed has produced 91 wickets at 31.82 – which included limited opportunities whilst living in Pakistan.

He is the leading wicket-taker, of the spinners, in this year’s first class competition with 14 wickets at 28.07.

Ahmed has played three ODI’s and two T20I’s for Australia. In these showings Ahmed failed to light the world on fire with some meagre returns. However, Ahmed’s bowling is more suited to longer-form cricket – which is reflected in his superior figures in first class compared to List A and Twenty20.

At 32, time isn’t on Ahmed’s side, but playing in his favour is the amount of cricket he has played in his lifetime, which could stretch out his career.

Of the younger fellas coming through the ranks, two stand out as possible test starters: Ashton Agar and Cameron Boyce.

Agar is the younger of the duo, but is well known – thanks to his debut batting heroics in the first Test of the 2013 Ashes in England.

He played just two Tests before being dropped for Lyon.

Agar was a rushed project, and still only being 21, has a long career ahead of him. The same mistake should not be made again.

The promising youngster is improving, having taken six wickets this season at an average of 26.33. Comparatively, his first class record stands at 61 wickets at 42.13.

Agar has to continue his recent form to come into calculations, and considering he’s only in his second year of first class cricket he has a long way to go still.

Cameron Boyce is the current T20 spinner for Australia, where he has impressed in his first four games.

Like Agar, Boyce is on the improve. While the leg spinner boasts a first class average of 47.84, last season Boyce snared 26 wickets at 45.25, and from his only game this year, returned match figures of 3 for 91.

The Queenslander is the current T20 spinner and because of this it looks like the selectors could be grooming him for Test cricket down the track.

Keeping in mind that he is still only 25, that step may not come for another three or four years – depending on his performances.

While we all pine for the next ‘Warnie’ to miraculously emerge, at least Australia still boasts a few handy option for the meantime.

Add Comment

About the author

Ben Jaffrey

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Aenean commodo ligula eget dolor. Aenean massa. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Donec quam felis, ultricies nec, pellentesque eu, pretium quis, sem. Nulla consequat massa quis enim. Donec pede justo, fringilla vel, aliquet nec, vulputate eget, arcu. In enim justo, rhoncus ut, imperdiet a, venenatis vitae, justo. Nullam dictum felis eu pede mollis pretium. Integer tincidunt. Cras dapibus. Vivamus elementum semper nisi.

More cricket News

Special Features