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Player Battles: Ravichandran Ashwin vs Nathan Lyon (Tests)

A comparison between the leading off-spinners from India and Australia.

The two are set to battle it out in the upcoming 4-match series

The long-awaited Test series between Australia and India will get underway when the two teams lock horns at the MCA Stadium in Pune for the first Test of the Border-Gavaskar trophy.

Both the teams have won the head-to-head battles at their respective homes over the past few years and the last time an away series win came in the trophy was in 2004-05 when Australia won in India 2-1.

Whenever a Test series is played in India, there is always lots of talk about the pitches. The surfaces generally assist the spinners who are always under scrutiny for the entire series. India have had a wonderful run at home with their spinners, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, playing key roles in each victory.

Australia, meanwhile, have as many as five spinners in the squad. Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Steve O'Keefe, Ashton Agar and Mitchell Swepson are the specialist spinners picked in the squad which shows the kind of preparation the Aussies are conducting for the tour.

Extra Cover: Hawk-eye: Mahendra Singh Dhoni vs Adam Gilchrist (Tests)

Amongst the aforementioned names, Lyon is Australia’s most experienced and premium spinner while for India, Ashwin is the best bowler by far.

CRICKET-IND-NZL : News Photo
Ashwin is India’s best bowler

Ashwin has had a dream run in the past couple of years and is currently, the number one ranked bowler in Test cricket. He recently became the fastest ever to 250 Test wickets, a feat he achieved in just 45 Tests. On the other hand, Lyon is ranked number 18 in Tests, but that has a to do with the kind of surfaces that he plays his cricket on.

Here, we compare the two leading spinners from the two nations.

Statistical comparison

Ashwin has been picking wickets in Tests like no other and has intimidating numbers with the ball. The 30-year-old already has a whopping 24 five-wicket hauls in just 84 innings. His average is simply magnificent as he goes for just above 25 runs per wicket.

Ashwin in Test cricket

Matches

Wickets

BBI

Economy

Average

Strike Rate

5W

10W

45

254

59/7

2.92

25.05

51.53

24

7

Lyon, on the other hand, does not have such daunting numbers, however, he still has a decent record for an Australian spinner playing on not so spin-friendly wickets. He has a good strike rate of 63.89 but he remains far behind Ashwin in every aspect.

Lyon’s stats in Test cricket

Matches

Wickets

BBI

Economy

Average

Strike Rate

5W

10W

63

228

94/7

3.2

34.07

63.89

7

1

Records in India

For the current series, their records in India are the ones that matter the most. In that aspect too, Ashwin is far ahead of the Aussie. His stats only get better as compared to his overall numbers. His average reduces to 22.11 and the strike rate becomes lethal at 47.72. Lyon, meanwhile, has played just the three Tests in the subcontinent nation, all being in Australia’s last tour to India.

Although he did manage to pick 15 wickets in three Tests, his economy rate of 4.4 suggests that the Indian batsmen went after him on most occasions. In the 11 Tests in the subcontinent, he has an average of 42, which goes to show that he has not been able to make the most of the conditions. This is mainly due to the technique of the subcontinent batsmen against the turning ball.

Ashwin’s record in India

Matches

Wickets

BBI

Economy

Average

Strike Rate

5W

10W

28

187

59/7

2.78

22.11

47.72

19

6

Lyon’s record in India

Matches

Wickets

BBI

Economy

Average

Strike Rate

5W

10W

3

15

94/7

4.4

37.33

50.87

1

0

Head to head record

When we compare their record when the two teams played against each other, they have played the same number of Tests so far and Ashwin is slightly ahead in terms of wickets and average. But when it comes to the strike rate, Lyon edges out the Indian for the first time. Ashwin’s stats were hampered due to his ordinary outings in the last series Down Under.

Australia v Pakistan - 3rd Test: Day 5 : News Photo
Lyon’s stats are hampered by the fact that he plays on pitches not conducive to spin
Ashwin’s record against Australia

Matches

Wickets

BBI

Economy

Average

Strike Rate

5W

10W

10

50

103/7

2.98

34.64

69.72

4

1

Lyon’s record against India

Matches

Wickets

BBI

Economy

Average

Strike Rate

5W

10W

10

45

94/7

3.72

36.71

58.86

3

1

Impact on the team’s performances

When it comes to the impact of the two in their respective teams’ victories, there is clear daylight between Ashwin and Lyon. The Indian has been outstanding for the past few years and has played a major role in his team’s success.

In his short career, he has already won the Man of the Series award seven times, which is the most by an Indian.

On the flip side, Lyon hasn’t won a Man of the Series award even once and has just two Man of the Match awards to his name. He plays most of his cricket in Australia where the surfaces don’t offer the spinners anything until the last day.

Australia v India - First Test: Day 3 : News Photo
Ashwin has already won seven Man of the Series awards

In Australia, the pitches wear out to form cracks as opposed to India where the surfaces become dusty and aid the spinners. Lyon usually does not have much of a role to play in the first innings and is effective for the Aussies mainly in the final innings whereas Ashwin starts contributing from day 1 for India.

As far as variations in bowling are concerned, Lyon just has the off-spinner in his armoury, which he combines with variations in pace, as well as switching back and forth from over the wicket to around.

The Indian, on the other hand, has a bag full of tricks with his off-spinner, carom ball, top-spinner, slider and the occasional leg-spinner. His variations in pace also come in handy.

Bottom Line

It is clear to see that Ashwin has far better numbers than Lyon in every aspect of the bowling department and is the best bowler in the world at the moment. He is expected to bag heaps of wickets in this series as well and increase the gap in the rankings between him and the rest.

Lyon might get help from the pitches in India, but with the kind of batting line-up India possess, it would be unfair to expect him to turn matches on its head.

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