Under the SKanner: Nathan Lyon
Nathan Lyon's successful tour of Bangladesh where he bagged 22 wickets in two Tests reflects his improvement in spin bowling. The off-spinner produced three five-fers in four innings to play a decisive role in the drawn Test series and has emerged as a leading spinner across the globe.
The Aussie bowler has claimed 46 Test wickets in 2017, the most by any bowler in the world and thus has proved his bowling mettle. Until a couple of years back, Lyon was a highly underrated bowler but courtesy of these outstanding performances, he now has become a force to reckon with.
Hence we put him under the scanner to find out his overall bowling analysis.
Mastery over loop and the side-on action
For an off-spinner who carries no mystery delivery like a doosra or a carrom-ball, the most lethal weapon is the control over pace and variations in length. Lyon is one such classical off-spinner who sets up the batsmen with his variations and then delivers the wicket-taking ball.
Lyon forces the batsmen to make an error in judgment by producing a lovely loop. Deliveries bowled by the Aussie bowler dip in front of the batsmen at the last moment and force them to commit a mistake. This dip is the result of the massive revolutions the off-spinner puts on the ball.
This skill of putting revolutions on the ball is rare and very few spinners in the world excel in this art. Lyon is one such special bowler who has complete control over the dip and the loop.
For a traditional off-spinner, the wicket-taking ball is the delivery that spins and bounces more than the batsmen anticipates. And this is where Lyon is effective. The side-on action allows the off-spinner to purchase more turn and bounce from the wicket as his body is perfectly aligned. By using his body, Lyon can trouble the batsmen on surfaces which are good for batting.
His eight wickets at Bangalore on the first day of the second Test in 2017 against India and his five-wicket haul against South Africa at Port Elizabeth in 2014 in the first innings are a testimony to the impact Lyon can have on surfaces which have no help for the spinners.
Effective against right-handers
For a batsman, the ball coming in is relatively easier to play than the ball that moves away. Hence, right-hand batsmen find it easy to negotiate the off-spinners who turn the ball into them.
However, Lyon has reaped significant success against right-hand batsmen. Out of his 269 wickets, 184 have been right-handers which constitute 68.40% of his total wickets. His average against the right-handers is also lesser than his overall career bowling average. He averages 27.52 against the right-hand batsmen while his career bowling average is 31.83.
His ability to dip the ball is the key reason for his success against the right-handers. Also, he can drift the ball efficiently and it contributes to his wickets as well.
Tremendous stamina and physical fitness
Earlier this year, Lyon picked five wickets against India at Dharamshala in the fourth Test. This performance came seven days after he had developed a blister on his bowling finger as he bowled 46 overs in India's only inning at Ranchi.
These bowling figures reflect the Aussie spinner's immense stamina and endurance. At 29, Lyon is at the peak of his career and his physical fitness is of the highest standards.
Becomes predictable at times
As Lyon lacks the 'mystery ball' in his repertoire, his bowling can become predictable at times. If the batsman is able to neutralise the threat of dip and loop, there is very little Lyon can do to trouble the batsman.
The off-spinner has terrific control over his lines and he generally sticks to his strategies without committing any error. However, this strength has often translated into his flaw. The Aussie bowler is hesitant to change his line when he doesn't reap any success and keeps on bowling in the same areas even if the batsmen are able to read him effectively.
This lack of creativity and monotonous bowling approach has hampered Lyon's figures on several occasions. Against India, after claiming eight wickets in the first innings of the second Test, he produced only one wicket in the subsequent 79 overs as the Indians negotiated his variations in pace with ease.
Ineffective in the fourth innings
As the pitch generally deteriorates with time, the ideal occasion for the spinner to bowl is the last inning of the Test. During the last inning, the pitch mostly has few cracks and footmarks which assist spin and make the spinners lethal.
Somehow in his Test career of six years, Lyon has been unable to create havoc in the fourth inning of a Test. He averages 33.47 in the fourth inning and claims a wicket every 11 overs. In 32 innings he has only one five-wicket haul.
The numbers clearly indicate the troubles Lyon has while bowling in the last inning of a Test. Again the reason for this poor show is his inability to use the pitch to a good effect.