Australia’s spin bowlers for the 2013 Ashes

Australia’s spinners are both better and worse than people seem to think. Let’s first be clear that, as it stands, neither Fawad Ahmed nor Ashton Agar are actually in the squad. Furthermore, both benefit from being to a large extent unknown and untested. In a barren land, the distant man who promises innovative irrigation techniques is king.

There’s lots of talk about what Ahmed might be capable of doing, but that’s radically different from what he WILL do. A grand total of 15 first-class matches means plenty is hidden, but quite why people assume that all those unknowns will be positive is beyond us. If he’s a mystery card that Australia are cannily holding back, returns for Australia A of 1-65 against Ireland and 1-100 against Gloucestershire imply that he’s something like the six of clubs.

Let’s instead look at actual squad member, Nathan Lyon, who is the latest Australian citizen to have made the mistake of failing to be Shane Warne. You know what? He’s actually not bad.

Lyon has taken a respectable number of wickets in pretty much every series he’s played and he’s generally had a proper haul at some point or other during each as well:

  • 5-34 against Sri Lanka in Galle
  • 4-69 against New Zealand in Brisbane
  • 4-63 against India in Adelaide
  • 5-68 against the Windies in Port of Spain
  • 7-94 against India in Delhi

The seven wickets against India came in his last Test match, incidentally. For a 25-year-old off-spinner, this is really pretty good and all the talk of mystery spin from a distant land might be rather missing the point.

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26 Appeals

  1. Agar is in the squad now. He’s the latest addition.

    • King Cricket

      July 9, 2013 at 9:10 am

      Thought he was just hanging around with them on some sort of bizarre internship/net bowling thing. When did they officially add him?

    • Couple of days ago, I read about it on cricinfo. They added him and Piggy around the same time.

    • King Cricket

      July 9, 2013 at 5:34 pm

      The way we read it was that he was staying with the squad in body, but was due to leave for the Australia A squad in the middle of the month, although the selectors did imply that either him or Fawad Ahmed could/would be added to the full squad at some point.

    • King Cricket

      July 10, 2013 at 10:33 am

      Think we can be fairly certain he’s in the squad now.

  2. Those are a surprising set of bowling figures for the lad Lyon. I wonder how he filled his time during the 18 innings he played between Port of Spain and Delhi:

    3 for 87
    2 for 136
    2 for 41
    2 for 91
    3 for 49
    3 for 41
    0 for 128
    2 for 76
    0 for 57
    2 for 23
    1 for 16
    1 for 69
    1 for 66
    3 for 215
    1 for 29
    1 for 124
    1 for 27
    2 for 71

    Oh.

    • King Cricket

      July 9, 2013 at 10:39 am

      Are those really so bad for an off-spinner? We’d happily give nine or ten of those a pass mark.

      Our point was really that overall he’s doing a decent job and also that he does actually do something more influential from time to time, which people don’t seem to think is the case.

      People talk about Lyon like he’s useless, but in flatly stating ‘Swann is better’ they’re overlooking the fact that he can do damage and in fact does so as often as many spinners who are much more highly regarded.

    • The average for those figures is 44, and as Sam says, that includes places so spin-friendly that England has played two spinners.

      I think you have to ask what a test match spinner is on the pitch to do. Overwhelmingly it is to take wickets, mainly second innings ones. In an ODI some of those figures might be acceptable – just get a few more overs out of the way without too much damage. But what is Lyon offering Australia that another quick bowler doesn’t?

      Australia shouldn’t think to themselves, “We need a spinner, Lyon is the best of them, so he has to play.” Lyon isn’t any more of a 2nd innings wicket taking threat than any bowler in the squad, he doesn’t offer what a spinner should offer. So their thought process in picking a team should be just, “Who are the best four bowlers?”

    • King Cricket

      July 9, 2013 at 11:11 am

      Spin-friendly and non-spin-friendly, good performances and bad, Nathan Lyon averages 33 in Test cricket.

      Harbhajan Singh averages 32, Anil Kumble averaged almost 30, Dan Vettori averages 34. For England, Panesar averages all but 34 and Swann averages 28.

      Relatively early in his career, Lyon’s record looks pretty much all right to us and you should ALWAYS play a spinner, especially when the alternative is to pick a fifth fast-medium bowler.

    • To be honest he is a decent enough bowler, but his figures aren’t significantly better than those of Hauritz, and his batting is a lot worse. I get that Lyon is younger, but overall he offers LESS than we had previously.
      Similar thing with Haddin and Wade.
      The current state of the national team is the result of years of mismanagement. It’s like the selectors were trying to push through generational change, without addressing the elephant in the room (Ricky Ponting). This left a massive hole when Punter was finally rightly pushed out. Finding the right balance of raw talent and experience is going to take another year or two yet.

  3. The places he took wickets are mostly spin-friendly. They are not England.

    I hope they do have a good spinner, though. And I hope England struggle a bit against him. They need to learn how to fight against quality spin bowling.

    • King Cricket

      July 9, 2013 at 10:40 am

      Taking wickets on spin-friendly pitches is a large part of a spin bowler’s job. That’s when people depend on him most.

    • England is much, much more friendly to offspinners than Australia is.

    • Or at least, traditionally, English batsmen have been much more spinner friendly than Australian ones.

  4. Lyon is better than most give him credit for. Which basically means that when you disregard the comparison to Warne, he is fairly decent, and definitely better than any of Australia’s other spinners.

    That said, the 3-215 that Bert pointed out was when he was serving as cannon fodder for MS Dhoni, en route to a double century for both Dhoni and Lyon. Being unable to come up with some sort of control during an onslaught should definitely count as a negative.

    • King Cricket

      July 9, 2013 at 12:28 pm

      Certainly. We don’t intend to talk him up unduly.

    • King Cricket

      July 9, 2013 at 12:29 pm

      We don’t really intend to talk him up at all, to be honest. The “he’s not that shit” argument has just got away from us a bit.

  5. And following this discussion, I give you tomorrow evening’s headlines:

    Lyon Roars; England Whimper

    Lyon’s Main Man As Australia Rip Through Sorry England

    Australia Lifted By Pride Of Lyon

    Lyon’s Made of Sterner Stuff As England Wobble

    • Or if you prefer, a new version of the Man Walks Into A Pub With A Giraffe joke:

      A man walks into a pub with a competent international slow bowler, which he leaves by the door. “Hey,” says the barman, “You can’t leave that lyin’ there.”

      “It’s not a Lyon,” says the man, “It’s a competent international slow bowler.”

    • Lyon eats Onions for breakfast

  6. Both Lyon and Hauritz are perfectly capable, not set the world on fire, slow bowlers, a la Tufnell, Croft, Such, Giles, Emburey, Illingworth, Hemmings et al (but not Al, he was left arm fast-medium). Not amazing, sometimes ineffective, but once in a while, might win you a game that you wouldn’t win with 4 identical seamers.

    They’re both just cursed with not being MacGill or Warne.

    Bryce McGain, Xavier Doherty and Jason Krejza, now they were shit.

  7. Lyon is mediocre at best. I don’t know if that is qualification enough for an Australian spinner these days, but he would struggle to find a place in most teams. Interestingly, in the performances listed in the article, only his wickets against India are worth a mention. The rest are mostly tail-enders. He is hardly the kind that would get you a wicket when your captain needs one. And as Uday pointed out, he is clueless against aggressive batting (something Hauritz is also guilty of).

    I can see the sense in picking him if they are touring the sub-continent, but fail to see his worth in England. You might as well pick Steve Smith for a quick 20-30 runs and the same bowling efficacy.

  8. you dun’ arf speak some sense oh King

  9. Where I grew up, there was a family at the other end of the street which coincidentally shared our surname and the patriarch was named Nathan. He was known as Naff for short.

    Naturally, his family were known as the “Naff [Ladds]” while we (presumably) were the “cool [Ladds]”.

    I have always struggled to take the name Nathan very seriously since then.

    Lyon, Hauritz…

    …they are simply Naff blokes.

    But KC is right – they really are not THAT bad at spin bowling. South Africa seem able to manage top of the test pile without boasting a spinner better than Lyon.

  10. There we go, Boff Lehmann has decided to reject the Naff and go back to his little red book of spinners, starting with the ‘A’s.

    Agar is in there, just ahead of Ahmed, so Agar it is.

    The selection policy is clear, concise and logical, within its own very special universe of logic.

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