Forgotten spinner Nathan Lyon was hailed by Australia’s cricket writers Saturday after bowling the visitors into a strong position on the opening day of the fourth Ashes Test against England.
Lyon took four wickets as England collapsed to 238 for nine at stumps at Durham’s Chester-le-Street ground on Friday.
Off-spinner Lyon, controversially left out of the first two Ashes Tests in favour of teenager Ashton Agar despite taking nine wickets in New Delhi in March, had figures of four wickets for 42 runs in 20 overs.
“Lyon’s Ashes moment finally arrived at Durham, too late to save the urn, sadly, but perhaps just in time to help Australia level the series,” The Australian’s Wayne Smith said.
“Relegated to the role of spectator for the Trent Bridge and Lord’s Tests while the selectors flirted with the precociously talented but barely whiskered Ashton Agar, Lyon was primed to bowl Australia to victory in the last two sessions at Old Trafford last week when rain robbed him of what could have been his greatest day under the baggy green.”
Fairfax Media’s Chris Barrett said Lyon had been a casualty of Australia’s post-Shane Warne era, as selectors searched for a replacement for the inimitable leg-spinner, who retired in 2007 after taking 708 Test wickets.
“Lyon is in many ways a victim of Australia’s post-Shane Warne spin syndrome, where expectations can be way out of balance with the players at the country’s disposal,” Barrett said.
“A dozen or so spinners have been tried since Warne as a result. (Lyon) does not that often rip a ball sideways, relying on drift and consistency, and, at only 25, he has his limitations.
“But in conjunction with Michael Clarke’s smart captaincy (he is) Australia’s standout spinner despite the recent selection setbacks.”
Barrett said Lyon had every reason to feel miffed at his treatment by Australia’s selectors, with 81 wickets in 24 Tests.
“He was dumped during the tour of India in March, left out of the side for the questionable experiment of Xavier Doherty and Glenn Maxwell in Hyderabad after being thrashed around by MS Dhoni at Chennai.
“He had reason, then, to feel slighted when, after being recalled and going on to claim a career-best nine wickets for the match in Delhi, he was missing from the Australian side in their next Test at Trent Bridge, replaced by an untried 19-year-old.”
The Daily Telegraph’s Malcolm Conn said Lyon had described himself as the “hunted” and understood he will always be under pressure to keep his Test place.