Nathan Lyon looks set assume an even greater role this Ashes series with the offspinner predicting England will serve up flat wickets in order to dull Australia’s fearsome pace attack.
The oft-maligned Lyon, who this month took his 142nd Test wicket to overtake Hugh Trimble as Australia’s most successful Test offspinner, has been dubbed the tourists’ “weakest link” by talkative ex-England spinner Graeme Swann.
Swann then went a step further, urging the likes of Joe Root and Ian Bell to attack the 27-year-old in a bid to unsettle him.
But Australia will be hoping Lyon can emulate Swann’s feats from the last Ashes tour of England, when the offspinner played a key role in England’s 3-0 series win.
On slow, dusty wickets more commonly associated with the subcontinent, Swann claimed a series-high 26 wickets at 29 runs apiece in 2013.
Despite struggling to find a recognised spinner since Swann’s shock retirement midway through England’s disastrous 5-0 thrashing in Australia in 2013-14, Lyon believes they’ll again avoid green decks.
“I can’t see them being fast and bouncy that’s for sure,” he said.
“I’m expecting something pretty similar to last time, probably good batting wickets and hopefully they’ll take a bit of spin and hopefully that may play into my hands.
“With the pace that we’ve got in our squad with (Mitchell) Johnson, (Mitchell) Starc, (Peter) Siddle, (Ryan) Harris, (Shane) Watson, (Mitchell) Marsh…there is no real weak link there, so I dare say they will be taking the speed out of the pitch.
“I can’t see them making too many-bowler friendly pitches with the bowling we’ve got.
“I’m expecting flatter pitches probably favouring the batsmen.”
That may have resulted in Lyon becoming the key to Australia’s success, especially if England’s batsmen heed Swann’s advice and try to belt him out of the attack.
“Perfect,” Lyon said with a grin when told of Swann’s plan.
“I’ve been having that done for 41 Tests now so I’m getting used to that, especially when we’ve got a quality pace attack.
“I’m up for the fight and I’m looking forward to it, so it’s nice for Graeme Swann to come out like that.”
Lyon remained confident he would perform and continue as Australia’s No.1 spinner, even though untried legspinner Fawad Ahmed is also on tour.
“I’m confident in my skill to get the job done for Australia, especially because they’ve got several left-handers in the squad which I’m quite excited to be bowling at,” Lyon said.