Ahmedabad: India’s parched pitches are so tailor-made for Nathan Lyon that he has scooped a staggering haul of wickets in Delhi and Indore simply by being himself.
Lyon and Todd Murphy spent a lot of time ahead of the opening Test in Nagpur trying to make sure they bowled Indian-style square seam deliveries to better hit the stumps. Debutant Murphy adapted better than Lyon, who claimed only one expensive wicket.
Nathan Lyon’s 8-64 was one of the finest displays of his long career.Credit:Getty
But after watching Ravichandran Ashwin use over spin to great effect in the opening Test on a receptive surface, Lyon in particular reverted to concentration on his stock ball with striking results. A haul of 18 wickets at 11.94 has had Lyon striking every 25.2 balls.
Those figures have given India a major dilemma in terms of pitch preparation for Ahmedabad, where another sharp turner would aid Australia, but a flatter surface might offer the likes of Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne the chance to finally bat big.
“The first Test we talked a lot about the side spin and to incorporate that because on the red soil it tends to benefit you a bit more, that’s what Todd went to and Nathan as well,” spin coach Dan Vettori said. “Then the realisation, we saw Ashwin bowling a little bit more over the top, and we tried to replicate what he’d done.
“That suits Nathan down to the ground, he got early results and he was able to settle in. In this Test, he was able to go back and forward a little bit more. The real skill he is obviously bringing to the table is the assessment of the wicket and the style he needs to bowl.
“He hardly ever bowls a bad ball and just puts so much pressure on batsmen because of that skill level. You think they know what’s coming. Why can’t they deal with it? It’s because he gets so much on the ball that’s actually hard to counter. We saw him at his absolute best in this Test.”
Matt Kuhnemann, who made his debut in Delhi then played a critical wicket-taking role in Indore, has a style much less round-arm than that of Ravindra Jadeja. But on these pitches, his revolutions on the ball have been very effective in creating chances.
Vettori spoke of how he had recommended playing Lyon and Murphy ahead of Ashton Agar in Nagpur because of their greater consistency.
“I was speaking to Andrew [McDonald] that the control that Murph was able to offer was appealing,” he said. “I think it just leant itself to those two off-spinners and I suppose just ahead of Ash for that first Test, and then they performed so well that I suppose that it was hard to turn your back on them after that.
“All the spinners have brought a consistency about them. That’s the main challenge on these surfaces, the expectation is so high that you are going to do well, but you are going to take a wicket every ball. You saw from Matt’s first over how much it was turning then for him to hang in there and remain consistent on the areas he needs to bowl.
Matt Kuhnemann took five wickets on day one in Indore.Credit:Getty
“With all the spinners, on both teams, there’s just hardly any bad balls bowled at all and when there is, it’s such a release on the whole game. For Kuhny in particular to come in so early in his career, and Todd as well, and to be able to be consistent against some of the best players of spin you’ll come across, in these conditions and with these expectations, has probably been the most impressive thing so far.”
Vettori said Australia’s batters had recalibrated their goals in acknowledgement that a hard-earned 30 could be as valuable as a much bigger score in other circumstances.
“I don’t mind the surfaces because I feel like it’s the same for everyone,” Vettori said. “It doesn’t feel like the toss is the key ingredient as we’ve seen by three teams winning against it.
“The batting group, hearing them talk, have started to buy into it as well, a 30 could be a great day. It’s how you get that 30 that makes such a difference. The challenge is accepting, more than anything, and that’s easier said that done.”
Leading spinners in Delhi and Indore
Nathan Lyon: 18 wickets at 11.94 average, 25.2 strike rate
Ravindra Jadeja: 14 wickets at 15.07 average, 30.9 strike rate
Ravichandran Ashwin: 10 wickets at 20.40 average, 40.4 strike rate
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