Botha's tweaking the turning point for Lyon
New weapon … Nathan Lyon. Photo: Getty Images
INSIDE the Australian camp they are calling it his ''doosra''. The back-spinning alternative delivery that Nathan Lyon unveiled with success in Brisbane nine days ago is yet to receive an official tag from the man himself, or anyone else.
If he can repeat his flummoxing of Jacques Rudolph on his home track in Adelaide, though, it might just generate a name of its own.
''I sent a message to Steve Rixon about it because I heard all the commentators saying, 'What are we going to call it?''' Cricket Australia spin-bowling consultant John Davison said. ''I said to Steve, 'Get Nath to name it; it would be good PR to have a name for it.'''
Rixon is the former Australian wicketkeeper who now doubles as the national team's fielding and spin coach. He is working closely with the emerging off-spinner on a box of tricks that, on the evidence of his outing of Rudolph, is no longer one-dimensional.
The roots of Lyon's new delivery, however, are coincidentally with a South African, whose assistance of the 25-year-old could come back to bite the Proteas if he can get it right again and again.
''Johan Botha has had a big part to play in helping him develop it,'' Davison said. ''When he was out here last year, I think they started playing around with a few balls.
''He does it really well because he gets the ball spinning on the same axis as his stock delivery but it's actually spinning the other way. So the seam positioning is quite similar to his stock ball, which is pretty cool.''
Botha, the South African off-spinning all-rounder who now captains South Australia, helped Lyon tinker with his repertoire while here last summer for a Twenty20 Big Bash League stint with Adelaide Strikers.
Lyon actually first experimented with the new delivery in a match during Australia's tour of the West Indies in April, but it was at the Gabba where he was able to produce it to optimal effect. Rudolph, the South Africa middle-order batsman, was the victim, undone by the unexpected and acute variation and trapped leg before wicket on his back pad in the Proteas' second innings for 11.
''It was good to see that he executed it perfectly,'' Davison said. ''It's good to sow that seed in the opposition that they've got to look for something else.''
The post-Shane Warne world has not been an easy one for an Australian spin bowler. Indeed, nearly a dozen before Lyon and since Warne have been tried, and failed for one reason or another to play at Test level with any semblance of longevity.
As a still developing orthodox right-armer, Lyon is light years from building Warne's creative and destructive arsenal - the flipper, the topspinner, the googly and the rest - but his workshopping and now taking of a Test wicket with a secondary ball does begin to counter the perception he has limited weaponry.
''We need the batsman to say, 'Well, he does have something else in the melting pot, we need to be able to keep an eye out for that,''' Rixon said. ''Even if you pick it you've still got to play it. To have two or three balls, very few people in the history of the game have had any more than that. Some might have thought they did but it's only a variation.''
That said, the key for Lyon in the second Test and beyond remains not in the occasional rabbit-out-of-the-hat ball but in his stock off-break that has kept him in the Australian side since his Test debut in August last year, unlike those who foundered before him. Rixon is imploring him to keep it simple.
''The No.1 key to every good off-spinner is to bowl them consistently, in the same spot, with gentle and marginal variations,'' Rixon said. ''Someone like Daniel Vettori is an example - [he] uses the crease, uses different paces, and the amount of work he puts on the ball. It is so marginal, the change, but that makes him the best. His consistency of being able to bowl an off-spinner on the same spot - that's what Nathan has got to have.''