NATHAN LYON says he won't be intimidated by South Africa's formidable batsmen when bowling to them on the pace-friendly Gabba for the first Test next month.
Lyon, who hails from the NSW country town of Young but broke into first-class cricket with South Australia, has established himself as the unassuming strike weapon for the national team since making his debut against Sri Lanka last year. His haul of 42 wickets from 13 Tests compares favourably with the great Shane Warne, who had snared 47 after the same number of games.
Warne has called for a spin bowler to be named in Australia's final XI for Brisbane after skipper Michael Clarke hinted last week he'd consider unleashing a four-pronged pace attack against the world's No.1 Test nation, which boasts four of the top seven batsmen in cricket.
Lyon, 24, said his experience at the Gabba last year - where he took seven wickets in a Test against New Zealand - proved the pitch was more sophisticated than a strip designed simply for pace.
''It's a great place to bowl spin,'' he said. ''We saw in last year's Test match that early on there was some nice spin and good bounce, and I'd look forward to another go at it if I get the nod.''
Lyon has established himself as Australia's ''go to'' spinner after a long list of contenders was given shots when Warne retired. Rivals for the position have included Stuart MacGill (10 wickets from four Tests), Brad Hogg (eight from three), Beau Casson (three from one), Cameron White (five from four), Jason Krejza (13 from two), Nathan Hauritz (58 from 16), Bryce McGain (none from one), Steve Smith (three from five), Xavier Doherty (three from two) and Michael Beer (one from one).
Despite his success - and respectable Test bowling average of 27.83 - Lyon said he couldn't afford to think he'd ended Australia's so-called ''spin cycle''. The point was reinforced recently when chairman of selectors John Inverarity said Victoria's Jon Holland - who has since been ruled out for the season with a shoulder injury - was a candidate for a baggy green cap.
''I definitely don't believe I've cemented my spot,'' Lyon said. ''I have to keep bowling well and improving because there are great spin bowlers around the country. I have to just worry about myself and worry about my performance for South Australia first, and keep working hard, and things will look after themselves.''
Glenn McGrath said the Australian and South African pace attacks were so closely matched, the batsmen would decide the series. While Lyon acknowledged the visitors contained some of the world's best batsmen, he repeated the call he made when selected to play India last summer.
''I'm not intimidated, mate,'' he said. ''If you do, you already have one foot out the back door. I'm definitely not intimidated by the South Africans. It will be a great challenge for me if I'm selected … I would welcome the challenge.''
Lyon got a glimpse of what to expect from the Proteas as part of the Australian team that drew last November's two-Test series in South Africa. ''It was nice to get a little taste,'' said Lyon, who took four wickets in the second Test in Johannesburg. ''But I'm looking at taking up the challenge of bowling to some of the best batsmen in the world. I plan to stick to my strengths and stay strong.''