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Rixon widens role to help Lyon tame Proteas

AUSTRALIA has moved to help Nathan Lyon combat South Africa's world-beating batsmen this summer by expanding fielding coach Steve Rixon's responsibilities to also cover spin bowling.

Lyon, 24, has not had the prosperous start to the domestic season he would have liked, although he says he feels he is bowling well, despite giving up an average of 68 runs for each of his six wickets for South Australia to date.

He arrives in Brisbane on Monday to link up with the Australian squad and remains a likely starter for the first Test against the Proteas, beginning on Friday, with captain Michael Clarke always hesitant to go into a Test without a specialist spinner.

Much has been made of a general dearth of top-class spin bowling talent in Australia and until now the national team's coaching staff has not had a staff member dedicated to the craft.

That void has now been filled with Rixon, an assistant coach alongside Justin Langer (batting) and Ali de Winter (fast bowling), having spin added to his portfolio.

The former Test wicketkeeper is expected to work less with Lyon on the technicalities of releasing the ball but heavily, at least initially, on field placements and the intricacies of bowling to a specifically placed field.


There may be criticism that a former spin bowler has not been handed the job but the appointment does illustrate that Cricket Australia realises there is a decline in the quality and quantity of elite slow bowlers and the need to arrest that.

Despite Lyon's modest opening to the season, and a concession by national selector John Inverarity that he was concerned by the off-spinner's form, he was never in danger of not being chosen for the Gabba squad for the simple reason there is no one knocking on the door.

Victoria's Jon Holland had been identified as the country's No. 2 spinner in the eyes of selectors but a shoulder operation has put a line through him for the summer.

State teammate and all-rounder Glenn Maxwell is seen as the next in line, as evidenced by his call-up to the Australia A squad, while Michael Beer, an international tourist as recently as April in the West Indies, looks to have been all but forgotten.

Whatever the case, it is not a list of candidates to strike fear into the minds of opposition batsmen.

Sri Lankan spin great Muthiah Muralidaran recently blamed the direction given by coaches for a lack of creativity among Australian spinners, and while Rixon's new role will have no impact on the production line of young bowlers - that is chiefly the domain of John Davison, the spin consultant for CA's Centre of Excellence - he will oversee the movements of whoever is in the national team.

Lyon flies to Brisbane having not had the ideal immediate preparation for a Test against the world No. 1 nation. He bowled only four overs in South Australia's Sheffield Shield win over Tasmania, with a green top in Hobart proving unsuitable for anything more substantial.