Ready to roar ... Nathan Lyon. Photo: Getty Images
SHANE WARNE turned Daryll Cullinan into his own batting bunny, and now one of Australia's leading spin gurus believes birthday boy Nathan Lyon is on the verge of doing likewise to South African batsman Jacques Rudolph.
Former Test spinner Ashley Mallett has declared Rudolph ''a wicket about to happen'' for Lyon, who dismissed the Proteas' No.6 in each innings at the Gabba.
''He wouldn't want him bowling for his living, I would think,'' Mallett said on Monday. ''I think he's very susceptible to good off-spin. He doesn't play spin very well, and if he [Lyon] bowls well he'll knock him over. I would think it'll give him a helluva lot of confidence knowing that he's in their side.''
Lyon is yet to establish his own bunny during his short Test career but, ''Rudolph could be the man,'' said Mallett, whose 132 wickets is the most for an Australian off-spinner in the postwar period.
Lyon entered the Test series with huge question marks after a less than impressive start to the Australian summer but his performance in the second innings at the Gabba was an indication his fortunes had reversed.
The tweaker captured the wicket of Rudolph and the prized scalp of Jacques Kallis in Australia's bold but unsuccessful bid for victory.
Should the Adelaide Oval live up to its reputation as being helpful to spinners, Lyon could become an unlikely weapon for Michael Clarke as Australia search for victory in the second Test.
Mallett said the former groundsman was working through some technical issues that had affected his form earlier in the season, and encouraged Lyon, who turns 25 on Tuesday, to bowl more over the wicket as that would increase his potency.
Lyon was content to bowl from around the wicket for long periods in the first Test as it helped him angle the ball across the right-hander, but an over-the-wicket approach would bring his natural spin into the equation, Mallett said.
Mallett would also like to see Lyon bowl from closer to the stumps as that would help him generate more curve away from the right-hander and spin off the deck.
''He was bowling very wide of the crease last year, and he's got in a bit closer, but he really needs to be in closer again to get that away movement and spin back,'' Mallett said.
''Around the wicket, he goes away from the right-hander because of the angle, and it spins back. At the moment he's more comfortable bowling around. You usually come around the wicket to the right-hander when the ball's turning a fair way so you've got better chance of an lbw.
''Even if he bowls all his deliveries from around the wicket he'll still bowl OK but down the track he'll be a lot better for it if he can bowl more consistently over the wicket to the right-handers.''
Lyon has responded positively each time his form and Test berth have come under scrutiny, and Mallett is confident he will do so again. He will need to do so as well to avoid losing his place for the series decider in Perth, where Australia might play a four-pronged pace attack on the seam-friendly WACA Ground pitch.
Mallett, however, is in no doubt Lyon will have a greater influence on the game than his South African counterpart Imran Tahir, a leggie who is likely to replace seamer Rory Kleinveldt after sitting out the series-opener.
''He'll go for a few runs here, he might get the odd wicket,'' Mallett said of Tahir, who has taken 26 wickets at 40 from 10 Tests.
''He's very front on and pushes out the front so the only time he really turns the ball is when it's wide outside off stump to the right-hander.''