Bowling fast and teasing the Poms
Former Australian cricketer Nathan Bracken discusses tactics to stop English batsman Kevin Pietersen from being a threat in the Adelaide Test.PT5M24S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2yogp 620 349 December 3, 2013
Three years after he was part of the Adelaide Oval ground crew branded as "pathetic" by Kevin Pietersen, Nathan Lyon returns to his new-look spiritual home certain he can do what he and Australia's undermanned attack couldn't quite manage against South Africa last summer - bowl Australia to a second-Test victory.
Even in 2010, before Lyon graduated from the ground staff to the South Australian squad, it took more than a withering spray from Pietersen to knock the resilient off-spinner off his heavy roller.
"What should a groundsman make sure he does two days out from a test match?," Pietersen vented on Twitter at the time. "Cover the nets when it rains maybe? "PATHETIC!"
Confident: Nathan Lyon is looking forward to seeing what the Adelaide wicket will offer during the second Test, which begins on Thursday. Photo: Getty Images
"He had a fair crack at us. They wanted to win the Test match and we were just trying to do the best for the game," recalled Lyon, who has since moved back to his native NSW.
"I was sitting on the roller watching the whole time and preparing to put the covers on the last day when England won. I was cutting the ground every morning so it was a different view and I can't wait to be out there competing in an Ashes Test match."
Even Lyon's former boss, Adelaide Oval curator Damian Hough, describes him as the ultimate "team man", happy to play a role that rarely catches the attention commanded by more explosive teammates.
While Peter Siddle was lauded for his physical courage in bowling himself to exhaustion and near-delirium against the Proteas last December, Lyon was criticised for being unable to finish them off. Spin coach Stuart MacGill has since lamented that Lyon was encouraged to rush through his overs, primarily to relieve the quicks in the final months of Mickey Arthur's tenure.
Perhaps a bigger problem was that everyone expected him to do what the magician Shane Warne did when he famously dragged Australia to a victory over England at Adelaide Oval in 2006.
"You can thank Shane Warne for that, that's all I have to say about that," Lyon said of the expectation that the spinner will lead his side to victory on a wearing pitch.
"Shane Warne produced that for the spinners and that's part of the game. But saying that there's 11 guys out there and usually about four or five bowlers. If we bowl together we'll win. Unfortunately last year James Pattinson went down with an injury. I'm sure if we had him up and going we would have won that Test. But injuries do happen and we can't control that. There's a lot of expectations but if we bowl well as a unit there's no reason why we can't beat anyone."
Last year's punishing match against the Proteas, in which Lyon, Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus were thwarted by Test newcomer Faf du Plessis, was one of just four draws in the past 22 Tests at Adelaide Oval. If the drop-in pitch prepared by Hough introduces an element of the unknown (and the expectation of an even harder slog for the bowlers) the surroundings offer a glimpse of the future.
Adelaide Oval, such a popular destination for cricket pilgrims, is now a modern, multi-sport stadium with a $500 million facelift. The 120-year-old Moreton Bay figs and the old scoreboard are still there, but the spire of St Peter's Cathedral can only be glimpsed from some seats. The first-class pitches haven't broken up like typical Adelaide strips but Lyon believes he will have enough to work with.
"It's going to be a good challenge for me. Test pitches are totally different to Shield pitches. Fingers crossed there'll be some foot marks there and over five days it may break up, who knows?" he said. "If I can hold up one end and rotate our quicks it's going to hopefully keep their legs as fresh as possible and they can bowl a few fast bumpers again."
Vice-captain Brad Haddin believes Lyon's contribution to Australia's 381-run in Brisbane win was undervalued amid the hype over the fast-bowling barrage. With trusted mentor John Davison he has worked on getting more side-on, there by exaggerating the shape and bounce that surprised Ian Bell at the Gabba.
"The big thing is he's learning on the job," Haddin said. "He's not that experienced at first class level. He's played 26 Tests now. He's starting to get more confidence in what he's doing and the last game is a perfect example. As well as our fast bowlers bowled Nathan was the one who both times got the initial breakthrough to start the roll on. He's developing nicely and he's confident with the role he has in our team."