Yardley puts his spin on fast track: Let Lyon play
Nathan Lyon ... has recieved backing from Bruce Yardley. Photo: Pat Scala
BRUCE YARDLEY, a man who showed it was possible to carve a successful career bowling off-spin at the WACA Ground, has urged Australia to resist the temptation to play an all-pace attack in Perth by picking Nathan Lyon in the series decider.
One of Australia's most successful finger-spinners, Yardley was confident Lyon had the nous and skill to succeed at the traditionally pace-friendly venue if given the chance.
''I'd play Lyon, no risk,'' Yardley said. ''You've got to have some variety in your attack. I think he will bowl very well there.
''He's taken 50 wickets at no time at all. I rate him highly. I reckon he can go somewhere.''
Lyon's hopes of making the XI lifted on Wednesday when all-rounder Shane Watson confirmed he was fit to bowl, but speculation remains that Australia will sacrifice the spinner in order to blast the Proteas out with speed.
Yardley believes five fast bowlers would be overkill, even in Perth.
''If Watson's fit to bowl then they can leave a quick out, can't they?'' said Yardley, whose 126 Test wickets as an off-spinner for Australia is bettered only by Ashley Mallett.
An all-pace strategy has served the hosts well in recent years. It delivered Australia their only win in the disastrous Ashes campaign two years ago and last summer the hapless Indians were no match for the pace quartet of Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus, Mitchell Starc and Ryan Harris, and were beaten in three days.
Australia have played a spinner in Perth just twice in the five years since Shane Warne's retirement after the 2006-07 Ashes, including in 2008 when Jason Krejza was part of an attack that could not defend a fourth-innings target of 414 against South Africa.
In Lyon's favour, however, he is shaping as the best spinner to have emerged in the post-Warne era although his failure to bowl Australia to victory on the final day in Adelaide was noted by Michael Clarke and Mickey Arthur, who both hold votes at the selection table.
But Clarke and Arthur are also strong believers in the value of spin bowling. Arthur, then the Proteas coach, included left-armer Paul Harris in Perth in 2008, and picked Michael Beer for every home game when he was at the helm at Western Australia.
Lyon has played just the one first-class game in Perth but performed well on Sheffield Shield debut last year, collecting six wickets at 33.
Selectors, particularly the Perth-based chairman, John Inverarity, will also be aware of the modest record of spin at the venue this summer. Spinners have claimed only eight of the 101 wickets to have fallen in Shield games.
Yardley, despite playing during an era when the WACA Ground was feared for its ability to yield lightning pace and steep bounce, was able to succeed in the west.
He claimed 112 first-class wickets at 25 at the venue. These include 19 victims in five Tests at less than 26 each.
He said the WACA's Ground's traits, which helped the quicks, could also be turned into weapons for a spinner. ''I never used to bowl any differently at the WACA because I knew it was going to give me some pace and bounce, and I'd have some lovely breezes to curve it,'' Yardley said. ''You can't just fire the ball in one direction at the WACA, you've got to use the wind and breezes and create curve, loop and turn - Lyon can do that.
''I think he'll learn from the Adelaide Test. I don't think he bowled badly at all.''
If Australia were to play four quicks, Yardley would like to see Mitchell Johnson get a game due to his hot record at the ground.
''They'll be tempted to do that,'' Yardley said. ''But I'd still like to see Lyon go in.''