Australia vs India, 4th Test, Brisbane

In the week of his 100th Test match and perhaps his 400th wicket, Nathan Lyon finds himself on familiar ground: the unsteady kind.

Lyon is currently mired in one of the worst series of his career, as India take him for near enough to 60 runs per wicket with one Test to play. He is facing the types of critiques that have been familiar throughout a tenure in which he has not bowled a doosra or carrom ball, and occasionally lapsed into bouts of predictability that have caused observers to pine for that more traditionally Australian variety of spin bowler: the leggie.

Perhaps the most indecipherable wristspinner of them all, Muttiah Muralitharan, chimed in via an interview with Michael Vaughan: “Will we see another golden age of Test spin bowling? Will a spinner reach 700 or 800 wickets? Ashwin has a chance because he is a great bowler. Other than that I don’t think any younger bowler coming in will go to 800. Maybe Nathan Lyon is not good enough to reach it. He is close to 400 but he has had to play many, many matches to get there.”

The reference to R Ashwin was pointed, given that in this series, India’s offspinner has had comfortably the better of things, with plans and execution that have at times run rings around the likes of Steven Smith and, most dramatically, Matthew Wade. By contrast, Lyon has found himself bowling too straight and perhaps at times too fast, while also losing the sort of drift that might have usually dragged Indian bats away from their front pads for bowled, lbw or caught in close.

Most critically, Lyon was unable to bowl India out on the final day of the SCG Test, not helped by uncharacteristic dropped catches by his captain Tim Paine, and also the lack of a sizeable foot hole outside the off stump to the right-handers. Such scenarios have followed Lyon around to an extent over his career, from Adelaide against South Africa in 2012, to Headingley against England in 2019 and now the SCG against India.

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