Lyon cracks the Asian challenge

Lyon has shown tremendous improvement in Asia in the last three tours compared to his previous tours
Bangladesh v Australia, 2nd Test, Chittagong September 07, 2017

Record-breaking Lyon

Nathan Lyon was on a roll in the two-Test series in Bangladesh. His Chittagong match-haul of 13 for 154 was his second ten-for, and also his best figures in Tests. In fact, he became only the third off-spinner from Australia and the first in over 110 years to take two ten-wicket hauls. The 22 wickets he has taken in this series against Bangladesh is the joint second-highest in any two-match series, next only to Rangana Herath's 23-wicket haul against Pakistan in 2014.

Solving the Asia puzzle

Lyon's first three Asian tours - to Sri Lanka, India and UAE between 2011 and 2014 - were nightmarish. He averaged 49.11, and took a wicket once every 14 overs. The series against Pakistan in the UAE was especially poor, when he managed only three wickets from 660 deliveries.

However, he has learnt from those experiences and come back strongly on his next three tours. In nine Tests in Asia since 2015, Lyon has picked up 57 wickets, averaging one every eight overs. Among all the bowlers who have bowled in Asia in this period, Lyon has the second-best strike-rate, ahead of subcontinent-specialists Yasir Shah, Ravindra Jadeja and Shakib Al Hasan. He has also taken five five-wicket hauls and now has the second most five-fors for Australia in Asia, behind Shane Warne.

Left is right

Like most offspinners, Lyon is at his best against left-hand batsmen, and this Bangladesh line-up gave him plenty of opportunity to be at his best. Against a top-order that included five left-handers, Lyon was lethal: of the 22 wickets he took in the series, 15 were of left-handers, whom he dismissed at an average of 10.46. The right-handers, however, made him work much harder; he averaged 22.57 against them. He took a wicket every 29 balls against the left-handers compared to one every 53 balls against right-hand batsmen. Imrul Kayes was dismissed three times in 39 balls, scoring just four runs, while Shakib Al Hasan scored 37 from 89, and was out thrice as well.

Of those 15 dismissals of left-handers, 13 were from around the stumps, at an average of 11.30. When bowling to right-handers, he took seven wickets from over the stumps, at an average of 17.42, demonstrating an ability to bowl effectively from both sides of the stumps.

Lyon v right and left-handers in the Bangladesh series
Batsman type Wkts Ave SR
 Right-hand batsmen  15  10.46  29.0
 Left-hand batsmen  7  22.57  52.6

Over his entire career, he averages 34.75 against right-handers and 25.50 against the left, but in Asia the difference is even starker. On his first three tours, Lyon averaged over 35 runs and took a wicket every 10 overs against the left-handers. Having bowled a lot in these conditions, Lyon's record has made a stark improvement.

Lyon in Asia from 2011-14
Batting Style Wkts Ave SR
 Right-hand batsman  22  51.54  79.5
 Left-hand batsman  4  35.75  61.0

Lyon in Asia from 2015-17
Batting Style Wkts Ave SR
 Right-hand batsman  33  29.66  60.0
 Left-hand batsman  24  13.62  30.9

The second-innings challenge

On pitches that usually tend to wear pretty rapidly, Lyon had been strangely ineffective in the second innings in Asia before this series. His second-innings average in Asia, prior to this series, was 49.47, compared to 32.43 in the first.

However with his two consecutive five-fors in the second innings against Bangladesh, Lyon has improved on those numbers too. In this series, Lyon took 12 second-innings wickets at 11.83, compared to 10 in the first innings at 17.30.

Lyon is only 29 and his experience in Asian conditions would only help him further these extraordinary numbers. In Lyon, perhaps, Australia have found a worthy successor to Warne.

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