Darren Lehmann has compared the wave of confidence that Nathan Lyon is riding to the self-belief that drove the greatest spin bowler of all time, Shane Warne.
Lyon took it upon himself, as the most capped player in the n team, to take the pressure off newcomers Cameron Bancroft and Tim Paine before the first Test by making himself a target with some inflammatory remarks about England.
He followed that with a standout performance at the Gabba, extracting more turn than usual at the ground and covering for the absence of an all-rounder in the n line-up by consistently tying up an end as well as being as dangerous as any of Steve Smith’s bowlers.
In the frame to finish 2017 with more Test wickets for the year than any bowler in the world, the 30-year-old has come into his own to such an extent that Lehmann, the n coach, volunteered a likeness to Warne on Tuesday.
“He kept us in the game day one. He was fantastic. He’s just grown with confidence and success breeds that,” Lehmann said.
“For him he’s actually come out of his shell a lot as well. He wants the ball day in, day out, a bit like Warney did when he played. He’s not as confident as Warney was, but he’s just really starting to lead and help the bowlers out, which is great.”
Now at the peak of his powers and seventh on the all-time list of n wicket-takers it seems hard to believe Lyon could ever have been considered expendable but he was in a very different place this time last summer.
Leading into the day-night Test in Adelaide against South Africa Lyon had almost made the Hobart Five the Hobart Six.
A handful of players from the n team were dumped for the third Test against the Proteas in Adelaide in the extraordinary fall-out from a heavy defeat at Bellerive Oval, the side’s fifth consecutive Test loss.
Joe Burns, Adam Voges, Callum Ferguson, Peter Nevill and Joe Mennie were all cast off. The chances of any returning would appear remote.
Selectors have never said as much but the word on the street was that Lyon could well have joined the ranks of those dropped for Adelaide had Steve O’Keefe not picked up the most untimely of calf injuries a day before the team was announced. Lyon had been down on confidence after a forgettable tour of Sri Lanka during which he was the subject of criticism from Lehmann and Smith,
“We talked about how he needed to perform but that was like everyone,” Lehmann recalled on Tuesday when asked whether Lyon had been in danger of the sack.
“When you get to that stage [five losses in a row] everyone needed to perform, everyone was put on notice, weren’t they? The pleasing thing is that he’s bounced back from that, and from that moment on he’s really led the attack. In the spin bowling department he’s been the only one, apart from when we go to the subcontinent but he’s been brilliant.
“That was a low part … we changed the side around and made it a youth policy if you like from a [Cricket board] directive, so for us he’s done really well.”
“He’s totally changed. He obviously had to change a few things. But he didn’t need to change much in , because you need to get the bounce. It was more when he went away from to the subcontinent he changed a few things. He did that and had success. So he started to believe he could change when he needs to, which is important.”