Nathan Lyon slaps down Shane Warne, wants tandem with Mitchell Swepson

Nathan Lyon has dismissed Shane Warne’s suggestion that he be rested against New Zealand at the SCG to make room for a Mitchell Swepson debut, indicating that he would prefer to bowl in tandem with the Queensland legspinner in Australia’s last Test until a tour of Bangladesh in June.

Warne, whose opinions have become ubiquitous from the commentary box, had trained with Swepson during the MCG Test and floated the idea of resting Lyon so that Swepson could play his first Test alongside the pacemen Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson in a match Australia will aim to win to secure a first clean sweep of a summer’s Tests since 2013-14 against England.

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However, Lyon gave short shrift to the idea, pointing out that Warne himself had always been loath to give up his spot to any other spin bowlers, notably his longtime offsider Stuart MacGill, who performed ably for Australia whenever the Victorian was unavailable due to injury or a year-long drugs ban for using a prohibited substance in 2003.

“Did Warney ever want a rest and give Stuart MacGill a go? I won’t be resting,” Lyon said. “There’s always talk about two spinners, but Mitch has been bowling brilliantly for Queensland. It’s great we’re able to have a very versatile squad for whatever conditions we’re faced with we can come up with a decent side.

“He’s a great fella to start off with and he gives it a rip which is what I really love to see about all spinners. If we can give it a rip and try and spin the ball, that’s our main focus. I’m a big fan of Mitch, it’s great to see him around the squad. If he gets his chance, fingers crossed we can have a great combination together.

“I don’t think it affects my role at all. It’s exciting we potentially have the opportunity to play two spinners but in saying that I haven’t been to the SCG for two months so don’t know what the conditions will be like. The BBL wickets they look like they have been fantastic.”

The likes of Michael Beer, Steve O’Keefe, Ashton Agar and Jon Holland have partnered Lyon in the past, with Marnus Labuschagne’s wrist spin providing a more recent spin tandem option for the captain Tim Paine. Lyon said he had been impressed by how Swepson had improved his game, notably the ability to lock down the scoring rate in addition to trying to spin the ball hard and turn it past the bat.

“I had some really good chats with him during the week sitting on the boundary and watching him bowl in the nets,” Lyon said. “I actually haven’t seen him bowl in a game for a while. He seems really clear in his plans and we spoke about not changing when he gets the opportunity at the highest level. What’s worked is what has got him to the level, if he gets the opportunity I just said ‘stay strong to yourself, back yourself, what’s worked in state cricket if you give it a long enough chance in international cricket you’ll get some reward’.

“Legspinners bring different opportunities to the game. I really enjoy bowling with another spinner. We get to get through our overs quite quickly and feel like we can build pressure.”

Perhaps the best precondition for Swepson to debut at the SCG is the fact that the Australia top order have been functioning strongly all summer, not once giving their bowlers less than 400 to defend, and pushing through occasionally challenging conditions, as was the case on Boxing Day, to forge the first-innings scores that allow the bowlers to be at their best.

“It’s amazing. As bowlers we’ve always said if we’re able to get a day off our feet through the game we’ll more than likely take 20 wickets for us,” Lyon said. “Our batters have been absolutely incredible for us off the back of David Warner, Marnus and Steve and now you see Travis Head chipping in this week, which was absolutely exceptional.”

Despite the vast margins of victory in four out of four Test so far, which have taken Australia into a clear second place on the World Test Championship table ahead of the inaugural final at Lord’s in 2021, Lyon said that the team was still a long way short of the finished article. In fact, Lyon’s desire for continuous improvement is such that he would not be happy even if Australia do scale the aforementioned summit, where they would be likely to face the league leaders India.

“We’ve got a lot of areas to improve but that’s our goal as a team. Our goal together is pretty special, if we keep heading in that right direction and training each and every day to get better, especially in the areas we need to get better as a team, I think the sky’s the limit for this group,” Lyon said. “There’s a good mixture of youth and experience, it’s full of energy and excitement. I’ve always said I’ll never conquer this game of cricket, I don’t think anyone in this room will conquer this game of cricket. I think we can get better in every facet to be honest with you. It will be a hard journey but it’s going to be some great reward at the end of the tunnel.”