Australia offspinner expects UAE-like decks in Pakistan
Three days before their first Test in Pakistan for 24 years, Australia held their first training session in Rawalpindi in Tuesday, in a bid to quickly acclimatise to conditions. Having played a guessing game so far, Australia received some answers when a dry pitch with little grass covering was unveiled to suggest there could be toil for the bowlers, particularly at the start.
“It looks similar to a UAE wicket at the moment, there isn’t much grass on it and I dare say it will be pretty shiny on day one,” said Lyon, who in Asia has taken 95 wickets in 19 Tests at 31.24 – fractionally under his overall mark. “Expecting it to be pretty nice to bat on the first couple of days but hopefully spin and reverse swing will come into it.”
Lyon’s assessment would seem to suggest Australia’s attack requires another specialist spinner, but he threw a curveball after revealing the slow bowlers were getting little assistance during their centre wicket practice.
“We were training three pitches over and it wasn’t spinning that much,” he said. “It had a bit more grass than the match wicket. It’s [the match wicket] not the type of wicket I would have produced as a curator,” he quipped.
In the lead-up, Australia have emphasised a “flexible” approach and having “all bases covered” – a cliché Australia’s most successful offspinner too sprouted – but tough decisions are looming, particularly on whether to add a specialist spinner to complement Lyon.
“I don’t have a preference,” Lyon said when asked who he would rather partner up with. “Both Mitch and Ash are bowling extremely well in the nets and putting their hands up for selection. Sweppo has been around our squad for a long time and always asks questions. Whenever he gets his opportunity, I have no doubt he will take it and run with it.
“So it’s going to be an interesting conversation that Andrew McDonald, [chair of selectors] George Bailey and Pat Cummins have in the lead-up.”
While diplomatic about a potential Swepson-Agar selection debate, Lyon wasn’t shy about prognosticating over Australia’s first away Test series since the Ashes in 2019. “My mindset is to come here to Pakistan and win 3-0,” said Lyon, whose recent prediction of an Ashes whitewash fell marginally short.
“Obviously it’s a totally different challenge to what we’re used to at home. It’s going to be a big challenge, but it’s a young and exciting Australian Test squad and we are coming off a spectacular summer which has given us a lot of confidence.”
Lyon admitted to being taken aback over the shock departure of the team’s long-time physio David Beakley, just days before the tour, but said the tourists remained upbeat amid new surroundings.
“We don’t make the big decisions on that, so we’ll leave it up to CA and everyone else involved,” he said. “It is disappointing, but we’ve just got to move on. The hospitality in Pakistan has been unbelievable. It’s been very enjoyable so far. To be the first Australian team to come here to play [in 24 years]…it’s a pretty proud moment.”