first_img Support The Guardian Since you’re here… Share via Email Who can rescue the Ashes for England and be a match-winner in Perth? Ashes 2017-18 Pinterest Twitter Twelve months ago Lyon was no national treasure; instead he was on the brink of being dropped by an ailing national team. Now he is the linchpin of the side. Of Australian spinners only Shane Warne has taken more Test wickets; among Englishmen, he has waltzed past Graeme Swann, who played his last Test in Perth four years ago, and he has Derek Underwood (297) in his sights. Lyon, who has already taken 11 wickets in two Tests, now has 280 in total. In the past he might have been left out at the Waca; not any more.At the start of this century finger spinners were on the endangered species list. Australia had two brilliant wrist-spinners in Warne and Stuart MacGill; England lamented that they had no one of similar quality after experimenting hopefully with Ian Salisbury. Nasser Hussain, as England captain, always explained that he was desperate for someone “with mystery”. Instead they had to settle for the dependable rather than devastating Ashley Giles, a noble English spinner but as mysterious as fish and chips.Since then we can find numerous reasons – relating to pitches perhaps, or batting techniques – to account for the renaissance of the finger spinner, but one explanation stands clear: the evolution of the decision review system. It has changed how batsmen bat and spin bowlers bowl.Now the mode of dismissal that batsmen fear the most against finger spinners is the lbw, especially when off-spinners are bowling to left-handers or left-armers to right-handers. Two decades ago the imperfect forward defensive stroke, where the ball met the pad rather than the bat, very seldom led to an lbw dismissal. The pad was the second line of defence or, quite frequently, the first. Umpires kept their fingers down. Now there is the imperative to use the bat since this generation of umpires, having studied all those replays, is not shy of giving lbws when the batsman’s front foot is down the pitch. Australia sport By the same token the spinners are now aiming to hit that front pad. As a consequence the tendency for the finger spinner is to bowl faster. Monty Panesar at his best was a beneficiary of the new willingness to give lbws, fizzing the ball down and if the batsman misjudged the length he was in business. So too, more skilfully, was Swann, who became a great tormentor of left-handers, just like Lyon in this series. So far 10 of Lyon’s 11 victims have been left-handers, the odd man out being Chris Woakes in Brisbane, who missed a half-volley at the start of his innings.Another problem for England is that Lyon is now a damn fine bowler. In Brisbane he may have bowled a little wide to the left-handers but he rectified that in Adelaide. He can fizz the ball at close to 60mph. His control of length has been immaculate and he has managed to get the ball to dip at the end of its flight path, which is nirvana for a spinner; it means that the batsman might misjudge the length. He is turning the screw on a side under pressure.The ball is less likely to turn at the Waca, which explains the Australian plans to bolster their bowling with the inclusion of Mitchell Marsh; so it may be easier to attack Lyon successfully. So far the English right-handers have survived against him with relatively little trouble and here the boundaries are so big square of the wicket that those may sometimes be converted into twos. If the ball is not turning much it should be easier to hit him straight.Unless he is made to bowl badly he remains a trial for England’s plethora of left-handers – if only because the attempts to attack him so far, usually instigated by Moeen Ali, have failed. It will be a brave and gifted batsman who knocks The Goat off his Yuletide perch. Share on Twitter Facebook Topics Reuse this content Australia cricket team Nathan Lyon Share on LinkedIn … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we made the choice to keep our reporting open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We hope you will consider supporting us today. We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Cricket Share on WhatsApp Read more Share on Facebook features It feels unprecedented before a big match at the Waca that batsmen should spend time fretting about playing against an off-spinner. Here the talk has always been about pace and bounce and how to counteract it. Now there is the suggestion that the pitch might not be so pacy which means spin bowling could be more important. But there is another factor: according to their spin bowling coach, John Davison, Australia have the best spin bowler in the world in their team – and England have not been playing him too well.There is even a fast-expanding fad this Christmas in Australia of putting a picture of The Goat, as Nathan Lyon is affectionately known here, on top of the Christmas tree, where the fairy or the angel usually sits. I promise I have not made this up; take a look at Cricket Australia’s website. Perhaps the England and Wales Cricket Board’s website could conjure something similar with the ghosts of Christmas past. In the season of goodwill a few images of Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen in absolute harmony, hugging not headbutting, with their drinks still residing harmlessly in their glasses, might cheer everyone up. Moeen Ali of England is hit on the pads by a Nathan Lyon delivery and dismissed for lbw. 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