“It’s one of India’s tactics to come at me, which is totally fine, I’m pretty used to having guys come after me”
In the wake of Virat Kohli’s departure for India, the years-long battle between Nathan Lyon and Cheteshwar Pujara will take on still greater significance, after they teased and feinted each other in an absorbing day-one encounter in Adelaide.
Lyon, who is closing fast on 400 Test wickets and will play his 100th Test in the final match of the series, said he was eager to recommence the contest with Pujara and hinted at further plans for India’s No. 3 should he again get established for a long innings on Boxing Day at the MCG.
“Pujara is a world-class batter and he’s going to be a big challenge for us for the rest of the series,” he said. “We spoke about him in depth before the series started, it was good to see a couple of plans come off in Adelaide, but we’ve got a couple more things up our sleeve hopefully that if he does get in we can put in to deploy. He’s a world-class batter so it’s always fun challenging yourself against the best players in the world and Pujara’s definitely one of those guys.
“India will probably look to try to attack me again, especially when you look at the quality of the quick bowlers we’ve got here in the Australian side. So I think it’s one of their tactics to come at me, which is totally fine, I’m pretty used to having guys come after me but it’s just about, for me, being able to know when to attack and when to defend as well and realise who I’m bowling with at the other end and having that partnership. So it’s all fun and part of playing cricket, especially being a little spin bowler, you’re going to have a lot of guys come out and try to attack you.”
“That was one of the days when nothing went right for them and everything went right for us. So we’ve all had them, it’s part of the game of cricket”Nathan Lyon on India’s 36 all out
Lyon explained that he had worked on the pace of his deliveries over several years, quickening up by a few kilometres in part to make it more difficult for batsmen to run down the pitch to him in the fashion Pujara has favoured.
“I think I’ve been trying to work on that for many years now with John Davison, who is the guy I go to a lot about my spin bowling,” Lyon said. “I think it really depends on who you’re bowling to and the conditions, so I think over the last four or five years my pace has probably gone up a couple of kilometres.
“But I think it’s more about the shape you’re able to generate on the ball, if I’m being honest. I think that’s the most crucial thing – you can bowl at any pace but if you can have that shape on the ball that’s going to be the most dangerous thing. It’s something I’ve been working on for a few years now and hopefully keep getting better with it.”
There were, Lyon said, numerous technical “tells” that batsmen offer to indicate they are going to come down the pitch, something he has watched while entering his delivery stride. “I think it’s all about getting the right pace for the conditions but it’s also looking at little keys,” he said. “I can’t really reveal them but I know there’s a few different guys who have different techniques when they come down so they actually have different triggers as well. So as a bowler you’re always looking out for these little triggers that hopefully you can get one step ahead of them.
“So there’s something I’ve noticed in a couple of guys that they change a little bit when they want to come down the wicket, so it’s all part of bowling spin, you’ve got to try to take note of these little things and make sure you’re bowling your best ball no matter what.”
As for whether India would be able to recover from being shot out for 36 in Adelaide, Lyon reflected on his own experience of the 2011 Cape Town Test – when he top scored in an Australian total of just 47 before the touring team beat South Africa in Johannesburg to square the series – as an example of how the game can turn.
“That was one of the days when nothing went right for them and everything went right for us,” Lyon said. “So we’ve all had them, it’s part of the game of cricket.”
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig