Echoes of Warne as masterful Lyon destroys New Zealand

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Echoes of Warne as masterful Lyon destroys New Zealand


Wellington: Shane Warne often spoke of how the key to his art was thinking less about a spot on the pitch to land the ball, and more about the sort of shot he wished the batter to play.

“I’m a little bit different,” he said once. “What a lot of people think about is a spot on the wicket. I actually think about what shot I want the batsman to play. That allows me to bowl where I want, rather than focusing on a spot or anything like that. I think about how I’m trying to get the batsman out.”

It was the good fortune of spectators at the Basin Reserve – or bad fortune if they were particularly parochial New Zealand supporters – to watch Nathan Lyon do more or less exactly what Warne once made a habit of doing as the spinner led Australia to a 172-run victory in Wellington.

Lyon’s masterful display ended what Cameron Green had begun to deliver victory for Australia in a hard-fought encounter with Tim Southee’s side where batting collapses abounded. Having entered the fourth day with hope, at 3-111, the hosts were rounded up before lunch for 196, as Lyon toasted an 11-wicket bounty in conditions that offered him all the help he could want.

Kane Williamson, Rachin Ravindra and Glenn Phillips were three of New Zealand’s batting trumps entering this match. All were coaxed into playing exactly the kind of shot Lyon wanted from them, giving up their wickets as if in a trance of the bowler’s making.

When Williamson did it on the third evening, he reacted with instant disgust at what he had done, leaving Lyon to remark that he had figured out a way past the Black Caps’ most prolific scorer – something to do with how he could not ignore deliveries on middle and leg stump as some teammates did due to the dangerous bounce on offer.

Nathan Lyon celebrates Glenn Phillips’ wicket.Credit: Getty Images

Ravindra, a superb talent, was steadily drawn into Lyon’s net over the course of several spells over two days. Quick to rock back and cut the ball on length, Ravindra was unable to resist the urge to keep doing so after Lyon and Pat Cummins posted three men for the shot.

After a couple of exploratory overs at the Bert Vance Stand end, Lyon switched back to Adelaide Road where he had done all of his bowling to that point, and where there was more variation in bounce and turn. Duly lulled, 24-year-old Ravindra tried another pet cut shot, only to miscue to an exultant Green. He walked off beaten, but perhaps a little wiser as to Lyon’s art.

Wicketkeeper Tom Blundell was a quick study for Lyon, with his tendency to work the ball to leg with a closed face. As he had done in the first innings, Lyon found the right line and shape to have Blundell squeezing a catch to short leg, this time taking just three balls to do so.

Phillips had been New Zealand’s miracle worker this game, reviving the first innings and then ploughing through the Australian middle order with his finger spin on day three. He had also spoken boldly of how a 350 chase was more than gettable.

Rachin Ravindra was lured into Lyon’s trap.

Rachin Ravindra was lured into Lyon’s trap.Credit: AP

Lyon, though, used the helpful surface in the same way he did at times in India last year. After several loopier deliveries discomforted Phillips with their steep bounce and spin, forcing him back onto the stumps, Lyon fizzed down something quicker and flatter, still turning but this time at a height to whirr unerringly into middle stump.

When Phillips was beaten, the umpire Marais Erasmus’ finger was up for lbw almost as Lyon turned to appeal. Phillips turned to walk, and needed convincing from Daryl Mitchell to ask for a forlorn review. It served only to delay the inevitable.

Only Warne and Glenn McGrath now have more five-wicket hauls for Australia than Lyon’s 24, a record that underlines his enormous value to Australia. Lyon’s average is now 30.35, the lowest it has been since November 2012.

With that, the game was broken open, leaving time for a few angry shots by the New Zealand tail in the company of the determined but surrounded Mitchell. Green contributed a wicket of his own, finding nasty bounce to glove Scott Kuggeleijn, to round off a game for which he deservedly won the player of the match award.

In years to come, this Test match will likely be remembered as one in which Green marked himself as a banker for Australia, much as a young Warne did in New Zealand 31 years ago. But it took Lyon to seal the game, with a level of mastery that Warne himself would have been delighted to see.

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