A Fi’fer Spinner sends Aussie hopes soaring

Peter Lalor in Galle, from The Australian , 2 September 2011, where the article had the title “Quest for A Spinner bears Fruit”

Pic from AP

HOLD the celebrations, for it may be a mirage, but if it is not, then the long, desperate and occasionally delirious search for a spin bowler appears to be over. Nathan Lyon, the 11th man to try to fit into Shane Warne’s glittering jacket, came to the Galle Test having played just five first-class matches. He left the field two sessions later having taken 5-34 from 15 searching overs on a pitch that was a spinner’s dream. Australia had a lead of 283 with four wickets in hand at the close of play on a day that saw 16 wickets fall and only 220 runs scored. The visitors dismissed Sri Lanka for just 105, then fell to be 6-115 themselves on a pitch that is a nightmare for batsmen. Michael Clarke held together the second innings with a fighting 60 from 80 balls. He was only the third batsman to pass 30 in the game.

Australia is in a commanding position in the game, which will struggle to last four days unless the weather intervenes.

Lyon, 24, was plucked from the groundsman’s shed at the Adelaide Oval and has barely had time to get the soil from beneath his fingernails before pulling on a Test cap and the bowler’s jacket. “It has been one of the best days of my life, best couple of days, receiving the baggy green from Greg Chappell and taking five wickets on debut,” he said. The unassuming former country cricketer had only 14 first-class wickets to his name before this match.

Captain Michael Clarke decided, on the evidence of just two scalps in the practice match, that the off-spinner had a certain wicket-taking aggression about him that he liked. Lyon tossed the ball up, gave it a rip and gave himself a chance to knock over batsmen on these dusty decks. His hunch proved right when the spinner became the first Australian since the colourful Arthur Coningham in 1894-95 to take a wicket with his first ball in Test cricket. Lyon had caught the edge of Kumar Sangakkara’s bat and Clarke held a good low catch at first slip. The slow bowler ended the fielding innings in the same sensational way he began it, plucking a diving right-handed caught and bowled to send the last Sri Lankan batsman on his way.

 The Australians were magnificent in the field, holding everything that went to hand. It has been some time since they seemed so alert and so impeccable. Test debutant Trent Copeland, the lanky bowler who is also from country NSW, put his hand up as an early nomination for the day’s fairytale by removing opener and captain Tillakaratne Dilshan with his second ball.

He joined an exclusive club of Australians who had taken a wicket in their first over of Test cricket, but Lyon was to go one better before the morning was out. “I was stoked to be here with Trent,” Lyon said. “To make your debut with someone you grew up with – we came from the same zone in NSW cricket – was something pretty special.”

Lyon said he wanted to roll the pitch up and take it with him everywhere, but when asked as a professional groundsman what he thought of it, he replied that he was playing cricket and not thinking of work. Copeland proved he had more to give by running out the dangerous Mahela Jayawardene with a backhand flick that would have done the debonair and dextrous Mark Waugh proud.

If that was not enough to make the Australians happy, three wickets in 10 reversing deliveries from Shane Watson certainly was. The opening batsman had the ball hooping into the middle order pads and was aided by the uneven bounce that upset a few of his countrymen the day before. Watson finished with 3-11 from six overs, but had the shine taken off his day when he was dismissed first ball of the second innings by Chanaka Welegedara, caught superbly at point.

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Filed under Australian cricket, baggy green, cricket and life, performance, player selections, Sangakkara, shane warne

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