Spin king Shane Warne endorses Nathan Lyon as Australia’s go-to bowling man

Shane Warne backs Nathan Lyon as the go-to man in Australia’s bowling line-up. Photo: Morne de KlerkAustralian cricket great Shane Warne has endorsed Nathan Lyon as “the first picked” in the Test side, describing the former ACT Comets spinner as one of the “most important” in the team and a “go-to man” for captain Steve Smith.

Lyon celebrated his 50th Test in style, taking three wickets in the West Indies first innings as Australia demolished the visitors in Hobart to win by an innings and 212 runs.

Lyon is the most successful finger-spinner in Australian Test history and the only off-spinner to play 50 Tests.

But uncertainty has hovered over his position in the team for most of his career as Australia launched a search for a long-term successor to champion leg-spinner Warne.

Warne says the former Manuka Oval curator has finally put any questions about his role in the team to bed, and is adamant he will evolve now that he sits comfortably in the selection ranks.

“What a great story Nathan Lyon is. He had his knockers when he first came into the Australian side, but he’s nearly one of the first picked,” Warne said on Channel Nine.

“He’s nearly one of the most important players in the Australian side because if you didn’t have Nathan Lyon in that side, who else is there around the country?

“We’ve got some good young spinners, but [Lyon] is a go-to man for Steve Smith and he was for Michael Clarke. Just look at the Ashes series recently, [Clarke] threw the ball to [Lyon in seaming conditions. He can bowl in all conditions.”

Lyon has now claimed 175 wickets in his 50-Test career and will take his place in the line-up for the Boxing Day match at the MCG.

He is fifth on the all-time leading wicket-takers for Australian spinners, sitting behind Warne (708), Richie Benaud (248), Clarrie Grimmett (216) and Stuart MacGill (208).

Australia used 12 spinners in a wide-ranging search for a long-term successor to Warne when he retired in 2007.

Warne and former Australian wicket-keeper Ian Healy are united in the belief that Lyon now owns the mantle and will improve even more as the 28-year-old embraces selection certainty.

“He’s a good team man, his record is standing up and I reckon he’s getting more confidence because he feels like he’s part of the side, too,” Warne said.

“Every time he gets out to bowl, he’s not afraid to get the ball out there. The way he’s bowling at the moment is about as good as he’s ever bowled.]

“…[In the first-innings against the West Indies] he knew the team needed him to play a role and he did it.”

Lyon was scarcely used in the second innings on Saturday as Australia’s quicks tore through the West Indies batting line-up.

The Young junior bowled just four overs as Australia romped to an easy win.

But it was his first-innings performance that had Warne and Healy raving as he took three early wickets to trigger the West Indies’ collapse.

“For me, I was in and out of the side in 1991-92. At the Boxing Day Test match in 1992 I took 7-52 and then I knew I was in the team, after that you approach the game differently,” Warne said.

“You start thinking about how you’re going to bowl rather than am I getting a game. I think we’re seeing Nathan Lyon evolve now, a bit more expansive with his thinking.”

Healy added: “That’s really exciting, he’s in his 50th Test and he’s got such a wonderful platform that he’s laid. He’s got all that experimentation and freedom to perform … A very dependable cricketer.”

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