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Friday, September 2, 2011

A wicket off the first ball in Test Cricket – the feat of Nathan Lyon

Playing against Srilanka in their own yard is never easy and perhaps the ultimate test for a Spinner.  The Aussies at 115/6 are comfortably placed in the first test of the Warne-Muralidaran trophy series leading by 283 runs thanks largely due to huge 168 first run lead.   Cricket Australia is far different – Nathan Hauritz was once touted as a great prospect but Aussies have time and again taken risks resting, chopping and dropping their known players for little known, surprise selections.  Once when Peter Taylor was selected, he reportedly remarked Taylor who ? expressing his doubts  !!!

In the Manchester one-off T20, there were four debutants of which one had scored 12775 runs in Tests and 10765 in One dayers.  Yes it was Rahul Dravid once considered to be a player not scoring fast enough and even made to don  the gloves by Sourav Ganguly  to be accommodated in limited overs squad.  The rest were JC Buttler,  AD Hales (England); and AM Rahane (India).  Indians are plagued by poor performance, injuries and everything else.   Now Ravindra Jadeja the so called allrounder is replacing Gautam Gambhir in the squad for ODIs.   RP Singh, Varun Aaron and Ajinkya Rahane had already replaced Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Virender Sehwag, while Rahul Dravid, who was India's best batsman in the Test series, was included out of the blue as a reinforcement.  There seems to be a World of difference in the way different Cricket Boards are run !
Lyon joined an illustrious list consisting of A Coningham, WW Bradley, EG Arnold, GG Macaulay, MW Tate, M Henderson, HD Smith, TF Johnson, R Howorth (all prior to 1950), Intikhab Alam, RK Illingworth,  NM Kulkarni, Lakshitha.

Nathan Lyon the debutant pouched Kumara Sangakkara with his first ball in his career – joining the only Australian who had achieved it more than 100 years ago – Arthur Coningham in 1894.    Lyon has had a chequered history, starting as a curator in Canberra and surprised everyone with his inclusion in the present squad.  Earlier he had taken the job on the Adelaide Oval groundstaff, and his bowling talent was spotted by the Redbacks' Big Bash coach Darren Berry. Lyon impressed in Twenty20s for South Australia and made his first-class debut, before winning a spot in the one-day squad for Australia A's tour of Zimbabwe.  He is stated to be a classical offspinner who flights the ball and looks for wickets. 

His wicket off the first delivery was no fluke as he bundled out Lankans for 105 with figures of 15-3-34-5 !  - the other debutant Trent Copeland, struck with his second ball at international level. 16 wickets tumbled in a dusty pitch on day 2 yet this bowling performance is laudable.  Nathan Lyon became the ninth Australia spinner and 32nd Australian   to pick up a five-wicket haul on Test debut.  Copeland had Tilakaratne Dilshan flashing and taken well by Ponting off his second ball.  

If you had observed the list of the bowlers, it featured one Indian.  Had written earlier about him.  It is the tall lanky Bombay lad -  Nilesh Moreshwar Kulkarni.  In Aug 1997 Test No. 1374 at Colombo, chasing a tall Indian score in the twilight, Kulkarni came on to bowl and had Maravan Atapattu caught behind by Mongia off his very first ball in his career.

He should have felt very happy and should have dreamt of bundling Lankans perhaps forcing a follow-on et al.  Alas fate was cruel.  Lankans went on to make the highest in Test Cricket 952/6 with Sanath Jayasuriya making 340; Mahanama 225, Arvinda Desilva 126 and Nilesh’s figures in the end read 70-12-195-1.

Quite unfortunately, this left arm spinner who was quite good in domestic circuit could play only 3 tests.  In all he bowled 738 balls, gave away 332 runs and could add just one more to that of Atapattu.  He last played for India in Test no. 1539 at Chepauk where India beat Australia by 2 wickets in March 2001.  He scalped the dangerous Mathew Hayden in the second essay.  Remember that India opened with Zaheer and Ganguly.  In the second essay, Zaheer bowled 4 overs and Ganguly just one.  Tendulya bowled 12 overs, Sairaj Bahutule 9 overs, Nilesh Kulkarni had a long spell of 30 overs (30-11-70-1) and Harbhajan in his hey day bowled 41.5-20-84-8

The game is a great leveller and at times is quite harsh on some

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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