Ashes: Nathan Lyon can roar for Aussies - McGrath

Nathan Lyon watches Test action from the balcony. Glenn McGrath wants him in the middle. Picture: GettyNathan Lyon watches Test action from the balcony. Glenn McGrath wants him in the middle. Picture: Getty
Nathan Lyon watches Test action from the balcony. Glenn McGrath wants him in the middle. Picture: Getty
AUSTRALIA have hit rock bottom with their defeat to England in the second Ashes Test and spinner Nathan Lyon must be recalled at the expense of Ashton Agar if they are to turn things around, according to fast bowling great Glenn McGrath.

The 43-year-old believes Australia’s situation is salvageable if the top six batsmen can put a higher price on their wickets and off-spinner Lyon is in the team when the third Test begins at Old Trafford on 1 August.

“They say that you have to hit the bottom before you can start to get back up. And that is where this Australia team are right now, rock bottom,” he wrote in his newspaper column yesterday. “If these players have not heard the wake-up call by now, then they do not deserve to be in the Australia team. They have to turn this series around now.

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“If they don’t, some of the blokes in this squad could find their international careers end with the fifth Test at The Oval.”

Teenager Agar’s sparkling 98 with the bat on debut was the highlight of the first test for Australia, but his left-arm finger spinning has earned him just two wickets at a cost of 248 runs in the two matches so far.

“Nathan Lyon, between his debut in 2011 and the start of this series, took as many wickets in Test cricket as any other Australian bowler, 76 at an average of 33. He should start the next Test,” said McGrath. “I also expect Fawad Ahmed, who just took eight wickets in a match for Australia A in Zimbabwe, to come into the squad.

“I like Ashton Agar and admire his energy but, on these dry pitches, we need a spinner who can make more of an impact on a match than he is able to at this early stage in his career.”

McGrath’s expectations for Pakistan-born leg-spinner Ahmad, who was fast-tracked through the citizenship process to make him available for the series, might not be fulfilled.

Australia coach Darren Lehmann has said he will not be looking outside his squad for reinforcements ahead of the Old Trafford Test, albeit before it was announced that James Pattinson had been ruled out of the series by injury.

McGrath’s recipe for improving the batting was not personality change but simply that the batsmen play better, starting with under-fire opener Shane Watson.

The former paceman said, like England quick James Anderson, he would be targeting Watson’s weakness for being out lbw if he was bowling against him. “He has always promised a lot and now he has to deliver,” added McGrath. “I think he needs to score at least a couple of hundreds in what is left of this series, because he is one of those guys who is, potentially, at crunch time in his Test career.”

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Meanwhile, England remain hopeful over Kevin Pietersen’s fitness for the third Ashes Test.

The batsman was not on the field at Lord’s, having suffered a calf strain. He provided an update on his recovery on Monday, tweeting that he was “stuck on a sofa tightly fastened to an ice machine” in a bid to be ready for Old Trafford.

And Anderson told Sky Sports News yesterday: “As far as I know, it was a strain so we’ll keep our fingers crossed that he’ll be fine for the Old Trafford Test.”

There are no such problems with another of England’s batting line-up after Joe Root continued his rapid rise by making 180 in the second innings at Lord’s.

“He’s been amazing,” said Anderson of the 22-year-old Yorkshireman. “There’s a lot of pressure on this series and for someone so young to take it in his stride, it’s a great credit to him.”

Anderson expects his home track in Manchester to follow the pattern established so far in the series, with reverse swing to the fore and help also available for spinner Graeme Swann, who took nine wickets last week, including five for 44 in the first innings to add his name to the honours board at HQ.

“I can’t imagine it’ll be too different from what we’ve had in the first two games, so Swanny should be involved at some point,” he said. “Reverse swing is very common at Old Trafford and it’s very dry, with the weather we’ve been having, so I imagine that’s the same at the moment.”

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