Arthur hints at Lyon inclusion
Australia coach Mickey Arthur has given his strongest indication yet that his side will field three fast bowlers and spinner Nathan Lyon in the first Test against South Africa in Brisbane.
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As a result one of James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus will miss out against the Proteas for the clash starting this Friday, unless conditions change.
The loss of key all-rounder Shane Watson to injury has not prompted a bowling reshuffle, with Arthur's heart set on bringing in South Australia tweaker Lyon against a daunting South Africa batting line-up.
This is despite calls from former Test stars Matthew Hayden and Darren Lehmann to spare him from likely punishment at the pace-friendly Gabba.
The coach met with captain Michael Clarke, high performance manager Pat Howard and curator Kevin Mitchell on Monday morning to discuss the pitch expected for the first Test of the summer.
Neither that conversation, nor Lyon's uninspiring form on the domestic front, has changed Arthur's firm belief that the often-maligned Lyon is the man for this particular job.
"We're pretty confident we're going to get a very good Gabba wicket which increases the likelihood of us playing a spinner," Arthur said.
"If everything's equal we'll probably go in with a spinner, which means there's three guys going for four positions.
"We'll see how that unfolds during the week. We might change, in terms of the weather, it might play a role.
"We could go with an all-pace attack, I don't know. As it stands we would like to play a spinner."
Lyon's recent performances - particularly at the Gabba - leave plenty to be desired.
Queensland wicketkeeper Chris Hartley last month described him as 'the type of guy that if you put a bit of pressure on him, you might be able to score'.
That comment was prompted by Lyon's unflattering match figures of two for 128 away to the Bulls, before his struggles continued with nought for 97 against Tasmania at the Adelaide Oval.
South Africa's recent history against spin suggests they will not be troubled by him. England's Graeme Swann took four wickets at an average of 77 in two Tests earlier this year.
Arthur, however, is disinterested in any criticism of Lyon, 24, who he sees as a long-term fixture in the Australian side.
"Nathan's gone okay," Arthur said.
"Any guy that's averaging 24 in over 13 or 14 Test matches can bowl.
"(We've) never, ever doubted Nathan's ability. What we're hoping is when he comes into the environment, he gets the lift he needs because we're backing Nathan Lyon at the moment.
"Michael, myself and the selection panel think that Nathan Lyon is our best spinner and will be for a long period of time. We want to give him that confidence.
"We'll assess him later, I'll have my one-on-one with him to see where he is at and what we need to do to get him right to play quite a big role for us in this Test series and in the future as well."