LICKING HIS LIPS: Australia’s No.1 spinner, Nathan Lyon, bowls during a net session in Adelaide this week.
LICKING HIS LIPS: Australia’s No.1 spinner, Nathan Lyon, bowls during a net session in Adelaide this week.

Hosts on a good wicket with improving spinner

CRICKET: Nathan Lyon is expected to play a key role in the second Ashes Test at the Adelaide Oval, starting tomorrow, three years after being part of the curating crew preparing the wicket.

On that occasion during the 2010-11 season England won by an innings and 71 runs on its way to a decisive 3-1 series win.

Three years on and the New South Welshman, 26, has already played a big part in putting the Aussies 1-0 up in this series and more is expected of him in the City of Churches.

Lyon could only manage one wicket as South Africa held on for a draw in the last Test in Adelaide last year.

But after grabbing four wickets during Australia's first Test win in Brisbane, vice-captain Brad Haddin said Lyon now had the ability to turn games.

Lyon took the wickets of Ian Bell and Matt Prior in successive balls in England's first innings at the Gabba before claiming the crucial scalps of Alastair Cook and Prior again as the tourists battled to save the game in their second innings.

Haddin said Lyon was now a key component of the Aussies' bowling attack and was improving all the time.

"He's starting to get more confidence in what he's doing and the last game is a perfect example," he said. "He's developing nicely. He's confident with where he's at and the role he has in our team."

Lyon, who reached the milestone of 50 Test match wickets quicker than any other Australian off-spinner, has done most of his bowling for his country rather than in the Sheffield Shield and Haddin reckons that has stood him in good stead.

"The big thing is he's learning on the job," Haddin said. "He's not that experienced at first-class level. (But) he's played 26 Tests now.

"As well as our fast bowlers, (at the Gabba) Nathan was the one who both times got the initial breakthrough to start the roll on."

Australian skipper Michael Clarke did not train at the Adelaide Oval yesterday, a day after rolling his right ankle during fielding drills.

But Shane Watson said Clarke would be training hard today ahead of tomorrow's first day and would definitely play.

"It's more precautionary today," Watson said of Clarke's absence yesterday.

"Obviously Michael batted beautifully in the first Test as well, so his preparation was always going to be very good anyway.

"I know the medical staff and Michael are very confident. It was just giving him a break today and he'll be training flat-out Wednesday, ready to go for Thursday."

Meanwhile, Adelaide Oval's head curator, Damian Hough, said he expected the new drop-in pitch would be a typical Adelaide wicket - if a little slower.

"We are trying to produce a typical Adelaide Oval pitch, something that will be good to bat on and something that will hopefully spin as the game goes on," he said.

"We think it's pretty close to what we have had in previous years. It might be a little bit slower this year, being brand new."