Australia off-spinner Nathan Lyon was dropped from the playing XI of the third ODI against India at MCG on Thursday after an insipid performance in the first two games. In the first ODI, the right-armer gave away 50 runs in his 10 over, while in the second ODI, he conceded 59 runs in his full quota of overs. He failed to get any wickets in the two matches. But despite being dropped, Lyon was praised by skipper Aaron Finch before the team for the final ODI was announced.
Speaking to reporters in Melbourne, Finch said, “I thought the way Gaz (Lyon) has bowled has been really impressive. (He has) bowled really well quite defensively, which I think for his role was pretty important.”
The 31-year-old is Australia’s undisputed first-choice spinner in the Test format, having played 84 matches and taken 339 wickets since his debut against Sri Lanka in 2011. However, the spinner has struggled to make the same impact in limited overs cricket. Despite his prowess with the red ball, Lyon has not been a regular in the team in the shorter format and has played just 17 ODIs. In the final ODI, Adam Zampa will replace Lyon as the slow bowling option in the team.
The captain added that despite hit for a few sixes in the two games, Lyon managed to bowl a good share of dot balls. “He’s bowling against some pretty world-class (batsmen) … some all-timers, really. When he keeps bowling that well he will get rewarded eventually,” he said.
Finch, who is struggling with his form of late, further expressed that he is frustrated with his batting and needs to play his natural game. “I am little bit frustrated. I am trying to bat a little bit longer for one thing. When you are searching for runs, you can be searching for the right recipe, and over the last couple of days, I have had a look at footage. I have seen things that have worked out when I got a hundred for Australia last, and what didn’t,” the captain said.
“I want to give myself the best chance. Maybe, I have been too tentative in the last couple games and letting pressure build up,” he added.
The right-handed batsman was dropped from the Test squad after scoring just 97 runs in 6 innings, and has 12 runs in the first two ODIs. But the 32-year-old added that he still believes he is a good player. “That’s always a fine balance between attack and hanging in there, waiting for the right time to be aggressive and take on the opposition. I still feel I am a very good player,” he said.
“I think 13 international hundreds suggest I do know what is required. It is about seeing through the initial part and putting pressure back on the bowlers. It is just about going back to my natural game, letting it flow and finding the right rhythm,” he added.
Speaking on the preparation for the upcoming World Cup, Finch said: “It’s about giving him (Carey) opportunity to perform. He has been shuffled around a lot, but we want to have some consistency and allow him to play a game that he is pretty comfortable with, opening the batting in ODIs and T20s. We will have to wait and see how (David) Warner and (Steve) Smith shape up.”
He added: “We want to try and have as many bases covered in India and Pakistan series ahead of the World Cup. If we can have 3-4 guys in opening, middle and finishing, that will give us a lot of flexibility in the batting.”
He further praised Australia’s middle-order. “There has been a lot of talk about the middle overs, and the way we have played their spin so far, 3-115 from 22 overs in Sydney, 1-115 in Adelaide. There has been a lot of improvement,” he said.
“The mindset in particular from the last couple months has been really good. To be able to get 286 and 298 back-to-back on slow wickets in Sydney and brutal conditions in Adelaide was good. Shaun Marsh has been outstanding. It is good how we have stuck to our game plans and executed them,” he added.
The 3-match ODI series is currently levelled at 1-1 between the two teams with the deciding match to be played at MCG on Friday. “We are very keen to win the series. It has been a while since we have won one,” Finch said. “Coming up against a real powerful Indian line-up, there have been some positives particularly with the bat and there has been a lot of improvement in the last 8-10 months to be really proud of in the two games. It’s 1-1 also because our bowlers have been outstanding. A lot of improvement can be made but a lot to be proud of in this series as well. Winning the series is our main focus,” he added.