Nathan Lyon vs Moeen Ali: It’s spin that will play a key role in the Ashes

The cricket world braces itself for the greatest Test rivalry. The Ashes starts in less than a week from now and already there are speculations about the starting XI of both – England and Australia. The sides wear a pretty balance look but both the camps know that spin will play a key role in the series. Knowing the same, England have named both – Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid in their 13-men squad for the first Test at Cardiff, which starts onJuly 8.

Both, Australia and England have a balanced pace attack but with the series being played in England, the role of home side seamers James Anderson and Stuart Broad will be of vital importance. In helpful conditions for swing bowling, they will be a potent threat with the red ball.  There are not many spinners in either of the sides who are in contention for a spot but England and Australia both know that spin will play a significant role. It may come down to Moeen against Australia’s Nathan Lyon.

England have a quite a few left-handers in their batting line-up which makes off-spinner Lyon’s presence more crucial. Also, Australia has two left arm pace bowlers who will invariably create a rough for Lyon when he bowls to right-handers. Lyon has been in a good form and in the recently concluded Test series in West Indies, he went on to become the most successful off-spinner for Australia. In the Adelaide Test against India in 2014, Lyon turned the game in Australia’s favour against a side that boast of their spin playing abilities. He registered 12 wickets, helping Australia win the match.

Lyon isn’t one of the trending contemporary mystery bowlers and like former England cricketer Graeme Swann; he is a classical off-spin bowler, who relies on flight, drift and altering lengths. Swann has made good use of the English conditions and got the ball to drift, no reason why Lyon won’t be able to do repeat the same. Spin has played a key role in the Ashes played at England in the past. The conditions help drift and Australian spin maestro Shane Warne has made use of it and is amongst the most successful bowlers who ever bowled in the country.

Talking of his current form, Lyon may prove extremely lethal and England batsmen can’t afford to let him settle down.

For England, though Adil Rashid has been selected in the 13-man squad, it’s likely that off-spinner Moeen will start in the XI. He is an all-rounder, more renowned for his batting but his magic with the cherry has caught the attention of the cricketing world. In 2014, when India toured England for five match Test series, Moeen exploited the conditions to the fullest and foxed a batting line-up that play spin well. What adds to his credentials is the fact that India didn’t have a left-hander in their middle-order apart from Ravindra Jadeja. He picked up 19 Indian wickets in the series at an average of 23. If Moeen can repeat the magic of last summer then it’s an advantage for England.

Although his recent form has not been very impressive, he’s done a decent job. Rashid, his competitor for the spot is a leg-spinner and another all-rounder, who is more renowned for his batting exploits. Rashid is yet to play a Test, therefore Moeen looks set to retain his place.

Going by form and reputation, the experienced Lyon, who has 146 Test wickets to his name, is a bigger threat. In the spin bowling department, it’s Australia who seem to hold an edge. Moeen or Lyon, who will be more impactful? That’s for the time to decide. As of now all eyes are set at Cardiff, as the first Test gets underway on Wednesday.


(Suraj Choudharian avid cricket follower who plays the sport at club level, is a staffer with Criclife)

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