0 Groundsman pitches in to help Lyon's cause

An early meeting between the Australians and the Gabba groundsman has given Nathan Lyon the inside alley for the first Test but coach Mickey Arthur will reserve the right to brandish four quicks following the withdrawal of Shane Watson.

Watson's absence with a calf injury takes significant punch out of the top order but also increases the temptation for the Australians to roll into Brisbane with four fast bowlers in an effort to compensate for Watson's ever-useful seamers.

Despite an indifferent start to the domestic summer, Lyon remains the firm favourite to play against the South Africans on Friday, with a spin-friendly pitch tipping the balance in his favour providing there are no surprises in the Brisbane weather over coming days.

Arthur, Cricket Australia performance manager Pat Howard and skipper Michael Clarke met with curator Kevin Mitchell Jnr on Monday morning and were left with the distinct impression a slow bowler would be an invaluable asset in the latter days of the Test match.

"We're pretty confident we're going to get a very, very good Gabba wicket, which increases the likelihood of us playing a spinner," Arthur said.

But the Gabba can only be friendly to a degree when it comes to finger spinners, most of whom have a decidedly average record on a ground that more often than not showcases the work of the express men, swing practitioners and bowlers named 'Shane Warne'.

Arthur gave Lyon the most emphatic backing possible but was careful to leave all of his cards on the table as the first Test in Brisbane between the sides since 1963 edged closer.

"It's all up for grabs. We might change. The weather might play a role. Things could change and we go with an all-pace attack," Arthur said.

"As it stands, we'd like to play a spinner. There's four quicks probably going for three positions. We've got a lot of depth in that area and we feel we've got the seam bowling covered."

Matthew Hayden and Darren Lehmann have been among those calling for Lyon to carry the drinks but Arthur went to great pains to reinforce Lyon's position at the top of the spin-bowling hierarchy.

The former Adelaide Oval groundsman took seven wickets in Brisbane against the Black Caps last summer and has a very tidy record of 42 wickets at 27.83 in his 13 Test matches.

But he was tonked around the Gabba by the Bulls to the tune of 2/128 in his most-recent visit and his six wickets in the current Shield season have been eked out at the princely sum of 68.

Arthur senses Lyon needs a mental lift and is hoping his entry into the Australian environment and an vigorous public embellishment will provide the boost needed to be a factor against a Protea top order that has the capacity to dine out on below-par spinners.

"Nathan's gone OK. Any guy that's averaging 24 over 13 or 14 Test matches can bowl. We've never, ever doubted Nathan's ability," Arthur said.

"We're hoping that when he comes into the environment, he gets the lift that he needs. Because we're backing Nathan Lyon at the moment.

"Certainly Michael, myself and the selection panel think that Nathan Lyon is our best spinner and will be our best spinner for a long period of time. So we want to give him that confidence and back him in.

"I'll have my one-on-one and just see where he is and what we need to do to get him right and play quite a big role in this Test series and in the future as well."

Providing Lyon plays, James Pattinson, Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle are almost certain to form the Australian pace-bowling triumvirate, with Mitchell Starc relying on his status as a southpaw to get him past one of those three.

Read more: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/sport/cricket/groundsman-pitches-in-to-help-lyons-cause-20121105-28tvp.html#ixzz2BKtHwRwU

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