Lyon rejects Swann mind games

Published: Tuesday 23rd June 2015 by The News Editor

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Graeme Swann has been accused of “trying to get under Australian skin” after urging England to target off-spinner Nathan Lyon during the upcoming Ashes series.

While former England captain Michael Vaughan has backed Lyon to be the leading wicket taker in the Ashes, Swann has described the 27-year-old off-spinner as the tourists’ “weakest link”.

Swann, who retired from Test cricket during England’s miserable 5-0 defeat in Australia in 2013/2014, said: “Their spinner, although he takes wickets, is probably their weakest link. I’m not saying Nathan Lyon is a weak link, but he’s probably their weakest.”

But prior to travelling to Canterbury for their four-day match against Kent which starts on Thursday, Lyon hit back at the the three-times Ashes winner.

“That is Graeme Swann just just trying to get under Australian skin,” said Lyon, from the serene setting of Kensington’s Roof Top Gardens in west London.

“I have played 41 Tests and have always been referred to as the weakest link so it doesn’t really faze me. As I keep saying we have got a great bowling unit and if we are taking 20 wickets then we are flying so that is the main thing.

“One guy is writing me off and the other is giving me a compliment. That’s very nice from Michael Vaughan but there is a lot of cricket to play. If I end up being lead wicket taker I will be quite happy as long as we take that trophy home.”

Earlier this month, Lyon surpassed Hugh Trumble’s 111-year-old record of 141 Test wickets by an Australian off-spinner during the Baggy Greens’ tour of West Indies. He heads into the opening Test of the Ashes series which gets under way in Cardiff on July 8 in form and with 146 scalps under his belt.

In contrast his England counterpart Moeen Ali has struggled for form since returning from a sidestrain injury. The 28-year-old is however, set to be the hosts’ first-choice spinner for the Ashes opener in Wales despite calls for Adil Rashid to be blooded against the Australians.

“I don’t really care to be honest,” said a typically brazen Lyon when asked about England’s spin options.

“Moeen Ali is a good cricketer but we are playing international cricket so we’ll respect everyone who comes out there. There is not going to be an easy role for anyone out there and it is going to be a good challenge for each and everyone of us.

“We are preparing well, we are training hard and that is all we can ask. Come Cardiff we are going to be all-guns blazing. We are feeling really confident, we are excited and the chance to take the Ashes home after a 14-year drought is really massive so it is really exciting.”

While Lyon’s starting berth is all but assured, Australian coach Darren Lehmann is facing a fast-bowling selection dilemma with Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Ryan Harris, Josh Hazlewood and Peter Siddle battling for three spots in the tourists’ attack.

“That’s the strength of us at the moment,” said Siddle. “We’ve got five quicks, all fit, all strong and going well. It’s going to be a tough job for the selectors that’s for sure.

Asked if it is the best bowling attack he has been a part of, he added: “Yeah, I think it has to be. I f you look at the fact that I didn’t play in the West Indies, and Ryan Harris wasn’t there, and how well the boys did just shows that we’ve got plenty of options.

“Everyone’s different, and that’s what makes it even better. No matter who they go for, it’s always going to give them something different. It’s going to be hard work for us all to get that spot – out of the five we can only fit three – but all the boys are up for the challenge.”

Published: Tuesday 23rd June 2015 by The News Editor

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