Darren Lehmann, the Australia coach, has defended the squad’s lack of a specialist spin coach, insisting that they already call on the likes of Shane Warne to advise their young players.
With England already 2-0 up in the Ashes series going into Thursday’s third Test at Old Trafford, the Australians are desperate for a change of fortune – particularly after a miserable 347-run thrashing at Lord’s.
If the Old Trafford track proves favourable to spin – England have already called-up Monty Panesar into the squad alongside Graeme Swann – then Australia’s young twirlers Ashton Agar and Nathan Lyon could be asked to perform crucial roles.
However, the pair managed only 2 for 165 collectively in their last tour match against Sussex which finished on Sunday, and Lyon was put to the sword early on by Rory Hamilton-Brown, although he did improve as the match went on. Agar did very little to suggest any major improvements had been made on his wicketless show at Lord’s.
Agar, 19, and Lyon, 25, are still learning their trade on the first-class scene, but despite the large number of off-field staff employed by Cricket Australia on tours, there has been no specialist spin coach outside of Steve Rixon, the fielding mentor, who also doubles as a spin coach.
While the Australians played in Hove, Rixon was in London working with the batsmen Shane Watson and Chris Rogers, leaving Agar and Lyon in the hands of Lehmann and bowling coach Ali de Winter, a former seamer.
While England have the former Pakistan player Mushtaq Ahmed as their specialist coach, Lehmann says they often turn to the Australian Test-record wicket-taker Warne to give his bowlers advice.
“We obviously call on Warnie a bit,” Lehmann said. “We’d be mad not to use Shane Warne and talk spin bowling to him. It’s not so much technical with him, it’s more about the mental side of it, the fields you want for certain players.
“Steve Rixon is our specialist spin coach and fielding coach so he does that. Working with him on how to get blokes out is pretty much my domain as head coach. I know how you’re going to get all the England players out. That’s an easy one. We’ve just got to execute our plans for it, and I think we’ve done that pretty well over a period of time.
“Ashton probably did not do so well in the last Test match but I’m really confident with our plans. We’d be mad to pick him [Agar] if we didn’t think he was technically up to it. He’s 19, I’d hope he has plenty of room for improvement, the same as Nathan, they’re both young kids, although Nathan’s played a lot more. They’ve both got room for improvement.”
Lehmann was impressed with the way Lyon hit back from a beating at Hove. “He has handled himself really well in the tough circumstances he has found himself in,” he added. “He bowled really well [on Sunday] after getting taken to by young [Rory] Hamilton-Brown, who played really well. He hit some good balls for boundaries. I don’t mind spinners getting hit for boundaries off good balls.”
Australia also have major questions over their batting order after being bowled out for just 128 and 235 runs at Lord’s.
David Warner will rejoin the squad after scoring 193 for Australia A against South Africa A in Pretoria, an innings of greater note than any played by the Australian batsmen in Sussex, although Lehmann maintains this will not guarantee him a starting place.