It's make or break time for Nathan Lyon
CRUNCH time is looming for Nathan Lyon, as Australia prepares for a seven-match stretch where he will either prove main man or nowhere man.
The axe has almost fallen twice already on Lyon this summer, and unless the off-spinner can restore pride in the second innings at the MCG, he may be fighting to keep his place for a home Test match in Sydney, especially with Steve O'Keefe seemingly fit and back in vogue.
Australia appears to be in a holding pattern with Lyon at the moment but tipping point is coming when you look at a 2017 Test schedule that starts off with a potentially series-defining fixture against Pakistan at a spin-friendly SCG and then ramps up with four Tests on Indian dust bowls before a tour of Bangladesh.
Alarm bells were ringing for Lyon on Wednesday at the MCG as Pakistan treated his bowling with disdain to push his summer figures out to nine wickets for 600 runs at an average of 66.66.
The bouncy pitches at home are meant to be Lyon's forte and the ease at which he was picked off by Azhar Ali and the Pakistan tail doesn't bode well for his hopes of troubling Indian master Virat Kohli and company on their home pitches.
Working in Lyon's favour is the fact that despite his recent form slump, selectors will have their work cut out finding three better spinners to take to India ahead of him - given his esteemed record as the country's most successful ever offie.
But despite his new-found cult figure status, Lyon would happily swap love from the Australian public for a few wickets.
Darren Lehmann says there is still faith in Lyon's abilities as a 200-plus Test wicket-taker, but the coach makes it clear his spinner must urgently find a way to counteract being consistently dispatched on the leg side after he recorded figures of 1-115 at five an over at the MCG.
"I think he is bowling well in patches and that's the thing. Get him bowling well and more consistent over a longer period of time, that's his challenge,” said Lehmann on Channel Nine.
"He has taken over 200 Test wickets so he knows what he is doing. He just has to get it in the right area and hitting the top of off stump, or spinning back into the stumps, as we know.
"When he gets it right, he looks dangerous.”
Former Australian spinner Brad Hogg said Australian captain Steve Smith wasn't bowling Lyon enough but said the troubled star needed to abandon his plans of bowling so much around the wicket.
"It's up and down. I'd just like to see him come over the wicket a lot more,” Hogg told Fox Sports.
"He seems to be coming around the wicket and the Pakistanis have really worked him square easily ... come over the wicket and try and get them to play through the covers.
"He just needs to change his game plan up.”
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH