Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 May 2019

Nathan Lyon backs Mitchell Starc to 'play massive role in every game' for Australia

Ahead of final Test against Sri Lanka, off-spinner says out-of-form seamer has taken 200 wickets and knows what he is doing

Nathan Lyon, left, says Australia teammate Mitchell Starc is bowling well even though he has not taken a lot of wickets. Ryan Pierse / Getty Images
Nathan Lyon, left, says Australia teammate Mitchell Starc is bowling well even though he has not taken a lot of wickets. Ryan Pierse / Getty Images

Australia's pace spearhead Mitchell Starc has been under fire for his lacklustre form during the home summer but teammate Nathan Lyon dismissed the criticism on Wednesday.

Starc has been wayward of late and picked up 15 wickets in five Tests, including the four-match series against India and the opening game against Sri Lanka last week.

The 29-year-old left-armer went wicketless in the second innings against Sri Lanka in Brisbane with Pat Cummins leading the hosts to a victory by an innings and 40 runs and a 1-0 lead in the two-Test series with 10 wickets.

Jhye Richardson, who came in for injured fast bowler Josh Hazlewood, shared the new ball with Starc in Brisbane and picked up five wickets on debut.

Former national selector Mark Waugh has been among critics who have pondered taking the new ball off Starc and giving it to Cummins.

"I don't understand all the criticism to be honest. Mitch is one of my best mates and I will back him to the hell and back," off-spinner Lyon said ahead of the second Test starting at the Manuka Oval on Friday.

"He's bowling fast, he's moving it, he had the ball reversing in the nets. He's an X-factor. He's got 200 Test wickets.

"If anyone gets 200 Test wickets, you must know what you are doing, you must be confident. I will back Mitchell to come out and play a massive role for us in every game he comes out to play for Australia."

Cummins has also publicly backed Starc and said he was happy to be Australia's first change bowler.

While Manuka Oval, which is making its debut as a Test venue, is not expected to offer as much help for the fast bowlers as the Gabba, Lyon has backed Starc to find form.

"I am looking forward to watching him this week and hopefully bowl really well with him in partnership," Lyon said.

"That's the biggest key, if we can bowl well in partnerships, doesn't matter who it is, hopefully we will take 20 wickets.

"The best thing about this bowling attack is that we know our roles in the side so I think it is really important that we keep playing our roles and sticking to that.

"Mitch has got all my support, and that whole change room's support."

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka's preparations for the final Test suffered further setbacks on Wednesday when coach Chandika Hathurusinghe was stripped of his team selection responsibilities and their batting coach returned home for personal reasons.

Hathurusinghe was officially removed from the on-tour selection panel, governing body Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) said, although it is understood he still has a say on player decisions.

"The majority decision of the manager, captain and members of the selection committee shall prevail on any selection made," SLC said in a statement, without giving details about why the change was made.

It added that batting coach Jon Lewis was "on leave to attend a family matter", with Avishka Gunawardena flying to Australia to replace him.

The news came as injured bowlers Lahiru Kumara and Dushmantha Chameera returned home after picking up injuries in the first Test in Brisbane.

Uncapped right arm fast bowler Chamika Karunaratne was picked to replace Kumara.

Sri Lanka are bidding to level the two-Test series in Canberra when it gets underway on Friday, after being thrashed by Australia by an innings and 40 runs in the first Test.

Sri Lanka recently lost their series against New Zealand 3-0 and face the prospect of being swept again.

Updated: January 30, 2019 04:00 PM

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