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I’m not at Lancashire to take Tom Hartley’s place, insists Nathan Lyon
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I’m not at Lancashire to take Tom Hartley’s place, insists Nathan Lyon

Nathan Lyon has denied he is at Lancashire to take Tom Hartley’s place in the team while admitting the chance to bowl alongside Ashes rival Jimmy Anderson was part of the reason for his arrival in county cricket.

Lancashire pulled off a major coup by signing Australia’s record-breaking off-spinner on an overseas deal and, despite only touching down in the country on Tuesday, he goes straight into the squad for Friday’s curtain-raiser against defending champions, Surrey.

Lyon’s arrival at Old Trafford has had its detractors, with some worried about it stymying the development of left-arm spinner Hartley, who impressed for England in India. Lancashire’s new coach, Dale Benkenstein, sees things differently and is keen to bowl both spinners together, a plan endorsed by Lyon himself.

“I know what Baz [Brendon McCullum] has come out and said in the media, and that’s all well and good – but I’m not here to take Tom’s spot,” he said. “I’m here to bowl in tandem with Tom. If Tom calls me every day, sits down with me for a coffee every day, to talk spin bowling, I’m more than happy to do that.”

Lyon has done his homework on Hartley, who only had 40 first-class wickets for Lancashire before being picked for England, spending hours watching the Test series. “To see Tom go over there, make his debut and play the five Test matches, I actually watched it quite closely. He’s a talent, he’s only 24 and to see what he does, what I believe he can get better at, he’s got a big future ahead of him. Which is exciting for England cricket and world cricket as well.”

There was another big draw, and that was his Wednesday lunching companion, Anderson, an old adversary from across the Ashes barricades. “If the opportunity comes around that I get to bowl in tandem with him and share a changing room with him it will be pretty special,” said Lyon, “so I’m looking forward to that.”

“He’s one of the greatest, if not the greatest, fast bowler to have played the game. I’ve had some incredible battles against him. I admire his skill, there’s nothing but respect from my end for what he’s been able to do for English cricket but also world cricket inspiring young boys and girls to play the game.”

Lyon was initially brought in for the entire season, across all formats, but has seen his schedule cut to seven first-class games after a call was made by Cricket Australia over his workload management.

“It’s definitely not my call, that’s nature of the beast,” he said. “CA have come over the top and said they wanted to manage me and hopefully extend my career. My hands are tied.”

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Meanwhile, Jack Leach is set to be out of action until early May, giving his Somerset teammate Shoaib Bashir the chance to establish himself as England’s first-choice spinner. The 32-year-old sustained a knee injury during England’s first Test victory over India in February and was ruled out of the rest of the series in which Bashir made his debut.

Off-spinner Bashir played three of the last four Tests and shone with 17 wickets at an average of 33.35 despite all four matches ending in defeat for England. The 20-year-old has been named in Somerset’s squad for their County Championship opener away at Kent, while Leach is set for an extended spell on the sidelines.

“Somerset are likely to be without Jack Leach until early May as he continues his rehabilitation back to full fitness,” the county said. England play their first Test of the summer against the West Indies at Lord’s on 10 July.

Source: theguardian.com