Ashes Battles: Nathan Lyon v Moeen Ali

Australia and England go head to head in the Ashes, starting on Thursday at the Gabba – but what are the key battles that will decide the fate of the urn this time around?

England hold the Ashes after their 3-2 win in 2015, but Joe Root’s side face a tough test to retain the urn down under with Australia desperate to avenge that defeat.

With the help of Sky Sports Cricket’s Nasser Hussain, we take a look at the head-to-head battles which could have a major say on the outcome of the series, and up next it’s the battle of the off-spinners – Nathan Lyon v Moeen Ali

Test records Nathan Lyon – Australia

  • Matches: 69
  • Wickets: 269
  • Best bowling figures: 8-50
  • Average: 31.83
  • Five-wicket hauls: 12
  • 10-wicket hauls: 2

Moeen Ali – England

  • Matches: 44
  • Wickets: 128
  • Best bowling figures: 6-53
  • Bowling Average: 37.32
  • Five-wicket hauls: 4
  • 10-wicket hauls: 1
  • Runs: 2288
  • Highest score: 155*
  • Batting average: 34.66
  • Hundreds: 5
  • Fifties: 12

Past battles…

Lyon and Ali’s only previous Ashes battle came in the summer of 2015 as England went on to regain the Ashes with a 3-2 series win.

On unhelpful pitches, neither off-spinner proved to be a match-winner for their side. Ali ended up on the winning side but it was his batting that made a bigger contribution as the left-hander racked up 293 runs – no lower-order batsman has ever scored more runs in a series against Australia – at an average of 36.62. The Worcestershire all-rounder took 12 wickets at 45.50 in the series but his bowling proved to still be a work in progress.

On the other hand, Lyon, who took 16 wickets in the series at 28.25, proved to be a consistent performer for Australia during the five-match series without ever looking like winning a Test for his side.

Nasser’s view…

“The pacemen have a long line of injury problems so Lyon will be the go-to guy for Steve Smith when he wants someone to tie up an end. Lyon is a very, very good player. There are not too many off-spinners that have had hugely successful careers in Australia. England also have a lot of left-handers in their line-up and Lyon is a major threat, make no mistake about it. He’s no Shane Warne but there has only ever been one Shane Warne.

“Australia got it wrong a little bit during the 2015 series in terms of how they dealt with Ali. They really tried to go after him and it was a little bit too much in my opinion.

“Ali is a very good bowler to left-handers and we saw that this year against South Africa, who had an abundance of left-handers. But against the Windies, who had a lot of right-handers, later in the summer he wasn’t quite as effective. For example, the way Kraigg Brathwaite and Shai Hope played him at Headingley was an example to Australia so finding a way against the right-handers will be a big challenge for him during the series.

“I thought Graeme Swann summed it up pretty well recently. He said the Australians are very good players of spin when the ball isn’t spinning and they are terrible when it is spinning. Ali can’t always be the attacking spinner he was last summer in England. There will be certain times on certain pitches during the upcoming series where he will have to sit in and be defensive, and at other times he will have to attack

“Australia is not an easy place for an orthodox finger spinner to operate. Both players will have the rough Mitchell Starc creates to help them but at times Ali will have to learn from Lyon and the way he goes about things.”

Lyon on the upcoming Ashes series…

“We know England have a classy side, especially with Alastair Cook, Joe Root, Stuart Broad and James Anderson. But there is some inexperience there so, hopefully, we can make them feel uncomfortable, put them under pressure and take 20 wickets. But anyone from one to 11, I don’t care. If they are English, I want to get them out.”

Lyon’s record in Australia

  • Matches: 32
  • Wickets: 118
  • Best bowling figures: 7-152
  • Average: 34.55
  • Five-wicket haul: 3
  • 10-wicket hauls: 1

Ali on upcoming Ashes series…

“Man for man we are probably very similar as well. We know we have got two world-class batters in Joe Root and Alastair Cook. I think it’s whoever holds their nerve, and whoever really wants it as a batting unit will probably win the series. I think both teams have the same problems, so it’s going to be exciting.”

Ali’s bowling record against Australia

  • Matches: 5
  • Wickets: 12
  • Best bowling figures: 3-59
  • Average: 45.50
  • Five-wicket hauls: 0

The Aussie view…

Former Australia leg-spinner KERRY O’KEEFFE: “Lyon has a few victories over a few of these fellows, and I watched them during the winter playing spin, and I think he’s a big factor. For me, the guy with more pressure on is the other spinner, Moeen Ali, because he has to support the quicker bowlers. I think Australia will take him on from the very first ball, because you can take him down the ground.”

Ali’s batting record against Australia

  • Matches: 5
  • Runs: 293
  • Highest score: 77
  • Average: 36.62
  • Hundreds: 0
  • Fifties: 2

The English view…

Former England off-spinner GRAEME SWANN: “Nathan Lyon is no better bowler than Moeen Ali, but he believes he is, therefore he is, ergo, more likely to do well. He’s a fine cricketer, but Moeen Ali is better than him and has to believe that he is better than him. He can contribute to his team far more than Nathan can for the Aussies.”