Nathan Lyon’s Lancashire game time slashed by Australia – and that’s good news for Tom Hartley

Tom Hartley
Tom Hartley will benefit both from working with Nathan Lyon and by Cricket Australia imposing restrictions on his game time - REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Cricket Australia has severely capped Nathan Lyon’s availability for Lancashire, handing an unlikely boost to England and their young spinner Tom Hartley.

Lancashire confirmed the signing of Lyon, who has 530 Test wickets, late last year for the entire 2024 season in all formats.

While this represented a real coup, it did threaten to limit the game-time of Hartley, the 24-year-old spin-bowling all-rounder who took 22 wickets on his first Test tour, to India early this year. England coach Brendon McCullum worried that a lack of matches for Hartley and Somerset’s Shoaib Bashir would curb their progress, and it was even suggested they could go out on loan.

The problem has been partially solved, however, with Australia intervening to manage Lyon’s workload. Rather than being available for every match this season, the 36-year-old will be allowed to play only seven of Lancashire’s first nine matches in the Championship, before heading home without playing any white-ball cricket. Lyon’s departure means Hartley will at least play some Championship cricket this summer.

Lyon arrives in England early next week and is expected to play the first game of the season against Surrey, which starts on April 5. He said this week that he is excited to work with Hartley.

“All three of them to be honest with you,” Lyon said on the Willow Talk podcast when asked which of England’s young spinners had impressed him against India. “And I’m not just saying that to be kind. They had a pretty hard introduction into Test cricket. That’s one hell of a way to start your Test career, come over and bowl to Rohit [Sharma] and [Shubman] Gill and everyone else.

“But I’m looking forward to getting over to Lancashire and meeting Tom [Hartley] and bowling with him and just having discussions about left-arm [orthodox], right-arm offies is a pretty similar craft. It’s going to be interesting to see the mindset, his reflections. I’m looking forward to hopefully playing a bit with him over there as well which will be good.

“Bashir looked like he had something special as well. I like that he went over the back of it [the ball], so he could be a threat down here [in Australia] for sure.”

The Lancashire captain, Keaton Jennings, said Hartley would learn from Lyon even if he does not play much.

“Even if Tommy had to miss out, I think the reality of the situation is it’s April and we’re in the UK,” he told the Wisden podcast. “If it’s not going to turn as much… you’ve got arguably the best off-spinner the game has seen, Tommy is going to learn a huge amount from that guy.

“Tommy is going to play a huge part in Lancashire’s cricketing history. You see the quality he’s produced on that Test match debut.

“It puts myself and Benks [head coach Dale Benkenstein] in a really tough situation for next week. When we made the signing last year, you can’t foresee what’s going to happen in six months’ time. You’ve got such a high quality player available you try and make the best decision you can.”

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