MELBOURNE, Dec 24 (Reuters) - Spin great Muttiah Muralitharan has heaped more pressure on Australia’s under-fire Nathan Lyon ahead of the second test against Sri Lanka, saying the struggling off-spinner cannot even take wickets when pitch conditions favour him.
Muralitharan, who retired with a world record 800 test wickets in 2010, also said Sri Lanka could have won the first test in Hobart had they attacked Lyon with more gusto in their second innings run-chase.
“Australia doesn’t have the person to take wickets on a turning wicket,” the 40-year-old Muralitharan said in comments published by News Ltd on Monday.
”We could (have won had we) tried to go hard and take on the off-spinner, because he was just bowling and nothing much (was) happening.
“Maybe we’d have won. Maybe we’d have saved the match, or maybe we’d have lost ... but I think you (should) try (to) find out.”
The 25-year-old Lyon failed to take a single second-innings wicket in Hobart, despite the benefit of a wearing pitch, leaving it up to Australia’s depleted pace attack to secure victory over Sri Lanka in the final hour.
Lyon was blasted for 0-128 in the second innings of the third test against South Africa, as the Proteas roared to a series-sealing victory in Perth.
He had taken three second-inning wickets against South Africa in the second test in Adelaide, but was criticised for failing to do more to secure victory on a day-five pitch tailor-made for spin.
Despite Lyon’s struggles, captain Michael Clarke has repeatedly backed the spinner and Australia’s selectors are likely to retain him for the Boxing Day test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Lyon, who until two years ago worked as a groundsman at Adelaide Oval, shrugged off the criticism.
”I‘m quite confident in my own skill set,“ he told reporters in Melbourne on Monday. ”Things are working well and it feels like I‘m improving every day.
“I’ve just got to keep doing my thing right here in the lead-up to this test match and see how we go.”
Muralitharan said his successor Rangana Herath could be counted on to deliver Sri Lanka victory at the MCG and their first test win in Australia.
“If we bat first, make a big score and then the wicket starts turning, Herath is the man to get us a win,” he added of the pint-sized 34-year-old, who took a five-wicket haul in the second innings at Hobart and will finish the year the top test wicket-taker.
“If the MCG wicket (is) turning, Australian cricketers don’t play left-arm spin well.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford