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Tweaking the formula: Australia’s post-Warne, pre-Lyon Test spinners

by Sankalp Srivastava 5-minute read

After Shane Warne called time on his Test career with 702 wickets and before Nathan Lyon began his journey to becoming their spin spearhead, Australia experimented with quite a few spinners. Here’s recalling their Test stints and how their careers unfolded.

Every specialist spinner after Warne’s last Test (January 5, 2007) and before Lyon’s debut (August 31, 2011) is a part of this list, with the numbers indicating their performance in that period.

Stuart MacGill
Tests: 4, Wickets: 10 @65.10, 5WI: 0

Possibly one of the most unlucky international cricketers, MacGill’s career coincided with that of Warne and Australia’s reluctance to throw in two wrist spinners together meant that MacGill’s numbers were limited to 44 Tests and 208 wickets. Despite the ups and downs, MacGill still finished as the fifth-highest wicket-taking spinner for Australia in Tests. He played his last match in May 2008, a little over a year after Warne hung his boots. In 2011, he came out of retirement to feature in a season of BBL.

Brad Hogg
Tests: 3, Wickets: 8 @60.12, 5WI: 0

With Warne missing out on the one-off Test against hosts India in 1996 due to a finger surgery, Hogg made his Test debut but had to wait for seven years before wearing the Baggy Green again. The left-arm spinner, however, didn’t manage to pick even a single fifer in the seven Tests that he played, announcing his retirement in 2008. He returned, however, in 2012 but only as a T20 specialist.

Beau Casson
Tests: 1, Wickets: 3 @43.00, 5WI: 0

The first specialist spinner to have made his debut after Warne’s retirement, Beau Casson played just the one Test, against West Indies in June 2008, after being drafted into the side following MacGill’s sudden retirement. Three wickets in the second innings helped Australia register a 37-run win, but it turned out to be all that he managed in his Test career. The left-arm spinner continued turning up for the New South Wales, finishing with 123 first-class wickets in 53 matches.

Cameron White
Tests: 4, Wickets: 5 @68.40, 5WI: 0

All four of White’s Test appearances came in India on Australia’s 2008 tour but a return of just five wickets on pitches most conducive to spin bowling was the end of White the spinner. He evolved into an explosive batsman, featuring in 91 ODIs and 47 T20Is for Australia and continued playing first-class cricket for Victoria until last year.

Jason Krejza
Tests: 2, Wickets: 13, 5WI: 1

In a Player of the Match performance on debut in November 2008, which was, incidentally, also White’s last Test, Krejza returned figures of 12-358. India won the match by 172 runs, but Krejza became one of the only eight bowlers to take eight wickets in an innings on debut. But the off-spinner turned out in the whites for Australia just one more time, against South Africa a month later. He did play international cricket again and was a part of Australia’s 2011 World Cup squad, taking five wickets in the tournament. But that was it.

Nathan Hauritz
Tests: 16, Wickets: 54 @36.22, 5WI: 2

Hauritz made his foray into Test cricket in the last game of the four-Test series against India in 2004, a Test after Warne had surpassed Muralitharan’s tally of 532 wickets,. He opened the bowling along with Jason Gillespie in the second innings, taking wickets of VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar. But Hauritz had to wait four more years before his second Test appearance came along and the off-spinner soon became Australia’s premier tweaker, taking 58 wickets in 16 Tests on his second coming. Ahead of the 2010 Ashes, however, he was dropped in favour of Xavier Doherty – the left-arm spinner picked to tackle English middle order that featured majority of right-hand batsmen – and a certain Steve Smith.

Bryce McGain
Test: 1, Wickets: 0, 5WI: 0

Originally part of Australia’s tour of India in 2008, the then 36-year-old McGain had to return home unfortunately due to an injury to his right armpit. He underwent surgery and continued his wait for a Test debut, which came within half a year, against South Africa in Cape Town. But failure to take a wicket in the match, where he conceded 149 runs at 8.27 per over, brought a sudden end to his Test career. McGain continued playing first-class cricket for Victoria until 2010, ultimately finishing with 101 wickets in 33 first-class matches.

Steve Smith
Tests: 5, Wickets: 3 @73.33, 5WI: 0

We all know what Steve Smith did after not quite making it as a leg-spinner – he became arguably Australia’s best batsman since Don Bradman. Making his debut against Pakistan at Lord’s in 2010, Smith batted at eight and nine respectively and didn’t bowl in the first innings at all. An almost match-saving 77 in the second innings of his second Test ultimately led to his promotion up the order as he transformed into a Test batting phenom.

Xavier Doherty
Tests: 2, Wickets: 3 @102.00, 5WI: 0

Drafted into Australia’s 2010 Ashes squad at Hauritz’s expense to trouble the England middle order, Doherty struggled to affect the proceedings, taking just three wickets in the first two Tests of the series before getting sidelined. Two more Tests came his way three years later but even on spin-friendly pitches in India, Doherty couldn’t make an impact, picking just four wickets. He continued to feature in white-ball cricket for Australia, playing 60 ODIs and 11 T20Is in total, and was also part of their 2015 World Cup-winning squad.

Michael Beer
Test: 1, Wickets: 3 @112.00, 5WI: 0

The last spinner Australia experimented with before Lyon came along, Beer debuted in the last Test of the 2010/11 Ashes series, and took just one wicket. Beer’s second Test came alongside Lyon in 2012, which turned out to be his last. The left-arm spinner continued playing domestic cricket and represented Perth Scorchers and Melbourne Renegades respectively in the Big Bash League before calling time on his BBL career in 2019.

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