Ravi Ashwin vs Nathan Lyon: Who is the better bowler in test match cricket?

Ravi Ashwin v Nathan Lyon – The Conundrum

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India will play Australia in a four test series down under, starting from the 17th of December. They won the last series 2-1 in 2018/19 but the return of Steve Smith, David Warner and the emergence of Marnus Labuschagne could potentially put Australia on top. Oh, and Virat Kohli may miss three tests due to the birth of his first child.

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Ravi Ashwin and Nathan Lyon, both are great spinners and respective match winners for their team. But the question which arises who has performed better in their respective Test careers which has lasted for more than a decade as of now.

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The best way would be to check their statistics since their debut, so we’ll analyse that. Another important point to be noted is that both their performances have improved since 2015, and also it’s necessary to know how the bowler has performed in the past few years, so we’ll also compare performances since 2015, simultaneously.

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Overall Stats:

Ashwin: Wickets-365, avg-25, Bowling SR-54 (132 innings)                                      Lyon: Wickets-390, avg-32, Bowling SR-63 (184 innings)

Since 2015,

Ashwin: Wickets-251, avg-23, SR-50 (90 innings)                                                   Lyon: Wickets-256, avg-30, SR-61 (110 innings)

Ashwin has proven better in this parameter.

Home and Away performances

Is Ashwin better than Lyon in test cricket?
Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli (L) speaks with teammate Ravichandran Ashwin during the third day of the third and final Test match between Sri Lanka and India at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium in Pallekele on August 14, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI (Photo credit should read LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI/AFP/Getty Images)

Let’s compare how Ashwin and Lyon have performed at home and overseas conditions

At Home

Ashwin: Wickets-254 avg- 23 SR-49 (83 innings)                                                    Lyon: Wickets-191 avg- 32 SR-64 (92 innings)

Since 2015,

Ashwin: Wickets-159 avg- 22 SR-48 (53 innings)                                                    Lyon: Wickets-117, avg- 32 SR-67 (54 innings)


Ashwin: Wickets-111 avg-31 SR-63 (49 innings)                                                     Lyon: Wickets-199 avg-31 SR-62 (92 innings)

Since 2015,

Ashwin: Wickets-92 avg- 26 SR-54 (37 innings)                                                     Lyon : Wickets-139 avg- 28 SR-56 (56 innings)

Ashwin edges past Lyon here too.


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Performances in Asia and outside Asia

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 25: Nathan Lyon of Australia looks on during day three of the First Test Match of the 2017/18 Ashes Series between Australia and England at The Gabba on November 25, 2017 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Generally, it’s seen that the Asian wickets are more spin-friendly, whereas pitches outside Asia favour the faster bowlers. So, here we’ll take a look at how have they fared in Asia compared to outside Asia.

In Asia

Ashwin: Wickets-297, avg- 23, SR-48 (97 innings)                                                  Lyon: Wickets-95, avg-31, SR-59 (37 innings)

Since 2015,

Ashwin: wickets-202, avg- 22, SR-47 (67 innings)                                                  Lyon: wickets-69, avg-25, SR-52 (21 innings)

Outside Asia

Ashwin: Wickets-68, avg- 38, SR-78 (35 innings)                                                   Lyon: Wickets-295, avg-32 , SR-64 (147 innings)

Since 2015,

Ashwin: wickets-49, avg- 30, SR-65 (23 innings)                                                    Lyon: wickets-187, avg-32, SR-65 (89 innings)

In Asia, Ashwin is better whereas outside Asia it’s Lyon who has outperformed him if we take account of their performances throughout the career. But when we see performances since 2015, Ashwin has improved by leaps and bounds.

But since, Ashwin has outperformed Lyon in 3 out of 4 parameters, so this one goes to Ashwin.

Performances against Top Tier Teams

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND – AUGUST 05: Australia bowler Nathan Lyon in action during the fifth day of the 1st Test match between England and Australia at Edgbaston on August 05, 2019 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

The Top Tier Teams are surely the SENA and India in Tests, and let’s analyse their respective performances against these teams.

Ashwin (against SENA): wickets-234 avg-27 SR-59 (85 innings)                             Lyon (against SENI): wickets-266 avg-31 SR-63 (126 innings)

Since 2015,

Ashwin (against SENA): wickets-154 avg-24 SR-54 (53 innings)                             Lyon (against SENI): wickets-163 avg-31 SR-63 (73 innings)

Ashwin wins here too.

The Match Winner

Overall Ravi Ashwin triumphs as the match winner ahead of Nathan Lyon in test cricket.
ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA – DECEMBER 07: Ravichandran Ashwin and Rishabh Pant of India celebrate getting the wicket of Marcus Harris of Australia during day two of the First Test match in the series between Australia and India at Adelaide Oval on December 07, 2018 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Nathan Lyon missed the adrenaline of test cricket

Now one more question remains unanswered that, “Agreed Ashwin has better stats than Lyon, but does he win matches for Team India?

Surely he does.

Man of the Series awards for Ashwin: 7 awards in 28 series                                  Man of the Series awards for Lyon: 1 in 31 series.

Man of the Matches for Ashwin: 7 in 71 matches, i.e. 10.1 matches per award.        Man of the Matches for Lyon: 4 in 96 matches, i.e. 24 matches per award

How has ICC rated them?

Let’s check how many times have both of them appeared in ICC Test Teams of the year, and what their rankings have been over the years in the ‘ICC Bowlers Rankings’ in Tests.

ICC Test Team appearances

Ashwin was selected in the ICC Test Team of the Year in 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017 i.e. 4 times. Whereas Lyon was selected in the ICC Test Team of the Year in 2018 and 2019, i.e. 2 times.

So, that is yet another parameter, and Ashwin has outperformed Nathan Lyon.

ICC Rankings

Let’s check the ICC Bowler Rankings for both of them, who’s ranked above? Ashwin or Lyon?

Rankings in the starting of 2020: Ashwin: 9 Lyon: 19

2019 (starting): Ashwin. 8 & Lyon: 14

2018 (starting): Ashwin. 4 & Lyon: 9

2017 (starting): Ashwin. 1 & Lyon: 18

2016 (starting): Ashwin. 1 & Lyon: 14

2015 (starting): Ashwin. 13 & Lyon: 16

2014 (starting): Ashwin. 7 & Lyon: 16

2013 (starting): Ashwin. 20. & Lyon: 25

2012 (starting): Ashwin. 37. & Lyon: 49

They both have debuted in the later half of 2011, so I didn’t include the rankings of 2011 starting, as both hadn’t debuted at that time.

Surely it’s Ashwin. It’s Ashwin who has been the top spinner for so many years, was also the No.1 bowler in 2016–17, and has also remained in the top 5 for a huge amount of years.

So, we have a clear winner here. Comment down if you disagree, or want to give a suggestion in this analysis.


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