Tom Hartley: Playing with Nathan Lyon can be a ‘game-changer’ for me

Nathan Lyon
Nathan Lyon is joining Lancashire for the 2024 Championship season and Tom Hartley hopes he will be a mentor to him - MARTY MELVILLE/AFP via Getty Images

Tom Hartley believes the arrival of Nathan Lyon at Lancashire can be a “game-changer” as he looks to build on a breakout tour of India, but admits the best way for an English spinner to secure selection is by beefing up his batting.

Given the quality of India’s spinners, including Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, rookie Hartley is perhaps a surprising leading wicket-taker for the series, with 20 at 33.45, having arrived on tour with just 40 first-class wickets to his name.

Hartley took nine wickets on debut in Hyderabad and has impressed with his poise and control, alongside another youngster Shoaib Bashir. Some have feared that the arrival of Lyon at Lancashire – as well as Jack Leach’s presence alongside Bashir at Somerset – will curb opportunity for the pair at county level, but Hartley is confident he will learn from Australia’s greatest off-spinner.

Part of his strategy is to continue improving his batting, having already hit six sixes in the series and played a number of important hands from the lower order.

“I’m trying to become more of that all-rounder role which makes me a lot easier to pick,” he said in the week of the final Test of the series, which England trail 3-1.

Tom Hartley celebrates dismissing Dhruv Jurel at Ranchi
Tom Hartley is the leading wicket-taker in his debut series - Tom Hartley

“Ideally, that’s the way [being an all-rounder] going forward. I still have a lot of work to do with my batting but hopefully sort of fitting into a No 7, potentially a six. Definitely happy at eight but I think that’s just the way for English spinners to go they start to turn themselves more into all-rounders.”

Lyon’s class was on show with a 10-wicket haul in Australia’s opening Test victory in Wellington this weekend. Hartley, a natural side-spinner (or barrel) of the ball hopes to learn more about the over-spin that makes Lyon so dangerous in all conditions, especially Australia, given there is an Ashes tour in 20 months.

“It was fantastic,” said Hartley when asked his reaction to the signing. “He’s such a great person to learn off for me. He’s such a good over-spin bowler so just trying to get as many tips from him as possible.

“Obviously signing another spinner, you think about it [whether he would play] a little bit. The type of bowler he is is something I’m trying to work on. The way he operates in Australia on pretty flat wickets, there are times when English wickets are pretty similar. He’s going to be great to learn off. You can’t think too much into it.

“I hope he’s going to be fantastic for me and be a real game-changer. My natural shape is more barrel-spin, better suited to here. To improve to the next step, I need to learnt that over-spin. I’m sure I can do it, I’m just hoping he’s got a few tips to help me along.

“He’s someone I want to try to replicate. Over here I’ve tried to replicate Jadeja and Axar [Patel]. To be an international cricketer you have to able to perform in different conditions and I think Nathan is the next guy that can really help me.

“He’s probably going to be fed up of me by September. Hopefully we can get on really well, hopefully he’s really open and we can build a great partnership.”

Hartley admits he has even “really surprised myself” with his performances in India, but will go home with his confidence transformed.

“It’s when I get a little moment alone that I tend to think about it,” he said of his 20 wickets. “I just can’t believe it, still. I’m just starting to realise that maybe I am good enough for this and that I should be expecting to do well. Long may it continue, hopefully.

“I’m a lot more confident. I’d not really played a whole lot of red-ball cricket, but coming here has made me believe that I do have a talent for this and I can perform at this level. I’ve had a smile on my face and I want to keep it going.

“When I go out of the field I’m really believing and thinking that I can do well. It’s not just a case of bowling and hoping they chip one up, or trying to go at two or three an over. It’s more a case of believing I can get these people out then starting to realise how I’m going to get them out. It’s been a complete change of mindset.”

England train for the first time in Dharamsala on Tuesday, having taken to Himalayan tourist activities – including team runs and waterfalls – after practise was called off because of a wet outfield on Monday. They have a fully fit squad of 14 to chose from, but must weigh up whether the chillier conditions mean they select a third seamer at the expense of Hartley or Bashir.