Former Australia spinner Kerry O’Keeffe has backed Aussie spin spearhead, Nathan Lyon, to play a vital role in the upcoming Ashes and feels his England counterpart Moeen Ali will have a tough time Down Under.

After an unproductive home season last year, Lyon proved his worth with stunning displays during the series in India and Bangladesh. His status as Australia’s No.1 spinner was under threat after his average performance in the 3-0 loss in Sri Lanka (16 wickets at 31.93) last year which was followed by a poor outing at home against South Africa (six at 57.66) and Pakistan (11 at 45.63). However, he bounced back in style in India and Bangladesh.

He was Australia’s leading wicket-taker in the four-Test series against India and finished the series against Bangladesh as the highest wicket-taker with a staggering 22 scalps in just two games. And with the form on his side, O’Keefe has backed him to play a big role in the five-Test series, starting November 23 in Brisbane’s Gabba.

“He has a few victories over a few of these fellows, and I watched them during the winter playing spin, and I think he’s a big factor,” O’Keeffe was quoted as saying by Cricket Australia’s official website.

Lyon starred for Australia in Bangladesh (Credits: Getty)

O’Keefe further said that Moeen Ali would be under pressure against the Australian batsmen.

“For me, the guy with more pressure on is the other spinner, Moeen Ali, ’cause he has to support the quicker bowlers and I think (Australia) will take him on from the very first ball, because you can take him down the ground,” he said. “…when he hasn’t bowled well, it’s because people have hit him over the top. He’s a flat spinner, if it’s not turning, people can drop-kick him.”

O’Keefe feels Ali will be under pressure (Credits: Getty)

Well, the stats also agree with O’Keefe’s assessment. Ali, who had enjoyed a stellar home season this year, does not enjoy a good record against Australia compared to the other teams. His average against Australia is 45.50 compared to career average of 37.32 while his economy-rate goes up to 4.41 compared to 3.66. His overseas record is also not an impressive one as his home average of 33.47 rises to 44.17 while the strike rate drops down from 52 to 77.1.

O’Keefe also said that if Australian batsmen decide to attack Ali, it will put the pressure on England skipper Joe Root.

“I think the moment he comes on – because he’ll be trying to relieve (James) Anderson, (Stuart) Broad and Jake Ball with some tight spells,” O’Keeffe said.

“If they take him on and get on top of him, they throw the pressure on Root to bring back on one of their quicker men, and suddenly they’re draining the quicker men because Moeen Ali has been brought down,” he added. “I’m interested in Australian tactics against Moeen Ali. I think they’ll be ultra-aggressive and risk getting out to put pressure back on Root.”

The Ashes gets underway from November 23 in Brisbane (Credits: Getty)

The former Test spinner also said that England batsmen had issues against wrist-spinners and advised Australia skipper Steve Smith to roll his arms and bowl leg-spin.

“I think a few of these English batsmen have got a few problems with wrist spin,” O’Keeffe said. “They’ll be factoring all their work into Nathan Lyon, but I think Smithy should bowl more this summer. I know he’s a reluctant bowler, but Joe Root, Jonathan Bairstow – leg-spinners get them out.

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