Back in 2023, when Lancashire announced the signing of seasoned spinner Nathan Lyon for the 2024 summer cricket season, Tom Hartley was relatively unknown in the international circuits.

The left-arm orthodox spinner had just made his white-ball international debut against Ireland but had been an obedient server of the Lancashire Cricket club.

The 24-year-old was selected for the England’s test tour of India as a hunch pick, a bold move by Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum, picking an uncapped test player for a five-match test series in the Indian subcontinent.

Indian batsman Yashaswi Jaiswal welcomed Hartley to the test cricket in a rather brutal fashion, slogging him for a six on his very first ball in test cricket.

The left-arm orthodox spinner staged a strong comeback, rattling the Indian batting line-up in the second innings, picking up a match-winning 7/62 and spinning himself into the headlines.

Hartley’s exploits on the Hyderabad track would have come as a pleasant surprise for the casual fan.

But those who have tailed him closely know that his rise is not inadvertent, but a product of sheer hard work put in since his professional debut in 2020.

By the end of the test tour, the 24-year-old had amassed 22 wickets, leading the way as the highest wicket taker for the visitors.

Hartley’s rise has been nothing short of sensational, but he has a tough summer ahead as he looks to charter a place in the England team ahead of the T20 World Cup and refine himself for the county cricket with Lancashire.

Thankfully, he has time on his side and, more importantly, a master of spin art by his side in Lyon.

Through his overspin, the Australian has made even the fiercest hitters of spin dance to his tunes. His stint in county cricket couldn’t have come at a better time for Hartley.

Tom Hartley has a lot to learn

Although Lyon’s time in county cricket would be curtailed to seven of the first nine county matches in a bid to manage his workload but his presence in the Lancashire dug out would be invaluable for Hartley.

The Ormskirk-born bowler has blossomed on the England’s seam-friendly tracks and made the most of scant opportunities.

In order to take the next step in red-ball cricket, Hartley must be confident and competent to be effective on any pitch in the world. He stares at a gargantuan summit that Lyon has already scaled.

Hartley himself is mindful that Lyon’s presence in the Lancashire dressing room could prove to be transcendental and he can’t wait to hone his art by studying Lyon.

He said: “I think I still have a lot to learn. I am only 24 and I just want to learn from him while he’s here.

“If we can play together that will be fantastic. He’s the king of overspin and I am bowling on pretty flat wickets so I can’t wait to learn off him.”

Can Nathan Lyon and Tom Hartley play together?

Playing two spinners in April on a flat track in Manchester might sound like an irrational decision.

Lyon walks into any team on this planet. Hartley has been a Lancashire faithful and has come back from an impressive tour of India, looking sharp, you can’t leave him out.

How do you play two spinners and maintain the team balance?

These are the sorts of headache that coaches want and Dale Benkenstein has found the aspirin.

The South African sees it as an advantage and not a selection headache.

Lancashire have something that other county cricket sides don’t – the ability to call upon two test spinners who can spin a web around the opposition.

Benkenstein said: “I think it’s a huge advantage to have two test spin bowlers. We are going to try and make that work as well as we can.

“Nathan has said he can spin it on any track so he’s happy to play.

“Obviously, Tom is really confident. He’s had a great series in India and has put himself on the test map.”

Although the first county game barely had much cricket as rain played spoilsport, we did see a glimpse of Lyon and Hartley working in tandem.

Benkenstein did find the right team equilibrium, counting on Hartley’s batting skills and using him as an all-rounder.

Benkenstein believes that having Lyon around is massively going to help Hartley develop his game, even if it is just bowling with the 36-year-old in the nets.

“For Tom Hartley, its almost a dream come true. These are the times in your career that can really define your career.

“What he [Hartley] is going to gain having Nathan around, in the nets, the way Nathan is thinking, having played against the best in the world and performed against the best.

“I think for Tom it’s incredible to have Nathan around.”

Lyon and Hartley are on very different career trajectories. Lyon already has a seat at the table of spin legends like Shane Warne, Muttiah Murlitharan and Anil Kumble whereas Hartley’s test match appearances are not even in double figures.

To have a master like Lyon by his side is every apprentice’s dream.

And Hartley will be living that dream this summer at Lancashire.