Nathan Lyon became the 35th Australian to get 100 wickets in Test cricket on December 28, 2013. The off-spinner achieved the feat on Day Three of the fourth Ashes 2013-14 Test against England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). The journey has been to and fro for Lyon so far. Shrikant Shankar believes there is more to come from Lyon in the future.
Nathan Lyon made his Test debut for Australia on August 31, 2011, against Sri Lanka at Galle. At that time, he was part of an Australian team shuffling through spinners. Over two years after his debut, Lyon has settled himself as Australia’s lead spinner in Test cricket. On December 28, 2013, he became the fourth youngest to get 100 wickets in Test cricket after Shane Warne, Craig McDermott and Graham McKenzie. That is not a bad list to be part of.
The milestone was reached on Day Three of the fourth Ashes against England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). He entered the match with 95 Test wickets. The off-spinner dismissed Monty Panesar in England’s first innings. In the second innings, he got a five-wicket haul and in process reached 100 wickets. He dismissed Ian Bell first as the batsman lobbed a catch to Mitchell Johnson at mid-off. Ben Stokes was the next to fall as he charged Lyon and hit straight to Steven Smith at wide mid-off.
Tim Bresnan was bowled while trying to pull. Stuart Broad edged a turner to Michael Clarke at first slip. Thus, Lyon had got his 100 wickets. To cap it all off, Lyon got the prized wicket of Kevin Pietersen to get his fourth five-wicket haul and his first in an Ashes series. Pietersen had tried to launch Lyon out of the MCG, but he miscued his shot and Ryan Harris took a good catch at long-off. Most his wickets were gifted by the England batsmen, but there is no denying the fact that Lyon did bowl well and induced pressure on the batsmen.
Lyon is only 26 years old and has a long career ahead of him. He is not in the same class as his predecessors — Shane Warne and Richie Benaud — but he can carve out a separate legacy for himself. When he entered the Australian team, they were in an excruciating transitional phase. Legendary players were retiring and new players were finding it difficult to settle in. Some even felt that Lyon was initially there by default as there were not many quality spinners around.
But Lyon has been part of this Australian team which has not only regained the Ashes, but also blitzed England. He was in amongst the wickets in the first three Tests, but the spotlight was on Johnson due to his heroics with the ball. But Lyon has now come into the limelight a little bit with his five-wicket haul and getting past 100 wickets in Test cricket.
When this 10-Test Ashes series started in England July 2013 in Nottingham, Lyon was overlooked by teen sensation Ashton Agar as the spinner. He did not play the first two Tests and Australia lost both the matches. He was brought back into the team in the third Test and had done quite well. In fact, prior to his exclusion in the first two Tests, Lyon had taken nine wickets against a strong Indian side at Delhi. Out of those wickets, seven came in the first innings. Dropping him was a surprise. But he has cemented his place since then.
He even entered the series Down Under as the second best spinner from both teams behind England’s Graeme Swann. Lyon has completely outshone a bowler who was arguably the best spinner in the last five years. Prior to the fourth Test, Lyon had taken 10 wickets to Swann’s three. While the difference was only seven wickets, watching the matches gave a better picture as to how the two off-spinners bowled. Lyon was not spectacular, but never let England take charge against him. Swann, on the other hand, was carted everywhere by the Australian batsmen.
That prompted Swann to retire before the Boxing Day test match. Lyon just went better and took six wickets in the fourth test match. He is now the third highest wicket-taker in the series as of December 28, 2013. Lyon has 16 wickets and is behind Johnson’s staggering tally of 31 and Broad’s 17. Age is on his side and he is part of a team that seems to have turned the corner in Test cricket. There are still some players who are in the wrong side of 30 and will soon retire. So, it is imperative that players like Lyon help the team complete the transition completely and head into a brighter future.
If he stays fit and delivers in different conditions at home and away, Lyon can get a lot more wickets for Australia. For a team with extraordinary fast bowling talent, it is important that they have one spinner to back upon.
(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)
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