Lyon's pride: Marking the milestone wickets
A chronological look at Nathan Lyon's Test career, from the first wicket with his first ball to overtaking Dennis Lillee at Headingley
25 August 2019, 08:53 PM AEST
Wicket No.1Kumar Sangakkara c Clarke b Lyon (August 2011)
Australia arrived in Galle in 2011 having tried eight different spinners since Shane Warne had retired in 2007.
Only one, Nathan Hauritz, had played more than 10 Tests, and Australia arrived in Sri Lanka with Michael Beer – the incumbent – and a groundsman from the Adelaide Oval as the spinners in their squad.
The then 23-year-old Nathan Lyon had made his first-class debut just six months earlier following a meteoric rise through the Big Bash.
And it didn't take long for the wiry spinner from Young in country New South Wales to show the world what was to come.
"Obviously the first one is pretty special, and then to take your first 5-fa...that happened pretty quickly for me which was very fortunate," Lyon said.
"The memory is pretty blurry actually. I was pretty nervous with my first ball in Test match cricket.
"Just before the ball Ricky Ponting just comes up and goes, 'Enjoy it and back your skill'. Mike Hussey came up and told me to smile. Pretty hard to smile when I'm that nervous.
"Thankfully Kumar was nice enough to nick one."
Wicket No.50Jacques Rudolph c Cowan b Lyon (November 2012)
Following that breakout five-wicket haul on debut, Lyon held his spot in the side with a string of solid performances – missing only the WACA Test against India in January 2012 when Australia played four quicks – and had collected a second career five-wicket haul in the West Indies.
Facing the South Africans at the venue where he had worked as a groundsman just two seasons prior, Lyon claimed his 50th Test wicket against South Africa, nabbing No.4 batsman Jacques Rudolph twice in the match. The second-innings dismissal on the fourth afternoon, shortly after the tea break, was the spinner's 50th in Test cricket.
Despite the Proteas falling to 4-45 the next over, South Africa lost just four more wickets in the next 124 overs as they held out on the final day to secure a famous draw, thanks to a near eight-hour vigil from debutant and player of the match Faf du Plessis and a 220-ball deadbat 33 from AB de Villiers.
The inexperienced Lyon's inability to make inroads on a turning fifth day pitch drew attention from critics – he claimed just the one wicket on the final day, having bowled 50 overs in the fourth innings – and was an early sign of how tenuous his hold on his spot would be seen by the public in the early stages of his career.
"It was a full ball and a pretty good catch by Ed (Cowan) actually," Lyon admitted.
Wicket No.100Stuart Broad c Clarke b Lyon (December 2013)
Following South Africa's escape in Adelaide, Lyon faced a lean period, failing to take more than three wickets in a match for the remaining Test against the Proteas and the subsequent three against Sri lanka. That lean return extended into the first two Tests of an India tour.
He responded by taking a stunning 7-94 in Shane Watson's single game as Test captain on a tour better remembered for Mickey Arthur and the 'homework' fiasco.
Despite taking nine scalps in that Delhi Test, he was overlooked for the start of the 2013 Ashes as Arthur was replaced by Darren Lehmann, who turned to Ashton Agar instead.
It was to be the last time Lyon would miss a Test. Regaining his spot in the side for the third Test of that winter's Ashes, and had enhanced his reputation as a reliable spinner and Australia's undisputed first-choice in the memorable return series that summer as Australia swept towards a 5-0 whitewash.
While that series is best remembered for the mustachioed Mitchell Johnson terrorising batsmen with his thunderbolts, Lyon picked up his 100th Test wicket and a fourth five-wicket haul in the process on day three of the Boxing Day Test – it was his first five-wicket haul on home soil.
"My 100th wicket was pretty similar to my first one actually. He just nicked it," Lyon said.
Wicket No.150Jos Buttler c Haddin b Lyon (July 2015)
With Ashes in hand, the Aussies next conquered rivals South Africa on home soil with Lyon claiming a five-wicket haul in the second Test.
However, the leanest period of his Test career was to follow, and his place was far from secure as India prepared to tour Australia.
With memories of Adelaide in 2012 on his mind, Lyon starred with 12 wickets for the Test including seven on a memorable final day to bowl his country to an emotional victory in the wake of the passing of Phillip Hughes.
By the time the next Ashes series arrived, Lyon had passed Hugh Trumble as Australia's most prolific off-spinner in history, earning him the GOAT sobriquet the 'Greatest Of All Time' for his standing in the record books.
"A sweep shot that ballooned off his glove and was caught by Brad Haddin," Lyon said of his 150th Test wicket that arrived in the opening Test in Cardiff.
Wicket No.200Dhananjaya de Silva c Khawaja b Lyon (July 2016)
This series is now seen as a turning point in Lyon's career. Entering it, Lyon had become well established as one of Australia's first picked in the side having contributed to series wins against New Zealand and the West Indies in the home summer along with a series victory on New Zealand soil.
Just under five years since his first Test, Lyon returned to Sri Lanka where he claimed his 200th victim in the first Test, becoming just the 15th Australian to reach the landmark.
"200 was (Dhananjaya) de Silva. I can't pronounce his first name. Caught at mid-off by ... I'm gonna say Adam Voges. Who? Khawaja? I better record that again," Lyon joked with cricket.com.au more than two years later.
The spinner could be forgiven for getting the details of the wicket as it proved an unhappy tour for him. Singled out for stinging criticism from both captain Steve Smith and coach Darren Lehmann in the wake of Australia's 3-0 series defeat, Lyon was at a low ebb.
"If I'm being honest I probably felt like I got hung out to dry a little bit," he says. "Or thrown under a bus by a couple of comments in the media by certain people."
Wicket No.250Islam lbw Lyon (August 2017)
The above-mentioned Sri Lanka series was the start of a string of five consecutive Test defeats that included two at home to South Africa. Lyon knew his future in the side was "on a knife's edge" and as selectors made mass changes for the third Test against the Proteas he seemed a likely omission – until an injury to Steve O'Keefe gave him a lifeline.
He bowled a decisive spell during that day-night Test in Adelaide and did enough in the series that followed against Pakistan to stay on for the tour of India.
With Matthew Wade now the Australian gloveman his call of "Niiiice Garry" gave Lyon cult hero status. The limelight agreed with the spinner as he grew into his new stature, and delivered his best ever figures of 8-50 in a match winning performance on Indian soil.
"(Test wicket number) 250 was Taijul Islam in Chittagong. I'm not really sure how I got him out. I'm pretty sure it's LBW. Not sure, I took quite a few wickets on that tour," Lyon recalled to cricket.com.au.
He's not wrong – Lyon took 22 wickets in that two-Test series in Bangladesh, including 13 in the Chittagong Test.
Along the way, he passed icons of Australian cricket Stuart MacGill (208 wickets), Clarrie Grimmett (216) and Richie Benaud (248) to sit behind only Shane Warne among Australian spinners.
Wicket No.300Kagiso Rabada stumped Paine b Lyon (March 2018)
Having dominated that tour of Bangladesh that saw him achieve a slew of records, Lyon's confidence was at a high as a home Ashes series loomed.
The series saw him take a stranglehold on England's left handers, playing no small part in the 4-0 series victory, particularly torturing England's Moeen Ali.
Now the Team's most capped player Lyon became just the sixth Australian to pass 300 Test wickets in the now infamous Cape Town Test.
"The big man, Rabada. Pretty good work by Tim Paine to whip the bails off," Lyon said.
"It was a massive relief to get that and it's something I'm pretty proud off."
Wicket No.350Ben Stokes c Paine b Lyon (August 2019)
With Australia rebuilding its image and its approach to cricket, Lyon was a constant throughout another tumultuous period. Away from Test cricket, he was returned to the one-day side where the skills honed in the Test arena held him in good stead.
In a year where Tests were sparse as attention focussed on the 2019 World Cup Lyon continued to perform admirably as part of a potent bowling attack in a team that had been shorn of two of its best batters in the fall out from Cape Town. He claimed four wickets in each innings of an Abu Dhabi Test against Pakistan, and picked up six in the second innings against the world No.1 ranked India side in Adelaide, but victory again proved elusive due to frailties higher up the batting order.
After becoming Australia's first-choice spinner during the World Cup a full-strength Australia entered the Ashes seeking a first series win on foreign soil for 18 years, and Lyon was at the fore with the ball again. Needing 10 wickets on the final day of the opening Test at Edgbaston, Lyon took six of them, with England allrounder Ben Stokes the 350th.
"I'm not in this game for personal milestones, but it's very special when you get your phone at the end of the day and there's a lot of (congratulatory) messages," Lyon told Sky Sports after his 350th wicket.
"Especially from family - I know Mum and Dad have been getting a lot of messages back home (too). When you get that and realise the enormity of it, it sits in a special space.
"Hopefully there's a few more to come and hopefully there's a few more series (wins) for Australia.
Joe Root c Warner b Lyon (August 2019)
He had to bide his time longer than he's used to - 290 deliveries to be precise - to go from 355 Test wickets (level with Dennis Lillee) to 356, but he finally got there on the fourth morning of the third Ashes Test.
It was worth the wait.
1. @ShaneWarne 2. @glennmcgrath11 3. @NathLyon421 What a moment for the 🐐 #Ashes pic.twitter.com/sB3goykpN1— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) August 25, 2019
Joe Root had defied Australia despite the visitors throwing everything at the England captain on day three, moving to 75 not out overnight and holding England's slim hopes of victory in his hands.
But Lyon struck the following morning, with the right-hander dancing down the track, edging onto his front pad as David Warner, at first slip, took his sixth catch for the match.
Lyon's move into fourth spot on Australia's all-time leading wicket taking charts could hardly have come at a more crucial juncture in the tightly-fought series.
And Lyon's favourite wicket of all?
Despite taking more than 350 Test wickets across eight years, Lyon is able – after some thought – to point sheepishly to one in particular as his favourite.
"It's quite hard to sit down and name one. Out of all (of them) there's not too many that I say I really deserved that," he told cricket.com.au.
"There's been a couple of good ones. Bowling Sachin Tendulkar through the gate in Chennai. I think only a small number of spinners have been able to do that feat against Sachin.
"Taking someone like Virat (Kohli's) wicket something like six times. Obviously he is one of the best batters in the world.
"However, I still believe that one of my best balls I bowled, which is embarrassing, is bowling Chris Martin at the Gabba (wicket No.16). It was probably one of the best balls I bowled. A genuine good ball to a right hander, through the gate."
"I've wasted it on Chris Martin – no offence Chris. I wish it was AB de Villiers or Kevin Pietersen or someone like that but it is what it is."
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.
England squad: Joe Root (c), Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Chris Woakes.
First Test: Australia beat England by 251 runs at Edgbaston
Second Test: Match drawn at Lord's
Third Test: August 22-26, Headingley
Tour match: Australians v Derbyshire, August 29-31
Fourth Test: September 4-8, Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval