There are 5 spinners who have taken 100 or more wickets in Australia in Test cricket. But only one amongst them does not bowl leg-spin. Nathan Lyon is the second-highest Test wicket-taker in Australia amongst spinners after the great Shane Warne. He is the only off-spinner in a top 5 dominated by leg break legends. Lyon is followed by Stuart MacGill, Clarrie Grimmett and Richie Benaud. This tells a story. Australia hasn”t been a kind place for orthodox off-spinners. Some of the best from the world have struggled Down Under.
Therefore Lyon’s record of 197 wickets in 51 home Tests at an average of 32.71 and strike rate of 66.2 stands out. His success in unfavourable conditions in Australia meant that he was the lead spinner for his country in the decade he made his debut and it is the main reason why the off-spinner will be playing his 100th Test when Australia clash with India at The Gabba in the 2020-2021 series decider starting the 15th of January.
India vs Australia: Skipper Tim Paine Backs Nathan Lyon & Mitchell Starc to Come Good in Brisbane
TWO PLAYER OF THE MATCH PERFORMANCES AGAINST INDIA
Lyon had a great start to his Test career picking 5 wickets in his first innings on Test debut against Sri Lanka in Galle in 2011. But he made his first real match-winning contribution against India in Adelaide in 2012 bagging 4 wickets in India’s second innings including Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman resulting in a massive win for Australia and with that a 4-0 sweep in the series. His first Player of the Match performance also came against India in Adelaide in 2014 – he picked 5 wickets in the first innings (including 4 top-middle wickets) and then returned to grab 7 in the second. India, chasing 364, collapsed from 242 for 2 to 315 all out. Lyon’s 12-286 are his second-best bowling figures in a match.
He gave another match-winning performance against India – in Perth in 2018. Lyon returned with 5-67 in 34.5 overs in the first innings before getting three crucial wickets of Murali Vijay, Virat Kohli and Rishabh Pant in the second to hand Australia a 146-run victory.
Lyon enjoyed bowling against India and has a very impressive record in India – a rarity for spinners from outside the subcontinent.
India vs Australia: Bowled Gaz! Lyon Hits 100-test Milestone In Decider Vs India
A BETTER BOWLING AVERAGE IN INDIA THAN WARNE AND MURALITHARAN
Lyon has picked 34 wickets in 7 Tests at an average of 30.58 in India where some of the greats of all-time have struggled. Just for perspective Warne had an average of 43.11 and Muttiah Muralitharan 45.45 in India. But it is Lyon’s strike rate which really stands out. At 51.7, it is the third best for any visiting spinner in India (min. 20 wickets) after Hedley Verity and Saqlain Mushtaq. This suggests that the off-spinner has been an attacking option for Australia in India and not a filler for the fast bowlers which is what most overseas tweakers have been.
Lyon picked 8 wickets in the first innings in Bengaluru in 2017 routing India for 189 – this was his best performance in the country. He had also bagged 7 in the first innings in Delhi in 2013.
HIGHER STRIKE RATE IN THE ASHES THAN BENAUD, UNDERWOOD AND SWANN
The Ashes is considered as a benchmark for Australian and English players. Lyon has an excellent record in the Ashes. He has picked 85 wickets in 23 Tests at an average of 30.52 and strike rate of 65.9 against arch-rivals England. Lyon has a better strike rate in the Ashes than the likes of Benaud, Derek Underwood and Graeme Swann (another off-spinner). He picked 21 wickets in Australia’s 4-0 triumph in the 2017 home Ashes.
EXCELLENT RECORD AGAINST NEW ZEALAND
Lyon has picked 50 wickets in just 10 Tests at an average of 20.52 against Trans-Tasman rivals, New Zealand. Once again, it is his strike rate of 40.4 which stands out and is the third-best for a spinner against New Zealand (min. 20 wickets) after Graham Lock and R Ashwin.
Muttiah Muralitharan Says Nathan Lyon ‘Not Good Enough’ to Reach 800 Wickets, R Ashwin Could
A WICKET-TAKER IN HOME CONDITIONS
Australia has been unforgiving for off-spinners where some of the greatest of all-times have struggled. The greatest of them all, Muralitharan picked just 12 wickets in 5 Tests at 75.41 in Australia. Saqlain Mushtaq could bag just 14 wickets in his 4 Test Down Under at a strike rate of 74.5. Graeme Swann had a tough time in Australia too with just 22 wickets in 8 Tests at an average of 52.59 while R Ashwin, almost unplayable in India, has conceded approximately 42 runs per wicket Down Under.
It is in this light that Lyon’s numbers at home stand out. He is the second-highest wicket-taker amongst spinners in Australia with 197 wickets in 51 Tests at an impressive average of 32.71. But what really stands out is his strike rate of 66.2, which means, on an average, Lyon has picked a wicket every 11 overs even in unhelpful conditions Down Under. Instead of being a defensive option which is the plight of most off-spinners in Australia, Lyon has weaponized himself to be a strike bowler. This, despite the fact that Australia was always blessed with a plethora of talented fast bowlers thus reducing the opportunities for a spinner to make an impact, that too an off-spinner.
Lyon’s balls bowled per wicket ratio in Australia is better than greats like Herath, Chandrasekhar, Bedi, Laker, Underwood, Vettori, Muralitharan, Swann, Benaud and Ashwin just to name a few.
It is this wicket-taking attacking quality which makes Lyon a Test great!
THE HIGHEST WICKET-TAKER SINCE TEST DEBUT
Lyon has picked 396 wickets in 99 Tests at an average of 31.98 and strike rate of 63.9 including 18 five-wickets in an innings and three 10 wickets in a match in his glorious career since making his debut in August, 2011. He has been the highest wicket-taker in the world in this time-period. The calendar year 2017 was his best in Test cricket where he picked 63 wickets in just 11 Tests at an average of 23.55 and strike rate of 52.2.
Lyon is just 4 wickets shy of joining the famous five in the elite 400-Club. It will be fitting if he achieves the feat playing his 100th Test at The Gabba.