Is Nathan Lyon the greatest finger spinner to have ever played for Australia?
Nathan Lyon, the most prolific bowler in the current Australia vs India series, has just crossed Allan Donald in the list of most Test wickets. After 82 Tests, Lyon now has 334 wickets, standing at the 25th place in the list of all-time wicket-takers.
In Australian cricket, Lyon is now at No. 4, behind only Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Dennis Lilee. And among Australian spinners, he is only behind Warne.
Lyon has taken 14 five-wicket hauls and two 10-wicket hauls so far in his career, and looks good for many more.
Australia has always had a legacy of good wrist spinners with the likes of Shane Warne, Stuart MacGill or Brad Hogg. In fact, Warne is widely considered one of the five best bowlers to have ever played the game.
However, Australia haven't had a good finger spinner for a long time. It is difficult for a finger spinner to bowl on those hard Australian pitches which have very less to offer for slow bowlers, and especially for finger spinners.
Lyon is the kind of finger spinner that Australia have always wanted, but never managed to find.
In the current series, the Indian batsmen have been unable to pick him. He has taken 16 wickets so far in the series, the most for any bowler on either side, and his haul includes two five-wicket hauls. He was also adjudged as the Man of the Match in the second Test where Australia beat India by 146 runs at Perth.
The way Lyon set up Virat Kohli in the second innings was just amazing to watch, and showed that he is a cricketer who always thinks about making things happen rather than waiting for things to unfold for him. He kept bowling on middle and leg for a few overs and then suddenly bowled a ball well outside the off stump, inviting a drive and getting the edge from Kohli.
Everyone said there would be nothing for the spinners in the Perth Test, but Lyon somehow grabbed the most wickets in the match and played a big role in Australia leveling the series 1-1. Whenever Tim Paine wanted to restrict the flow of runs, he would just throw the ball to Lyon as he is economical with his bowling. But the spinner went one step further; not only did he arrest the scoring rate, he also provided regular breakthroughs.
Lyon does not have as many variations as Ravichandran Ashwin or some other bowlers of this generation, but what makes him unique is his ability to drop the ball at a single point consistently. He has a brave heart, frequently tossing the ball up and giving it air, which puts the batsmen in two minds.
Lyon made his Test debut back in 2011 against Sri Lanka, and picked up the wicket of Kumar Sangakkara off his very first delivery in international Cricket. It is safe to say he hasn't looked back since.
Lyon is the first Australian off-spinner to pick over 300 Test wickets. And he is just 31 years old, and still has at least 5 to 6 years of cricket left in him.
It seems pretty clear that Lyon will keep growing in stature, and achieve many more feats in his career. It's hard to argue that there's ever been a better finger spinner from Australia than him.