Nathan Lyon is an incredible story. From a groundsman to being mistaken as Ricky Ponting to Australia's premier spinner, he is all set to play his 100th Test when Australia take on India at The Gabba in Brisbane on Friday.
One hundred Tests. A monumental milestone that reflects longevity, consistency and celebrates a legacy. The mark has even eluded more illustrious names like Adam Gilchrist, Rod Marsh and Greg Chappell.
The wily off-spinner is set to become only the 13th Australian to play 100 Tests and the first to do so since Michael Clarke.
In 2010, a curator's job took Nathan Lyon to Adelaide from Canberra. During his tenure as a ground staff at the Adelaide Oval, his bowling talent was spotted by Southern Australia's coach Darren Berry.
The story goes…
Someone told Berry that the 'bloke on the roller' is a good off-spinner. Nathan Lyon was then playing for Prospect Cricket Club and worked as a groundsman at the Adelaide Oval.
Berry to Lyon: “Mate, come and have a bowl.”
Lyon: "Oh, mate, gotta roll the wickets.”
Nathan Lyon was a shy country guy in awe of the South Australian state team. It took some insistence from Berry to get Nathan Lyon to bowl.
Little did he know that the next few casual roll-overs would define his career, and he would embark on his way to filling the five-year void of a world-class Australian spinner after Shane Warne.
“He bowled three, maybe four balls, and I saw the ball come out of an off-spinner’s fingers with genuine fizz and drift and loop and thought straightaway, ‘This is special, this isn’t just a flat offie’,” Berry would later recall in a chat with Cricket Monthly.
Plucked out of seemingly nowhere, Nathan Lyon was fast-tracked into the South Australian T20 side. Days later, he was playing the T20 Big Bash. He ended the season as the joint highest wicket-taker in the tournament alongside a teenaged Pat Cummins. Their sides met in the final, where Nathan Lyon outshone his future Australian teammate to help South Australia to the title.
Less than a week later, Nathan Lyon made his first-class debut and immediately impressed with a four-for. Less than seven months later, he was bowling for Australia in Tests.
Then Australian selector Greg Chappell backed the then 23-year-old Nathan Lyon, who doubted if he belonged to the environment. To his credit, Nathan Lyon found a captain in Michael Clarke, who understood the off-spinner's art and backed him to nurture it.
Extending his dream run, Nathan Lyon got the prized scalp of Kumar Sangakkara off his very first ball in Test cricket, becoming only the third Australian to do so.
Ahead of his 100th Test, let's look at Nathan Lyon's performances in his milestone Tests, his milestone wickets and go through some interesting numbers.
Nathan Lyon’s milestone Tests
Debut Test | vs Sri Lanka, Galle, Aug-Sep 2011
Michael Clarke introduced Nathan Lyon in the 16th over. Round the wicket, first ball, Nathan Lyon found grip, turn and bounce to catch the edge of Sangakkara's bat on its way to Michael Clarke - a classical off-spinner's wicket!
Match Figures: 15-3-34-5 and 19.5-2-73-1 | 0* and 13 | Catches 1.
Match Result: Australia won by 125 runs.
Test # 25 | vs England, The Oval, Aug 2013 (Ashes, 5th Test)
England had comfortably won the series 3-0. The final Test ended in a draw but could have gone England’s way. Nathan Lyon did not make any significant impact, claiming the lone wicket of Joe Root.
Match Performance: 28-8-59-1 and 10-0-44-0 | 0*.
Match Result: Draw.
Test # 50 | vs West Indies, Hobart, Dec 2015
Australia dismantled a listless West Indies, with Nathan Lyon running through the top and middle-order of the visitors in the first innings.
Match Performance: 19-6-43-3 and 4-0-17-0 | Catches 1.
Match Result: Australia won by an innings and 212 runs.
Nathan Lyon’s Milestone Wickets
1st wicket: Kumar Sangakkara (caught Michael Clarke), Galle, 2011.
50th wicket: Jacques Rudolph (caught Ed Cowan), Adelaide, 2012.
100th wicket: Stuart Broad (caught Michael Clarke), Melbourne, 2013.
150th wicket: Jos Buttler (caught Brad Haddin), Cardiff, 2015.
200th wicket: Dhananjaya de Silva (caught Usman Khawaja), Pallekele, 2016.
250th wicket: Taijul Islam (lbw), Dhaka, 2017.
300th wicket: Kagiso Rabada, (stumped Tim Paine), Cape Town, 2018.
350th wicket: Ben Stokes, (caught Tim Paine), Edgbaston, 2019.
Nathan Lyon is four wickets short of the 400-mark. He averages 32 runs per wicket, four wickets per match and has a strike rate of 63.9. No bowler has taken more Test wickets than him since his debut.
Interesting facts about Nathan Lyon's career:
# Nathan Lyon is the third Australian and 17th overall to claim a wicket off his first ball in Test cricket.
# In June 2015, Nathan Lyon surpassed Hugh Trumble’s tally of 141 wickets to become Australia’s most successful off-spinner in the longest format of the game.
# Nathan Lyon (396 wickets) is Australia’s second-most successful spin bowler behind Shane Warne (708 wickets).
# With four more wickets, Nathan Lyon will join the 400-wicket club in Test cricket. He is poised to become the 16th entrant in the illustrious club, which comprises only five spinners. Nathan Lyon is set to join Muttiah Muralitharan (800), Shane Warne (708), Anil Kumble (619), Rangana Herath (433) and Harbhajan Singh (417).
# Nathan Lyon is the most successful spinner with the pink ball. In day-night Tests, he has taken 29 wickets in eight Tests at an average of 27.4. Leg-spinner Yasir Shah follows next with 18 wickets in four Tests at an average of 46.4.
# The batsmen that Nathan Lyon has dismissed the most times in Test cricket are Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane (ten times apiece). A lot of India’s fortunes in Brisbane will depend on the duo. Will Nathan Lyon continue to dominate Pujara and Rahane?
# 23% of Nathan Lyon’s Test wickets have come against India. He has 91 wickets at an average of 34.2 in 21 Tests against India. It’s the most wickets he has taken against any side, with England (85) coming in next.
# In Brisbane, the venue of his 100th Test, Lyon has played nine Tests and has claimed 35 wickets at a decent average of 29.37.
Trivia: Unlike his Indian counterpart Ravichandran Ashwin, Nathan Lyon doesn’t bowl much with the new ball. However, the only occasion he did so - the first over of the 2013 Delhi Test - he bagged the wickets of Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli. Quite a GOAT stuff!