Aussie off-spinner Nathan Lyon is set to eclipse one - and perhaps even two - of the late great Shane Warne's records when his side takes on the West Indies in the second Test at Adelaide Oval, beginning on Thursday. Lyon needs just one wicket in Adelaide to move past the record he shares with Warne of 56 wickets at the iconic ground.
Lyon has taken just 11 Tests to reach 56 Test wickets in Adelaide, compared to 13 for Warne. The off-spinner's scalps have come at an average of 26.55, which is also better than the 30.44 from Warne, who is considered by many to be the greatest Test bowler of all time.
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Having taken eight wickets for Australia in the first Test victory against the Windies last week in Perth, few would bet against Lyon surpassing Warne's record when he runs out on a ground he knows so well. Lyon of course, has an intimate knowledge of Adelaide Oval having famously served as a groundsman there, before his cricket career took off. He is still close with the ground's current head curator, Damian Hough.
“I think it’s a mixture of everything – the way that Damien produces the wicket with the moisture content, the grass levels, the thickness of it,” Lyon said this week. All in combination into a great wicket and that’s why I think this venue is probably the world-class leading venue.”
Adding weight to Lyon's recent success in Adelaide is the fact the ground has hosted day-night Tests since 2015, with the evening conditions and the pink ball said to favour the fast bowlers over the spinners.
“If you talk to the batters, some batters find it hard to pick up the seam at night time when they’re batting, so potentially I’ll bowl a few more variations,” Lyon said. "Simple things like cross seam and all that stuff to try and keep the batter guessing.”
Lyon already ticked off an impressive milestone in the first Test against the Windies, with the 35-year-old's figures of 6-128 in the fourth innings seeing him overtake Ravichandran Ashwin to become the second-most prolific Test off-spinner of all time.
Only the all-time record of 800 Test wickets by Sri Lankan great Muttiah Muralitharan stands above Lyon, who now boasts a total of 446 wickets in Test matches. The New South Welshman is currently eighth overall in the all-time Test wicket standings.
Incredibly, Lyon has a chance to break two of Warne's records in Adelaide, with he and Steve Smith currently tied with the late great and Mark Taylor as Australia’s highest bowler-fielder wicket-taking combination in Test history. Lyon and Smith - like Warne and Taylor - have both combined for 51 catches in Test matches, predominantly in the slips cordon. Lyon admits the record is something he and Smith have already discussed.
“Smithy actually sent me that message yesterday saying congrats that we were now equal with Tubby and Warnie,” Lyon revealed. "When you say it like that it’s pretty remarkable. Something that we’re both very proud of.
“To have someone like Steve Smith standing there for 90 per cent of my career it’s been pretty special. I’ve obviously got a lot of confidence in having Smithy there, and he gives me a lot of feedback on different paces, how the shape looks, etc, which is an unbelievable cricket conversation to have. So to be equal with Tubby and Warnie at the moment, hopefully we’ll overtake them pretty soon.”
Pat Cummins under injury cloud for Australia
The Aussies go into the second Test with a decision to make around the fitness of Pat Cummins, having already wrapped up the Frank Worrell Trophy with victory in the first Test. Cummins moved well through a 40-minute fitness test on his sore quad in Adelaide on Tuesday evening, but did not bowl in the team's net session that followed.
The Aussie captain would need to bowl on either Wednesday or Thursday morning before the Test begins to play, after being held back during the fourth innings of the opening Test. The Aussies will have to weigh up the benefit of playing Cummins and the risk of him doing further damage to his quad ahead of the Test series against South Africa, starting on December 17.
If Cummins does not play in Adelaide, last year's Ashes hero from the MCG Scott Boland looms as his likely replacement. Boland - who entered Ashes folklore by claiming 6/7 on Test debut at the MCG last year - could be a handful for the Windies on an Adelaide surface that Lyon reckons will play similarlarly to Melbourne.
"It's pretty similar to be honest," the spinner said, adding he would not be surprised if Adelaide curator and Lyon's former boss Hough "had some conversations with the Melbourne curators about how to do drop-in wickets to his level".
"That wicket last year was pretty similar to an Adelaide wicket. It's probably the closest a drop-in MCG wicket has been," Lyon added. So I am expecting pretty similar things if Scott gets the opportunity with the pink ball. I don't think many things will change.
Lyon also said Boland was a much more confident player now, after touring with Australia in Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
"His skill set has always been at the top in my eyes," he said. He hits me in the pad for fun when I play him in state cricket. But what I see in Scott now is his confidence level has gone up a little."
Boland bowled well under lights in Tuesday night's net session, with Mitchell Starc also having a brief run while Josh Hazlewood stayed in the gym. Both Hazlewood and Starc bowled in excess of 40 overs in Perth, and Australia does not have more than a four-day gap between any Tests this summer.
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