Nathan Lyon makes cricket history in staggering feat in first Test

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Nathan Lyon, pictured here claiming his 20th five-wicket haul in Test cricket.
Nathan Lyon claimed his 20th five-wicket haul in Test cricket. Image: Fox Cricket/Getty

Nathan Lyon made cricket history on the opening day of the first Test against Sri Lanka after the 20th five-wicket haul of his career took him past Richard Hadlee on the all-time wicket-takers list.

Lyon claimed figures of 5-90 to help bowl Sri Lanka out for 212 just after tea on Wednesday, before the Aussies went to stumps at 3-98 in Galle.

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The off-spinner claimed the key wicket of Dimuth Karunaratne for 28 just after lunch, drawing his inside edge before David Warner took a brilliant one-handed catch at slip.

Angelo Mathews became Lyon's next victim when he glided him straight to Warner at leg slip, before the off-spinner ended a rearguard action from Niroshan Dickwella (58) to run through the tail early in the final session.

In doing so he joined Clarrie Grimmett, Dennis Lillee, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne as the only Australians to claim 20 five-wicket hauls at Test level.

He now has 432 Test wickets, going past New Zealand great Hadlee (431) to sit 12th on the all-time list.

And he won't have long to wait before he moves even further up the list, with Rangana Herath (433) and Kapil Dev (434) firmly in his sights.

Dale Steyn (439) and Ravi Ashwin (442) are also within touching distance, although Indian spinner Ashwin will likely add to his tally as he is still playing.

Among active players, only Ashwin (30) and Jimmy Anderson (31) have more five-wicket hauls.

Nathan Lyon finds beauty in bowling ugly

Derided for his inability to take command with his spin in the 2016 series against Sri Lanka, Lyon failed to take a five-wicket haul in the 3-0 flogging back then.

He has since spoken about the lessons taken from that, including realising he needed to learn to bowl ugly on the sub-continent with more variations in his release point.

"I've learned a lot from my time in the sub-continent but also in Australia about how to bowl off breaks and what is effective," Lyon said.

"That phrase of bowling ugly is something I refer to myself to make sure I use my variations and bowl at the right speeds.

"I have fallen in love with the shape of off-break bowling in Australia, and coming to the sub-continent is something I need to do to make sure I am getting the best out of myself."

Nathan Lyon, pictured here appealing for a leg before wicket against Sri Lanka in the first Test.
Nathan Lyon appeals for a leg before wicket against Sri Lanka in the first Test. (Photo by ISHARA S. KODIKARA/AFP via Getty Images)

Even then-coach Darren Lehmann admitted after the series loss six years ago that Lyon's record on the sub-continent wasn't good enough.

Ultimately, it proved to be a turning point.

At the end of that tour, Lyon's figures on what is renowned as the spin-bowling haven of Asia stood at 42 wickets at an average of 42.57.

Since then he has taken 70 wickets at 25.84 on the continent.

Wednesday's haul marked his second straight five-wicket haul, having spun Australia to victory against Pakistan in Lahore in the third Test in March.

"It's about me asking different questions by different variations," Lyon added.

"Whereas in Australia I will probably stick to my strength which is my stock ball and trust in that.

"When you come over here you have about three or four different variations that you are able to trust and know you're going to get some assistance off the wickets."

with AAP

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