Nathan Lyon makes Test history in staggering feat against West Indies

Nathan Lyon celebrates a wicket on the left, and takes a picture with a fan on the right.
Nathan Lyon became the eight-highest Test wicket-taker of all-time on Sunday, and is the most prolific off-spinner behind only Muttiah Muralitharan. Pictures: Getty Images

Nathan Lyon has continued his ascension into the all-time ranks of Test off-spinners thanks to his impressive bowling against the West Indies in Perth. The 35-year-old's figures of 6-128 in the fourth innings, on a generally uncooperative Optus Stadium pitch, has seen him overtake Ravichandran Ashwin to become the second-most prolific Test off-spinner of all time.

Only the record set 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.

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While the home side rarely looked in doubt against the West Indies thanks to their impressive efforts with the bat, spearheaded by Marnus Labuschagne's first innings double-century and second innings hundred, Lyon's bowling on day five was crucial in getting a result. West Indies opener Kraigg Braithwaite scored a century, while debutant Tagenarine Chanderpaul (45) and tail-enders Roston Chase (55) and Alzarri Joseph (44) offered particularly stubborn resistance.

It was Lyon though, who removed Braithwaite before tearing through the West Indies middle order. Only the towering feat of Muralitharan's 800 wickets stand above Lyon and Ashwin, however besting that feat would also see them become take the all-time Test wickets record.

The pair stand alone and interestingly close in the rankings, which could be affected later in the summer when Australia travels to face India in February. Aged 35 and 36 respectively, the chase for the record between Lyon and Ashwin could well be decided by longevity.

With Lyon now elevated to the eight-highest Test wicket taker of all time, fans were quick to praise his efforts against the West Indies on social media. It was the third time Lyon has achieved a five-wicket haul in the fourth innings on Australian soil.

Nathan Lyon continues ascension in Australian bowling ranks

Once derided for an apparent inability to close out games on day five late in his career, Lyon's haul also made him only the third Australian to pass 100 fourth-innings wickets, after Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath. Australian captain Pat Cummins, who is nursing a leg injury, said Lyon had never given up on developing his game.

"He's got plenty of different tricks now," Cummins said. "You saw him bowl over the wicket, around the wicket a lot. You felt like he could beat (the batsmen) on the outside of the bat, bring bat pad into play.

"He just feels like he's got a few different ways he can get a batter out, and he's happier to chop and change between them as opposed to earlier in his career."

Nathan Lyon raises the ball to the crowd as his teammates applaud.
Nathan Lyon's six wickets in the fourth innings against the West Indies proved pivotal to Australia's victory on day five. (Photo by James Worsfold/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Off-spin proved to be a valuable weapon in the second innings, with part-time spinner Travis Head nabbing two wickets of his own. Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazelwood each nabbed a wicket of their own, but had a hard task ahead of them with Cummins not bowling and an uncompliant pitch.

After the tourists' captain had reached his century on day four, Lyon went flatter and spun the ball back into Brathwaite's off stump on 110. The spinner had earlier landed the other crucial blow late on day four, with Jermaine Blackwood caught at bat-pad on 24 after he and Brathwaite had built a 58-run stand.

"One thing he has always been good at but continues to get better and better with, is he can bowl 25 to 30 quality overs in a day," Cummins said of Lyon. "There aren't a heap of bowlers who can do that."

The win keeps alive the team's hopes of wrapping up a spot in the World Test Championship final before heading to India, with a faultless home summer potentially enough to do so.

With AAP

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