Nathan Lyon claimed four wickets in just six balls to decimate Pakistan’s top order. Picture: AFP
Nathan Lyon claimed four wickets in just six balls to decimate Pakistan’s top order. Picture: AFP

Lyon’s ominous warning to world cricketing nations

NATHAN Lyon has declared his best bowling is still ahead of him after surpassing Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson on Australia's list of all-time wicket-takers.

The last time Lyon was in the UAE playing Pakistan four years ago he turned in one of the worst series a spinner could ever have in Asia, taking just three wickets at 140 runs a pop.

But last night he returned to take another momentous step in his stunning career evolution, as he decimated Pakistan's top order with four wickets in six balls to move to 314 wickets and fourth on the list behind only Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Dennis Lillee.

Lyon says he seized on a tacky Abu Dhabi wicket by having the wits to go back to shelve the "bowling ugly" game plan and attack like he was back home in bouncier Australian conditions as Pakistan crumbled for just 282 on a ground where the average first innings score is 402.

The modest 30-year-old admits he struggles to believe he sits amongst the pantheon of Australia's greatest bowlers, but warned opposition sides his belief that he is yet to reach his peak in Test cricket.

"I think I can get better. I think I need to get better," said Lyon.

"I want to be the best version of myself. I'm very confident with the way the ball is coming out of my hand and I'll leave it at that. I don't want to give many secrets away."

Lyon needs only 41 wickets to join Lillee in third spot, and although there are plenty of variables ahead - not even McGrath's mark of 563 could be completely beyond the realms if the man they call the GOAT has another 60 Test matches ahead of him.

The boy from Young has done him and his family proud.

"No, (I can't believe it) really," he said.

"I've never been one for personal success and personal goals, or at least talking about them.

"But it's a massive honour to pass the likes of Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson today.

"I have played a lot of cricket with Mitch and he's been like a big brother to me.

"I've been very fortunate to play 80 Test matches for Australia and it's something I'll look back when I retire from the game with family friends and have a beer and talk about it.

"I know my mum and dad will be pretty proud."

Lyon bowled three maidens in a row at Pakistan pair Azhar Ali and Fakhar Zaman before he enticed a poor drive from Azhar and a bat pad from Haris Sohail to put himself on a hat-trick.

That record was missed, but one ball later Lyon had Asad Shafiq before Babar Azam came out and lasted just two balls. Azam became the third Pakistan duck claimed by the prolific off-spinner in his rampaging spell of 4-0 in six deliveries.

Nathan Lyon celebrates with teammates as his wicket haul grew yesterday. Picture: AP
Nathan Lyon celebrates with teammates as his wicket haul grew yesterday. Picture: AP

All this from a spinner who lacked confidence and a workable game plan back in 2014 against the same opposition in the same conditions.

"If I'm being honest looking back four years ago now, I think I've learnt a lot about my bowling," said Lyon.

"I've become a lot more consistent and I've figured out a way to bowl in the subcontinent. That's going back to my term of bowling ugly and having the confidence that if you do that for long periods of time you'll get results.

"If I'm being honest, I think we're in a better place than we were four years ago. Our tactics here now after our second tour here is better than it was."

Lyon also praised the performance of part-time leg-spinner Marnus Labuschagne who changed the game with a superb spell to finish with 3-45 in just his second Test.

Labuschagne joins Steve Smith as the only leg-spinners to have claimed three-wicket hauls for Australia since Shane Warne.

Lyon said Labuschagne was a game-breaker.

"Yeah definitely. You see that with a lot of leg-spinners," he said.

"The way Marnus has come on and has done his job for the Australian cricket side over the last two games with the ball, I think he's an exciting little player.

"I've got big hopes for him, big raps on him. He's a lovely guy, I'm a big fan of him … I think he's got a big future."

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