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Nathan Lyon leads Australia to series-saving victory

Australia's Nathan Lyon looks on as he fields against Bangladesh.
Australia's Nathan Lyon looks on as he fields against Bangladesh. A.M. Ahad

NATHAN Lyon has done what few can claim and dethroned Shane Warne in the record books as he savoured a career-high, series-saving triumph in Chittagong.

Relentless comparisons to history's greatest spinner almost killed Lyon's life as a Test cricketer, but on day four he eclipsed Warne's best ever figures with a spectacular 13-wicket haul that has officially cemented the unassuming hero as one of the finest bowlers Australia has ever produced.

Nearly axed last summer in response to the whitewash loss in Sri Lanka, Lyon has only 12 months on celebrated his finest hour in a matchwinning performance that will stand as eternal testimony to never losing faith in a proven performer.

Australia rocketed home to a convincing seven-wicket second Test victory and the 1-1 result ensures the players return home to prepare for the Ashes with their egos bruised but not ruined and some momentum and self-belief back on side.

Lyon was named man of the match and he and opener David Warner joint men of the series.

Lyon said his career fightback was one of his greatest achievements.

"It's definitely up there personally. But sitting down with the skipper in Darwin, and obviously before these Test matches, he put a big onus on me to take control of the ball," he said.

"Personal success as everyone knows is not something that I look at. It's moments like we've got now, after winning a Test match for Australia we'll go back and sit around as a group and tell stories and then sing the song. And that's what I play cricket for, those moments.

"But personally I'm very happy with the way they're coming out. To take 22 wickets in a two-match series, it's a pretty big achievement personally."

Unwilling to risk the prospect of monsoonal rain returning on day five, Australia hit the accelerator, knocking off its 86-run target in just 15.3 overs, with Glenn Maxwell slaughtering his second six in a rapid-fire 25-run cameo to finish the job.

Australia's David Warner and Nathan Lyon hold their joint player of the series trophy.
Australia's David Warner and Nathan Lyon hold their joint player of the series trophy. A.M. Ahad

A drawn series can't save Australia from dipping to No.5 in the Test rankings, its lowest point since the Argus Review, but a big campaign against England could turn things around quickly again and Lyon and Warner have ensured there is now momentum and self-belief going into the Ashes.

Living up to his nickname the GOAT, the greatest off-spinner of all time ripped up the history books to take the lead as the premier bowler in all of world cricket in 2017 with 45 scalps as he entered rare air as one of the most successful spinners to ever visit Asia.

Lyon's 22 wickets at an average of 14 is second only to Sri Lankan Ragana Herath (23) as the best ever return in a two-match series, and the great Sir Ian Botham is the only other man to have ever taken 13 wickets as a touring bowler on the subcontinent.

"Magnificent. The first innings the wicket really wasn't offering a great deal and the way he just hit that right area particularly with the new ball, skidding it on and hitting a few guys in front (was outstanding)," captain Steve Smith said of Lyon.

"That was the perfect way to bowl and I'm really proud of him. I think he's come a long way particularly in the subcontinent the last couple of years, he's developed a different style at times. He knows when to bowl differently and when to bowl his stock ball and the way he bowled through this series, to take 22 wickets in a two-match series is remarkable, so I'm really proud of him."

Australia's Peter Handscomb and Glenn Maxwell celebrate their victory over Bangladesh.
Australia's Peter Handscomb and Glenn Maxwell celebrate their victory over Bangladesh. A.M. Ahad

After sweeping past Warne's career best of 12-for, Lyon's 13-154 in Chittagong came breathlessly close to best ever figures by an Australian spinner - Clarrie Grimmett's 14-199 just edging him out.

Lyon became just the third player in Test cricket to take six wickets in three consecutive innings, a mark of consistency which sums up a remarkable turnaround after he was largely blamed for the failings in Sri Lanka and would have lost his place in the summer if Steve O'Keefe had stayed fit.

In one of the great resurrection stories, Lyon has roared back from the brink to leave Ravi Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja in the shade and take 46 wickets this calendar year at a better average and strike-rate than the Indian giants.

At the peak of Lyon's second-innings six-for on day four (to go with seven in the first dig), it seemed Bangladesh wouldn't even make Australia bat again as it stumbled to 5-43 - before rebuilding and setting the tourists a modest 86 to win.

Warner fell early chasing quick runs, as did Steve Smith and Matt Renshaw, but unpredictable weather gave them good reason to go hard or go home.

 

Australia's Nathan Lyon celebrates with his teammates after the dismissal of Bangladesh's Mominul Haque.
Australia's Nathan Lyon celebrates with his teammates after the dismissal of Bangladesh's Mominul Haque. A.M. Ahad

Lyon got his fifth thanks to a brilliant diving catch in the outfield by Pat Cummins - who was also outstanding with the ball - while keeper Matthew Wade whipped off the bails to knock off another two stumpings for the match.

Cummins' 2-27 in 11 overs was better than the numbers indicated as he achieved the almost impossible of making a fourth-day subcontinental wicket bounce like it was day one at the Gabba.

Maxwell's clinical finish will help him, but he and Wade are fighting for survival as Australia urgently hunt for an Ashes No.6 and likely a new keeper.

However, there is plenty of confidence to be taken from Chittagong after Australia's two most experienced campaigners Lyon and Warner stood up under enormous pressure and delivered sublime performances.

Smith described the drawn result as bittersweet.

"We would have much preferred 2-0 but certainly it's nice to get over the line here and have a one-all draw," he said.

"I still think we have a lot of improvement in us. We let ourselves down throughout this Test match. I thought our first-innings bowling was very good. To restrict them. The wicket was very good. Our first-innings batting obviously the partnership between Petey and Davey (Handscomb and Warner) was fantastic and then we got ourselves into one of our collapses that we've had.

"We've had 15 collapses in our last 14 games our analyst told me yesterday and that's not good enough for an Australian cricket team. That's something we really need to work on and rectify that in the next series the Ashes."

Topics:  australian cricket team bangladesh cricket nathan lyon

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