Australia v India, 4th Test, Adelaide, 4th day January 27, 2012

Lyon does it in the air

The offspinner had only taken only three wickets in the series previously, but delivered the scalps of Sehwag, Tendulkar and Laxman on the fourth day

Mark Taylor once joked about ordering Shane Warne to deliver the full toss that England's Graham Thorpe had played over the top of to be bowled at the Gabba. The next day Taylor discovered, to his considerable mirth, that at least one newspaper reported these chuckling words as truth.

Nathan Lyon was not ordered to bowl the full toss that did for Virender Sehwag on the penultimate day of the series at Adelaide Oval, but he was counselled to try something a little higher and loopier to tempt the opener's hungry eyes. Those words came from Ricky Ponting, who turned out to be the man who took the catch when Sehwag's hearty swing across the line resulted in a skier and his wicket. There was laughter, as well as jubilation, in the Australian team huddle.

"Ricky Ponting came up to me just before that ball and just said 'do him in the air', so I was pretty happy with it," Lyon said. "It wasn't probably my best ball going around, but they've still got to play it, and I'm not going to call him back, that's for sure."

Having taken only three wickets for the series entering its final innings, Lyon can be forgiven for any lack of charity. He has found the challenge of India's batsmen a vexing one, but on the most spin-friendly pitch of the summer rewards have started to arrive. In the first innings Lyon did for VVS Laxman at the end of a tidy spell, and in the second he nabbed Sachin Tendulkar and Laxman again to follow up the dismissal of Sehwag.

Both Tendulkar and Laxman were playing their final Test innings in Australia, but Lyon had subsisted on too meagre a diet of wickets to roll out any kind of red carpet for the duo. Tendulkar's wicket was a source of particular joy, as it arrived in classical fashion: the flight and loop landed the ball short of his defensive push, the spin and bounce taking it up onto glove, pad and into short leg's hands.

"I had my own plans and he had to come out and play the best way possible with his plans," Lyon said of Tendulkar. "Definitely it's been a privilege to get him out, but saying that we've still got another four wickets to go tomorrow and the job's not done as far as we're concerned, so we're going to have to turn up and be on our game and hopefully get these four wickets.

"I've felt I've bowled reasonably okay the whole summer that's for sure, so it's just good to be able to contribute to hopefully a team victory."

Lyon spent much of his afternoon bowling around the wicket, an angle he has favoured for considerable stretches of his young Test career, drifting the ball across the right-handers then spinning it back down the line of the stumps. The trace of footmarks left by the left-armer Zaheer Khan on a deteriorating pitch also provided encouragement for Lyon, and his captain Michael Clarke.

"Around the wicket was purely [about] spinning up the line of the stumps," Lyon said. "There was a bit of rough there, which we thought may play in their heads I guess and it just might spit out something. So it was a plan that Pup and myself came up together with.

"It's been a perfect Test match wicket in my book, there's been some early wickets and some runs scored and now we're starting to see some natural variation, spin and the ball starting to keep low, so it's been a good Test match wicket."

Lyon has observed it all as an Australian cricketer, not as part of the ground staff he had worked with in last summer's corresponding Test match against England. The speed of Lyon's rise has been dizzying, and the return to Adelaide has brought it all back.

"It's been a different side of the fence you could say right now," he said. "I'm enjoying the Test match rather than sitting on the roller watching it. It's been a fantastic experience playing in front of my home crowd and I've really enjoyed every moment of it."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here