The Ashes 2013-14 December 23, 2013

Lyon on cusp of 100 Test wickets

Nathan Lyon is nearing a rare century. Australia's leading Test spinners have overwhelmingly been of the leg variety - Shane Warne, Richie Benaud, Clarrie Grimmett, Stuart MacGill and Bill O'Reilly top the wicket list. You can count on one hand the number of Australian offspinners who have taken 100 Test wickets, but Lyon is poised to join Hugh Trumble, Ashley Mallett, Bruce Yardley and Ian Johnson on that list, the first player in 30 years to reach the milestone.

Lyon will begin the Boxing Day Test on 95 wickets. Playing enough Tests to take that many is an achievement in the post-Warne era, given the way Australia's selectors rotated through the slow bowlers until settling on Lyon. Exciting he may not be, but Lyon has provided important variety for Michael Clarke and has been steady enough to maintain the pressure built up by the fast bowlers during this Ashes series.

"If I get there it'll be a great achievement, but we're worried about getting a 4-0 result here and then, when I finish my career, I'll worry about my results," Lyon said. "I just want to keep bowling well and keep contributing to Australian cricket and hopefully if I play my role and everyone plays their role in the team we'll get our result.

"I'm definitely confident about my own skill to get the job done, there's no doubt about that. There's a great feeling in the team at the moment. Everyone's playing together and everyone wants each other to do well. It's a great feeling and I'm very proud to be a part of it."

Lyon has outbowled his England counterpart Graeme Swann in this series and was surprised to learn that Swann had retired in the lead-up to the Melbourne Test, ending the career of a man Lyon had respected greatly. While the majority of successful offspinners in recent years have been from the subcontinent, often boasting doosras and other unusual varieties, Lyon and Swann are of the more traditional breed.

"He's someone I certainly looked up to and learnt my craft off just watching on the TV," Lyon said. "He's been a pleasure to play against and I've had a couple of chats with him. It's a credit to him and his career and I wish him all the best.

"Just his consistency [has] been fantastic, and the way he puts the ball in different spots in different ways. I get a lot out of just watching it. Credit to Graeme Swann, he's been fantastic and he's going to be missed for cricket in general, but it's a big positive for Australia, there's no doubt about it. He's been the menace for Australia over the last few years."

Swann's consistency is a trait Lyon would like to emulate, and he knows that while he bowled well in Brisbane and Perth this series, he was disappointed with his output in Adelaide. However, at only 26, and with less than three years as a first-class cricketer to call upon, Lyon is still learning his craft. For now, he is happy to hold up an end and let the likes of Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris take the majority of the attention.

"Not one of us is concerned who takes wickets so long as one of us in the bowling group is taking wickets and we're able to take 20 wickets in a Test match," he said. "That's our goal. If Mitchell Johnson keeps taking seven-fors and five-fors, I'm more than happy about that. It's going to be someone's day. We just have to keep working together as a team unit and keep enjoying it."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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