Following the retirement of Shane Warne, Australia went through 11 spinners to try and fill the void - including specialist batsmen given the role - and a chap called Steven Smith. Then in 2011, they plucked out Nathan Lyon, a former groundsman at the Adelaide Oval - who had put in a handful of T20 performances and played just four first-class matches - for the tour of the Sri Lanka. Come Friday, he will be playing his 100th Test, having cemented his spot as one of the finest offspinners of all time. Here's a look back at that journey.
August 2011: First ball
Introduced in the 16th over of Sri Lanka's first innings by Michael Clarke, Lyon landed the perfect offbreak from around the wicket to Kumar Sangakkara, finding the edge which the captain grabbed at slip. Here's how our ball-by-ball commentary recorded the moment:
He has struck first ball, would you believe it! he has got Kumar Sangakkara, of all men, what a first Test wicket to have, off your first ball, flight from round the wicket, grip, turn, bounce, Sanga hangs out the bat away from the body, with a bit of an open face, Clarke snaps it up low with a lunge to his left at slip, superb catch, aye, aye, this is an attack being led by the debutants at the moment.
Lyon would finish with 5 for 34 in the first innings to help set up a victory that would ultimately give Australia the series.
November 2011: First home Test
A few months later, Lyon made his first appearance on home soil and claimed seven wickets in the match against New Zealand at the Gabba.
February-August 2013: In and out
Lyon had been a consistent performer, including getting 12 wickets in the last two Tests on a tour to West Indies in 2012. He revealed late last year in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald that that tour had included a heart-to-heart with Justin Langer, then the team's batting coach, about the realities of making it as a Test cricketer. "That was probably the biggest for me, that 'this is real'," Lyon said. "That the honeymoon was officially over."
A first tour to India in early 2013 would be a big challenge and it was there, in the months to come, that he suffered the most uncertain part of his career amid some curious selection decisions. He was dropped after the first Test in India where he had been battered by MS Dhoni to the tune of 3 for 215 in Chennai, but returned later in the series and claimed 7 for 94 in Delhi. However, come Australia's next Test - the first of 2013 Ashes at Trent Bridge - Lyon was left out in favour of Ashton Agar. But two Tests later, he was back and has not missed a game since.
December 2013: 100th wicket
The first milestone wicket, as Lyon brought up his century, came during the Boxing Day Ashes Test against England. It wasn't a huge scalp in itself - Stuart Broad caught at slip - but it was part of his first five-wicket haul on home soil as his 5 for 50, including the wickets of Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell, ensured Australia's quest for 5-0 remained on track.
December 2014: Matchwinner at home
An emotionally charged Test in Adelaide, in the wake of the death of Phillip Hughes, ended in Australian victory when Lyon grabbed his 12th wicket of the match to finally end a brave India chase. He claimed 7 for 152 in the second innings - including M Vijay for 99 - to end a stand of 185 with Virat Kohli which had put India on course to hunt down 364 on the final day. He then spun through the middle order, which included having Kohli taken at deep midwicket.
June 2015: GOAT
A nickname that remains to this day became official in Jamaica when Lyon claimed his 142nd Test wicket to become Australia's most successful Test offspinner ahead of Hugh Trumble. "I've got a lot of learning to do and I'm really enjoying it and hopefully it's just the start," he said.
July 2016: 200th wicket
The double century was brought up in the country of his debut - when he had Dhananjaya de Silva caught at mid-off in Kandy - but this time it was not part of victory as Australia lost by 106 runs and were whitewashed in the three-match series.
March 2017: Career-best
What remains Lyon's best haul to date came when he bowled out India on the opening day in Bengaluru with 8 for 50. However, it could not bring victory as despite a lead of 87 in the first innings, India fought back to defend 188. It was, though, a period of considerable success for Lyon as he took 41 wickets across six Tests - 19 in four Tests against India and 22 in two matches in Bangladesh - that followed later in the year.
November 2017: That run out
To move away from the bowling for a moment, Lyon had a major say on the opening day of the 2017-18 Ashes in the field. With England going well on 145 for 2, James Vince, who was on 83, dropped the ball into the covers and set off. Lyon swooped, collected, threw off balance and hit the stumps direct.
March 2018: 300th wicket
The moment of Lyon becoming the sixth Australian to 300 Test wickets was well and truly overshadowed by the drama unfolding around the ball-tampering incident. For the record, it was Kagiso Rabada having a big charge and getting stumped on Tim Paine's first day as Australia captain.
August 2019: Spinning to an Ashes win
Lyon took 6 for 49 on the final day of the opening Test at Edgbaston - a ground where Australia had not won at since 2001 - to secure a 1-0 series lead that would go on to help them retain the Ashes in England for the first time in 18 years. It wasn't all smooth sailing for him, however, with his missed run out chance at Headingley one of the defining images of an epic tussle.
January 2020: Ten on home turf
Lyon's home venue, the SCG, has not always been his happiest hunting ground. But that changed a year ago when he claimed ten in the match against New Zealand. It left him on 390 Test wickets. However, that last climb to 400 is proving a little tougher than many may have been expected.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo