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Nathan Lyon not afraid of 'bowling ugly' to earn rewards on South Asian tracks

Offspinner also talks about importance of getting rid of tailenders quickly in Test cricket

Nathan Lyon finished with 5 for 90 as Sri Lanka were restricted to 212, Sri Lanka vs Australia, 1st Test, Day 1, Galle, June 29, 2022

Nathan Lyon finished with 5 for 90 as Sri Lanka were restricted to 212  •  Associated Press

The long spells in which ball after ball lands on the same spot. Flighting it up, keeping it on a string, putting work on the ball, over after over. In Australia, maybe, but on South Asian tracks, it's about mixing it up a little, says Nathan Lyon. Here, it's about "bowling ugly".
Lyon claimed 5 for 90 on day one, accounting for Sri Lanka's best batters in Dimuth Karunaratne and Angelo Mathews, before dismissing Niroshan Dickwella - their highest scorer of the innings - and two lower-order batters.
"I have fallen in love with the shape of the offbreak bowling in Australia," Lyon said. "But coming to the sub-continent that phrase of 'bowling ugly' is something that I say to myself to make sure I am using my different variations and bowling at the right speed.
"It's about me asking different questions by different variations. Whereas in Australia I will probably stick to my strength which is my stock ball and trust in that. When you come over here you have about three or four different variations that you are able to trust and know you're going to get some assistance off the wickets."
His first ball of the day had taken off from a length to spin past a defensive shot. And he seemed dangerous throughout all his spells.
"Look at my first ball today, that was on the quicker side of things, and you saw how much that turned and bounced. Every bowler is different, but if you are able to go up and down the gears I think that's only going to help you as a spin bowler in these conditions."
Lyon was instrumental in Australia taking the last four Sri Lanka wickets for 19 runs, dismissing Dickwella, Ramesh Mendis, and Lasith Embuldeniya through that period. When Dickwella and Mendis had been batting together through the course of their 54-run stand, a total of around 250 did not seem outlandish for Sri Lanka. However, they ended up 212 all out, which Lyon felt was a "massive" difference in these conditions.
"We always talk of the importance of trying to knock over the tails as quick as we can and you look at the way Dickwella played, he played an incredible innings, he put the pressure right back on us as bowlers. I was really proud the way we came back after tea and stuck to our plans and we were able to get the late rewards and knock them over."
Thanks to this five-wicket haul, Lyon has now moved past Richard Hadlee on the all-time wicket-takers' list, having taken 432 to Hadlee's 431. He now sits 12th on that list, just behind Herath, who has just one more wicket than him.
"The top end of the wicket-takers' list - there's some amazing names there," Lyon said. "To overtake a few guys, and to join a few guys on whatever number that may be, is something I'm very proud of, there's no doubt about that.
"For me it's always been about what I can do to help the Australian team. The numbers are something im proud of, but will look at in more depth at the end of my career. But that's a long way off."

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf