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Lyon hunting Benaud’s wicket riches

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UNASSUMING Nathan Lyon reckons even Richie Benaud might shake his head in bewilderment at the indelible milestone that is about to link the pair in Dhaka.

Just one wicket in the first Test against Bangladesh starting Sunday will draw Lyon equal with Benaud’s magic mark of 248, while a second scalp will take him into his own air as Australia’s second-highest all-time spin wicket-taker behind Shane Warne.

Lyon has become cast as one of the great survivors in Australian cricket, but at some point he must be properly recognised as one of its great achievers.

He looks back fondly on some “special” conversations he was able to share with the late, great Benaud before his passing two years ago, and wonders what the father figure of Australian spinners might have thought at the landmark change that is pending in the record books.

At first glance Benaud and Lyon are an odd fit. The debonair, cavalier charmer of the 1950s and the gritty scrapper from the NSW country who has constantly had to prove himself.

“I was a long way off him then (when we last spoke),” says a grinning Lyon.

“I don’t think he ever thought I’d get there.”

Nathan Lyon is on the cusp of passing Richie Benaud’s 248 Test wickets.

Certainly that throwaway line sums up the general attitude of Australian cricket towards Lyon and his skills since his debut in Sri Lanka back in 2011.

But self-effacement aside, Lyon has shown himself to be a cricketer of enormous substance and this place in the history books is richly deserved.

Mike Hussey saw a leader in disguise and his move to hand Lyon the custodianship of the team song has proven a masterstroke.

Beanud, as one of the great champions of spin bowling, would be applauding one of the magnificent unsung stories in Australian cricket.

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“It’s very special to have met someone like Richie and been able to talk to him,” said Lyon.

“He obviously was an Australian cricket legend. He was just a nice, humble guy.

“It’ll be nice (the milestone) but I’ve always said from day one in my career, that (not until) the end of my career will I look back and see where I get to.

“I’m not here to make milestones, I’m here to win series and games of cricket for Australia. I’ll just take it as it comes.”

To be on the verge of 250 wickets from 68 Tests as an off-spinner is a mighty effort, particularly when Lyon has been looking over his shoulder for the majority of his career.

There is a poetry to the fact that a 19-year-old Ashton Agar exploded onto the scene four years ago as perhaps the biggest threat to Lyon’s place in the Test team.

Cricket: Ashton Agar is the spinner in waiting for Australia as they gear up for their Test series against Bangladesh.

Agar waiting for the call-up

But now in Bangladesh, Lyon sees himself as a role model for Agar in his long-awaited return.

As recently as last summer Lyon was set to be usurped by Stephen O’Keefe, but the 29-year-old just keeps seeing off the challengers and in India earlier this year – he showcased his coming of age as a spinner taking 19 wickets against the master stroke-players of the turning ball.

“Hopefully I can become a good role model for Ashton and Swepo (leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson) and hopefully we can bowl well in partnerships and build some pressure,” said Lyon.

“We all know if you take 20 wickets in the sub-continent you tend to win a lot more games than you lose.”

Lyon and O’Keefe had built a strong partnership as long-term teammates at NSW, but the experienced campaigners believe Agar will be effective.

Lyon bowls in Darwin.

He believes their combination should work similarly to the one he forged with O’Keefe in India, that netted that famous victory in Pune.

“I think we can work in a pretty similar partnership,” said Lyon.

“We bowled together up in Darwin at similar times and no doubt Smithy (captain Steve Smith) has a plan on how he’ll use his spinners.

“No doubt we can have a similar partnership as what SOK and I did and how it worked in Pune and we saw some results in India. Unfortunately we didn’t get over the line in India, but I’m confident enough that we’ve got the right squad to get the job done here in Bangladesh.”

RICHIE BENAUD

63 Tests, 248 wickets, average of 27

NATHAN LYON

67 Tests, 247 wickets, average of 33

Source: sports dailytelegraph

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