Nathan Lyon
Returning spin veteran Nathan Lyon has a great Test record at Optus Stadium. Image by Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS
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Lyon eyes Australian return not 500th Test wicket

Jasper Bruce December 12, 2023

Nathan Lyon insists his focus is firmly on making his return to the Australian side, not his chance to take a historic 500th Test wicket in Perth.

Veteran off-spinner Lyon tore his calf midway through the second Ashes Test and missed the final three matches of what was eventually a drawn series in England.

The 36-year-old spent more than three months on the sidelines before bouncing back to top-level cricket with NSW in October.

Now, Lyon is on the cusp of a Test comeback in the first of three matches against Pakistan, to be played from Thursday at Optus Stadium.

There, he could become just the third Australian to reach 500 Test wickets, an achievement that would be all the more remarkable given Australian pitches traditionally suit pace better than spin.

Currently, only the late Shane Warne (708) and pace great Glenn McGrath (563) have surpassed 500 scalps in the baggy green..

But if history is anything to go by, Lyon – currently on 496 – will join them in the five days from Thursday.

Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath
 Nathan Lyon could join legends Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath in the 500 Test wickets club in Perth. Image by Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS 

Across three Tests at Optus Stadium, Lyon has taken a combined total of 22 wickets.

He most recently came up with 6-128 in the second innings of the 164-run win against West Indies in Perth last summer.

His first time representing the Test side at Optus Stadium in 2018, Lyon was player of the match in the only Test the touring Indian team lost that series.

“It’s no secret that I love playing at this venue,” Lyon said.

“It’s a really good wicket to play on. It’s one of my favourite grounds within Australia.”

When he dispatched of Dawid Malan at the ‘Gabba during the home Ashes two summers ago, Lyon joined Warne and McGrath in rarefied air as one of three Australians to reach 400 Test wickets.

The nationwide anticipation of that milestone has left him to take a different approach this time.

“I probably learned from that a couple of years ago in the Ashes,” Lyon said.

“For me now it’s about really enjoying being back playing Test cricket and being back and part of this amazing group.”

But even the humble former groundskeeper can admit that bringing his milestone up at one of his favourite playgrounds would be something to savour.

“I just keep talking to my family, friends and close ones about how special it is,” he said.

“You keep edging your way closer to two Australian greats in McGrath and Warne. For only two Australians to be over that 500 mark is pretty remarkable.

“Hopefully sooner rather than later I’ll be able to join those guys over that 500 mark, that’s for sure. It’s something that I’m proud about. A lot of hard work has gone into it.

“If it happens this Test, then that’s amazing, but we’ve got a big series ahead.”

MOST TEST WICKETS FOR AUSTRALIA

Shane Warne – 708

Glenn McGrath – 563

Nathan Lyon* – 496

Dennis Lillee – 355

Mitchell Starc* – 333

Mitchell Johnson – 313

Brett Lee – 310

Craig McDermott – 291

Jason Gillespie – 259

Richie Benaud – 248

*denotes active Test player