Lyon, a great survivor who became one of the greats, marks 100 Tests
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Lyon, a great survivor who became one of the greats, marks 100 Tests

When Nathan Lyon was first called to arms for Australia during the 2011 tour of Sri Lanka, few would have anticipated that he would go on to become the first-choice spinner for his nation for the best part of the next decade.

In the period between Shane Warne's retirement in January of 2007 and Lyon's first delivery in August four years later, selectors had embarked on a long-running experiment to find the best man to fill the shoes of the legendary leg-spinner.

Australian players congratulate Nathan Lyon after dismissing India's Ajinkya Rahane on the final day of the third Test at the SCG.

Australian players congratulate Nathan Lyon after dismissing India's Ajinkya Rahane on the final day of the third Test at the SCG.Credit:AP

Stuart MacGill finally had the room to himself, but played just four Tests in the post-Warne era before he too decided enough was enough. From there, the auditions came thick and fast, with Brad Hogg (three Tests), Beau Casson (one), Cameron White (four), Jason Krejza (two), Nathan Hauritz (16), Bryce McGain (one), Steve Smith (five ... added a few more as a batsman), Xavier Doherty (two) and Michael Beer (one) all given opportunities.

Lyon, the unassuming former groundsman from Adelaide, struck with his first delivery and has barely looked back, aside from being replaced by Ashton Agar for a short stint in the 2013 Ashes series in England.

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Friday's fourth Test at the Gabba against India will mark the 100th appearance for Lyon, who has become the most effective finger spinner in Australian Test history with 396 wickets. Only Warne and Glenn McGrath have more to their name in the baggy green.

Lyon well remembers some of the key pieces of advice he was given back then, with luminaries such as Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey integral in the early stages of his rise in Test cricket.

"Don't look too far ahead and try to take each and every day, and do it with a smile on my face," Lyon said.

"Mike Hussey gave me that piece of advice before I bowled my first ball in Test cricket: 'Play with a smile on your face and hopefully you'll relax a little bit'. That's one big thing.

"Also what Punter [Ponting] said before my first game, 'Just back your skill'. That's what I'd say [to myself] again if I had the chance."

Lyon will need to showcase that skill as Australia fight to win a memorable, controversial and dramatic series from Friday. After a heroic draw in Sydney, the roadshow travels to Brisbane locked at 1-1, although the Australians are now in their happiest hunting ground.

Nathan Lyon celebrates  five-wicket haul against New Zealand at the SCG last January.

Nathan Lyon celebrates five-wicket haul against New Zealand at the SCG last January.Credit:Getty

Lyon enjoys the Gabba, as well, although historically it hasn't been a favourite of finger spinners. He has 35 wickets 29.37 at the venue from nine appearances, an improvement on a dour series by his standards that has seen him collect six wickets at an average of 57.68.

"This summer has been challenging," Lyon said. "Playing against India again, I think they've come up with some really good plans to combat me.

"To be honest, I've been really happy with what I've been bowling. I've been able to create some chances, which has been really positive. I'm very happy the way they're coming out. Some days the wheel doesn't turn around and you don't have much luck in the middle.

"I'm very excited to get to the Gabba where there's a bit more bounce than the MCG and SCG, definitely SCG anyway. I'm very excited about that. Knowing that if I keep doing my job with the Australian cricket team the luck will keep changing here and there. I've just got to stay patient and see how we go."

India have already been ravaged by injury and now must try to conjure a result without the services of their best fast bowler, Jasprit Bumrah (abdominal strain). Fellow quicks Mohammed Shami (broken arm) and Umesh Yadav (calf) were already out of the reckoning.

All-rounder Ravi Jadeja (thumb) won't play either, while injury clouds still hover over Hanuma Vihari (hamstring) and SCG hero Rishabh Pant (elbow). Virat Kohli is already back in India to attend the birth of his daughter.

Lyon said the Indians showed in Sydney how they can fight through injury and expected them to do that again in Brisbane, where Australia haven't lost since defeat at the hands of the West Indies in 1988.

"I think you look at the class throughout the whole Indian squad, yes they may be missing a couple of big players, but they've got a very talented and deep squad that they can pick from," Lyon said.

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"But, to be honest, we have to just worry about our preparation. We can't look too far, at what they're doing, how they're preparing or who might be playing.

"That's purely our preparation, making sure our recovery is right then our plans as bowlers. We're very well suited to the Gabba. Hopefully we can put them in play nice and early when we have the ball in hand."

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