Nathan Lyon’s stunning spell in Abu Dhabi has propelled him further into rare air among Australia’s greatest Test bowlers.
Lyon is now fourth on Australia’s all-time Test wicket-takers list after ripping through Pakistan’s batsmen on day one of the second Test.
The offspinner took his career tally to 314, snaring four wickets in the space of six balls late in Tuesday’s morning session to leapfrog Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson.
Lyon turns 31 next month, meaning he still has plenty of time to surpass Dennis Lillee’s haul of 355 Test wickets.
The series-decider in Abu Dhabi is Lyon’s 80th Test, making him easily the most senior player in a relatively inexperienced Australian XI.
Pakistan had looked to be in a comfortable position at 1-57 before Lyon struck, removing Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq and Babar Azam without the hosts adding to their score.
Lyon’s outstanding start is all the more impressive considering how much he struggled last time Australia played Tests in the UAE.
He managed just three wickets from two Tests at an eye-watering average of 140.66 as Pakistan cruised to a whitewash victory in the 2014 series.
MOST TEST WICKETS BY AN AUSTRALIAN
708: Shane Warne
563: Glenn McGrath
355: Dennis Lillee
314: Nathan Lyon
313: Mitchell Johnson
310: Brett Lee
Aussie batsmen falter early in Abu Dhabi
Australia were left to lament a shaky start with the bat in Abu Dhabi after a stellar bowling performance in an eventful opening to the second Test against Pakistan.
The tourists were 2-20 in reply to Pakistan’s 282 at stumps on day one after Mohammad Abbas dismissed nightwatchman Peter Siddle with the final ball of of the day.
Trapped in front of his stumps, Siddle (four) was given not out but the decision was overturned on review.
Usman Khawaja (three) was unable to repeat his heroics during the drawn first Test in Dubai, glancing an Abbas delivery down the leg side which wicketkeeper and captain Sarfraz Ahmed snared with a brilliant diving catch.
Australia will be desperate to press their advantage at Sheikh Zayed Stadium after restricting Pakistan at a ground where the average first-innings score is 402.
However, they will be wary of a lively pitch on which Nathan Lyon (4-78) ripped through Pakistan’s batsman with a stunning spell in the morning session.
Australia’s greatest-ever offspinner snared four wickets in the space of six balls to leave Pakistan reeling at 5-77 at lunch.
Tuesday’s middle session belonged firmly to Pakistan with Sarfraz and Fakhar Zaman mounting a counter-attacking 147-run stand.
“If I”m being brutally honest, I think we took our foot off their throat a little bit and they fought back,” Lyon said.
“I thought Sarfraz and Fakhar on debut played a brilliant little partnership there in the middle session and put the pressure back on us.”
The game took another turn when Tim Paine threw the ball to part-time legspinner Marnus Labuschagne 15 minutes before tea.
Having convinced Paine to squander Australia’s final review with an ambitious lbw appeal three balls earlier, Labuschagne redeemed himself with the final ball of the session to trap Fakhar (94) in front and deny him a century on debut.
Sarfraz continued to spearhead a Pakistan counter-attack but also fell six runs short of a ton after lofting a Labuschagne delivery to Siddle at cover.
Playing in just his second Test, South Africa-born Labuschagne finished with figures of 3-45.
It was a day of mixed fortunes overall for Labuschagne, who dropped a sitter at mid-wicket to give Fakhar a life on 30 but earlier took a spectacular juggling catch at short leg to dismiss Mohammad Hafeez off Mitchell Starc’s bowling.
Hafeez’s shot was hit hard to short leg, thundering into Labuschagne’s thigh and bouncing off his knee before the adopted Queenslander managed to get his hands on the ball.
Lyon was the key for Australia in a dream start to the series-decider.
Dismayed coach Mickey Arthur buried his head in his hands as Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq and Babar Azam all fell without Pakistan adding to their score.
It’s unclear whether Sarfraz will be able to continue behind the stumps after suffering what could be a serious left elbow injury courtesy of a Mitchell Starc bouncer.
Sarfraz, who was wearing a heavy compression bandage in the post-match press conference, said his elbow was too swollen for scans and Arthur had spoken to officials about the potential use of a replacement wicketkeeper.