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I’ve already covered cricket’s most prolific batsmen and now it’s time to take a look at the bowlers and to see who has taken the most wickets in test cricket.
10 Bowlers with the Most Wickets in their Test Career
1. Muthiah Muralidaran (Sri Lanka)
At the very top of the list is Sri Lanka’s mystery spinner Muthiah Muralidaran. The man with the ‘helicopter’ wrist bamboozled many batsman over a long test career which lasted between 1992 and 2010.
Murali played 133 tests in that time and he would finish with an incredible return of 800 wickets. There are many records in the game that may never be broken and this could be one of them. His best bowling figures in an innings were 9/51 and those 800 wickets were taken at a seriously impressive average of 22.72.
2. Shane Warne (Australia)
Firstly I just wanted to say what a shock it was when, like the rest of the cricketing world, I learned of the passing of Shane Warne. I will never forget that ‘ball of the century’ to Mike Gatting in 1993 and he was such a dangerous, but respected opponent.
Warne brought leg spin back into the game at a point when it had all-but disappeared. He leaves a legacy in that respect and his record speaks for itself. He played 145 tests for Australia between 1992 and 2007 and claimed 708 wickets in that time. His best figures in an innings were 8/71 and those wickets came at an average of 25.41.
3. Jimmy Anderson (England)
England’s Jimmy Anderson has yet to officially retire from test cricket so he still has time to add to his haul of wickets. At the conclusion of the 2021/22 Ashes series in Australia, the Lancashire bowler had taken 640 wickets, the most for a seamer.
While he waits for a chance to add to that total, Anderson’s best figures in an innings are 7/42 and he has a strike rate of 26.58.
4. Anil Kumble (India)
Indian leg spinner Anil Kumble is next with 619 wickets in 132 tests. He may sit in fourth place on the overall list but Kumble is a history maker as he is one of only three bowlers to take all ten wickets in a test innings.
Kumble finished with figures of 10/74 on that occasion and those are the second best in the long history of test cricket. He bowled fast leg spin with a flatter trajectory and those 619 wickets were taken at an average of 29.65 and a strike rate of 65.9.
5. Glenn McGrath (Australia)
Before James Anderson came along to overtake him, Australia’s Glenn McGrath held the record for most test wickets taken by a seam bowler. The man known as ‘pigeon’ was arguably the best exponent of seam thanks to an almost-perfectly vertical wrist when he delivered the ball.
When he retired in 2007, McGrath had taken 563 wickets from 124 test matches with a best return of 8/24.
6. Stuart Broad (England)
England’s Stuart Broad is also an active test cricketer at the time of writing and he has a chance of adding to his current total of 537 wickets from 152 games. His best return in an innings saw him claim memorable figures of 8/15 in an Ashes test against Australia in 2015.
Broad made his debut against Sri Lanka in 2007 and those 537 wickets have been taken at a strike rate of 56.9 with an average of 27.8.
7. Courtney Walsh (West Indies)
Courtney Walsh was one of the most fearsome fast bowlers that test cricket has ever known, and he formed a devastating partnership with Curtly Ambrose. Walsh played for much longer than his teammate and would go on to take 519 wickets from 132 test matches.
He played his final test against South Africa in 2001 and he returned figures of 3/62 in his last innings. His best figures in tests saw Walsh claim 7/37 and his overall average of 24.44 came with a strike rate of 57.8.
8. Dale Steyn (South Africa)
Another fierce competitor, South Africa’s Dale Steyn wasn’t a tall fast bowler but he generated ‘skiddy’ pace off the surface and that was a strong weapon throughout his career. Steyn wasn’t afraid of dishing out the short stuff either and this was a lethal package.
Those all round talents helped him to become South Africa’s leading wicket taker in test match cricket with 439 victims in 93 games. Steyn returned best figures of 7/51 and possesses an impressive average of 22.95.
9. Ravichandran Ashwin (India)
India’s Ravichandran Ashwin has yet to officially leave the test arena but he frequently gets overlooked at test level. He was, however, included in the side to face Sri Lanka in March 2022 – India’s most recent game at the time of writing – so he has time to add to his haul of 436 test wickets.
A tall off spinner who can generate bounce as well as turn from the surface, Ashwin also employs a number of variations. I enjoy watching him as he changes his run up and point of delivery.
Those 436 wickets have come from his first 85 tests and they have come at a strike rate of 52.5 with best figures of 7/59.
10. Kapil Dev (India)
The fact that India’s World Cup winning captain Kapil Dev is clinging onto tenth place, despite having played his last test in 1994, is a testament to his quality. When he retired from the game, he was the leading wicket taker in test cricket and that record held for some years.
Kapil may be overtaken soon so let’s take this opportunity to remember his achievements. He played his first test for India in 1978 against Pakistan and he bowed out against New Zealand 16 years later. In total, he took 434 wickets from 131 games and his best return of 9/83 provides the best figures for a captain in the history of test cricket.