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Highest wicket-taker in Test cricket: The best bowlers of the longest format

Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan is the highest wicket-taker in Test cricket history in a career that spanned almost 18 years. And the spinner is widely considered the all-time greatest for the sheer temperament he has shown in the longest format for decades.

While no one else has come close to his figures, cricket has seen some exceptional bowlers in the longest format. Let’s look at the full list.

Most Test wickets: Know the top 10 

PLAYER NATIONALITY INNINGS WICKETS 
M MuralitharanSri Lanka 230800
Shane Warne Australia273708
James AndersonEngland 169640
Anil KumbleIndia236619
Glenn McGrathAustralia243563
Stuart BroadEngland280537
Courney WalshWest Indies242519
R AshwinIndia162440
Dale StyenSouth Africa171439
Kapil Dev India227434

Muttiah Muralitharan, Sri Lanka – 800 wickets

Unarguably one of the best spin bowlers to have played Test cricket, former Sri Lankan great Muttiah Muralitharan is the highest wicket-taker in whites. He took 800 wickets in 230 innings at an average of 22.72 and strike rate of 55.0. The 9 for 51 in the Test match against Zimbabwe, 9 for 65 against England, 8 for 46 against West Indies and 8 for 87 against India are some of the spin master’s most memorable bowling figures. The offbreak bowler played his first Test in 1992, and the last one in 2010. Going by Murali’s 800 wickets will take a huge effort by any bowler, and the record for now seems unbreakable.

Shane Warne remains Australia’s highest wicket-taker in Tests

The second-highest wicket-taker in Test cricket history is former Australian spin wizard Shane Warne. In 273 innings, Warne picked up 708 wickets at an average of 25.41 and strike rate of 57.4. This includes 37 five-wicket hauls and ten 10-wicket hauls. One of the highlights of Warne’s career was the ‘Ball of the Century’ – the delivery he bowled to England’s Mike Gatting in 1993 in the first Ashes Test. It was his Ashes Test, and also his first ball against England. Some of Warne’s greatest bowling figures are 7 for 52 against West Indies in 1992, 8 for 71 against England in 1994, 7 for 23 against Pakistan in 1995, and 4 for 31 against England in 2005 among others. The spin sensation played his last Test in 2007.

England’s highest wicket-taker in Test is James Anderson

The first fast bowler on the list of the top 10 wicket-takers in Test cricket is England’s James Anderson. Since making his debut in 2003, Jimmy has dismissed 640 batsmen in 169 innings at an average of 26.58. This includes 31 fifers and a 10-wicket haul ten times. Anderson is the fourth fastest bowler to 600 Test wickets, and what is particularly impressive about him is the longevity of his career. For a fast bowler to be placed second on the list of most Test matches played is in itself a big achievement. 7 for 42 against West Indies in 2017 is Anderson’s best performance in an innings.

Anil Kumble is India’s highest wicket-taker

The first Indian bowler on the list of highest wicket-takers in Tests is Anil Kumble. The legbreak bowler picked up 619 wickets in 236 innings at an average of 29.65. This includes 35 five-wicket hauls and ten wickets in a Test match eight times. Statistically, Kumble’s best performance is a 10-wicket haul for 74 runs against Pakistan in 1999. However, his most memorable Test performance is the one in which he bowled 14 overs with a fractured jaw against West Indies in 2002. Kumble won India innumerable Test matches with his bowling before playing his last Test match in 2008. He is widely regarded as one of best Indian bowlers to play the Test format.

Glenn McGrath is Australia’s second highest wicket-taker in Tests

Former Australian medium pacer Glenn McGrath picked up 563 wickets in 243 innings at an average and strike rate of 21.64 and 51.9. His immaculate line and length made him one of the greatest pace bowlers to emerge from Down Under. In a Test career spanning across 14 years, McGrath scalped 29 fifers and three 10-wicket hauls. He is the third fastest to 450 wickets and fourth fastest to 500 wickets. 8 for 24 against Pakistan in 2004, 5 for 14 against West Indies in 1999 and 5 for 21 against South Africa in 2002 are among McGrath’s best performances in Test cricket.

Stuart Broad, England – 537 wickets

With 537 wickets, England pacer Stuart Broad is the sixth-highest wicket-taker in Test cricket. Broad took those number of wickets in 280 innings, and has 19 fifers and three 10-wicket hauls in the format. His best performance came against the West Indies in 2012 at Lord’s. Broad picked up seven wickets in the first innings and another four in the second to end with figures of 11 -121. 8 for 15 in the 2015 Ashes against Australia is another of Broad’s best outings.

Courtney Walsh, West Indies – 519 wickets

The seventh-highest wicket-taker in Test cricket is former West Indies pacer Courtney Walsh. He dismissed 519 batsmen in 242 innings, and has 22 fifers and three 10-wicket hauls to his name. Interestingly, Walsh bowled 30,019 balls – nearly 5000 overs– the highest ever by any fast bowler in the history of cricket.  His best bowling performance is seven wickets for 37 runs against New Zealand in 1985.

Ravichandran Ashwin is India’s highest wicket-taker in Test cricket

The second player from India to feature in the list of top 10 wicket takers in Tests is offbreak bowler Ravi Ashwin. Since making his debut in 2011, Ashwin has grabbed 440 wickets in 162 innings, which includes 30 fifers and seven 10-wicket hauls. He picked up 13 wickets for 140 runs (6/81 & 7/59) against New Zealand at home in 2016, which remains his best bowling performance so far.

Dale Steyn, South Africa – 439 wickets

The ninth highest wicket-taker in Tests is former South Africa speedster Dale Steyn. Steyn picked up 439 wickets in 171 innings, which includes 26 fifers and five 10-wicket hauls. Steyn, who has the most wickets for the Proteas in whites, is the only bowler to take a fifer against each Test-playing cricket nation and was on the numero uno spot in the Test rankings for six consecutive years from 2008 to 2014. His speed and the ability to swing the ball both ways made him one of South Africa’s greatest pacers across formats. Steyn played his last Test in 2019.

Kapil Dev is among India’s highest wicket-takers in Tests

One of the greatest all-rounders of his time, and also the only name from among Indian fast bowlers on the list, Kapil Dev took 434 Test wickets in 227 innings in a career of 17 years. He holds the record for the best bowling figures in an innings by a captain – nine wickets for 83 runs against West Indies in 1983. With the bat, he averaged 31.05 which is inclusive of eight tons. Dev played his first Test match in 1978 and the last one in 1994.

FAQs

Who is the highest wicket-taker in ODI cricket?

Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan is the highest wicket-taker in ODIs. He took 534 wickets in 350 matches

Who is the highest wicket-taker in international cricket?

Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan is the highest wicket-taker in international cricket. He took 1347 wickets in 495 matches.

Who is the highest wicket-taker in Tests for India?

Anil Kumble is the highest wicket-taker for India in Tests. He took 619 wickets.

Who is the highest wicket-taker in T20 cricket?

Bangladesh’s Shakib Al Hasan is the highest wicket-taker in T20 internationals with 119 wickets.

Also read: Most Sixes in International Cricket: Which Player Holds the Record?

Umaima Saeed
A writer who primarily writes on cricket. As of 2021, she has covered cricket for more than a dozen publications.

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