Test cricket is usually regarded as the purest format of the sport and both fast bowlers and spinners often enjoy much more prominence in this format because of a better competition between bat and ball compared to ODI and T20 cricket. Bowlers with the most Test wickets are some of the most celebrated and legendary names in the history of the sport.
Bowling in Test cricket is considered to be an art form that only a few players have been able to master. Players need to be patient, persistent, and fit enough to bowl several overs in a day often under treacherous and testing conditions.
Below is the list of players with the most wickets in Test cricket history:
Most Test Wickets: Top 5 list
|Player||Country||Matches||Innings||Wickets||Average||Strike Rate||Best||Fifer||10-wicket haul|
|Muttiah Muralitharan||Sri Lanka||133||230||800||22.72||55.00||9/51||67||22|
Muttiah Muralitharan | 800 wickets
Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan is the undisputed king of Test cricket and has picked up the most wickets with 800 dismissals to his name. Despite making his international debut in 1992, it was since 1998 that his genius truly shone. The right-handed off-spinner averaged 20.80 in Tests and picked 653 wickets over the next decade.
Having played Test cricket for nearly 18 years, Sri Lanka’s greatest bowler signed off with an eight-wicket haul in his farewell Test match against India. He also picked up a wicket with his last ball in Galle in 2010 which propelled his career tally to 800 wickets. Murali registered 67 fifers during his career – nobody has recorded more than 37. He also picked up ten wickets in a Test match on 22 occasions!
While he has been at the center of several controversies because of his bowling action as well as playing a lot of matches against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, they have very little to do with him. Muralitharan had been cleared by the ICC as well as biomechanical experts on numerous occasions and even if his numbers against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh are removed, he still has 612 Test scalps at an average of 24.73.
Shane Warne | 708 wickets
The legendary Shane Warne is arguably among the greatest bowlers to play cricket and is credited for reinventing spin bowling. Warne played his first Test for Australia in 1992 but didn’t make a major impression initially. However, he was keen to observe and learn and shocked the world in the very next year by bowling what was called ‘the ball of the century’ to Mike Gatting in the 1993 Ashes series.
The inexplicable leg-break, which turned from well outside the leg to clip the off-bail, leaving the batsman as well as the world bamboozled summed up Shane Warne. His accuracy and variations became a cause for headaches for several generations of opposition batters and Warne ended his career with 708 wickets in Test.
Warne was consistent against almost all sides but enjoyed special success against England and South Africa – 325 of his 708 wickets in the purest format came against these two countries. The leg-spinner retired from Test cricket in 2007 and finished his career with an average of 25.41 and 37 fifers. He was ranked fourth in the Wisden 100 list of the greatest bowlers of all time behind Muttiah Muralitharan, Richard Hadlee and Sydney Barnes. Shane Warne passed away on March 4, 2022, and left behind a unique and incredible legacy that will inspire several generations.
James Anderson | 640 wickets
James Anderson is one of the modern-day greats. The Englishman has taken the most wickets for a fast bowler in Test cricket with 640 scalps so far. Anderson made his Test debut for England in 2003 but was largely in and out of the side until 2007.
Since then, he hasn’t had to look back and has truly excelled all over the world. Anderson is called the Swing King because of his incredible ability to swing the ball both ways. Despite not being a tearaway fast bowler, he can make batsmen dance with his pace.
The 39-year-old has played 169 Tests so far and despite getting dropped for the series against West Indies, there is enough evidence to suggest that he ages like fine wine and will be back in the reckoning soon. So far, Anderson has recorded an excellent average of 26.58 and has collected 31 five-wicket hauls, and has several more matches left in him to create more records.
Anil Kumble | 619 wickets
Anil Kumble has picked up the most wickets among Indian bowlers and has 619 dismissals to his name from 132 matches. Despite not being a spectacular turner of the ball, he is regarded by many to be India’s greatest match-winner after Sachin Tendulkar.
Kumble may not have the greatest natural flair or ability but he made up for it with his extreme work ethic as well as aggression. He made his debut in Test cricket against England in 1990 and went on to star for the next 18 years.
The Indian spinner is only the second bowler in Test history to pick up all 10 wickets in a match after England’s Jim Laker when he managed the feat against Pakistan in 1999. He also picked up 35 five wicket hauls in his career. Kumble also captained the Indian Test team following Rahul Dravid’s resignation in 2007 before retiring against Australia in 2008.
Glenn McGrath | 563 wickets
Glenn McGrath may not have the most wickets for a fast bowler in Test cricket but he is regarded to be the greatest genius of the craft and defined an entire generation. Having made his debut against New Zealand in 1993 at the age of 23, he became Australia’s leading bowler by 1995.
McGrath wasn’t the quickest or smartest of bowlers but his greatness arrived from his absolute and immaculate precision. His lines remained tight and tricky no matter the condition in which he was bowling or which batsman he was facing.
The result has been an extraordinary career with 563 wickets at a spectacular average of 21.64 – the highest in the list of the top wicket-taking bowlers in Test cricket. McGrath had a penchant for the big occasions and 10 of his 29 five-wicket hauls in Tests arrived in the Ashes against England. He hung his boots following a ruthless 5-0 win over England in 2007 where he bid goodbye to the format with a wicket off his last ball in Sydney.
Who has taken the most Test wickets for India?
Anil Kumble leads the list for India with 619 Test wickets in 132 matches.
Who has taken the most wickets in Tests in 2021?
India’s Ravichandran Ashwin was the highest wicket-taking bowler in Tests in 2021 and had 54 scalps from nine matches.
Which fast bowler holds the record for most Test wickets?
With 640 Test wickets so far, England’s James Anderson is the fast bowler who holds the record of most wickets in test cricket history.
Who was the fastest to 600 Test wickets?
Muttiah Muralitharan took only 101 matches and was the fastest to reach the landmark of 600 Test wickets.