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Topping the ton – the Bowler Equivalent (part two)

Murali seems fairly chuffed with his ranking
Murali seems chuffed with his ranking

This feature follows on from the earlier feature covering batsmen who had managed to notch up consecutive matches scoring at least 100 runs. Here, we look at bowlers who have most often managed to take at least six wickets in a match – I’m using six wickets because that most closely equates to scoring 100 runs in a match. This is actually part two of our look at bowlers – part one can be found here.

 

 

The various parameters we’re looking at are:-

– most consecutive matches with six or more wickets taken (Cons-6wM)
– most separate runs of two or more consecutive 6wMs (x2+)
– most separate runs of three or more consecutive 6wMs (x3+)
– most separate runs of four or more consecutive 6wMs (x4+)
– highest number of total 6wMs (Most 6wMs)
– highest percentage of matches with 6wMs (%6wM – minimum 20 Tests)
– most consecutive matches taking most wickets (Cons-Top)
– most separate runs of two or more consecutive matches taking most wickets (x2+)
– most separate runs of three or more consecutive matches taking most wickets (x3+)
– highest number of total matches taking most wickets (Most Top)
– highest percentage of matches taking most wickets (%Top – minimum 20 Tests)

Just how rare are the performances we’re looking at here? There have been more than 3,300 occasions of bowlers taking six or more wickets in a Test match, of which 576 were achieved in consecutive Tests; that represents about 17%. On 169 occasions a bowler extended that to three Tests in a row (5%), and 67 times a bowler bagged six wickets in four consecutive Tests, which represents just 2% of all of the 6wMs ever recorded; therefore an average Test bowler might be expected to take six wickets in consecutive Tests once in 50 Tests (though to be honest an average bowler may not make it to 50 Tests).

By the way, regarding 6wM – is it a TLA if one of the Ls is a number? Get back to me on that….returning to the progression of these novel records we’re introducing here, the situation we left off with last time was as follows:-

Cons-6wM x2+ x3+ x4+ Most 6wM %6wM
5 Lohmann 4 Peel 2 Lohmann 2 Barnes 9 Peel 55.6 Peel
5 Turner 4 Barnes 2 Richardson 2 Mailey 10 Lohmann 58.8 Turner
5 Barnes 5 Grimmett 3 Barnes 2 Lillee 10 Turner 66.7 Barnes
5 Vogler 5 Benaud 3 Lillee 2 Marshall 18 Barnes
5 Whitty 8 Lillee 2 Walsh 19 Grimmett
5 Freeman 8 Hadlee 21 Trueman
5 Holding 21 McKenzie
5 Hogg 31 Lillee
6 Marshall 32 Hadlee
34 Walsh
Cons-Top x2+ x3+ Most Top %Top
3 Lohmann 2 Briggs 1 Lohmann 6 Turner 35.3 Turner
4 Barnes 2 Turner 1 Lockwood 6 Richardson 44.4 Barnes
5 Tate 2 Rhodes 1 Richardson 7 Rhodes 46.0 Grimmett
5 Hogg 2 Barnes 2 Barnes 12 Barnes
5 Walsh 4 Grimmett 3 Grimmett 17 Grimmett
4 Benaud 4 Hadlee 18 Benaud
5 Trueman 21 Trueman
5 McKenzie 21 Lillee
6 Imran 25 Imran
6 Hadlee 31 Hadlee
7 Botham

Wasim Akram equaled the record of three separate runs of three or more consecutive 6wMs jointly held by Barnes and Lillee. The last of the great West Indies fast bowlers to be mentioned in these features is Curtly Ambrose, who managed nine separate sequences of consecutive 6wMs, pipping by one the record held jointly by Lillee and Hadlee. Akram’s partner Waqar Younis equalled the record of two sequences of at least four 6wMs in a row, jointly held by Sydney Barnes, Arthur Mailey and Malcom Marshall and Courtney Walsh.

India’s Anil Kumble saw Ambrose’s record of nine individual runs of consecutive 6wMs and raised it to no fewer than 16. He also stretched the record for consecutive runs of three or more 6wMs to five (previously three held jointly by Barnes, Lillee and Wasim Akram), and became the first Test bowler to have three runs of four consecutive 6wMs, after Barnes, Mailey, Marshall, Walsh, Waqar Younis and Mushtaq Ahmed had all previously managed two.

Courtney Walsh held the previous record for total 6wMs at 34 – Kumble increased that to 54. He had a similar impact on the records for taking the most wickets in a Test, as he pushed Hadlee’s record from 31 to a massive 50 times as leading wicket-taker in a Test. In a near miss, if the first Test in Sri Lanka in 1993 had not seen just 12 overs played, Kumble may have had a chance to equal Malcolm Marshall’s record of six 6wMs in a row. The records tables now looked like this:-

Cons-6wM x2+ x3+ x4+ Most 6wM %6wM
5 Lohmann 4 Peel 2 Lohmann 2 Barnes 9 Peel 55.6 Peel
5 Turner 4 Barnes 2 Richardson 2 Mailey 10 Lohmann 58.8 Turner
5 Barnes 5 Grimmett 3 Barnes 2 Lillee 10 Turner 66.7 Barnes
5 Vogler 5 Benaud 3 Lillee 2 Marshall 18 Barnes
5 Whitty 8 Lillee 5 Kumble 2 Walsh 19 Grimmett
5 Freeman 8 Hadlee 2 Waqar 21 Trueman
5 Holding 9 Ambrose 2 M Ahmed 21 McKenzie
5 Hogg 16 Kumble 3 Kumble 31 Lillee
6 Marshall 32 Hadlee
34 Walsh
54 Kumble
Cons-Top x2+ x3+ Most Top %Top
3 Lohmann 2 Briggs 1 Lohmann 6 Turner 35.3 Turner
4 Barnes 2 Turner 1 Lockwood 6 Richardson 44.4 Barnes
5 Tate 2 Rhodes 1 Richardson 7 Rhodes 46.0 Grimmett
5 Hogg 2 Barnes 2 Barnes 12 Barnes
5 Walsh 4 Grimmett 3 Grimmett 17 Grimmett
4 Benaud 4 Hadlee 18 Benaud
5 Trueman 6 Kumble 21 Trueman
5 McKenzie 21 Lillee
6 Imran 25 Imran
6 Hadlee 31 Hadlee
7 Botham 50 Kumble
13 Kumble

Shane Warne was the next great record breaker, posting the first ever run of seven 6wMs in a row and blasting Kumble’s record of five separate runs of at least three consecutive 6wMs with no less than eight – he also tied Kumble’s mark of three individual runs of four or more consecutive 6wMs. Allan Donald just missed out on a record nine 6wMs in a row when he fell one wicket short – five first innings wickets against England at Lord’s put him in a good position, but despite aggressive bowling and speeds in the nineties, the second innings yielded no victims.

Now we reach the controversial Muttiah Muralitharan. Beginning with 11/93 aganst England at Galle, the wide-eyed magician followed that up with eight wickets against the same opposition at Kandy then another seven at Colombo. Australia came to town next, and gave up 11, nine and eight in their three Tests. Then it was over to Zimbabwe for eight and six wickets. A one-off Test against South Africa at Galle saw him just shy with five wickets but he had by then broken Warne’s record with eight consecutive 6wMs, and he followed the five-wicket haul with three more 6wMs, then two more 5wMs; it could so easily have been 14 in a row. He was one short of equalling Anil Kumble’s 16 separate runs of consecutive 6wMs, but smashed Warne’s total of eight occurrences with at least three consecutive 6wMs by notching up 11. He annihilated the latter’s total of three consecutive groups of four or more by achieving that feat seven times and also went past the great Australian with a total of 69 six-wicket matches. Murali also took many of the records for being top wicket-taker in a match. He became the first bowler to take the most wickets in six consecutive Tests, beating a record which had stood since Maurice Tate first notched up five in 1925. He also surpassed Kumble’s record of 13 separate consecutive runs with 16, beat Kumble’s record for the number of consecutive runs with at least three in a row by achieving that on nine occasions, surpassed the total number of Tests taking the most wickets with 65 (previously 50 by Kumble), and finally went past Grimmett’s record of 46.0% of matches taking most wickets with 49.2%.

Australia’s Brett Lee was next; beginning with two matches in a row with six wickets to complete the humiliation of England in the winter of 2006/07, he then took eight wickets in both Tests against Sri Lanka, followed by six, seven, six and a frustrating five against India. Another two 5wMs surrounded an eight-wicket haul in West Indies before his form tailed off in India – that’s seven in a row for 6wMs, and eleven in a row 5wMs, very impressive for a fast bowler who had to share his spoils with the likes of Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne. Pragyan Ojha managed to book-end six 6wMs with three 5wMs in 2011/12 but, other than Lee, no one has come close to matching Murali’s heroics. Here is the final record progression table:-

Cons-6wM x2+ x3+ 4+ Most 6wm %6wm
5 Lohmann 4 Peel 2 Lohmann 2 Barnes 9 Peel 55.6 Peel
5 Turner 4 Barnes 2 Richardson 2 Mailey 10 Lohmann 58.8 Turner
5 Barnes 5 Grimmett 3 Barnes 2 Lillee 10 Turner 66.7 Barnes
5 Vogler 5 Benaud 3 Lillee 2 Marshall 18 Barnes
5 Whitty 8 Lillee 5 Kumble 2 Walsh 19 Grimmett
5 Freeman 8 Hadlee 8 Warne 2 Waqar 21 Trueman
5 Holding 9 Ambrose 11 Murali 2 M Ahmed 21 McKenzie
5 Hogg 16 Kumble 3 Kumble 31 Lillee
6 Marshall 7 Murali 32 Hadlee
7 Warne 34 Walsh
8 Murali 54 Kumble
65 Warne
69 Murali
Cons-Top 2+ x3+ Most Top %Top
3 Lohmann 2 Briggs 1 Lohmann 6 Turner 35.3 Turner
4 Barnes 2 Turner 1 Lockwood 6 Richardson 44.4 Barnes
5 Tate 2 Rhodes 1 Richardson 7 Rhodes 46.0 Grimmett
5 Hogg 2 Barnes 2 Barnes 12 Barnes 49.2 Murali
5 Walsh 4 Grimmett 3 Grimmett 17 Grimmett
5 Warne 4 Benaud 4 Hadlee 18 Benaud
5 Donald 5 Trueman 6 Kumble 21 Trueman
7 Murali 5 McKenzie 9 Murali 21 Lillee
6 Imran 25 Imran
6 Hadlee 31 Hadlee
7 Botham 50 Kumble
13 Kumble 65 Murali
16 Murali

Basically Murali holds all of the records, though Barnes and Kumble get a mention. While the lion’s share of Murali’s performances were crafted at home, 45 as against 24 outside of Sri Lanka, of which another nine were made in the Asian subcontinent, giving the tireless twirler almost 80% of these performances on spin-friendly tracks, that’s probably true of many of the bowlers featured, though possibly to a greater or lesser degree. Kumble’s tally was 38 of 54 in Asia, or 70%; meanwhile Warne had 54 of 65 of his 6wMs outside of Asia, but of course played far less games there than the other two, only 25 to be exact. Actually that’s a difficult thing to nail down – Kandy, Galle and Colombo show statistically as being spin-friendly, but a large part of that is Murali’s performances there.

Looking at the raw numbers, it is of course Murali who reigns supreme with most career 6wMs:-
69 Murali
65 Warne
54 Kumble
43 McGrath
35 Steyn
34 Walsh
32 Hadlee
31 Marshall
30 Lillee
29 Akram
29 Ambrose

Warne and McGrath are particularly impressive, considering the quality of the rest of the attack in which they played; Marshall too, considering the fewer Tests played in and also his colleagues. In order to be fair to the earlier bowlers here are those who are top-ranked based on percentage 6wMs (min. 20 Tests):-

66.7% Barnes (27)
52.3% Murali (132)
51.4% Grimmett (37)
47.6% Mailey (21)
45.0% Peel (20)
44.8% Warne (145)
43.5% Mohammad Asif (23)
42.7% Steyn (82)
40.9% Kumble (132)
40.6% Ashwin (32)
40.0% Ajmal (35)

Some of you might be interested to know that Steve Harmison is next, with 38.9%. Those who missed the cut include Charlie Turner (58.8%, 17 Tests), Jack Saunders (57.1%, 14 Tests), Tom Richardson (57.1%, also 14 Tests) and George Lohmann (55.6%, 18 Tests). Cutting off instead at 50 Tests:-

52.3% Murali (132)
44.8% Warne (145)
42.7% Steyn (82)
40.9% Kumble (132)
38.3% Marshall (81)
37.5% Donald (72)
37.2% Hadlee (86)
35.0% McKenzie (60)
35.0% Swann (60)
31.7% Holding (60)
31.4% Bedser (51)

It’s one thing to meet a given threshold over a series of matches, but who notched the most total wickets in successive matches? Having spent a lot of time looking at consecutive excellent performances, it occurred to me that it would be interesting to see which bowlers had the most wickets in a set number of consecutive Tests, i.e. three, five and ten match runs. Here are those bowlers who took the most wickets in three consecutive matches (note I’ve indicated what are basically the same sequence, but with a different start and end point, with an asterisk):-

39 SF Barnes 1913/14
37 JC Laker 1956/57
35 GA Lohmann 1895/96
35 SF Barnes 1913/14 *
33 T Richardson 1895/96

33 CV Grimmett 1935/36
33 JC Laker 1956/57 *
33 RJ Hadlee 1985/86
33 M Muralitharan 2007
32 SF Barnes 1913/14 *

32 M Muralitharan 2001/02
32 HMRKB Herath 2014/15
31 CTB Turner 1886/88
31 GA Lohmann 1895
31 Waqar Younis 1990/91

31 Waqar Younis 1993/94
31 M Muralitharan 2001/02 *
31 M Muralitharan 2006/07

And here is the same list, but for five consecutive Tests:-

54 SF Barnes 1913/14
53 SF Barnes 1913/14 *
50 M Muralitharan 2006/07
50 M Muralitharan 2006/07 *
49 GA Lohmann 1895/96

48 M Muralitharan 2006/07 *
46 JC Laker 1956/57
46 JC Laker 1956/57 *
46 M Muralitharan 2001/02
46 M Muralitharan 2003/04

46 M Muralitharan 2006/07 *
45 CTB Turner 1887/88
45 SF Barnes 1913/14 *
45 RJ Hadlee 1985/86
45 M Muralitharan 2001/02 *

45 M Muralitharan 2001/02 *

If we look at ten consecutive Tests, then Murali owns 24 of the top 27 (all at 76-plus wickets), with Sydney Barnes notching the other three. Anyway, basically the three- and five-wicket lists are the same, and as might be expected more populated by repeat performances in the same overall run. If we exclude those and only list the highest number of wickets in a particular run (the rule is that the three, five or ten Tests leading to the new total can’t include the same Test with a previously higher total; 15/12 means 15 performances by 12 different bowlers) :-

Three consecutive Tests
39 SF Barnes 1913/14
37 JC Laker 1956/57
35 GA Lohmann 1895/96
33 T Richardson 1895/96
33 CV Grimmett 1935/36
(5/5)
33 RJ Hadlee 1985/86
33 M Muralitharan 2007
32 M Muralitharan 2001/02
32 HMRKB Herath 2014/15
31 CTB Turner 1886/88
(10/9)
31 Waqar Younis 1990/91
31 Waqar Younis 1993/94
30 AA Mailey 1920/21
30 CV Grimmett 1931/32
30 Imran Khan 1982/83
(15/12)
30 Abdul Qadir 1987/88
30 M Muralitharan 1999
30 M Muralitharan 2002
29 AV Bedser 1953
29 SK Warne 1994
(20/15)
28 FR Spofforth 1879-92
28 J Briggs 1893
28 GA Lohmann 1886/87
28 SF Barnes 1912-14
28 AP Freeman 1929
(25/18)
28 H Verity 1934
28 HJ Tayfield 1956/57
28 GAR Lock 1958
28 Imran Khan 1981/82
28 Mushtaq Ahmed 1995
(30/22)

Five consecutive Tests
54 SF Barnes 1913/14
50 M Muralitharan 2006/07
49 GA Lohmann 1895/96
46 JC Laker 1956/57
46 M Muralitharan 2001/02
(5/4)
46 M Muralitharan 2003/04
45 CTB Turner 1887/88
45 RJ Hadlee 1985/86
44 CV Grimmett 1935/36
44 AP Freeman 1929
(10/8)
44 Abdul Qadir 1987/88
43 GA Lohmann 1886/88
43 T Richardson 1894/96
43 Waqar Younis 1990/91
43 M Muralitharan 1999
(15/11)
43 M Muralitharan 2002
42 J Briggs 1892/93
42 GAR Lock 1958
42 Waqar Younis 1993/94
41 SF Barnes 1912
(20/13)
41 C Blythe 1908/09
41 AV Bedser 1952/53
41 DK Lillee 1979/80
41 Imran Khan 1982/83
41 MD Marshall 1988
(25/18)
41 SK Warne 2002/03
40 AEE Vogler 1908-10
40 AA Mailey 1921
40 H Verity 1934
40 FS Trueman 1963
(30/23)
40 Imran Khan 1982
40 RM Hogg 1978/79
40 SK Warne 2005
40 MG Johnson 2013/14
40 DW Steyn 2007/08
(35/26)

Ten consecutive Tests
89 M Muralitharan 2006-09
88 SF Barnes 1912-14
88 M Muralitharan 2001-02
80 M Muralitharan 1998-99
80 M Muralitharan 2004-05
(5/2)
75 Waqar Younis 1993-94
75 SK Warne 2002-03
75 M Muralitharan 2000-01
73 Imran Khan 1982-83
73 RJ Hadlee 1985-86
(10/6)
73 Mushtaq Ahmed 1995-97
71 T Richardson 1893-97
71 CV Grimmett 1930-32
70 C Blythe 1905-10
70 DK Lillee 1976-79
(15/11)
70 SK Warne 1994
69 CTB Turner 1887-92
69 CV Grimmett 1933-36
69 SK Warne 2005
69 HMRKB Herath 2012-13
(20/13)
68 AV Bedser 1951-53
68 R Benaud 1958-59
68 DK Lillee 1981
67 GA Lohmann 1888-96
67 H Trumble 1902-04
(25/17)
67 AK Davidson 1959-61
66 J Briggs 1888-93
66 HJ Tayfield 1955-58
66 MD Marshall 1984
66 A Kumble 2004
(30/22)
66 AA Donald 1998
65 MW Tate 1924-25
65 JC Laker 1954-56
65 EAS Prasanna 1967-69
65 Abdul Qadir 1987-89
(35/27)
65 A Kumble 1998-99
65 M Muralitharan 2008-09
65 MG Johnson 2013-14
(38/28)

There are all sorts of caveats which can be applied to the performances listed above, but what we can say for sure is that these bowlers largely represent the absolute cream of Test bowlers. It’s startling to consider that, with the chills generated by Mitchell Johnson’s Ashes performance in 2013-14 still fresh in the memory, dominance which he then stretched through a series in South Africa the following winter, there are 37 performances which rank above that 10-Test run in this list. Imran’s destruction of India in 1982-83, Hadlee’s 15 wickets at the Gabba and Barnes’ 49 wickets in four Tests against South Africa are all included near the top, yet Murali can point to five ten-match wickets aggregates that only three other bowlers bowler could even manage once. Say what you will about Murali, but his performances when measured in this way represent a level of consistent greatness which few can match.

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