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Top 10: Most Wickets in a Test (Bilateral) Series

Who doesn’t like watching bowlers dominating in Test cricket? It could be either the sheer pace, toe-crushing yorkers, perfect line, and lengths troubling the batsman or the spinners spinning a perfect web to trouble the batter and not let him score. Always a treat to watch for a Test cricket fan, isn’t it?

Here, let’s look at some of the best performances by a bowler in a Test series. Following are the top 10 players with the most wickets in any Test series:

#10 Dennis Lillee – 39 wickets

  • For: Australia
  • Against: England
  • Year: 1981
  • Matches: 6
  • Average: 22.31

Like every other pacer hailing from Australia, this guy possessed sheer pace and had been the spine of the bowling lineup for many years. Unfortunately, like every other pace bowler, he had a fair share of injuries during his career. However, in just 132 innings, he was successful enough to take an awesome 355 wickets in his international Test career.

1981 would be the year Dennis would remember for a long time. The first match of the series against England was quite good for him, considering that he had just bowled close to 29.4 overs in the whole match, yet he took 8 wickets of the very few bowls he bowled. The next match didn’t turn out to be that good for him; he could take 3 wickets giving away a bit more runs. Next match, he took 7 wickets, topping up that performance with 4 and 6 in the next two matches. Until he produced his best of the series in the last match, they say to keep the bets for the last, and so he did. He took a seven-for in the first match and 4 wickets in the second innings to end the series with a total of 39 wickets.

#9 Eric Bedser – 39 wickets

  • For: England
  • Against: Australia
  • Year: 1953
  • Matches: 5
  • Average: 17.49

Known for his seam bowling, this legendary pacer Eric Bedser comes next on our list. He had taken 236 wickets in the 51 matches he played for England.

England vs Mighty Australia has always been a great match to watch; for the Bedser family. In 1953, it was very special to see this lad perform so well. He took 14 wickets in the first match of that Test series, 7 wickets in each of the innings. Next two matches, he took 8 and 7 wickets, respectively, before ending the series with a relatively poor match haul of 3/112.

#8 Shane Warne – 40 wickets

  • For: Australia
  • Against: England
  • Year: 2005
  • Matches: 5
  • Average: 19.93

Warnie, the spin wizard, surely had to cut this list. In such a great career, this guy leads Aussies to some of the most memorable wins. The tricks he used to use and the prowess he had were just awesome. Batsman used to fear playing against him. He has the second most number of wickets in Test cricket ever, that is 708 wickets. He is also the leading wicket-taker in the Ashes tournament.

In the first match of the Ashes Test series, he bowled just 27 overs throughout the match and yet he was successful enough to scalp 6 wickets. Next match, he took 4 and 6 wickets apiece in each innings, making it a 10-wicket haul in the second match. The third match of the series didn’t yield much success for Shane. He was able to take 4 wickets in that match. But as they say, what ends well is all well. He ended the series by taking 8 wickets in the second last Test match and 12 wickets in the last to end the series on a high note.

#7 Imran Khan – 40 wickets

  • For: Pakistan
  • Against: India
  • Year: 1982-1983
  • Matches: 6
  • Average: 13.95

This legendary fast bowler can be referred to as the best-ever cricketer to have ever played for Pakistan shouldn’t be wrong. For his achievements, it’s just awesome to see such stats all in one person. He is often known as the best master of counter-swing, shining the old ball and creating a fast outward and inward swing. He is also known for his reverse swing abilities. He had a great impact as a batsman, primarily a bowler; he averages 37 in Test cricket with the bat and a meagre average of 22.81 in bowling, talking about his prowess.

Almost four decades back, Imran displayed his bowling masterclass; he took 40 wickets in that Test series vs India held in Pakistan. The start of the Test series wasn’t that good for him. But as matches progressed, he just got better and better. In the second match of the series, he produced an 8-fer in the second innings of the test match. In the next match, he bettered that performance by taking two five-wicket hauls. He kept doing his stuff for the rest of the matches, helping his team perform better.

#6 Terry Alderman – 41 wickets

  • For: Australia
  • Against: England
  • Year: 1989
  • Matches: 6
  • Average: 17.37

This right-handed bowling legend, known for his off-cutters and away swingers, is one of the handiest tools used to decimate batters of any calibre. He took 11 fifers throughout his Test cricket stint. Also, he took 170 wickets in his career, out of which 100 were English batters.

Eight years later, what were the fourth most wickets taken ever in a Test series? This guy pulled out another gem of a performance. Taking 40+ wickets in test cricket has never been easy, but the way this guy pulls out heroic stuff is just awesome. He started the series with a 10-wicket match haul comprising two fifers, taking 9 wickets in the with another fifer included. He had a good end to the series with a fifer in the first innings of that game and a total tally of 41 wickets in that series overall.

#5 Rodney Hogg – 41 wickets

  • For: Australia
  • Against: England
  • Year: 1978-1979
  • Matches: 6
  • Average: 12.85

Next, at the 5th position of the very interesting list, we have another bowling great joining in – Rodney Hogg. He didn’t have a big sort of career; playing just 38 matches, he managed to have a good enough impact on the batters he bowled to, taking 123 wickets in his Test career.

Long back ago, in 1978 and 1979, we saw this guy producing a great bowling effort. He took 5 fifers in that series which helped him take his wicket tally to 41 wickets. Consecutively, in the second and third matches of the Test series, he was able to take 4 fifers, which means in succession.

#4 Terry Alderman – 42 wickets

  • For: Australia
  • Against: England
  • Year: 1981
  • Matches: 6
  • Average: 21.26

Here we have the same guy at the 6th position on this list. Terry’s prowess has already been talked about, and we all know how good he has been at his stuff. He started the series on a good note taking 9 wickets in the very first match of that memorable series. He couldn’t do much harm to the batting lineup in the second match. Again he got up his form and was successful in taking 8 or more than 8 wickets in the upcoming matches and ending the series with 42 wickets, the most ever wickets taken in a 6-match Test series.

#3 Clarence Grimmett – 44 wickets

  • For: Australia
  • Against: South Africa
  • Year: 1935-1936
  • Matches: 5
  • Average: 14.59

The aspiring fast bowler turned into a leg spinner was New Zealand-born Clarence Grimmett. Clarrie is the artist who started the art of bowling flippers. Even though he started his International career a bit late at the age of 34, he started with a bang and went on to play 37 matches taking 216 wickets in due course.

The first couple of matches of that Test series didn’t let him have much success. However, he was able to manage to take just 11 wickets. Levelling up his performance, he took 3 consecutive 10-wicket hauls in the subsequent Test series matches. The fifth match of the Test series saw him produce his best of the series, taking a match-winning spell of 13/173.

#2 Jim Laker – 46 wickets

  • For: England
  • Against: Australia
  • Year: 1956
  • Matches: 5
  • Average: 9.61
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We have the world record holder James(Jim) Charles Laker next on the list. He had taken 193 wickets in 46 matches in the international Test cricket set-up. We all surely remember his name for the awesome spell he had bowled in 1956. So let’s go a few matches back before this right-arm off-break bowler had created history.

In the first match, he took 6 wickets in the first Test match of this forever-remembered series. The second Test match wasn’t that good for him, he bowled a bit fewer overs, and it turned out with 3 wickets. Then he started upping his game, as he took two consecutive fifers in the third game, scalping 11 wickets. A special haul came during the 4th Test match of the series; 26th June of 1956 was the date people witnessed an unreal effort pulled up by Laker. In the first innings, he took 9 wickets in just 16.4 overs he bowled. This should sum up how great he had been with the ball and the second innings came to his ten-for, a record of taking the most wickets in a match that day, taking 19 wickets out of 20. Also this is the most wickets taken in a single Ashes series.

#1 Sydney Barnes – 49 wickets

  • For: England
  • Against: South Africa
  • Year: 1913-1914
  • Matches: 4
  • Average: 10.94

Talented, legendary fast bowler he was. Sydney Barnes was known for his ability to generate swing and had a good fair in seam bowling. He is still the fastest bowler to take 150 Test wickets, a record he accomplished in just 24 Test matches. In all, he played 27 Test matches in which he took 189 wickets at an awesome average of 16.43.

Consistency is the key to success, they say. So Sydney holding the red ball in his hand, said Yes, Sir! And how. He took 7 fifers in 8 innings of the Test series. This shows what this right-handed fast bowler had in stock for him. Barring the third Test match of the series, he successfully grabbed a 10-wicket match haul in the rest of the matches, which tells a lot about his talent.

Read Now: The Best Tail-end Batters of Cricket

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