Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Two to tango: The Top 10 bowling pairs in Test history


There have been several bowling partnerships over the years that have been instrumental in the success of their teams. Some of these were lethal fast-bowling pairs, some were spin twins, who foxed batsmen with their guile, and some were a combination of a pacer and a spinner. They all had even the best of batsmen fretting.
Here, Wisden India looks at ten of the most successful bowling partnerships in Test cricket in terms of number of wickets.
[Please note that the numbers are based on the matches both players have been a part of, and don’t take into account the possibility that one of them bowled in an innings while the other didn’t.]

Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath
1001 wickets from 104 Tests

Two of the driving forces behind Australia’s hegemony over world cricket for over a decade – one the most accurate and unrelenting of pacers and the other the greatest legspinner of all time – McGrath and Warne won many battles in the 14 years they played together. This is the only pair to have taken a combined tally of 1000 wickets. Personally, while Warne ended only behind Muttiah Muralitharan in the list of highest wicket-takers in Test history with 708, McGrath remains the most successful paceman in Test history with 563 scalps. It comes as little surprise then that they head this list.


Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas
895 wickets in 95 Tests

Muralitharan and Vaas shouldered the burden of Sri Lanka’s bowling on their shoulders for the better part of their careers. Naturally, it meant that the two had to do most of the picking up of wickets, and they seldom failed to step up. Vaas’s precision and Murali’s wizardry played big parts in Sri Lanka establishing themselves as a top side and remaining there. While Murali ended his career with 800 wickets, Vaas’s 355 wickets were no less significant.

Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose
762 wickets in 95 Tests

Two of the most celebrated fast bowlers of all time, Walsh and Ambrose are the most successful fast bowling pair in Test history with 762 wickets together. The two achieved several stupendous feats together. By the time they rounded off their careers, Walsh and Ambrose had become the most successful bowlers from the West Indies with 519 and 405 wickets respectively. The partnership ended when Ambrose called it a day in September 2000. Walsh followed his comrade into retirement less than a year later.

James Anderson and Stuart Broad
591 wickets in 77 Tests*

England’s new-ball duo is the most prolific pair among contemporary cricketers with a total of 591 wickets in the 77 Tests they have played together so far. Anderson, the master of swing, and the belligerent Broad have already formed perhaps the best English fast bowling pair since Ian Botham and Bob Willis. While Anderson went past Ambrose and has 413 wickets at the end of the recent Ashes, Broad crossed 300 Test wickets during the series while delivering that remarkable spell of 8 for 15 at his home ground of Trent Bridge.

Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis
559 wickets in 61 Tests

It was a combination that had the ideal mix of skill and pace, ingenuity and viciousness, and shrewdness and class. Akram, the greatest left-arm paceman of all time and Waqar, among the fastest and most feared the game has seen, brought glory to Pakistan several times over the course of their celebrated careers. Akram’s versatility helped him finish with 414 wickets, and Waqar wasn’t too far behind, his raw pace and searing inswinging yorkers giving him 373 scalps.

Shaun Pollock and Jacques Kallis
547 wickets in 93 Tests

Pollock, the ever-accurate South African right-arm pacer, had a superb career in which he took 421 wickets from 108 Tests over twelve years. Pollock and Kallis made their debuts within a month of each other, meaning Pollock played alongside Kallis almost all his career. In the 93 matches they played together, they combined to take a total of 547 wickets, the most yet for any South African pair. Pollock was known for his all-round skills and had 3781 runs to go with the 421 wickets. But compare that to the 13,289 runs and 292 wickets Kallis got, and he stands light years ahead of most other allrounders over the years in terms of numbers.

Makhaya Ntini and Jacques Kallis
538 wickets in 93 Tests

Kallis also formed a formidable pair with Ntini. The energetic and persevering Ntini had 390 victims in Test cricket from 101 matches at 28.82 and went on to become the only South African to take ten wickets in a Lord’s Test. He also holds the record for the best match haul by a South African, which he earned when he took 13 for 132 in 2005 against West Indies in Port of Spain.

Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel
507 wickets in 60 Tests*

The best, and easily the most celebrated new-ball pair in recent times, numbers alone speak volumes of the success of the Steyn-Morkel combination. Steyn, the best of his generation, and Morkel, whose pace, coupled with the height he delivers from, have sent back 507 batsmen so far. That amounts to close to 52% of the wickets South Africa have taken in the time the two have been operating in tandem. Steyn, currently on 402 wickets, is just 19 shy of tying Pollock’s South African record. Morkel isn’t anywhere close but his 218 wickets from 64 matches at 29.66 is impressive nonetheless. With age on their side – Steyn just left 31 behind and Morkel is a few days away from turning 31 – and no signs of slowing down, the duo could still move up this table.

Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh
501 wickets in 54 Tests

The only Indian pair in this list isn’t a surprising one. At their peak, the spin twins supported each other superbly and bowled India to many memorable wins. Since Kumble’s departure from international cricket in 2008, India have not been able to find another steady and successful spin combination such as this one. Kumble, an outright match-winner, finished as the third highest wicket-taker in Tests with 619 scalps. And, while Harbhajan’s best days are behind him, he still is the most successful offspinner ever after Muralitharan with 417 wickets to his name.

Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini
490 in 63 Tests

Much like Pollock and Kallis, and Kallis and Ntini, Pollock and Ntini shared a fruitful partnership with the new ball that fetched them 490 wickets from 63 matches together. Pollock’s accuracy was complemented well by Ntini and the two produced some memorable performances like the one at Lord’s in 2003 when South Africa won by an innings and 92 runs. The two took 14 of the English wickets on that occasion.

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