The 10 players with the most Test wickets of all-time have all played at least part of their careers in the 21st century. Three are currently active, and one retired in 2023.


Being a Test match bowler is gruelling work. Injuries are inevitable, and there are times when it feels like a mountainous task against set batters or on unhelpful pitches.

There are some long days running in, but part of Test match bowling is perseverance, which all of these bowlers have exhibited throughout their careers.

Match-winning spells will be best remembered, but there have been countless, fruitless days putting their bodies through pain on flat pitches.

Fast bowlers, in particular, have to be incredibly durable to make this list. Each of the top eight have played 124 or more Test matches. After all of that, who comes out on top?

More like this brings you the full round-up of the top 10 wicket-takers of all time.

10. Dale Steyn – 439 wickets

Dale Steyn
Dale Steyn. Getty Images

Dale Steyn has the best strike rate of any bowler with over 300 Test match wickets, and the ninth-lowest average of players in that exclusive club. Injuries curtailed the South African’s prime in the mid-2010s, following a period where Steyn set an all-time record for the most consecutive weeks as the number one ranked Test bowler.

A ferocious competitor with an intimidating glare, Steyn paired tearaway pace with control and considerable movement through the air. He was the greatest out-and-out fast bowler of his generation.

9. Ravichandran Ashwin – 507 wickets

Ravichandran Ashwin claimed his 500th wicket during the series against England at the start of 2024. Ashwin will play in his 100th Test in the final match of that series – only Muttiah Muralitharan had more wickets through his first 99 matches.

While not the biggest spinner of the ball, Ashwin works his magic with flight and variations. His three-delivery armoury, featuring a standard off-break, arm ball and the carrom ball, has bamboozled many a batter over the years.

He has the best strike rate of any spinner with over 300 Test wickets. Only two players with more wickets can better Ashwin’s average.

8. Courtney Walsh – 519 wickets

The first bowler ever to reach 500 Test match wickets, Courtney Walsh broke Kapil Dev’s record in 2000 and held top spot until he was overtaken by Shane Warne in 2004. Walsh had the earliest career of any player in the top 10, debuting in 1984 and playing his final Test in 2001.

Half of one of the greatest fast-bowling pairs of all-time alongside Curtly Ambrose, Walsh was not the most hostile or graceful of West Indian quicks, but his action was efficient, repeatable and seemed to protect him from injuries.

7. Nathan Lyon – 527 wickets

Only three spin bowlers in Test history have taken more wickets than Nathan Lyon. The Australia has the most wickets of any orthodox finger spinner, relying on drift, spin and bounce to deceive batters.

Lyon, however, has the highest average of the top 22 wicket takers in Test history. He has delivered for Australia in different conditions throughout his career, but his lack of variation can make him vulnerable to batters who try to take him down.

6. Glenn McGrath – 563 wickets

Glenn McGrath has the second-lowest economy rate of bowlers on this list, and the best average of any bowler with more than 406 wickets. At the time of retirement, the Australian had taken the most wickets of any quick bowler, but he has since been surpassed by England duo James Anderson and Stuart Broad.

Renowned for his metronomic accuracy, McGrath maintained pressure on batters for long periods and challenged their judgement around off stump. While not a big swinger of the ball, a perfect seam position allowed him to generate enough lateral movement to draw the outside edge or beat the bat.

5. Stuart Broad – 604 wickets

Stuart Broad running in an England kit
Stuart Broad. Getty Images

Since arriving on the Test scene as a fresh-faced all-rounder, Stuart Broad has had a career of ups and downs. His highs are spectacular, with a catalogue of match and series-winning spells to his name. There have been slumps in form, too, leading to periods where his place in the team is questioned.

Broad has adapted to different roles, from enforcer to new-ball master. He has so often stepped up when England most needed him, no more so than the 8-15 spell at Trent Bridge in 2015.

After claiming his 600th Test wicket earlier in the series, Broad stunned the cricketing world when he announced his retirement during the Ashes. In true Broad fashion, he went out at the very top, taking the final two wickets to ensure England avoided series defeat.

4. Anil Kumble – 619 wickets

Somewhat overshadowed by Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan in the 1990s and 2000s, Anil Kumble is undoubtedly one of the greatest spin bowlers in Test history. Not a big spinner of the ball, Kumble doesn’t have a highlight reel of ripping dismissals, yet he was a tireless bowler and had his own means of manufacturing scalps.

Standing at 6ft 1, Kumble relied on bounce and subtler variations to bamboozle batters. He altered his pace considerably, frequently trapping batters on the crease.

Often wheeling away on flat Asian surfaces, Kumble bowled over 40,000 delivers in his Test career, which is second all-time.

3. James Anderson – 698 wickets

James Anderson just keeps going. Anderson has by far the most Test wickets of a pace bowler, and has played the second most Test matches of any player, which is a testament to his unprecedented fitness levels. There have been points when injuries looked set to call time on Anderson’s international career, but he has come back again and again.

If anything, Anderson is getting better with age. Even into his 40s, his career numbers are trending in the right direction. He has a lost little bit of pace over the last decade, yet his skills have only improved, making him a more effective bowler away from home.

Anderson might not be the best fast bowler of his generation, but he is the most skilful and no one (aside from his long-time teammate Broad) has come close to his longevity.

2. Shane Warne – 708 wickets

Over a 15-year Test career, Shane Warne was at the heart of a dominant Australian team, and revitalised leg-spin bowling in the process. Warne’s explosive leg breaks and mysterious variations posed problems for batters no one else could.

A thoroughbred competitor and magnetic personality, Warne was box office with the ball in hand. Trying to survive an over from Warne was a test mentally as much as physically, attempting to overcome the mind games and sledging while figuring out which delivery was fizzing through the air.

Perhaps Warne’s standout talent was his ability to generate spin on any surface. No pitch could be prepared to nullify his threat, and chasing against Warne in the fourth innings was a near-impossible task.

1. Muttiah Muralitharan – 800 wickets

Muttiah Muralitharan
Muttiah Muralitharan. Getty Images

A controversial figure for many cricket fans due to his unorthodox action, Muttiah Muralitharan overcame several rounds of testing and investigation to put together a record-breaking career. Murali passed Warne for the most Test wickets in 2007, and added another 92 to finish on exactly 800.

Statistically, Muralitharan is in a league of his own with 67 five-wicket hauls (30 more than anyone else) and 22 10-wicket matches (12 more than anyone else).

An ultra-flexible wrist made Murali truly unique. With an off-spinning action, he was able to generate massive spin in both directions, and mixed in numerous other deliveries, including a fast topspinner and several which never received names.

With many nations seeing a decline in the number of Tests played per year, this record could soon be seen as unbreakable.


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