With the volume of Test cricket soaring over the last couple of decades, it's no surprise the list of highest Test wicket takers is dominated by bowlers from the 21st century. All of the top 10 have played at least part of their careers since 2000.


The bowlers with the most Test wickets have demonstrated not only great skill, but extreme longevity. Bowling in the five-day game can be unforgiving.

For fast bowlers, it is a physically gruelling endeavour. For all the match-winning performances these greats have produced, there have been days toiling away on flat surfaces, often in hot and/or humid conditions.

It is a sign of durability and a well-honed craft to get anywhere close to this group.

RadioTimes.com 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. Nathan Lyon – 454 wickets

Nathan Lyon is a standard off-spin bowler, relying on dip, drift and bounce to complement his off-break and arm ball. The mark of 454 wickets gives him the fourth-highest Test wicket total among spin bowlers, and the third among Australians.

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Bowling finger spin isn’t easy in Australia as many experienced offies have found over the years. Lyon has been able to control the scoring when required and attack if the pitch offers him some lateral movement.

8. Ravichandran Ashwin – 457 wickets

One of five spin bowlers on this list, Ravichandran Ashwin has taken his wickets at an average below 25 and has the third-lowest strike rate in the top 10. Not often a massive spinner of the ball, Ashwin varies his speeds and flight to deceive batsmen, alongside a three-delivery armoury, featuring a standard off-break, arm ball and the carrom ball.

A whopping 362 of his wickets have been taken in Asia, and he owns a 32.06 average in away tests compared with 21.16 at home.

7. 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.

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 – 566 wickets

Stuart Broad
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.

A relentless competitor, Broad is still going strong under the leadership of Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum.

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 – 675 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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