Euro 2020 Special

Top bowlers in international cricket: Who leads the all-time lists in all three formats of the game?


Since the first international match was played in 1877, hundreds of thousands of wickets have been taken in international cricket. Many years this was just at test level, but then came the advent of limited overs cricket, first with ODIs and more latterly, T2OIs.

The growing popularity of the latter and the limited appeal of the two older formats of the sport to younger audiences may mean that the leading test and ODI bowlers’ status may not be threatened for some time, whilst the T20I bowling list is a movable feast.

Here are the current all-time leading bowlers.



Retired Sri Lankan off-break bowler Muttiah Muralitharan is the most successful bowler in the history of test cricket.

In 350 matches for his country, he took 800 wickets at an average of 22.72. That included 22 ten-wicket hauls and 67 times in which he took five or more wickets in a match. Indian audiences may get a chance to see him play in the flesh when he returns to play Legends League cricket next month.

Sadly, the next man on the all-time list is a man familiar to watchers of the Indian T20 league for many years, died last year. Australian leg spinner Shane Warne took 708 wickets at an average of 25.41. His delivery to dismiss Mike Gatting at Old Trafford in 1993 was later dubbed the “ball of the century.”

Jimmy Anderson is still playing at the age of 40, a testament to the pace bowler’s longevity and continued excellence. He has taken 657 wickets to date at an average of 26.36 and will be looking to add to that haul in England’s coming series against South Africa.

Anil Kumble is the most successful Indian in test cricket ever. In 132 matches for his country, he claimed 619 victims at an average of 29.65. He became only the second man in history after England’s Jim Laker to take all 10 wickets in a match when he bowled out Pakistan in the Second Test in Delhi in 1999.

Glenn McGrath is currently fifth on the all-time list with 563 test victims at an average of 21.64.

However, Anderson’s fast bowler partner in crime, Stuart Broad, may yet overtake him as he is just 11 wickets behind and is still playing for his country.



It is a testament to Muralitharan’s ability to adapt his game – much as Sachin Tendulkar did with his batting to the demands of one day cricket, that he is also the leading ODI wicket taker of all time. He took 534 wickets in 341 matches at an average of 23.06.

He is followed by a pair of Pakistanis. Wasim Akram took 502 wickets in 356 matches between 1984 and 2003 at an average of 23.52.

For much of his international career, he operated in tandem with another fast bowler, Waqar Younis, who finished his career with 416 wickets at an almost identical average of 23.84.

Another pace bowler to feature is Chaminda Vaas, often described as the best Sri Lankan fast bowler ever. He claimed exactly 400 ODI victims taken at an average of 27.32.

The third Pakistan bowler to feature in this group is Shahid Afridi who retired from ODI cricket in 2015 after a career that saw him take 395 wickets at an average of 34.51.



Due to the rapid expansion of the T20I format of the game, bowling records for the shorter type of the sport are likely to be more transient. Here, though, are the current all-time record holders.

Shakib Al-Hasan of Bangladesh leads the way, having taken 121 wickets in 99 matches.  The slow left arm orthodox spinner is currently also the top ranked ICC ODI all-rounder.

Following him is New Zealand pace bowler Tim Southee who has 112 victims to his name to date, having played 93 matches for the Black Caps.

Another all-rounder Rashid Khan, one of the stars for the Gujarat Titans side which won the Indian T20 league this season, is third currently. The Afghan has 109 wickets to his name.

Lasith Malinga, now retired, was a star on the Indian T20 league for many years where he was highly rated because of his death bowling. He took 107 T20I wickets in his career.

Shahid Afridi also appears in the T20I rankings, having taken 98 wickets in his T20I career.

He might soon be overtaken, though, by another Kiwi Ish Sodhi, who is just one behind him and will be hoping to add to his tally in the current series against the West Indies.




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