Dale Steyn 300 Test wickets

Exceptional in Test wins

Dale Steyn, who has been one of the most consistent fast bowlers both home and away, stands out because of his remarkable wicket-taking ability

Madhusudhan Ramakrishnan

January 3, 2013

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Dale Steyn took three of New Zealand's wickets in the second innings, South Africa v New Zealand, 1st Test, Cape Town, 3rd day, January 4, 2013
Dale Steyn has 206 wickets in victories at an incredible strike rate of 30.7 © Getty Images
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With a perfectly-pitched outswinger, reminiscent of the deliveries that dismissed Michael Vaughan in 2004 and 2008, Dale Steyn bowled Doug Bracewell to become the fourth South African bowler and the 19th bowler overall to reach the 300-wicket mark. Steyn is also the joint second-fastest to the mark among fast bowlers (61 matches) with only Dennis Lillee achieving the mark in fewer matches.

Steyn reached the landmark in eight years and 16 days making him the second-fastest South African bowler (in terms of time taken) after Shaun Pollock. Among the bowlers with 300-plus wickets, Steyn has the best strike rate (42.1). After an incredible 2011, when he averaged 19.57, Steyn has struggled to maintain the same level of hostility since the beginning of 2012. In 21 innings, he has picked up 42 wickets at a relatively high average of 28.27. However, he does boast the best strike rate and second-best average among bowlers with 200-plus wickets in wins.

When Lillee reached the 300-wicket mark in his 56th Test, he had an excellent average and strike rate of 22.83 and 49.3 respectively. His bowling record fell away slightly after that as he managed only 50 wickets in the next 14 Tests. On the other hand, Richard Hadlee, who got to the mark in 61 Tests, ended his career with a better average and strike rate than the numbers he had when he picked up his 300th wicket. Hadlee, who ended with 431 wickets in 86 Tests, had the highest number of five-fors (24) at the time of passing 300 wickets. Malcolm Marshall, who has the best average among all bowlers with 300-plus wickets (20.94), had marginally better stats at the time of picking up his 300th wicket. Although Steyn has the highest average (23.68) among the bowlers in the group, he has the joint-best strike rate (42.0) along with Waqar Younis, who reached the 300-wicket mark in 65 Tests.

* Unless otherwise mentioned, all stats refer to the numbers at the end of the Test when the bowler picked up 300 wickets.

Quickest fast bowlers to the 300-wicket mark (65 Tests or fewer) *
Bowler Matches Wickets Avg/SR 5WI/10WM Overall matches Wickets Avg/SR 5WI/10WM
Dennis Lillee 56 305 22.83/49.3 21/6 70 355 23.92/52.0 23/7
Richard Hadlee 61 302 22.70/51.4 24/6 86 431 22.29/50.8 36/9
Malcolm Marshall 61 300 20.88/45.8 18/3 81 376 20.94/46.7 22/4
Dale Steyn 61 304 23.68/42.1 18/4 61 304 23.68/42.1 18/4
Allan Donald 63 303 21.54/45.7 20/3 72 330 22.25/47.0 20/3
Glenn McGrath 64 302 21.71/50.6 18/3 124 563 21.64/51.9 29/3
Fred Trueman 65 301 21.22/48.5 17/3 67 307 21.57/49.4 17/3
Waqar Younis 65 301 22.44/42.0 21/5 87 373 23.56/43.4 22/5

The distribution of wickets in home and away Tests throws up quite a few interesting numbers. While Lillee picked up nearly 67% of his wickets (191) in home Tests, the distribution was nearly equal for Hadlee. Marshall, on the other hand, picked up 62% (186 wickets) of his dismissals in away Tests. While Lillee and Marshall had better averages and strike rates at home, Hadlee did much better abroad. Both Steyn and Allan Donald, two South African bowlers who reached the mark quickest, have a very similar distribution pattern. Steyn, however, has a much better strike rate (39.6) in home Tests as compared to Donald (45.1). Perhaps the most skewed distribution is that of Fred Trueman, the first bowler to pass the 300-wicket mark. When he crossed the landmark, he had 223 wickets (74%) in home Tests at an average and strike rate of 19.57 and 43.5. In sharp contrast, his corresponding numbers in away Tests were 26.08 and 62.6 respectively. Only Waqar, who has a sub-20 average in Pakistan, has a better strike rate (38.5) than Steyn in home Tests.

Wickets distribution for fast bowlers *
Bowler Wickets Overall Home (wkts) Home (Avg/SR) Away (wkts) Away (Avg/SR)
Dennis Lillee 305 191 22.21/45.9 114 23.86/55.0
Richard Hadlee 302 147 22.74/52.9 155 22.67/50.0
Malcolm Marshall 300 114 20.09/41.3 186 21.37/48.6
Dale Steyn 304 164 22.10/39.6 140 25.52/44.87
Allan Donald 303 168 21.47/45.1 135 21.62/46.5
Glenn McGrath 302 157 20.85/49.9 145 22.64/51.3
Fred Trueman 301 223 19.52/43.5 78 26.08/62.6
Waqar Younis 301 148 19.91/38.2 153 24.90/45.3

At the time of passing the 300-wicket mark, Marshall had the highest percentage of wickets in wins (69.00) and an extraordinarily low percentage of wickets in defeats (2%). His bowling was one of the major factors in West Indies' remarkable success in the 1980s when they went through the decade without a single series defeat. Glenn McGrath, the most successful pace bowler (563 wickets), has the second-highest percentage of wickets in wins followed by Steyn. The scarcity of draws in the period since 2000 is reflected in the very low percentage of wickets in draws for McGrath and Steyn. In contrast, the corresponding number for bowlers in the earlier decades is much higher. Hadlee has the best ratio of average in wins to the overall average (1.84) followed by Steyn (1.42). In comparison, Mcgrath's average in wins (19.48) is not much better than his overall average of 21.71. While the averages of McGrath and Lillee in defeats are not vastly inferior to their overall numbers, the corresponding number for Marshall is much higher than his overall average of 20.88. Steyn's averages in losses and draws also drop significantly when compared to his overall average (ratios of 1.50 and 1.79 respectively).

Performance in wins, losses and draws *
Bowler % wkts in wins Ratio1 (overall avg/avg in wins) % wkts in losses
Ratio2 (loss avg/overall avg) % wkts in draws Ratio (draw avg/overall avg)
Dennis Lillee 58.36 1.26 18.03 1.17 23.60 1.37
Richard Hadlee 41.72 1.84 33.11 1.21 25.16 1.48
Malcolm Marshall 69.00 1.25 2.00 2.53 29.00 1.37
Dale Steyn 67.76 1.42 18.09 1.50 14.14 1.79
Allan Donald 57.09 1.30 16.17 1.28 26.73 1.32
Glenn McGrath 67.21 1.11 19.86 1.14 12.91 1.31
Fred Trueman 56.81 1.28 13.62 1.55 29.56 1.16
Waqar Younis 57.14 1.26 22.92 1.20 19.93 1.37

The increase in the number of left-handed batsmen over the years becomes very obvious when the bowler stats against batsmen are compared. For most bowlers who played before the 1990s, the dismissal percentage is sharply skewed towards right-handers. For example, Marshall dismissed 256 right-handers and just 44 left-handers in the 61 Tests (85-15 distribution). However, since the 1990s, the rise in the number of left-handers has meant that their dismissal percentage has also gone up. Both McGrath and Steyn, who played in this period, have a 70-30 distribution of right-hander to left-hander wickets. Steyn, however, has had to work much harder against left-handers (91 wickets at 30.56) in comparison to right-handers (213 wickets at 19.77).

Nearly all bowlers in the group have tasted great success against top-order (1-4) batsmen. While Donald and McGrath have the highest percentages of top-order victims (48.51 and 48.34), Hadlee and Waqar have the lowest figures. When it comes to the middle-order wickets (5-8), Hadlee has the highest dismissal percentage (38.07) followed by Lillee and Marshall. Steyn has a high lower-order (9-11) dismissal percentage of 22.51 surpassed only by Trueman, who has a corresponding percentage of 22.92.

Both Lillee and McGrath predominantly bowled good length and hence have a high percentage of caught dismissals (67.21 and 70.19) but a low percentage of bowled dismissals (15.73 and 12.25). Steyn, whose first and 300th wickets were bowled, has a relatively high percentage of bowled dismissals (22.84). This is, however, much lower than the corresponding percentages of Trueman (32.89) and Waqar (28.57). Waqar, one of the best bowlers of the full inswinging delivery, stands out because of a very high combined percentage of bowled and lbw dismissals (59.46%). Trueman comes a distant second, with a combined percentage of 45.84.

Dismissal details (type of batsman, batting position and dismissal pattern) *
Bowler Wkts (right-handers/left-handers) wkts % (1-4) wkts % (5-8) wkts % (9-11) bowled % lbw % caught %
Dennis Lillee 250/55 46.55 37.04 16.39 15.73 17.04 67.21
Richard Hadlee 248/54 41.72 38.07 20.19 20.86 15.56 63.57
Malcolm Marshall 256/44 46.00 37.00 17.00 19.00 18.33 62.66
Dale Steyn 213/91 43.75 33.55 23.35 22.84 14.47 62.17
Allan Donald 231/72 48.51 31.35 20.13 19.14 12.21 68.31
Glenn McGrath 212/90 48.34 33.11 18.54 12.25 17.21 70.19
Fred Trueman 248/53 45.84 31.22 22.92 32.89 12.95 53.15
Waqar Younis 219/82 42.52 35.88 21.59 28.57 30.89 40.53

Hadlee and Waqar are the only bowlers to pick up over 100 wickets in the first innings of matches. Lillee, however, has the best first-innings average (19.57) followed by McGrath (20.27). In the second innings, McGrath and Trueman are the highest wicket-takers but the honours go to Marshall on the average front (20.04). Steyn's average in the second innings (24.96) is the second-highest in the group after Waqar's 25.69. Marshall, the only bowler to pick up 100-plus third-innings wickets, also boasts an excellent average (20.15) second only to Donald's 16.42). Steyn is the second-highest wicket-taker in the third innings with 98 wickets at an average of 21.38. However, he has struggled in the fourth innings where he averages 32.51. McGrath has been the most succeesful fourth-innings bowler (60 wickets) but Hadlee has the best average (15.21) followed by Marshall (17.36).

Performance across innings *
Bowler 1st innings (wkts/avg) 2nd inns (wkts/avg) 3rd inns (wkts/avg) 4th inns (wkts/avg) % wkts diff (1st and 2nd match inns)
Dennis Lillee 85/19.57 88/23.30 87/23.64 45/26.48 13.77
Richard Hadlee 136/23.55 56/23.78 87/22.67 23/15.21 27.15
Malcolm Marshall 93/23.49 65/20.04 112/20.15 30/17.36 5.33
Dale Steyn 91/22.13 86/24.96 98/21.38 29/32.51 16.44
Allan Donald 86/22.97 93/23.86 85/16.42 39/24.00 18.15
Glenn McGrath 80/20.27 105/22.11 57/25.59 60/19.26 22.51
Fred Trueman 90/20.38 103/21.92 80/21.20 28/21.39 28.23
Waqar Younis 103/21.57 78/25.69 75/21.52 45/20.37 20.26

Against Australia and England, two of the top Test teams in recent years, Steyn's average has not been very impressive. However, his bowling did play a crucial role in South Africa's first series in in Australia in 2008-09. Against India, New Zealand and West Indies, Steyn has picked up a total of 136 wickets while maintaining a sub-20 average. He has also picked up 57 wickets in the subcontinent at a superb average of 21.33. Donald also averaged higher against Australia but was highly consistent against all other teams. Lillee, the second-highest wicket-taker against England after Shane Warne, was superb at home and in England but did very little of note in the West Indies and the subcontinent, where he averaged 68.33. Marshall, one of the best overseas bowlers in the subcontinent, reserved his best against England finishing with 104 wickets at 17.90. Hadlee's average was the lowest against Sri Lanka (11.24) though it can be argued that the success came when Sri Lanka were still finding their way in Tests. Trueman also profited heavily against weak batting teams (India, Pakistan and New Zealand) who had very little exposure to the bowler-friendly conditions in England. Waqar, who was at his best against New Zealand, had a tough time against India (eight wickets at 48.75) and Australia (24 wickets at 34.37).

Performance against top teams (excludes Bangladesh and Zimbabwe) - (wkts/avg) *
Bowler Australia England India NZ Pakistan SA SL WI
Dennis Lillee - 163/20.38 21/21.52 31/17.96 51/27.92 - - 39/31.00
Richard Hadlee 92/21.09 62/25.40 35/26.34 - 46/27.80 - 33/11.24 34/22.64
Malcolm Marshall 59/23.37 104/17.90 57/24.22 36/21.52 44/19.75 - - -
Dale Steyn 57/27.28 46/32.63 53/19.00 50/18.48 19/30.89 - 22/27.00 35/18.68
Allan Donald 48/27.85 86/23.04 57/17.31 16/22.37 27/22.37 - 26/18.80 29/18.58
Glenn McGrath - 66/21.54 20/16.70 25/26.00 48/27.58 23/28.52 27/24.14 87/16.44
Fred Trueman 79/25.30 - 53/14.84 34/15.44 22/19.95 27/22.96 - 86/23.46
Waqar Younis 24/34.37 38/26.00 8/48.75 62/16.25 - 20/23.90 48/20.35 47/23.12

Madhusudhan Ramakrishnan is a sub-editor (stats) at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by   on (January 6, 2013, 6:20 GMT)

Hello editor there is small mistake, in the first table in the last column of 5WI/10WM of Steyn and Waqar Younis.

Posted by   on (January 6, 2013, 5:13 GMT)

Considering the rules he plays with: limitation on bouncers, shorter boundaries, bats which have 60-70% more of 'sweet spot' and captains obsessed with over-rate, it's a miracle that Steyn maintains the sort of numbers he does. And of course, one reason to rate Steyn right up there with the likes of Marshall is the sort of stats he has in subcontinent (IMHO, the one reason why Marshall in my book is always a more complete bowler than Lillee). Like the rise of Pollock inspired Donald to greater heights, here's hoping Philander does the same for Steyn!

Posted by BillyCC on (January 6, 2013, 4:53 GMT)

In consideration of all these stats, Steyn still has work to do to rank ahead of Donald as South Africa's best test bowler. In my mind, Steyn probably ranks around top 15 of all time, Donald is a few places ahead of him.

Posted by   on (January 6, 2013, 2:44 GMT)

Great to see steyn is up there with the alltime greats like marshall,waqar etc. I'm sure he's best is yet to come, he'll soon find his form again. Remember unlike others in the list, steyn plays in most batting friendly era. 57 wickets in asia at 21 sums up all. Hope he'll take 600 wickets.

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