Trivia #26: Evolution of most Test wickets (Jul94)

Evolution of the Test record for most wickets taken in Tests by a bowler (Jun 94)

Bowler/s Wkts When previous record broken

Beginning at the very first Test ...

A. Hill/ A. Shaw 1 1876-7 Aus v Eng (1st Test) J. Southerton 3 - ditto - A. Shaw 3 - ditto - W.E. Midwinter 5 - ditto -

From the first Test onwards the record more or less "behaves" itself. :-)

T. Kendall (Aus) and A. Shaw (Eng) 8 1876-7 Aus v Eng (1st Test) T. Kendall 9 1876-7 Aus v Eng (2nd Test) F. Spofforth 10 1878-9 Aus v Eng G.E. Palmer 18 1881-2 Aus v Eng F.R. Spofforth 29 1882 Aus v Eng G.E. Palmer 37 1882-3 Aus v Eng (2nd Test) F.R. Spofforth 46 1882-3 Aus v Eng (3rd Test) G.E. Palmer 59 1884 Aus v Eng F.R. Spofforth 70 1884-5 Aus v Eng J. Briggs 95 1894-5 Eng v Aus (3rd Test) C.T.B. Turner 101 1894-5 Aus v Eng (4th Test) J. Briggs 102 1894-5 Eng v Aus (5th Test) G. Lohmann 104 1895-6 Eng v SAf J. Briggs 113 1897-8 Eng v Aus H. Trumble 119 1903-04 Aus v Eng S.F. Barnes 142 1913-4 Eng v SAf C.V. Grimmett 190 1935-6 Aus v SAf A.V. Bedser 217 1953 Eng v Aus J.B. Statham 237 1962-3 Eng v Aus F.S. Trueman 243 1962-3 Eng v NZ L.R. Gibbs/ F.S. Trueman 307 1975-6 WI v Aus (5th Test) L.R. Gibbs 308 1975-6 WI v Aus (6th Test) D.K. Lillee 310 1981-2 Aus v WI I.T. Botham 356 1986 Eng v NZ R.J. Hadlee/ I.T. Botham 373 1987-8 NZ v Aus R.J. Hadlee 374 1988-9 NZ v Ind Kapil Dev/ R.J. Hadlee 431 1993-4 Ind v SL (2nd Test) Kapil Dev 432 1993-4 Ind v SL (3rd Test)


(i) This progression is bowler-centric, not wickets-centric. It tracks the bowler who at that point in time held the record for most wickets. For most of this progression, obtaining the number of wickets ultimately taken by that bowler is pretty easy: for B(n), W(n) = R(n+1) - 1, where B(n) is the bowler, W(n) is the number of wickets, and R(n+1) is the number of wickets taken by the next record holder to break the record. Thus Lillee, for example, took 356-1=355 wickets. This, of course, totally breaks down for the 19th century bowlers, who - especially Palmer and Spofforth - were constantly overtaking each other, leading to alternating record holders. Starting with Lohmann, however, the progression has been steady with no alternations.

(ii) Shaw, Southerton, Midwinter and Spofforth "everyone" should have heard of. Hill more-or-less disappeared from cricket history after this, he just has this one niche of taking the very first Test wicket; he had a reasonable first-class record, 500+ wickets at 12 or so. Kendall and Palmer were part of a strong Australian attack in the early years. Palmer, in particular, seems to have been as effective as Spofforth, with a very comparable record up to the mid-80s, as we can see from the above alternation; but he doesn't seem to have had the same publicity. The Demon must have been some bowler; he took 1011 wickets [not all first-class] on five tours of England 1878-1886 - there can't be very many bowlers these days who get 1000 wickets in *any* class of cricket over five seasons.

Thanks to A.N.Walker