Harbhajan Singh's 400 Test wickets July 7, 2011

Five of his best

On the occasion of Harbhajan Singh's 400th Test wicket, a look back at five of his most memorable spells in the format
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13 for 196 v Australia, Kolkata, 2001

Harbhajan Singh chose one of the most gripping Test matches of all-time to announce himself to the world. Matthew Hayden's robust 97 seemed set to give world-champions Australia full control on the first afternoon when Harbhajan intervened with his wicket, and followed it up with Mark Waugh's. He then sliced through the middle order, dismissing the out of form Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist and Shane Warne off successive balls - the first Test hat-trick by an Indian bowler. Despite his seven-wicket haul, India fell behind quickly and were forced to follow-on after a batting collapse. VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid then produced an epic 376-run stand, including a close-to chanceless vigil through the entire fourth day, to set Australia 384 to win in a little over two sessions. The tea-time score of 161 for 3 suggested the game was headed for a stalemate, but Harbhajan's bounce and loop combined lethally with Sachin Tendulkar's irresistible turn in the final session. Gilchrist and Warne collected pairs, while Ponting added a duck to go with his scratchy first-innings 6 as Australia disintegrated on the dusty track in the dying light. Harbhajan trapped Glenn McGrath in front moments before stumps as India surged to an astonishing win to end Australia's 16-match winning streak and level the series.

15 for 217 v Australia, Chennai, 2001

Australia, with the exception of Hayden, had clearly not managed to decode their nemesis in time for the decider in Chennai. Hayden again propelled Australia towards dominance on the first day before Harbhajan scythed through the middle order on the second morning. Steve Waugh's freak dismissal, palming away a back-spinning ball after dead-batting it, gave India the opening and Harbhajan barged in rampantly. Gilchrist managed a single this time, while Ponting collected his second successive duck, and Warne his third as Australia lost their last seven wickets for 51, rendering Hayden's magnificent double-hundred futile. Tendulkar's measured century, ably supported by the rest of the top order, gave India a 110-run lead, allowing Harbhajan to bowl with attacking fields. Hayden and Michael Slater added an attacking 82 for the first wicket, but Gilchrist's promotion to No. 3 ended in failure as he once again fell lbw to Harbhajan. The Waugh twins scrapped in the Chennai heat, but Harbhajan's persistence and the devils in the pitch finally broke their resistance, before the tail surrendered. Chasing 155 on the fourth day, Laxman scattered the field with a sublime half-century as India sped to 101 for 2 before Jason Gillespie and Colin Miller dismantled the middle order. With two wickets remaining, and McGrath charging in with purpose, Man-of-the-Series Harbhajan squeezed the winning runs through the covers, completing one of the most remarkable comebacks in cricket's history.

10 for 153 v Sri Lanka, Galle, 2008

Harbhajan's best performance in Sri Lanka is mostly forgotten since it came in a series remembered for Ajantha Mendis' grand arrival, and in a match remembered for a mind-boggling double-century from Virender Sehwag. Unmindful of his team-mates' travails against Mendis, Sehwag battered an unbeaten 201 off 231 balls to steer India to 329. Malinda Warnapura, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene set up a strong response before Harbhajan, supported by Anil Kumble, began to chip away. Warnapura was enticed into slicing a loopy delivery to point, before Sangakkara scooped a leading edge back to the bowler. Thilan Samaraweera was pinned on the crease by a slider, and Tillakaratne Dilshan - still a middle-order batsman - jabbed at a rapidly dipping offbreak to be caught close-in. Sri Lanka finished 37 runs behind, before Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir ensured they would need more than 300 in the fourth innings. Ishant Sharma and Zaheer removed the top order cheaply even as Samaraweera resisted, while Harbhajan ran through the lower order in haste to finish with a ten-wicket match haul.

8 for 123 v South Africa, Kolkata, 2010

India's No. 1 ranking was at stake after Dale Steyn and Hashim Amla mauled them in the first Test in Nagpur, and Harbhajan copped his share of criticism for failing to pull his weight. The pattern seemed to be repeating at Eden Gardens as debutant Alviro Petersen and Amla slammed tons to push South Africa past 200 for the loss of only one wicket. Zaheer Khan broke the momentum by accounting for both batsmen in his afternoon spell, leaving the middle order prone to Harbhajan at his favourite venue. Jacques Kallis top-edged a topspinner before left-handers Ashwell Prince and JP Duminy were nailed by straighter ones from round the stumps as the visitors slumped from 218 for 1 to 296 all out. Sehwag, Laxman, MS Dhoni and Tendulkar replied with centuries as India piled on a lead of 347. Their push for a series-levelling win was interrupted by intermittent rain and poor light on the fourth day, though they managed to pick up three wickets. On the final day, Amla, in the form of his life, was determined to stone-wall India's intent, forcing the hosts to concentrate their efforts on the other end. Harbhajan led the way with a mixture of drift and bounce that made him lethal from round the stumps. Prince's defiance ended when he stabbed at an overspinner, before Duminy and Steyn were foxed by sliders. The tail hung in gamely as Amla threatened to save the game. No. 11 Morne Morkel survived for well over an hour and South Africa were minutes away from a draw when Harbhajan struck Morkel's pads and took off as Eden Gardens roared.

7 for 195 v South Africa, Cape Town, 2011

The new year Test in Cape Town was lit up by a battle for the ages involving Tendulkar and Steyn, and by Kallis' masterclasses in both innings. It also featured the best and worst of Harbhajan. He had gone wicketless in the first innings, as Kallis countered Sreesanth's verve and zip to take South Africa to 362. Gambhir defied the new ball ably, but his and Laxman's dismissals just before the advent of the second new ball exposed the lower order to Steyn's fury. Tendulkar stood up to his menace with his 51st Test ton, while Harbhajan contributed a ballsy 40 to help India match South Africa's effort even as the pitch wore away to resemble a subcontinental sandpit. Harbhajan got to work immediately in the second innings, making clever use of the uneven bounce to trap Graeme Smith, Petersen and Paul Harris in front. He then got Amla to miss a sweep as South Africa stuttered to 64 for 4. Kallis then produced his second classic of the match, defying a side strain and a brute of a wicket to tame Harbhajan at his best. He neutered the offspinner's intent to use the rough outside the off stump by deploying a series of reverse-sweeps, and with each stroke managed to deflate Harbhajan's confidence. Inevitably, Harbhajan slipped into a defensive mindset and the lack of support at the other end allowed Kallis to push South Africa ahead. He was immovable, but Harbhajan accounted for the tail to end South Africa's resistance. It took a gritty Gambhir rearguard on the final day to earn India a draw.

Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • samya1980 on July 10, 2011, 7:33 GMT

    hopefully nitin sundar will write another article after 5 years about harbhajan sing's best 5 test batting performances...after all he is just 97 centuries away from sachin tendulkar.hopefully nitin sundar will write another article after 5 years about harbhajan sing's best 5 test batting performances...after all he is just 97 centuries away from sachin tendulkar.

  • on July 10, 2011, 6:05 GMT

    congrts to harbhajan on acheiving 400 test wickets, only the 11th bowler in the history to achieve this milestone, so many bowlers have come and shined for little while and then gone for good eg. mustaq ahmed saqlain mustaq and next one will be ajmal and am sure bhaggi alone will end up getting more wickets then total wickets got by these three, and on his batting he has scored more 50's and 100's then so called boom boom afridi, comm on person has played 350 odi having batting average of 20's can be called boom boom hahahah now that is pathetic.

  • on July 9, 2011, 10:29 GMT

    ajmal and swan way better than pathetic harbhajan...........!!!

  • cryptq1 on July 9, 2011, 7:46 GMT

    @IndianKabba - looking at his averages he may only be an average bowler. You, however, devalue your own point by singling out his performance vs Australia. Keeping in mind that most of his bowling vs the Aussies happened when they had an awesome top-order his averages are quite good vs them. If you highlghted his bad averages vs Bangladesh, England, New Zealand or Sri Lanka your comment might have been taken seriously.

  • RecordHunter on July 9, 2011, 4:10 GMT

    Pathetic Record aginst Austraila by the Average Bowler

  • knowledge_eater on July 8, 2011, 23:19 GMT

    How can you miss http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/64110.html Kolkata 2004, a test win against SA, which is also series win. His figures are very good against SA, Aus, and NZ. Against England is Ok. Let's see what he does against England this time. He should have opted out playing in Lanka.

  • on July 8, 2011, 17:13 GMT

    India is clearly the best test playing team in the world. But harbhajan imo has not shown enough special performances. At his best he is a good offspinner. The amount off spin and bounce the gets is impressive but he hardly damages the opposition these days.He was really good in the early 2000s but now he is just not good enough. Ojha, karthik nd mishra are better than the present bhajji imo. Or maybe warne, murli etc have set the bar so high that even good bowlers look ordinary. But one thing is for sure , form is temprary bt class is permanent. So if he really is a great bowler thn he really should end up with atleast 650 wickets or above.

  • on July 8, 2011, 16:38 GMT

    Congratulations Bhaji on 400 test wickets. The critics will always sneer at your achievement, but I know you are mentally tough enough to deal with all that. Here's to 500 - Harbhajan Singh, pride of Jalandhur, pride of the Punjab, pride of India

  • dalok on July 8, 2011, 13:40 GMT

    I thought that Harbhajan's performance in Cape Town 2011 was sub par. He was supposed to bring that match to India and he was dominated by Kallis. I won't count that one of his best.

  • indianzen on July 8, 2011, 13:22 GMT

    Like every Indian, Bajji is also a warrior... Be proud indians, we are now ruling the entire world...

  • samya1980 on July 10, 2011, 7:33 GMT

    hopefully nitin sundar will write another article after 5 years about harbhajan sing's best 5 test batting performances...after all he is just 97 centuries away from sachin tendulkar.hopefully nitin sundar will write another article after 5 years about harbhajan sing's best 5 test batting performances...after all he is just 97 centuries away from sachin tendulkar.

  • on July 10, 2011, 6:05 GMT

    congrts to harbhajan on acheiving 400 test wickets, only the 11th bowler in the history to achieve this milestone, so many bowlers have come and shined for little while and then gone for good eg. mustaq ahmed saqlain mustaq and next one will be ajmal and am sure bhaggi alone will end up getting more wickets then total wickets got by these three, and on his batting he has scored more 50's and 100's then so called boom boom afridi, comm on person has played 350 odi having batting average of 20's can be called boom boom hahahah now that is pathetic.

  • on July 9, 2011, 10:29 GMT

    ajmal and swan way better than pathetic harbhajan...........!!!

  • cryptq1 on July 9, 2011, 7:46 GMT

    @IndianKabba - looking at his averages he may only be an average bowler. You, however, devalue your own point by singling out his performance vs Australia. Keeping in mind that most of his bowling vs the Aussies happened when they had an awesome top-order his averages are quite good vs them. If you highlghted his bad averages vs Bangladesh, England, New Zealand or Sri Lanka your comment might have been taken seriously.

  • RecordHunter on July 9, 2011, 4:10 GMT

    Pathetic Record aginst Austraila by the Average Bowler

  • knowledge_eater on July 8, 2011, 23:19 GMT

    How can you miss http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/64110.html Kolkata 2004, a test win against SA, which is also series win. His figures are very good against SA, Aus, and NZ. Against England is Ok. Let's see what he does against England this time. He should have opted out playing in Lanka.

  • on July 8, 2011, 17:13 GMT

    India is clearly the best test playing team in the world. But harbhajan imo has not shown enough special performances. At his best he is a good offspinner. The amount off spin and bounce the gets is impressive but he hardly damages the opposition these days.He was really good in the early 2000s but now he is just not good enough. Ojha, karthik nd mishra are better than the present bhajji imo. Or maybe warne, murli etc have set the bar so high that even good bowlers look ordinary. But one thing is for sure , form is temprary bt class is permanent. So if he really is a great bowler thn he really should end up with atleast 650 wickets or above.

  • on July 8, 2011, 16:38 GMT

    Congratulations Bhaji on 400 test wickets. The critics will always sneer at your achievement, but I know you are mentally tough enough to deal with all that. Here's to 500 - Harbhajan Singh, pride of Jalandhur, pride of the Punjab, pride of India

  • dalok on July 8, 2011, 13:40 GMT

    I thought that Harbhajan's performance in Cape Town 2011 was sub par. He was supposed to bring that match to India and he was dominated by Kallis. I won't count that one of his best.

  • indianzen on July 8, 2011, 13:22 GMT

    Like every Indian, Bajji is also a warrior... Be proud indians, we are now ruling the entire world...

  • on July 8, 2011, 11:50 GMT

    great article .......... i still remember that vs South Africa at Kokata in 2010 .......Bhajji took the final wicket of Morne Morkel at the second last over of the match .......... and Bhajji`s performance at Kolkata vs Aussies were overshadowed by Laxman`s heroics

  • RecordHunter on July 8, 2011, 11:06 GMT

    Even some wicket keepers can reach this at an average of 40....hah hah ha... May be a great acheivement for the overrated bowler

  • mrgupta on July 8, 2011, 10:34 GMT

    @joel4uonly: Comon, didn't you get it from my comment that i was being sarcastic. Ofcourse Indian performance has been many times better than Sri-Lankan and that's what i was trying to tell that even though people look at the Strike rates and averages but the real thing is how many matches a team has Won and in last 10 years India fares several times better than SL in that regard. Sri-Lankan fans can remain happy for the fact that Murli has 800 Wickets and Sanga and Mahela have huge batting averages but when it comes to Winning the tests India is right up there at the top. We have Won matches in every country in last decade.

  • iamgroot on July 8, 2011, 9:59 GMT

    We indians should be very proud to have Bhajji in indian team. He is fantastic bowler, handy lower order batsman and excellent fielder. More importantly he is very fit and strong. This guy is amazing. HE first brought australian side to a grinding halt from which they never recovered since 2001. And then he kept torturing visiting sides one after the other. The above stats and figures show how dominant he has been against Aussies. 32 wickets in that series. And 25 5-wicket hauls , 32 bowled, 235 caught by others. Out of 96 test matches he has played .. he has contributed in 66 test matches or more. This guy is a fighter. He never gives up and fights till the end. An asset to any team and captains just love to have him. He also improved his batting with 2 hundreds. 400 wickets is not small. And if he plays for another 6 years I am sure he can take close to 650 or 700 by the time he finishes. Bhajji is Great!! .. no one can deny that

  • on July 8, 2011, 9:43 GMT

    Spinners reach their peak when they are in their 30s, Bhaji just turned 31 so he has a lot more left in him!!!!

  • arya_underfoot on July 8, 2011, 7:53 GMT

    my dear champion of the backyard, you do realise that having a high bowling strike rate is not a good thing, right?

    i think you may have confused batting and bowling strike rates. whilst in batting, a high strike rate indicates more runs scored per ball faced, a high bowling strike rate means a higher number of balls bowled per wicket taken. for a bowler, this is a bad thing. i havent checked the stats, but apart from murali, harbhajan's stats are probably superior or at least comparable to every sri lankan that's ever played test cricket.

  • Quazar on July 8, 2011, 7:32 GMT

    Magnificent games, all of those! Test cricket at its best!

  • joel4uonly on July 8, 2011, 7:31 GMT

    @mrgupta and @backyardchamp.. this is for u.. u r only telling that Srilank won 5 test.. but 4 of them r against Pakistan which is below par in test cricket. We played 39 test and lost 16 of them which is very huge according to what u described below... gud.. then Srilanka lost 17 matches (more than India) while playing 7 test matches less.. ie 32 matches... "According to you Srilanka's loss of 17 tests is very less but India's loss of 16 is very huge..."... this is not good..

  • Quazar on July 8, 2011, 7:31 GMT

    Magnificent games, all of those! Test cricket at its best!

  • mrgupta on July 8, 2011, 5:42 GMT

    @backyardchamp: You are absolutely right, Indians are biggest boasters here, SL attack is far far better than great SriLankan attack. I was just checking the stats and since year 2000 Sri-Lanka has played 32 Away tests in Top 6 ranking countries, Won 5 (4 in Pakistan) and lost just 17 (Win-Loss = 0.29). That's a great Record given their great Attack. India in the same period has played 39, Won 11 and lost a huge number of 16 tests (Win-loss= 0.69). So much for their pathetic bowling. SL attack is better, so what if since Jan 2007 they have played 10 tests Away in Top 6 countries, Won 0 and Lost 5, whereas India has played 17, Won 5 and lost 7. So i conclude, Sri-Lankan attack is better than Indian.

  • on July 8, 2011, 5:35 GMT

    @backyardchamp:

    Well Srilanka has not won a test match in IND,OZ,SA.So their bowling is definitely better than ours.

  • Fast_Track_Bully on July 8, 2011, 3:54 GMT

    strike rate ...my fooot...what ever it may be, he is one of the 11 players with maximum number of wickets...thats not a small thing...there is not many so called great super fast bowlers in the list...they were not god enough to touch the 400...so he is far better than them even if he is below those 11!

  • on July 8, 2011, 3:37 GMT

    I see lot of ppl criticizing about the average and strike rates of Indian bowlers who got 400+ wickets. Remember one thing, Indians played mostly on flat tracks and getting wickets is not easier for bowlers at home. On the Australian tracks and South african tracks getting wickets is highly difficult task,more over last 10 years had seen many innings with more than 4 runs/over scored. This is the era in which Anil got half of his 619 wickets and Bhajji got almost all his wickets( till 2000 Bhajji got only around 20 wickets). Playing in this era and reaching 400 wickets by an Indian spinner is highly difficult task. I wonder why ppl keep seeing stats more than what the player had achieved. Stats wont give exact figure. Thats 200% true. Bhajji is a world class spinner and no one can deny it. He has another 8 years of cricket left in him and can end with another 300-400 wickets.

  • sandyrocks1234 on July 8, 2011, 3:27 GMT

    hats of to you!!! you are the best.

  • on July 8, 2011, 3:20 GMT

    All Best RV,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

  • backyardchamp on July 8, 2011, 2:05 GMT

    @satpal_singh72 and @ Usman Qureshi...insightful observation....Indian bowling has just not been as good as other countries bowling attacks. Even Sri Lanka have had better attacks than India's best. India has to produce bowlers with high strike rates if they are to retain their top slot.

  • on July 8, 2011, 1:45 GMT

    To gain 400 wickets is achievment in it self......so well done Bhajji.....also every bowler goes to rough time but players should be judge on how they bounce back....Im sure he will bounce back in England series.....

  • on July 8, 2011, 0:43 GMT

    Bhaji you ar the best spinner available in india at present......... Critics....please tell the replament who can fill his shoes.....

  • Talubar on July 7, 2011, 23:24 GMT

    I can't forget how he destroyed Australia in India. His record in Australia makes for sobering reading though. 9 wickets average of 73.22. A great bowler, when conditions suit.

  • on July 7, 2011, 23:03 GMT

    wonder how he reached this mile stone..I never liked his bowling apart from 2000-01 AUS series..talks more and does less..

  • on July 7, 2011, 23:00 GMT

    Even though his average is crap, it still takes talent and skill to get as many wickets. Keep it up!

  • on July 7, 2011, 22:53 GMT

    @satpal_singh72 - let's not forget the three Indians having the poorest strike rates as well in that list. That aside, it's still a great achievement and interestingly he is the leading Test wicket taker of the current players in the world cricket circuit!

  • Bamarolls on July 7, 2011, 22:18 GMT

    Congratulation Bhajji. Continue with your panache! Hope to write for you again this year at 500!!

  • Parthi_nava on July 7, 2011, 21:38 GMT

    Congratz Bhajii. See u soon in 500 Wickets List.

  • Suvrajyoti on July 7, 2011, 21:07 GMT

    Congratulation for 400 ! Congratulation for 400 !

  • satpal_singh72 on July 7, 2011, 20:51 GMT

    well done BUT......three Indians join the 400 league.......all having the worst average of the total players who have that mark.....Kumble (29.65)......Kapil Dev (29.64).....and Harbhajan (31.80).....hmm....

  • dsig3 on July 7, 2011, 19:58 GMT

    Well done to Harbhajan! Cant say I like India but he is a fantastic bowler and a real streetfighter.

  • aus_sore_losers on July 7, 2011, 19:29 GMT

    Bhajji you Rock!!! who can forget his destruction of oz in 2001 series single handedly, especially the horrid time he gave to punter.. Bhajji is man of grit and fierce competitor.. LOVE YOU PAAJI!!!

  • on July 7, 2011, 19:11 GMT

    Harbhajan Stil living in the glory of the past. However 400 wickets is not a mean achievment. Hope he will come back to his best. All the best

  • mets692006 on July 7, 2011, 18:57 GMT

    Congrats harbhajan well deserved. you are the best spinner in the business at the moment. swann is good but he is not in your league at the moment.

  • saichander on July 7, 2011, 18:49 GMT

    It is a great show by Bajji. It is my earnest feeling Bajji should hae done this in his first test itself in this tour. Any way it is a great feeling for Indians because after KAPIL DEV and KUMBLE, Bajji has done it. KEEP GOING.

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  • saichander on July 7, 2011, 18:49 GMT

    It is a great show by Bajji. It is my earnest feeling Bajji should hae done this in his first test itself in this tour. Any way it is a great feeling for Indians because after KAPIL DEV and KUMBLE, Bajji has done it. KEEP GOING.

  • mets692006 on July 7, 2011, 18:57 GMT

    Congrats harbhajan well deserved. you are the best spinner in the business at the moment. swann is good but he is not in your league at the moment.

  • on July 7, 2011, 19:11 GMT

    Harbhajan Stil living in the glory of the past. However 400 wickets is not a mean achievment. Hope he will come back to his best. All the best

  • aus_sore_losers on July 7, 2011, 19:29 GMT

    Bhajji you Rock!!! who can forget his destruction of oz in 2001 series single handedly, especially the horrid time he gave to punter.. Bhajji is man of grit and fierce competitor.. LOVE YOU PAAJI!!!

  • dsig3 on July 7, 2011, 19:58 GMT

    Well done to Harbhajan! Cant say I like India but he is a fantastic bowler and a real streetfighter.

  • satpal_singh72 on July 7, 2011, 20:51 GMT

    well done BUT......three Indians join the 400 league.......all having the worst average of the total players who have that mark.....Kumble (29.65)......Kapil Dev (29.64).....and Harbhajan (31.80).....hmm....

  • Suvrajyoti on July 7, 2011, 21:07 GMT

    Congratulation for 400 ! Congratulation for 400 !

  • Parthi_nava on July 7, 2011, 21:38 GMT

    Congratz Bhajii. See u soon in 500 Wickets List.

  • Bamarolls on July 7, 2011, 22:18 GMT

    Congratulation Bhajji. Continue with your panache! Hope to write for you again this year at 500!!

  • on July 7, 2011, 22:53 GMT

    @satpal_singh72 - let's not forget the three Indians having the poorest strike rates as well in that list. That aside, it's still a great achievement and interestingly he is the leading Test wicket taker of the current players in the world cricket circuit!