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George Binoy and Travis Basevi dig into our stats database

Who has the quickest 50 wickets?

Vernon Philander took his first 50 wickets in seven Tests. Sydney Barnes and Muttiah Muralitharan took batches of 50 in fewer games

Travis Basevi and George Binoy

March 28, 2012

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Muttiah Muralitharan grabs yet another wicket, England v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Edgbaston, May 28, 2006
Muttiah Muralitharan took ten wickets at Edgbaston, the start of his hot streak in 2006 © Getty Images
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Vernon Philander took 6 for 81 in the first innings at the Basin Reserve to go past 50 wickets in his seventh Test. He was the second quickest to the milestone, along with Tom Richardson, needing only 13 innings to get there 135 days after his debut, and the fastest in more than 100 years. Charlie Turner, in 1887-88, did it in six Tests.

Has anyone taken 50 Test wickets (not necessarily the first 50 of a career) in fewer matches than Turner did, though? It's what we've found out in this week's column, along with other purple sequences of wicket-taking and run-scoring.

Two bowlers have taken 50 wickets in a five-Test stretch. Sydney Barnes, who holds the record for most wickets in a series, did it during two overlapping sequences between 1912 and 1914. Barnes took 53 wickets in five consecutive Tests between August 12, 1912 and January 5, 1914. In his next match, against South Africa in Durban, he had figures of 14 for 144, giving him 54 wickets in another five-Test stretch. That turned out to be his final game for England. So in his last six Tests, Barnes had 67 wickets at 9.56 apiece, before World War I put an end to international cricket for a while.

Muttiah Muralitharan took 60 wickets in six Tests between May 25, 2006 and December 18, 2006. That stretch contains two overlapping five-Test sequences in which he claimed 50 wickets each. They consist of matches in England, against South Africa in Colombo, and in New Zealand.

Apart from Murali's multiple appearances in our table, Waqar Younis and Abdul Qadir are the only other post-1960 bowlers with 50 wickets in six Tests.

Fewest matches for a sequence of 50 Test wickets
Player Start Date End Date Mat Balls Wkts List
SF Barnes (Eng) Aug 12, 1912 Jan 5, 1914 5 1397 53 13/57, 5/48, 10/105, 17/159, 8/128
SF Barnes (Eng) Aug 19, 1912 Feb 18, 1914 5 1542 54 5/48, 10/105, 17/159, 8/128, 14/144
M Muralitharan (SL) May 25, 2006 Dec 9, 2006 5 1856 50 10/115, 11/132, 10/172, 12/225, 7/99
M Muralitharan (SL) Jun 2, 2006 Dec 18, 2006 5 1910 50 11/132, 10/172, 12/225, 7/99, 10/118
SF Barnes (Eng) Jul 8, 1912 Dec 30, 1913 6 1333 55 10/115, DNB, 13/57, 5/48, 10/105, 17/159
GA Lohmann (Eng) Jan 29, 1892 Jun 24, 1896 6 1413 52 10/142, 4/54, 15/45, 12/71, 8/87, 3/52
Waqar Younis (Pak) Jan 2, 1993 Dec 14, 1993 6 1418 50 9/81, 6/125, 4/132, 9/127, 13/135, 9/138
GA Lohmann (Eng) Jan 1, 1892 Mar 23, 1896 6 1650 51 2/93, 10/142, 4/54, 15/45, 12/71, 8/87
CTB Turner (Aus) Jan 28, 1887 Aug 31, 1888 6 1727 50 8/68, 9/93, 12/87, 10/63, 6/112, 5/86
M Muralitharan (SL) Aug 4, 2006 Jul 14, 2007 6 1727 55 12/225, 7/99, 10/118, 9/102, 5/98, 12/82
M Muralitharan (SL) Jul 27, 2006 Jul 5, 2007 6 2006 53 10/172, 12/225, 7/99, 10/118, 9/102, 5/98
M Muralitharan (SL) Apr 3, 2006 Aug 8, 2006 6 2034 51 5/85, 3/158, 10/115, 11/132, 10/172, 12/225
JC Laker (Eng) Aug 13, 1955 Aug 28, 1956 6 2067 53 7/84, 6/87, 3/64, 11/113, 19/90, 7/88
M Muralitharan (SL) Jun 2, 2006 Jun 28, 2007 6 2172 59 11/132, 10/172, 12/225, 7/99, 10/118, 9/102
T Richardson (Eng) Dec 29, 1894 Jul 18, 1896 6 2195 50 7/157, 8/164, 2/78, 9/242, 11/173, 13/244
M Muralitharan (SL) Aug 14, 2001 Nov 25, 2001 6 2204 54 8/90, 4/158, 11/196, 10/111, 11/170, 10/135
M Muralitharan (SL) Mar 27, 1998 Sep 11, 1999 6 2243 50 8/157, 9/227, 3/57, 7/90, 16/220, 7/128
M Muralitharan (SL) Sep 6, 2001 Jan 7, 2002 6 2349 55 10/111, 11/170, 10/135, 3/231, 8/88, 13/115
M Muralitharan (SL) Nov 21, 2001 Mar 10, 2002 6 2368 51 10/135, 3/231, 8/88, 13/115, 9/91, 8/127
M Muralitharan (SL) Jun 27, 2003 Mar 20, 2004 6 2408 50 4/71, 11/93, 8/124, 7/103, 11/212, 9/221
M Muralitharan (SL) Dec 10, 2003 May 8, 2004 6 2434 51 8/124, 7/103, 11/212, 9/221, 8/216, 8/82
M Muralitharan (SL) Aug 29, 2001 Dec 31, 2001 6 2435 53 11/196, 10/111, 11/170, 10/135, 3/231, 8/88
M Muralitharan (SL) Mar 19, 1998 Aug 31, 1998 6 2452 51 8/243, 8/157, 9/227, 3/57, 7/90, 16/220
M Muralitharan (SL) Nov 13, 2001 Jan 15, 2002 6 2525 54 11/170, 10/135, 3/231, 8/88, 13/115, 9/91
CV Grimmett (Aus) Aug 18, 1934 Mar 3, 1936 6 2533 52 8/167, 5/131, 6/140, 10/88, 10/110, 13/173
M Muralitharan (SL) Dec 2, 2003 Mar 28, 2004 6 2645 54 11/93, 8/124, 7/103, 11/212, 9/221, 8/216
Abdul Qadir (Pak) Aug 6, 1987 Apr 19, 1988 6 2688 52 10/211, 13/101, 7/150, 10/186, 4/157, 8/231

Barnes and Murali also dominate the table for the fewest Tests for 100 wickets. Barnes took 102 wickets in 12 Tests, at an average of 12 between February 1912 and 1924. He also has two other 13-match sequences with 100 wickets that overlap with the 12-Test sequence.

Murali's two best stretches of fewest Tests for 100 wickets are discrete. In 12 matches between August 14, 2001 and June 2, 2002, he took 100 wickets at 16.55 apiece, and in 12 games between March 2006 and July 2007, he took 100 at 15.21.

Don Bradman holds the record for scoring 1000 Test runs in the fewest innings. He needed only eight to make 1001 runs at an average of 143 between February 13, 1931 and February 2, 1932. And none of those games was against England; they were at home against West Indies and South Africa. Between 1934 and 1938, Bradman scored 1000 runs in nine consecutive innings on two occasions. He had done it in nine innings between 1931 and 1932 as well. The only other batsmen to score 1000 runs in nine Test innings are Garry Sobers (1958) and Kumar Sangakkara (2006-07).

Bradman scored 2000 Test runs in the fewest innings too - 16, between June 1930 and February 1932. He has also done it in 19 innings three other times. The batsman next quickest after Bradman is Mohammad Yousuf, who made 2011 runs in 20 innings between November 2005 and December 2006. In was in 2006 that Yousuf broke the record for most runs in a year by scoring 1788 in 11 Tests.

Fewest matches for a sequence of 2000 Test runs
Player Start Date End Date Mat Inns Runs HS Ave 100 50
DG Bradman (Aus) Jul 20, 1934 Dec 4, 1946 12 19 2056 304 120.94 9 3
Mohammad Yousuf (Pak) Nov 29, 2005 Dec 1, 2006 12 20 2011 223 105.84 10 3
DG Bradman (Aus) Jun 27, 1930 Feb 2, 1932 13 16 2088 334 139.20 9 0
DG Bradman (Aus) Jul 20, 1934 Dec 19, 1946 13 20 2290 304 127.22 10 3
DG Bradman (Aus) Aug 18, 1934 Jan 7, 1947 13 21 2114 270 111.26 9 4
Mohammad Yousuf (Pak) Nov 29, 2005 Jan 22, 2007 13 22 2061 223 98.14 10 3
DG Bradman (Aus) Feb 23, 1933 Jun 28, 1938 13 23 2002 304 95.33 7 4
DG Bradman (Aus) Jun 8, 1934 Jul 25, 1938 13 23 2002 304 95.33 8 3
DG Bradman (Aus) Jun 27, 1930 Feb 15, 1932 14 16 2088 334 139.20 9 0
DG Bradman (Aus) Feb 1, 1929 Dec 21, 1931 14 19 2017 334 112.05 9 1
DG Bradman (Aus) Mar 8, 1929 Jan 6, 1932 14 19 2088 334 116.00 10 0
DG Bradman (Aus) Dec 29, 1928 Dec 3, 1931 14 20 2096 334 110.31 9 2
DG Bradman (Aus) Jan 1, 1937 Dec 18, 1947 14 21 2002 270 111.22 9 4
DG Bradman (Aus) Dec 18, 1936 Dec 4, 1947 14 22 2071 270 109.00 9 5
DG Bradman (Aus) Jun 8, 1934 Aug 24, 1938 14 23 2002 304 95.33 8 3
DG Bradman (Aus) Aug 18, 1934 Feb 6, 1947 14 23 2170 270 108.50 9 5
Mohammad Yousuf (Pak) Nov 29, 2005 Jan 28, 2007 14 24 2162 223 94.00 10 4
KC Sangakkara (SL) Mar 26, 2006 Dec 5, 2007 14 24 2048 287 102.40 8 5
DG Bradman (Aus) Jan 13, 1933 Jun 14, 1938 14 25 2056 304 85.66 6 6
Mohammad Yousuf (Pak) Jan 13, 2006 Oct 12, 2007 14 25 2027 202 88.13 9 5
GA Gooch (Eng) Jul 5, 1990 Aug 27, 1991 14 27 2054 333 79.00 7 8
G Gambhir (India) Jul 23, 2008 Jan 21, 2010 14 27 2000 206 76.92 8 7

In one-day internationals, Sachin Tendulkar scored 1000 runs in the fewest innings - 13 in 14 matches between April and September 1998. Hashim Amla, in various sequences between 2009 and 2010, did it in 14 innings, and so did Matthew Hayden between February and October 2007, when he was the top scorer at the 2007 World Cup. The quickest Tendulkar has scored 2000 runs, however, is in 37 innings, behind Amla, AB de Villiers and Brian Lara. Amla and de Villiers have both scored 2009 runs in 34 innings, while Lara did it in 36.

Fewest matches for a sequence of 2000 ODI runs
Player Start Date End Date Mat Inns Runs HS Ave 100 50
HM Amla (SA) Jan 23, 2009 Mar 12, 2011 34 34 2009 129 64.80 7 12
HM Amla (SA) Jan 26, 2009 Mar 15, 2011 34 34 2014 129 64.96 7 12
AB de Villiers (SA) Nov 27, 2009 Feb 25, 2012 34 34 2009 134 77.26 10 8
HM Amla (SA) Nov 2, 2008 Jan 23, 2011 35 35 2041 140 63.78 7 12
HM Amla (SA) Nov 9, 2008 Mar 3, 2011 35 35 2055 140 64.21 8 11
HM Amla (SA) Jan 26, 2009 Mar 19, 2011 35 35 2065 129 64.53 7 13
HM Amla (SA) Nov 8, 2009 Jan 11, 2012 35 35 2036 129 61.69 8 12
HM Amla (SA) Nov 22, 2009 Jan 14, 2012 35 35 2011 129 60.93 8 12
AB de Villiers (SA) Nov 27, 2009 Feb 29, 2012 35 35 2040 134 78.46 10 8
HM Amla (SA) Feb 24, 2010 Mar 3, 2012 35 35 2033 129 61.60 8 12
HM Amla (SA) Nov 2, 2008 Feb 24, 2011 36 36 2055 140 62.27 7 12
HM Amla (SA) Nov 9, 2008 Mar 6, 2011 36 36 2097 140 63.54 8 11
HM Amla (SA) Jan 26, 2009 Mar 25, 2011 36 36 2072 129 62.78 7 13
HM Amla (SA) Jan 30, 2009 Oct 19, 2011 36 36 2016 129 59.29 7 12
HM Amla (SA) Nov 22, 2009 Feb 25, 2012 36 36 2019 129 59.38 8 12
HM Amla (SA) Nov 27, 2009 Feb 29, 2012 36 36 2054 129 60.41 8 12
AB de Villiers (SA) Nov 27, 2009 Mar 3, 2012 36 36 2049 134 78.80 10 8
BC Lara (WI) Nov 7, 1994 Jan 12, 1997 37 36 2016 169 67.20 7 10
HM Amla (SA) Jan 30, 2009 Oct 23, 2011 37 37 2016 129 57.60 7 12

Waqar Younis took 50 wickets at an average of 11 in 16 ODIs between April 1990 and October 1991. No one has beaten that yet. Ajantha Mendis, who was the quickest debutant to 50 ODI wickets, has taken 50 in 17 matches. The only other bowlers to feature in our table are Allan Donald and Saqlain Mushtaq, whose quickest 50 wickets came in 19 and 20 ODIs.

Mendis hasn't made it to 100 ODI wickets yet; he's stuck on 96 and hasn't played for Sri Lanka in a while. Waqar took 416 wickets but never took 100 of them as quickly as Saqlain and Donald did. Saqlain's fastest 100 came in 46 matches between September 1996 and 1997. Donald's also took 46 games, between January 1996 and 1998.

Fewest matches for a sequence of 100 ODI wickets
Player Start Date End Date Mat Balls Wkts BBI Ave SR 4 5
Saqlain Mushtaq (Pak) Sep 1, 1996 Sep 14, 1997 46 2447 100 5/29 16.50 24.47 4 4
Saqlain Mushtaq (Pak) Aug 31, 1996 Sep 13, 1997 46 2459 100 5/29 16.85 24.59 4 4
AA Donald (SA) Jan 9, 1996 Jan 23, 1998 46 2544 100 6/23 17.71 25.44 6 1
Saqlain Mushtaq (Pak) Sep 1, 1996 Sep 17, 1997 47 2447 100 5/29 16.50 24.47 4 4
AA Donald (SA) Jan 9, 1996 Jan 26, 1998 47 2562 100 6/23 17.88 25.62 6 1
Saqlain Mushtaq (Pak) Sep 18, 1996 Sep 28, 1997 48 2495 101 5/29 16.63 24.70 4 4
Saqlain Mushtaq (Pak) Sep 17, 1996 Sep 21, 1997 48 2501 100 5/29 17.06 25.01 4 4
Saqlain Mushtaq (Pak) Apr 4, 1997 Apr 7, 1999 48 2502 100 5/38 18.14 25.02 5 2
Saqlain Mushtaq (Pak) Sep 1, 1996 Sep 18, 1997 48 2507 101 5/29 16.81 24.82 4 4
AA Donald (SA) Jan 9, 1996 Apr 17, 1998 48 2610 101 6/23 17.92 25.84 6 1

Travis Basevi is a cricket statistician and UK Senior Programmer for ESPNcricinfo and other ESPN sports websites. George Binoy is an Assistant Editor at ESPNcricinfo

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George Binoy Assistant Editor After a major in Economics and nine months in a financial research firm, George realised that equity, capital and the like were not for him. He decided that he wanted to be one of those lucky few who did what they love at work. Alas, his prodigious talent was never spotted and he had to reconcile himself to the fact that he would never earn his money playing cricket for his country, state or even district. He jumped at the opportunity to work for ESPNcricinfo and is now confident of mastering the art of office cricket

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