December 8, 2014

Howdy pardner

A look at the most productive bowling combinations in Tests

Wasim and Waqar inflicted broken toes and bruised egos © Getty Images

McGrath and Warne
In the 104 Tests they played together, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne came closer than any other pair to cracking 1000 wickets: in 197 innings, they collected 980. It was an irresistible combination - a metronomic fast bowler, and probably the greatest legspinner of them all - which did much to preserve Australia's near-invincibility during their brilliant careers.

Muralitharan and Vaas
It's no surprise to find Muttiah Muralitharan high on this list: in 163 innings together, the rubbery-wristed offspinner and his left-arm henchman Chaminda Vaas claimed 879 wickets. These two also top the list in one-day internationals, with 704 wickets together (second are Murali and Sanath Jayasuriya, with 633). It's easy to overlook the sustained excellence of Vaas, who carried Sri Lanka's seam attack for years: he finished with 355 Test wickets, and exactly 400 in ODIs.

Ambrose and Walsh
The first new-ball partnership on this list, and one which probably still gives Mike Atherton nightmares. Ambrose and Walsh took 757 wickets in partnership, more than 200 clear of any other opening pair. Both of them dismissed the luckless Atherton 17 times in Tests. The record is 19, the number of times Glenn McGrath nabbed... Atherton.

Wasim and Waqar
Another new-ball pairing any captain would give his eye teeth for: Wasim Akram, left-arm and waspishly quick, and Waqar Younis, blisteringly fast with a toe-crushing yorker - "Waqared" entered the sport's vocabulary after just a few of his indipping specials. They took 555 wickets in just 107 Test innings together (Ambrose and Walsh, above, took 757 in 173), and lie third on the ODI list, with 581.

In 104 Tests, McGrath and Warne collected nearly 1000 wickets together © Getty Images

Anderson and Broad
The highest current pairing on the list, with power to add: James Anderson and Stuart Broad have so far taken 519 wickets in 124 innings together - most, but not quite all, as a new-ball partnership. It's still a bit of a shock to realise that the baby-faced Broad has already racked up 264 Test wickets, a number exceeded by only five other England bowlers (including Anderson, 380 in 99 matches to date).

Kallis and Ntini
A slight surprise, perhaps, that this is South Africa's highest-ranking pair: but Makhaya Ntini did take 390 wickets in his 101 Tests, and for almost all of those Jacques Kallis was doing his fair share of bowling. Their combined total is 502, in 159 innings together.

Kumble and Harbhajan
The first spin combination on this list, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh shared 501 wickets in just 99 innings with their bouncy mix of skiddy legbreaks and topspinners, and crafty jagging offspin. In all, they took over 1000 Test wickets between them. Kumble is also sixth on the ODI list, sharing 453 wickets with Javagal Srinath.

Kallis and Pollock
It's that man Jacques again: he and Shaun Pollock scalped 501 victims in 148 innings together. Kallis is likely to go down in history as a rock-solid batsman, but his bowling was also seriously dependable (and, when the mood took him, seriously fast). He ended up with 292 Test wickets, to set alongside 13,289 runs, and the little matter of 200 catches.

Anderson and Broad: the current bowling pair are No. 5 on the all-time list © Getty Images

Ntini and Pollock
Another South African pairing, Ntini and Pollock shared 487 Test wickets in 119 innings together. Pollock (421) and Ntini (390) currently occupy the top two positions on their country's wicket-taking lists - but Dale Steyn (383) is likely to change that very, very soon.

McGrath and Gillespie
Glenn McGrath didn't just operate in tandem with Shane Warne: for a long time he shared the new ball for Australia with Jason Gillespie, whose flowing black hair contrasted well with McGrath's sandy neat short back and sides. They shared 479 wickets in 110 innings.

Botham and Willis
Thirty years ago they'd have been top of this list: but such is the proliferation of modern-day Test cricket that Ian Botham and Bob Willis only just sneak into 11th place now. They shared 476 wickets in 105 innings together, although their most famous double act came at Headingley in 1981, when Willis mopped Australia up with 8 for 43 after Botham had demoralised them with the bat.

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2014. Ask Steven is now on Facebook

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