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A stats analysis of Muttiah Muralitharan's 710 Test wickets
December 3, 2007
Fittingly, it was the doosra that brought him the world record. When Paul Collingwood played down the wrong line to lose his middle-and-off stumps, Muttiah Muralitharan took over from Shane Warne as the leading wicket-taker in Test cricket, in 29 fewer Tests than it had taken Warne to get to 708.
The feature of Muralitharan's career, which has already spanned more than 15 years, has been his phenomenal consistency. In 44 series that he has played in (excluding one-off Tests), only 10 times has his bowling average exceeded 35, and seven of those were before 2000. In the last eight years, his average for each year has never gone beyond 23. (Click here for his career summary, and here for a complete list of his wickets.)
The presence of another spin wizard in the same era has meant Murali's numbers have always been compared with Shane Warne's. The table below charts the journey for each bowler. Warne was faster off the blocks than Murali, getting to 100 wickets in just 23 Tests, compared to Murali's 27, but since then Murali has got his wickets at a much quicker rate in terms of dismissals per Test.
|Wicket no.||Murali - Tests||Average||Warne - Tests||Average|
Murali's ability to spin the ball was never in doubt from the moment he entered Test cricket, but through most of the first half of his career, the turn was predictable, making him a much easier bowler to tackle. The doosra, though, has added a whole new dimension to his bowling, and made him a far more dangerous proposition for opposition batsmen. The table below tells the story.
|First 58 Tests||302||25.17||24/ 5|
|Last 58 Tests*||408||19.08||37/ 15|
As a matchwinner, Murali has no rival. In the 45 Tests that Sri Lanka have won with him in the team, he has taken a phenomenal 373 wickets - that's more than eight per match - at an average of 15. Only Warne, with 510, and Glenn McGrath (414) have taken more wickets in wins.
|Bowler||Tests||Wickets||Average||Strike rate||5WI/ 10WM|
|Muttiah Muralitharan||45||373||15.19||41.4||36/ 16|
|Malcolm Marshall||43||254||16.78||38.1||17/ 4|
|Curtly Ambrose||44||229||16.86||44.4||13/ 3|
|Waqar Younis||39||222||18.20||35.0||14/ 4|
|Dennis Lillee||31||203||18.27||39.0||17/ 6|
|Shaun Pollock||48||218||18.33||47.8||9/ 1|
|Anil Kumble||41||279||18.41||44.1||20/ 5|
|Wasim Akram||41||211||18.48||42.3||13/ 2|
|Glenn McGrath||84||414||19.19||47.7||18/ 3|
|Courtney Walsh||52||239||19.72||46.2||10/ 2|
|Shane Warne||92||510||22.47||51.2||27/ 7|
Murali's record has few blemishes, but the two teams he hasn't quite conquered have been Australia and India. He had a disappointing series in Australia recently, averaging 100 runs per wicket, while in eight Tests he has played in India, he has only managed 31 wickets at 39.58 apiece. Everywhere else, though, his stats are impeccable.
|In Aus and Ind||13||43||49.58||2/ 0|
|In all other countries||103||667||19.87||59/ 20|
The other criticism sometimes levelled - quite unfairly - against Murali is the number of wickets he has taken against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. He has done exceptionally well against them, but remove those matches from his career numbers, and the stats still look very good.
|Zim and Bang||23||163||14.57||16/ 5|
|All other teams||93||547||23.79||45/ 15|
More Murali milestones
* All numbers till the end of the England's first innings of the Kandy Test.
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