Muralitharan has been prolific in three-Test series but has never played a series of longer duration © AFP

Watching Muttiah Muralitharan obliterate the opposition has become such a run-of-the-mill occurrence that you sit up and notice only if another Sri Lankan denies him a five-for. With 56 five-wicket hauls and 18 ten-fors Murali already has a heap of milestones and in the recent Test series against South Africa, he added another bauble to his treasury. His 22 wickets that spurred Sri Lanka to a 2-0 win were the most for a bowler in a two-Test series.

Murali's 17 wickets against Zimbabwe in 1997-98 and West Indies in 2005 also rank among the top-20 performances in two-Test series. He has five entries in the top-20 for most wickets in a three-Test series and his 16-wicket demolition of England at The Oval in 1998 is the most for a one-off Test. Murali - or Sri Lanka for that matter - has never played in a series of more than three Tests or you'd expect him to dominate those tables as well.

Even Murali hasn't been able to beat George Lohmann's 35 wickets in three Tests against South Africa in 1895-96. Lohmann took 15 for 45, 12 for 71 and 8 for 87 in England's 3-0 win and in the process became the fastest to reach 100 Test wickets in just his 16th Test, a record that still stands.

Most wickets in a 3-Test series
Player Mat Balls Runs Wkts BBI Ave 5 10 Series Season
GA Lohmann (Eng) 3 520 203 35 9/28 5.80 4 2 v SAf 1895/96
SF Barnes (Eng) 3 768 282 34 8/29 8.29 5 3 v SAf 1912
RJ Hadlee (NZ) 3 1017 401 33 9/52 12.15 5 2 v Aust 1985/86
Harbhajan Singh (India) 3 1071 545 32 8/84 17.03 4 2 v Aust 2000/01
Abdul Qadir (Pak) 3 1408 437 30 9/56 14.56 3 2 v Eng 1987/88
M Muralitharan (SL) 3 1219 294 30 9/51 9.80 2 1 v Zimb 2001/02
Waqar Younis (Pak) 3 868 315 29 7/76 10.86 3 2 v NZ 1990/91
M Muralitharan (SL) 3 1255 649 28 6/59 23.17 4 1 v Aust 2003/04
SK Warne (Aust) 3 744 342 27 7/94 12.66 2 1 v Pak 2002/03
Waqar Younis (Pak) 3 784 373 27 7/91 13.81 4 1 v Zimb 1993/94

Click here for the full tables.

That nobody has taken more wickets than Alf Valentine in a four-Test series is rather surprising given the mighty fast bowlers and wily spinners who were to follow him. The 1950 tour of England was Valentine's debut series and in his first match at Old Trafford, he took 11 for 204 - the second and last West Indian to take ten wickets on debut . Valentine finished the series with 33 wickets and Sonny Ramadhin, his spin partner, was second with 26.

Most wickets in a 4-Test series
Player Mat Balls Runs Wkts BBI Ave 5 10 Series Season
AL Valentine (WI) 4 2535 674 33 8/104 20.42 2 2 v Eng 1950
GD McGrath (Aust) 4 1198 508 30 5/28 16.93 4 1 v WI 1998/99
FS Trueman (Eng) 4 718 386 29 8/31 13.31 2 0 v India 1952
M Ntini (SAf) 4 1121 620 29 5/49 21.37 3 0 v WI 2003/04
MD Marshall (WI) 4 1021 486 27 7/80 18.00 1 1 v NZ 1984/85
A Kumble (India) 4 1185 685 27 7/48 25.37 3 1 v Aust 2004/05
S Ramadhin (WI) 4 2267 604 26 6/86 23.23 3 1 v Eng 1950
MJ Procter (SAf) 4 858 353 26 6/73 13.57 1 0 v Aust 1969/70
CA Walsh (WI) 4 823 437 26 5/54 16.80 2 0 v India 1987/88
CA Walsh (WI) 4 1249 543 26 5/39 20.88 1 0 v Aust 1998/99

Click here for the full tables.

Sydney Barnes's 92-year old record for the most wickets in a series, 49 in four Tests, came in his final appearence before the first World War on England's tour of South Africa. In the second Test at Johannesburg, Barnes took 17 for 159 to improve on Johnny Briggs' 15 for 28 - also against South Africa - for the best figures in a Test. Wisden reported that Barnes "refused to play in the fifth match because he contended the South Africans had not carried out their promise of special reward if he took part in the tour". Jim Laker went on to beat the record for best Test figures in 1956 but even his bounty in that series against Australia fell three short of Barnes' series record.

Most wickets in a 5-Test series
Player Mat Balls Runs Wkts BBI Ave 5 10 Series Season
SF Barnes (Eng) 4 1356 536 49 9/103 10.93 7 3 v SAf 1913/14
JC Laker (Eng) 5 1703 442 46 10/53 9.60 4 2 v Aust 1956
CV Grimmett (Aust) 5 2077 642 44 7/40 14.59 5 3 v SAf 1935/36
SK Warne (Aust) 5 1517 797 40 6/46 19.92 3 2 v Eng 2005
AV Bedser (Eng) 5 1591 682 39 7/44 17.48 5 1 v Aust 1953
MW Tate (Eng) 5 2528 881 38 6/99 23.18 5 1 v Aust 1924/25
WJ Whitty (Aust) 5 1395 632 37 6/17 17.08 2 0 v SAf 1910/11
HJ Tayfield (SAf) 5 2280 636 37 9/113 17.18 4 1 v Eng 1956/57
AEE Vogler (SAf) 5 1349 783 36 7/94 21.75 4 1 v Eng 1909/10
AA Mailey (Aust) 5 1465 946 36 9/121 26.27 4 2 v Eng 1920/21

Click here for the full tables.

Shane Warne is the only spinner to feature among the top-20 bowlers with most wickets in an ODI series. His 22 wickets in the World Series in 1993-94 and 20 wickets in the 1999 World Cup are ranked eighth and 18th in a list dominated by Australian fast bowlers with Glenn McGrath's 27 wickets in the 1998-99 Carlton and United series on top.

Most wickets in a multi-team ODI tournament
Player Mat Wkts BBI Ave 5 Series Season
GD McGrath (Aust) 11 27 5/40 15.62 1 Carlton & United Series 1998/99
DK Lillee (Aust) 14 25 4/32 14.64 0 World Series Cup 1980/81
J Garner (WI) 14 24 4/45 15.54 0 World Series Cup 1981/82
MA Holding (WI) 12 23 4/26 17.86 0 World Series Cup 1983/84
WPUJC Vaas (SL) 10 23 6/25 14.39 1 ICC World Cup 2002/03
GS Chappell (Aust) 14 22 5/15 17.04 1 World Series Cup 1980/81
RM Hogg (Aust) 13 22 4/33 21.86 0 World Series Cup 1983/84
SK Warne (Aust) 10 22 4/19 13.68 0 World Series 1993/94
B Lee (Aust) 10 22 5/42 17.90 1 ICC World Cup 2002/03
CEL Ambrose (WI) 10 21 5/17 15.90 2 World Series 1988/89

Click here for the full tables.

Follow up to last week's column: We received a lot of feedback saying that Sunil Gavaskar's 774 runs against West Indies in 1970-71 should have put him on top of the list for most runs in a four-Test series. However, that series comprised five Tests - Gavaskar didn't play the first - but even if it was to be judged that way, Viv Richards takes first place for scoring 829 runs in four Tests (he too missed one) against England in 1976.

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Travis Basevi is the man who built Statsguru. George Binoy is editorial assistant of Cricinfo