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 DateMat Balls Wkts List
SF Barnes (Eng) Aug 12, 1912 Jan 5, 1914 5 1397 5313/57, 5/48, 10/105, 17/159, 8/128
SF Barnes (Eng) Aug 19, 1912 Feb 18, 1914 51542 54 5/48, 10/105, 17/159, 8/128, 14/144
M Muralitharan (SL) May 25, 2006Dec 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 191050 11/132, 10/172, 12/225, 7/99, 10/118
SF Barnes (Eng) Jul 8, 1912 Dec 30, 19136 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 141850 9/81, 6/125, 4/132, 9/127, 13/135, 9/138
GA Lohmann (Eng) Jan 1, 1892 Mar 23, 18966 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 172755 12/225, 7/99, 10/118, 9/102, 5/98, 12/82
M Muralitharan (SL) Jul 27, 2006 Jul 5, 20076 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 206753 7/84, 6/87, 3/64, 11/113, 19/90, 7/88
M Muralitharan (SL) Jun 2, 2006 Jun 28, 20076 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 220454 8/90, 4/158, 11/196, 10/111, 11/170, 10/135
M Muralitharan (SL) Mar 27, 1998 Sep 11, 19996 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 236851 10/135, 3/231, 8/88, 13/115, 9/91, 8/127
M Muralitharan (SL) Jun 27, 2003 Mar 20, 20046 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 243553 11/196, 10/111, 11/170, 10/135, 3/231, 8/88
M Muralitharan (SL) Mar 19, 1998 Aug 31, 19986 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 253352 8/167, 5/131, 6/140, 10/88, 10/110, 13/173
M Muralitharan (SL) Dec 2, 2003 Mar 28, 20046 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 DateEnd Date Mat Inns Runs HS Ave100 50
DG Bradman (Aus) Jul 20, 1934Dec 4, 1946 12 19 2056 304 120.949 3
Mohammad Yousuf (Pak) Nov 29, 2005 Dec 1, 200612 20 2011 223 105.84 103
DG Bradman (Aus) Jun 27, 1930 Feb 2, 1932 1316 2088 334 139.20 9 0
DG Bradman (Aus) Jul 20, 1934 Dec 19, 1946 13 202290 304 127.22 10 3
DG Bradman (Aus) Aug 18, 1934 Jan 7, 1947 13 212114 270 111.26 9 4
Mohammad Yousuf (Pak) Nov 29, 2005 Jan 22, 2007 13 222061 223 98.14 10 3
DG Bradman (Aus) Feb 23, 1933 Jun 28, 1938 13 232002 304 95.33 7 4
DG Bradman (Aus) Jun 8, 1934 Jul 25, 1938 13 232002 304 95.33 8 3
DG Bradman (Aus) Jun 27, 1930 Feb 15, 1932 14 162088 334 139.20 9 0
DG Bradman (Aus) Feb 1, 1929 Dec 21, 1931 14 192017 334 112.05 9 1
DG Bradman (Aus) Mar 8, 1929 Jan 6, 1932 14 192088 334 116.00 10 0
DG Bradman (Aus) Dec 29, 1928 Dec 3, 1931 14 202096 334 110.31 9 2
DG Bradman (Aus) Jan 1, 1937 Dec 18, 1947 14 212002 270 111.22 9 4
DG Bradman (Aus) Dec 18, 1936 Dec 4, 1947 14 222071 270 109.00 9 5
DG Bradman (Aus) Jun 8, 1934 Aug 24, 1938 14 232002 304 95.33 8 3
DG Bradman (Aus) Aug 18, 1934 Feb 6, 1947 14 232170 270 108.50 9 5
Mohammad Yousuf (Pak) Nov 29, 2005 Jan 28, 2007 14 242162 223 94.00 10 4
KC Sangakkara (SL) Mar 26, 2006 Dec 5, 2007 14 242048 287 102.40 8 5
DG Bradman (Aus) Jan 13, 1933 Jun 14, 1938 14 252056 304 85.66 6 6
Mohammad Yousuf (Pak) Jan 13, 2006 Oct 12, 2007 14 252027 202 88.13 9 5
GA Gooch (Eng) Jul 5, 1990 Aug 27, 1991 14 272054 333 79.00 7 8
G Gambhir (India) Jul 23, 2008 Jan 21, 2010 14 272000 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 MatInns Runs HS Ave 100 50
HM Amla (SA) Jan 23, 2009 Mar 12, 2011 3434 2009 129 64.80 7 12
HM Amla (SA) Jan 26, 2009 Mar 15, 2011 34 342014 129 64.96 7 12
AB de Villiers (SA) Nov 27, 2009 Feb 25, 2012 34 342009 134 77.26 10 8
HM Amla (SA) Nov 2, 2008 Jan 23, 2011 35 352041 140 63.78 7 12
HM Amla (SA) Nov 9, 2008 Mar 3, 2011 35 352055 140 64.21 8 11
HM Amla (SA) Jan 26, 2009 Mar 19, 2011 35 352065 129 64.53 7 13
HM Amla (SA) Nov 8, 2009 Jan 11, 2012 35 352036 129 61.69 8 12
HM Amla (SA) Nov 22, 2009 Jan 14, 2012 35 352011 129 60.93 8 12
AB de Villiers (SA) Nov 27, 2009 Feb 29, 2012 35 352040 134 78.46 10 8
HM Amla (SA) Feb 24, 2010 Mar 3, 2012 35 352033 129 61.60 8 12
HM Amla (SA) Nov 2, 2008 Feb 24, 2011 36 362055 140 62.27 7 12
HM Amla (SA) Nov 9, 2008 Mar 6, 2011 36 362097 140 63.54 8 11
HM Amla (SA) Jan 26, 2009 Mar 25, 2011 36 362072 129 62.78 7 13
HM Amla (SA) Jan 30, 2009 Oct 19, 2011 36 362016 129 59.29 7 12
HM Amla (SA) Nov 22, 2009 Feb 25, 2012 36 362019 129 59.38 8 12
HM Amla (SA) Nov 27, 2009 Feb 29, 2012 36 362054 129 60.41 8 12
AB de Villiers (SA) Nov 27, 2009 Mar 3, 2012 36 362049 134 78.80 10 8
BC Lara (WI) Nov 7, 1994 Jan 12, 1997 37 362016 169 67.20 7 10
HM Amla (SA) Jan 30, 2009 Oct 23, 2011 37 372016 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 WktsBBI Ave SR 4 5
Saqlain Mushtaq (Pak) Sep 1, 1996 Sep 14, 1997 46 2447100 5/29 16.50 24.47 4 4
Saqlain Mushtaq (Pak) Aug 31, 1996 Sep 13, 1997 46 2459100 5/29 16.85 24.59 4 4
AA Donald (SA) Jan 9, 1996 Jan 23, 1998 46 2544100 6/23 17.71 25.44 6 1
Saqlain Mushtaq (Pak) Sep 1, 1996 Sep 17, 1997 47 2447100 5/29 16.50 24.47 4 4
AA Donald (SA) Jan 9, 1996 Jan 26, 1998 47 2562100 6/23 17.88 25.62 6 1
Saqlain Mushtaq (Pak) Sep 18, 1996 Sep 28, 1997 48 2495101 5/29 16.63 24.70 4 4
Saqlain Mushtaq (Pak) Sep 17, 1996 Sep 21, 1997 48 2501100 5/29 17.06 25.01 4 4
Saqlain Mushtaq (Pak) Apr 4, 1997 Apr 7, 1999 48 2502100 5/38 18.14 25.02 5 2
Saqlain Mushtaq (Pak) Sep 1, 1996 Sep 18, 1997 48 2507101 5/29 16.81 24.82 4 4
AA Donald (SA) Jan 9, 1996 Apr 17, 1998 48 2610101 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