With less than a month to go until the Australia-England Test series gets underway, Commentary Box Sports is kicking off a series of ‘Ashes Top 5s’. Next up, we’ve got the greatest wicket-taker in Ashes history.
MOST WICKETS IN AUSTRALIA v ENGLAND TEST MATCHES
5. Hugh Trumble (Australia) – 141
One of the first great offspinners, Trumble played all 32 of his Tests against England and held the record for most Ashes wickets for nearly 80 years after he retired. Debuting at Lord’s in 1890 and playing until the 1903/04 summer, Trumble took nine five-wicket bags and claimed 10 wickets in a Test on three occasions – a pair of 12-wicket hauls at The Oval in 1896 and 1902, and 10 wickets in Manchester during the latter series. He was the first player to take two Test hat-tricks, and was a handy batsman, notching four half-centuries in 57 innings.
4. Ian Botham (England) – 148
In the conversation for England’s greatest-ever cricketer and the most influential all-rounder of all time from any country, ‘Beefy’ Botham was an iconic Ashes performer. As well as plundering four centuries and six fifties in 36 Tests against Australia, Botham took a staggering 17 five-fors and notched 10 wickets in a match twice. He took five-fors in both Tests of his first international series, the 1977 Ashes in England, and claimed the second 10-wicket bag of his career in Perth during the 1979/80 summer. Famously topping England’s runs (399) and wickets (34) tallies in what became known as ‘Botham’s Ashes’ on home soil in 1981, the brash entertainer tore through the Australian batting line-up – in conjunction with Bob Willis – in Leeds, Birmingham (which included an iconic spell of 5 wickets for one run) and at The Oval. Botham was less devastating in subsequent Ashes series but remained a regular wicket-taker, and took 10 wickets at the SCG in 1986/87 to pass Willis’ England record of 128 Ashes wickets.
3. Glenn McGrath (Australia) – 157
To describe McGrath as metronomic has become cliché, but England sides of the 1990s and 2000s will vouch for the tall pace-man’s brutal consistency. ‘Pigeon’s’ 157 wickets came in 30 Tests at a phenomenal average of 20.92, including 10 five-wicket hauls. He made a modest impact on home soil during the 1994/95 summer, but thrived in England in the 1997 Ashes series with 34 wickets – including innings of 8/38 at Lord’s and 7/76 at The Oval. McGrath was the top wicket-taker in the 2001 series in England with 32, while his injury absence from two Tests of the ’05 tour was crucial to Australia relinquishing the urn. He signed off from international cricket with 21 wickets in the 2006/07 Ashes whitewash.
2. Dennis Lillee (Australia) – 167
Lillee’s then-record Ashes haul – overtaking Trumble’s long-held mark – came in just 29 Tests at a superb average of 21. He took 11 five-fors in Tests against England, and achieved 10 wickets in a match of four occasions. The fiery fast bowler was at the forefront of Australia’s resurgence in the 1970s, taking 5/84 in his first Ashes innings in Adelaide in the 1971/72 summer, before leading all bowlers with 31 wickets at 17.67 in England just months later. Forming a lethal partnership with fellow tearaway quick Jeff Thomson, Lillee again topped the wicket-taking tables in England in 1975 with 21 scalps. He made a famous comeback from a career-threatening back injury to produce more Ashes magic in the latter stages of his tenure in the Australian side, including 7/89 and 4/70 in the drawn sixth Test in 1981 – his final match in England.
1. Shane Warne (Australia) – 195
Shane Warne began his Ashes career with the ‘Ball of the Century’ dismissal of Mike Gatting at Old Trafford in 1993 – his very first delivery in Ashes Tests – and rarely let up on England over the next 14 years. The exhilarating leg-spinner took a series-high 34 wickets in Australia’s 4-1 triumph, then took 3/39 and 8/71 at The Gabba in his first Ashes Test on home soil later that year. Warne’s 31 wickets on the 2001 Ashes tour included 11/229 at The Oval, while he took 40 wickets at 19.92 in Australia’s historic series loss in ’05. The crowning glory of Warne’s Ashes tenure, however, was the 5-0 whitewash in the 2006/07 summer, most notably his 4/49 in the second innings at Adelaide that helped secure an extraordinary comeback win, and his spellbinding 5/39 on the first day of the Boxing Day Test in front of his home fans at the MCG which took him past 700 career wickets. In 36 Ashes Tests, Warne took 195 wickets at 23.25, including 11 five-fors and four 10-wicket hauls.