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13-wicket hauls in Test cricket


13_wickets_Test_CricketWith his return of 13/121 in the second Test against Sri Lanka at Gros Islet, fast bowler Shannon Gabriel became only the 44th man, and the third from the West Indies, to take at least 13 wickets in a Test. This feat has been recorded only 56 times in the 141-year history of the game, with eight bowlers going on to achieve the same on more than one occasion. Here is a look at a few snippets and numbers involving the most productive match bowling figures in Test cricket.

The first 13-wicket haul in Tests

Australian paceman Fred ‘The Demon’ Spofforth was the first bowler to take 13 wickets in a Test, against England at Melbourne back in 1878-79. This was the third Test ever to be played. Spofforth began by taking 6/48 to blow England away in the first innings, and then added another 7/62 in the second innings to finish with 13/110 and ensure a ten-wicket win for Australia. He bettered this haul in 1882, by famously taking 14/90 against England at The Oval.

Country-wise breakdown

England have provided the most number of Test 13-fors (18), of which one was converted into a 19-for, one into a 17-for, five into 15-fors and three into 14-fors. Australia follow with ten, including one 16-for and two 14-fors. India are just behind, with nine, including a 16-for, a 15-for and two 14-fors. Sri Lanka have seven (one 16-for and two 14-fors), South Africa four, Pakistan four (one 14-for), the West Indies three (one 14-for) and New Zealand one (a 15-for).

Barnes leads the pack

So far, eight bowlers have taken at least 13 wickets in a Test more than once. Leading the pack is the legendary English fast bowler Sydney Barnes, who collected four 13-wicket hauls. Two of these were taken at the age of 40 in his final Test series in South Africa in 1913-14; a then record 17/159 at Johannesburg, and 14/144 in his last Test at Durban. He also took 13/57 against the South Africans at The Oval in 1912, besides 13/163 against Australia at Melbourne in 1901-02.

Two bowlers, both slow bowlers from Sri Lanka, have recorded a Test 13-wicket haul on three occasions: off-spin great Muttiah Muralitharan (16/220 against England at The Oval in 1998, 13/115 against Zimbabwe at Kandy in 2001-02, and 13/171 against South Africa at Galle in 2000) and left-arm spinner Rangana Herath (14/184 against Pakistan at Colombo in 2014, 13/145 against Australia at Colombo in 2016, and 13/152 against Zimbabwe at Harare in 2016-17).

Five bowlers have achieved the feat twice - besides Spofforth, the four others in this list are Australian leg-spinner Clarrie Grimmett, South African off-spinner Hugh Tayfield, and the Indian duo of leg-spinner Anil Kumble and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh. Harbhajan remains the only bowler to have taken 13-wicket hauls in two consecutive Tests - he followed his 13/196 against Australia at Kolkata in 2000-01 with an even better 15/217 in the next match at Chennai.

Before World War Two

The period until the start of the Second World War yielded 19 Test 13-wicket hauls. Not surprisingly, these were all shared between bowlers from England and Australia. English bowlers produced 13 of these, including Barnes’ 17/159, which stayed a Test record for over 42 years. Barnes’ return in turn bettered the record of 15/28 set by English left-arm spinner Johnny Briggs against South Africa at Cape Town in 1888-89 (this match was given Test status retrospectively).

The post-war years

Test cricket saw 23 hauls of at least 13 wickets from the end of the Second World War till 1999-00. These included all of the three Test 16-fors, and most significantly, the only 19-for in first-class history, let alone Test history. English off-spinner Jim Laker ran riot against the Australians at Old Trafford in 1956, grabbing a sensational 19/90 (9/37 and 10/53) - a record that might never be broken. There has since been only one haul of at least 17 wickets in first-class cricket.

Since 2000

One-fourth of all Test 13-wicket hauls have been recorded since 2000. Of these 14 instances, only four, including Gabriel’s 13/121, are by fast bowlers. The other pacers to have achieved the feat in this period are Sri Lanka’s Chaminda Vaas (14/191 against the West Indies at Colombo in 2001-02), and the South African pair of Makhaya Ntini (13/132 against the West Indies at Port of Spain in 2004-05) and Kagiso Rabada (13/144 against England at Centurion in 2015-16).

Ground realities

With eight instances, the Melbourne Cricket Ground has played host to the most 13-wicket hauls in Tests. The only other ground with more than three Test 13-wicket hauls is The Oval, with four instances. Of the 56 instances, 34 have been recorded in the bowler’s home nation. Australia, with 12 instances, has seen the most number of 13-wicket hauls, followed by England (11), India (ten), South Africa (eight), Sri Lanka (five), Pakistan (four) and the West Indies (three).

Least and most runs conceded

Briggs’ 15/28 is the least expensive return of at least 13 wickets, followed by English medium-fast bowler George Lohmann’s 15/45 against South Africa at Port Elizabeth in 1895-96. On the other hand, the most expensive 13-wicket haul belongs to another Englishman: left-arm spinner Jack White’s 13/256 against Australia at Adelaide in 1928-29 edged out a return of 13/244 from fast bowler Tom Richardson, also of England, against Australia at Old Trafford in 1896.

Winning and losing causes

As would be expected, a vast majority of the 56 instances - as many as 47 - have come in winning causes. Only four such returns have come in a losing cause, with Indian fast bowler Javagal Srinath’s 13/132 against Pakistan at Kolkata in 1998-99 being the best of the lot. The other three instances of a 13-wicket return in a defeat are Barnes’ 13/163, Australian fast bowler Merv Hughes’ 13/217 against the West Indies at Perth in 1988-89, and Richardson’s 13/244.

Dream debuts

Interestingly, two of the three 16-fors in Tests have been taken by debutant bowlers, with the two bowling figures separated by just one run. During the 1972 Ashes, Australian medium-fast bowler Bob Massie swung his way to 16/137 (8/84 and 8/53) at Lord’s, a record that was broken by India’s 19-year-old leg-spinner Narendra Hirwani, who snared 16/136 (8/61 and 8/75) against the West Indies at Chennai in 1987-88. No other bowler has taken 13 wickets on Test debut.


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Rustom Deboo is a cricket aficionado and freelance writer from Mumbai. He is an ardent devotee of T...

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