Ranking The Best Test Match Spinners Of All-Time
“Spin to win.” A common phrase used in the cricketing world and especially in the subcontinent where spinners have historically played the starring role in bowling opposition sides out. It is therefore no surprise that Asian teams have produced some of the best test match spinners of all-time.
The likes of Yasir Shah, Rangana Herath and Ravindra Jadeja recently have been absolutely superb for their respective countries.
But, other countries around the world have also produced their fair share of quality spin bowlers in the past.
With all this mind, we ask, who are the top 5 best test match spinners of all-time?
1. Shane Warne
Shane Warne is arguably the greatest among best test match spinners of all-time. The blonde bombshell petrified batsmen during his cricketing career. He was Australia’s greatest match-winner for close to two decades. Even in a losing 2005 Ashes side, he picked up 40 wickets, 16 more than anyone on either side.
He was a huge part of one of the best test sides ever. The Australian team of the late 1990s and early 2000s was almost unbeatable and dominated world cricket. He had all the skills and could bowl so accurately for hours on end. His mind games were enough to cripple batsmen before they even faced a ball.
Warne took 719 test match wickets at a bowling average of 25.42. Considering he bowled a lot of his overs in Australia, these are very healthy numbers. Apart from India and the West Indies, Warne averaged below 28 in all of the countries that he bowled in. He took 37 five-wicket hauls and 10 ten-wicket hauls.
Shane Warne is number one on our list of “Top 5 best test match spinners of all-time.”
2. Muttiah Muralitharan
The heart of the Sri Lankan bowling attack. Along with Chaminda Vaas, Murali carried Sri Lanka for two decades. Their bowling ensured that Sri Lanka would remain competitive away from home and helped them win the majority of test matches that were played in Sri Lanka. Muralitharan spun the ball a massive amount, which made it difficult for batsmen to decide on what shot to play against him.
His doosra, when used, was absolutely lethal and batters struggled to pick him. Despite controversy, Murali ended his career with 800 wickets – the most by any bowler in test history. His bowling average of 22.73 is the best among any spinner on this list. 67 five-wicket hauls and 22 ten-wicket hauls are almost unthinkable in the modern era.
Murali was a freak of nature. Like Warne, he had his struggles in two countries. Apart from India and Australia, Murali also averaged below 28 in all the other countries that he played in.
Muttiah Muralitharan is number two on our list of “Top 5 best test match spinners of all-time.”
3. Anil Kumble
Anil Kumble played 132 test matches for India and picked up 619 test match wickets at a bowling average of 29.65. He was a fantastic bowler at home, picking up 350 wickets at just 24.89 on predominantly batting pitches. He also had success in South Africa, the West Indies and Zimbabwe – averaging close to 30 in all three countries. In Bangladesh, Kumble picked up 15 wickets at just 16.53.
He wasn’t a big spinner of the ball, which is perhaps why he couldn’t extract as much out of pitches abroad as Muralitharan or Warne. However, he had a very smart brain which helped him control the run rate when India travelled. Kumble’s overall economy of 2.70 is very strong for a leg-spinner.
Kumble picked up 35 five-wicket hauls and 8 ten-wicket hauls.
Anil Kumble is number three on our list of “Top 5 best test match spinners of all-time.”
4. Ravi Ashwin
In 73 test matches, Ravi Ashwin has taken 375 wickets for India. He has been the best spinner in the last decade in test cricket in terms of numbers. At home Ashwin has taken 254 wickets at a bowling average of 22.80 and at a fantastic strike rate of 49.43. In Sri Lanka, West Indies and Bangladesh he has also been very good, averaging 21.58, 23.18 and 19 with the ball respectively.
Over time Ashwin has developed multiple deliveries including the carrom ball and the slider. Recently, he has also been bowling great leg-spin. His main criticism was his inability to win matches outside Asia and the West Indies.
“Best I have seen Ashwin bowl overseas.” says VVS Laxman
However, in the recent Australia vs India series Down Under, Ashwin has been brilliant. He has managed to dismiss both Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschange, before they have been able to score big runs. His bowling average of 32.93 in England is also very respectable.
Ravi Ashwin is number four on our list of “Top 5 best test match spinners of all-time.”
5. Nathan Lyon
Nathan Lyon doesn’t have the variations of Ravi Ashwin but he has still been able to win Australia plenty of test matches both at home and abroad. Ultimately, Lyon trumps Ashwin in SENA ( South Africa, England, New Zealand, Australia) due to his style of bowling and overspin.
Lyon averages 22.60, 31.62 and 32.02 in New Zealand, England and Australia respectively. In the subcontinent, he hasn’t been as prolific as Ashwin but he has done a reasonable job against batsmen who are top quality versus spin.
“Australia have the best bowling attack in the world.” says Nathan Lyon
Overall, Lyon has played 98 test matches and taken 394 wickets at a bowling average of 31.64. There is a strong case to say that Nathan Lyon is currently the best test match spinner, ahead of Ashwin in terms of the variety of performances. However, Ashwin trumps him in statistical data.
Nathan Lyon is number five on our list of “Top 5 best test match spinners of all-time.”
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