The top 5 best English bowlers in Test match history

Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson are two of the best English bowlers in Test match history. Their match-winning abilities are almost untouchable.

Who are England’s best Test bowlers of all-time?

England has played the most Test matches in the history of the game. Between 1877 and 2021, they have engaged in over 1000 games, with other oppositions. Within this time period, the best English bowlers in Test history to date, have helped the side win both home and abroad.

Such a statement holds true, with England having won 377 Tests – the second-highest, only trailing narrowly behind Australia on 394. So, who are those great bowlers that have contributed in such regards?

In this article, we rank the top 5 of all-time, based on longevity, force of nature and match-winning abilities.

5. Stuart Broad

Stuart Broad has taken the second most wickets in test matches for England as of 2020.
NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND – AUGUST 08: Stuart Broad of England celebrates winning the Ashes during day three of the 4th Investec Ashes Test match between England and Australia at Trent Bridge on August 8, 2015 in Nottingham, United Kingdom. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Having had an excellent career thus far, Stuart Broad is currently England’s second-highest wicket-taker of all-time. In 146 test matches, he has taken 517 wickets at a bowling average of 27.71.

Broad has been somewhat of a streaky player over the years and he has this ability to run through sides on his day. Examples of this include his 8-15 in the 2015 Ashes Series at Trent Bridge when Jimmy Anderson was unfit. At Johannesburg in 2016, Broad picked up 6-17. England won both Test series, thanks to such contributions from Broad.

Broad has good bowling averages in England, New Zealand, South Africa and the UAE. In all four of those countries he averages 28.5 or below with the ball.

Stuart Broad is number five on our list of “Best English bowlers in Test match cricket.”

4. Jim Laker

28th August 1956: English bowler Jim Laker (1922 – 1986, left) is presented with the two balls with which he took 9 and 10 wickets during the test match at Old Trafford. (Photo by Dennis Oulds/Central Press/Getty Images)

Jim Laker is the best English spinner in test match history. He is best remembered for taking 19 wickets at Old Trafford against Australia in the 1956 Ashes Series. That Test match is now commonly referred to as “Laker’s match.” The right-arm off-spinner was both tall and strong at the crease and described by his former captain Colin Cowdery as “Almost the perfect example” for aspiring cricketers to emulate.

In 46 test matches, Laker picked up 193 wickets at a bowling average of 21.24. He was part of one of the greatest bowling attacks in test match history, along with Fred Trueman, Brian Statham and Tony Lock.

Laker averaged 21 or below with the ball in both Australia and England. He prospered in those two countries, going at an economy rate of below 2 as well.

Jim Laker is number four on our list of “Best English bowlers in Test match cricket.”


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3. Fred Trueman

Fred Trueman bowling for Yorkshire 1965
Fred Trueman preparing to bowl for Yorkshire during the County Championship match between Yorkshire and Middlesex at North Marine Road, Scarborough, 21st July 1965. (Photo by Patrick Eagar/Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Perhaps fittingly, Fred Trueman described himself as “the greatest who ever drew breath.” He was both arrogant and confident with the ball in his hand. He had every right to be as well because in 67 test matches, he picked up 307 wickets, at a bowling average of 21.57.

Fiery Fred was a fabulous fast bowler, who became the first bowler in Test history to pick up 300 test match wickets. He ripped apart India on his test match debut, reducing them to 0-4 and also picked up 8-31 in the third test of the series. Trueman could move the ball both ways at lightning speed.

Trueman was well known for his fast-bowling partnership with Brian Statham in the 1950s and 1960s.

Read more about England’s invincible bowling attack here.

Fred Trueman is number three on our list of “Best English bowlers in Test match cricket.”

2. Sydney Barnes

Statistically, Sydney Barnes is not only the best amongst English bowlers in Test match history but also among those from all countries.
England cricketer Sydney Barnes, circa 1905. (Photo by Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Sydney Barnes is statistically the greatest bowler to have ever played the game. Despite participating in just 27 test matches, he picked up 189 wickets at a bowling average of 16.43. These are incredible numbers and are virtually unmatched in test cricket history.

The cricketers that he played alongside voted him as the best bowler of their time and of the century. He had the ability to seam the brand new ball and could also swing it. Barnes played test cricket in England, Australia and South Africa. He averaged 13, 11 and 22 with the ball in those three countries respectively.

Had Sydney Barnes played for a longer duration, he would probably be number one on this list but due to his small sample size, he features in second place.

Sydney Barnes is number two on our list of “Best English bowlers in Test match cricket.”


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1. Jimmy Anderson

James Anderson has the most wickets in Test matches for England till 2020.
LEEDS, ENGLAND – AUGUST 26: England bowler James Anderson celebrates dismissing Kyle Hope during day two of the 2nd Investec Test match between England and West Indies at Headingley on August 26, 2017 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Jimmy Anderson is widely regarded as the “King of Swing.”

He is England’s highest-ever wicket-taker, having picked up 614 wickets in 160 test matches. His bowling average of 26.47 is also very healthy.

Anderson has an amazing ability to move the ball both ways, without much difference in action. This makes him very difficult to pick. He has turned himself into a skilful craftsman that can pick up wickets in any conditions.

Jimmy Anderson has improved considerably with age. In fact, between 2014 and 2021, he has averaged below 24 with the ball in every single year bar 2019 – where he was injured for a large portion of it. He has used his maturity and experience really well to redefine his skill set over the last few years.

He played a big part in England’s first Ashes series win Down Under in 24 years, taking 24 wickets in 5 tests in 2010/11. Anderson averages below 25 with the ball in England, the UAE and the West Indies.

Jimmy Anderson is the best English bowler of all-time in Test match cricket.



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