9 Best Bowling Figures in Test Cricket of the 21st Century

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Are you aware of some of the best bowling figures in Test Cricket of the 21st century?

Test match is the toughest game format in cricket. Unlike the Twenty-20 and the one-day matches, it has the longest game time duration.

Similarly, a Test match is considered the highest standard of cricket. The game played for five days between two teams pushes the players to their limits and endurance.

Board bowling in the second Test against Sri Lanka (Source: Wikimedia.org)

In such a tough competition, some of the bowlers have changed the tides of the game with their bowling in Test cricket history. Therefore, we thought of looking at some of these best bowling figures who have made a huge impact in the 21st century.

So without any more dilly-dally, let us get to the list.

9 Best Bowling Figures in Test Cricket of the 21st Century

The list has been prepared from various trusted sources from the internet like Cricket.com.au. But before diving into the list, let us take a quick peek at the table below.

Player Name Country
9. Harbajan Singh India
8. Glenn McGrath Australia
7. Shaun Pollock South Africa
6. Shane Warne Australia
5. Rangana Herath Sri Lanka
4. Dale Steyn South Africa
3. Anil Kumble India
2. James Anderson England
1. Muthiah Muralidaran Sri Lanka

9. Harbhajan Singh

The first bowling figure on our list is a former Indian cricketer, Harbhajan Singh. He is a specialist spin bowler who played in the Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise team and for the Indian national cricket team.

Singh started his playing career at 15, playing in the Punjab Under-16 division. Later he was promoted to the Under-19 division before making his first-class debut in late 1997.

The following year in 1998, Singh made his Test debut against Australia. However, in his initial playing days, he went through controversial investigations into the legality of his bowling.

Harbhajan Singh
Harbhajan Singh (Source: Wikipedia)

In 2001, Singh got a chance to make a comeback. He was able to take 32 wickets in the following series and even became the first Indian bowler to take a hat-trick in Test cricket.

Although his career has been marred with controversies, Singh is one of the best Test bowlers of the 21st century, coming from India. For his contribution, he was given Padma Shri in 2009, India’s fourth-highest civilian honor.

Singh has retired from all forms of cricket as of 2021.

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8. Glenn McGrath

Glenn McGrath is considered one of the greatest Australian international bowlers of all time. Now 54 year-old, McGrath was a fast-medium pace bowler who played international cricket for 14 years.

McGrath was a leading contributor in dominating world cricket from the mid-1990s to the late-2000s. He debuted with the New South Wales cricket team in 1992-93.

Then a year later, he made his first Test debut in the 1993-94 game against New Zealand at Perth. McGrath had a skill for maintaining an accurate line and length during his playing career.

Glenn McGrath in Circular Quay, Sydney, Australia, 2018

He was one of the most economical and successful bowlers of his period. Similarly, he is second in the most successful in total wickets taken by the fast bowler and the seventh in ODI wickets.

In his international career, McGrath played for the IPL franchise team Delhi DareDevils. However, after the 2007 Ashes Test held in Sydney, his Test career ended.

McGrath became the ICC Cricket Hall of Famer in 2013.

7. Shaun Pollock

Born in Cape Province of South Africa, Shaun Pollock is a former cricketer and captain in all game formats. 50 year-old Pollock is regarded as a genuine bowling all-rounder and one of the greatest fast bowlers.

He made his first Test debut in 1995-96 against England, playing against the West Indies. He was a bowling all-rounder and was the leading wicket-taker for his country in Tests until Dale Steyn surpassed him in 2018.

Aside from playing for his home country team, he has also played for international teams like Durham Dynamos, Warwickshire, and Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier Leagues.

Shaun Pollock (CricTracker.com)
Shaun Pollock (CricTracker.com)

Likewise, Pollock also held the captaincy position of his national team from 2000 to 2003. However, he took retirement from all forms of international cricket in 2008.

In 2003, he was named the Wisden Cricketer of the Year. By the time he announced his retirement, Pollock was one of the only six players who had scored 3000 runs and taken 300 wickets in Test matches.

Currently, Pollock is working as a commentator for supersport’s coverage of South African cricket. He became the ICC Cricket Hall of Famer in 2021.

6. Shane Warne

The next bowling figure on our list is a former Australian international cricketer, Shane Warne. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest bowlers in cricket history.

Born on September 13, 1969, Warne made his first first-class cricket debut in 1991 against Western Australia. He made his Test debut the following year against India. Before making his Test debut, he had played seven first-class matches.

Shane Warne with the 1999 World Cup Trophy

With a test wicket of 708, Warne had the record for the most wicket taken by a bowler in Test cricket. Muttiah Muralitharan broke the record in 2007. Similarly, he is the only player to score more than 3,000 Test runs without a career century.

Some of the notable honors earned by Warne include the 1994 Wisden Cricketers Almanack, Wisden Leading Cricketer in the world in 1997. Warne was also part of the IPL franchises Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings.

Controversies and scandals plague Warne’s career. Then in 2013, he retired from all formats of the crickets. He became the ICC Cricket Hall of Famer the same year.

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5. Rangana Herath

On our number five of the best bowling figures in Test cricket is a former Sri Lankan cricketer, Rangana Herath. He is also the former Test captain for Sri Lanka. Herath is considered one of the greatest spin bowlers of all time.

He made his Test debut in 1999 against Australia in his home country. However, he could not make an immediate impression, and it was only in 2009 Test cricket that Heratha grabbed the cricket nation’s interest.

Since then, the cricketer has become one of the most successful left-arm bowlers in Test cricket history. Similarly, he is the first left-arm spinner to take 400 Test wickets.

Rangan Herath’s brilliant spell of 5/3 against New Zealand (Source: Facebook)

Herath became the third Sri Lanka bowler to take 300 wickets in Test cricket history in 2016. Additionally, the same year, he became the only third bowler in history to take five-wicket hauls against Test-playing nations.

In 2018, Herath surpassed Wasim Akram to become the most successful left-arm bowler in Test cricket history. Likewise, he has many other records and won several awards in his 19 year Test cricket career.

After announcing his retirement in 2018, Herath worked as a spin bowling consultant with the Bangladesh cricket team.

4. Dale Steyn

Dale Steyn is a former professional cricketer from South Africa. 40 year-old Steyn is regarded as one of the greatest fast bowlers of all time and the best Test bowler of his generation.

In 2003, he made his first-class cricket debut for Northerns (later formed Titans merging with Easterns). But his debut was not all that impressive. However, he was able to show a series of strong performances after that.

Consequently, Steyn made his first Test debut in 2004 in a match against England. Similarly, he was also able to take his place in the South Africa Test team.

Dale Steyn (Source: ICC Cricket)
Dale Steyn (Source: ICC Cricket)

During the peak of his career, Steyn dominated the ICC Test rankings. Between 2008 and 2014, he was at the number one spot for 263 weeks.

Likewise, he broke the former-captain Shaun Pollock’s record of the leading wicket-taker for South Africa in Test cricket in 2018.

He became the Wisden Leading Cricketer in the world in 2013, Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack 2014, and was also the Wisden Cricketers of the Decade in 2019.

Steyn retired from Test cricket in 2019. Later in 2021, he announced retirement from all forms of cricket.

3. Anil Kumble

Anil Kumble is the third bowling figure on our list of the best bowling figures. He is widely regarded as one of the best leg-spin bowlers in Test cricket history.

Kumble grew up watching cricket from his childhood, and he began playing cricket on the streets of his hometown. Finally, in 1989, he made his first-class debut for Karnataka against Hyderabad.

In 1990, he made his first Test match debut against England. Kumble soon established himself as one of the best bowlers in Test and was nicknamed “Jumbo” for his fast, accurate bowl deliveries and spinner.

Anil Kumble playing (Source: Wikimedia.org)

As of 2021, Kumble is the fourth-highest wicket-taker of all time. During his Test cricket career, he took 619 wickets. He had an international career of 18 years.

Kumble was named the Wisden Cricketers of the year and cricketer of the year in 1993 by Indian Cricket. Similarly, he is also the ICC Cricket Hall of Famer.

Currently, he is the Head Coach and the Director of Cricket Operations of the Indian Premier League franchise, Punjab Kings.

2. James Anderson

As we are coming to the end of our list, the next bowling figure is an English international cricketer, James Anderson. He is a 41 year-old cricketer who plays for the Lancashire County Cricket Club and the England cricket team.

Anderson is known for his right-arm fast swing bowling. He played cricket from a young age at Burnley Cricket Club. By age 17, he had established himself as one of the fastest bowlers in the Lancashire League.

In 2003, Anderson made his first Test debut against Zimbabwe. Since then, he has played in more than 160 Test matches.

James Anderson on field
James Anderson on the field

Similarly, he is the first English bowler to reach 400, 500, and 600 wickets in Test matches. Likewise, he is also the most capped player for England in Test cricket. As of 2021, ICC Test Bowling Rankings have ranked him 6th on the list.

Anderson is a fast bowler who is the leading wicket-taker of all-time at Test cricket. Additionally, he is the only fast bowler to have taken 600 or more Test wickets and is the third-highest wicket-taker overall.

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1. Muttiah Muralitharan

And number one spot on our list goes to a former cricketer from Sri Lanka, Muttiah Muralitharan. He is regarded as one of the greatest and most successful bowlers to ever play in international cricket.

Born on April 17, 1972, Muralitharan picked up cricketing from his school days. In 1991, he was selected for Sri Lanka A tour of England. Then, he made his Test debut the following year, playing against Australia.

Muralitharan is the only bowler to take 800 wickets in a Test match and over 530 wickets in ODI. Similarly, he held the spot in the ICC player rankings sport for 1,711 days in 214 Test matches.

Muttiah Muralitharan bowling (Source: Wikimedia.org)

In 2007, he became the highest wicket-taker in Test cricket. However, his international career suffered from his controversial bowling action. Fortunately, he was cleared by ICC twice in 1996 and 1999 after biomechanical analysis.

The Wisden’s Cricketers’ Almanack rated Muralitharan as the greatest Test match bowler in 2002. Moreover, he was the first Sri Lankan to become the ICC Cricket Hall of Famer.

This legendary Sri Lankan bowler announced his retirement from Test cricket in 2010.


This concludes our list of the best bowling figures in Test Cricket in the 21st century. These players have stood firm on the toughest format of cricket and came out with flying colors.

What do you think of our list? Do let us know!

Boby Rai
Boby Raihttps://playersbio.com/

Boby Rai

Boby Rai is a dedicated writer who specializes in capturing the essence of sporting excellence through his unique lens. As the creative mind behind numerous sports-centric projects, he brings a fresh perspective to the world of athletics, blending insightful commentary with captivating narratives.


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Armed with a passion for sports and a gift for storytelling, Boby has honed his craft through years of immersive experiences in the field. With a keen eye for detail and an unwavering commitment to authenticity, he continues to inspire and inform readers through his thought-provoking work.

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