2019 has been a memorable year for bowlers from many nations, particularly Australia and India. Aussie paceman Pat Cummins headlined the year with 59 wickets in 12 Tests at an average of 20.13. He picked up incredible match figures of 10 for 62 at Brisbane against Sri Lanka at the start of the year.
Fellow Aussie Nathan Lyon is second on the list with 45 wickets in 12 Tests at an average of 33.26. The off-spinner bowled Australia to victory with figures of 6 for 49 in the Ashes Test at Birmingham.
England pacer Stuart Broad completes the top three for 2019 with 43 wickets in 11 matches at an average of 25.11.
Among Indians, Mohammed Shami was the leading wicket-taker with 33 scalps in eight Tests at an average of 16.66. Further, Ishant Sharma picked up 25 in six, and Umesh Yadav 23 in four.
Let’s go back in history now, and look at the top three bowlers with most wickets in Tests in a calendar year.
3. Dennis Lillee (85 wickets in 1981)
Australia’s pace bowling legend Dennis Lillee is at number three in the list, having claimed 85 wickets in 13 Tests in 1981. Lillee’s scalps came at an average of 20.95, and a strike rate of 43.6. He picked up five five-fors, and two 10-wicket match hauls in the year.
Lillee’s best bowling figures of 7 for 83 in the year came against West Indies at Melbourne in the Boxing Day Test. He dismissed Desmond Haynes, Colin Croft and Sir Viv Richards as West Indies were bowled out for 201 in response to Australia’s 198.
Lillee claimed three more in the second innings to finish with 10 for the match as the Aussies won the Test by 58 runs.
Earlier in the year, Lillee claimed 7 for 89 against England in the first innings at The Oval. Lillee got the scalps of centurion Geoff Boycott as well as Wayne Larkins, Mike Gatting and Ian Botham, restricting the opposition to 314 in reply to Australia’s 352.
Lillee claimed 4 for 70 in the second innings as England finished on 261 for 7 in their chase of 383.
Lillee was also the man of the match in the Nottingham Test of that same series, with figures of 3 for 34 and 5 for 46.
In the Perth Test against Pakistan in November, he ended with sensational figures of 5 for 18 as the visitors were rolled over for 62 in their first innings. They ended up losing the Test by 286 run. This was a Pakistan squad led by Javed Miandad, and also had Imran Khan.
2. Muttiah Muralitharan (90 wickets in 2006)
Sri Lankan legend Muttiah Muralitharan claimed a mammoth haul of 90 wickets from 11 Tests in 2006. Murali’s wickets came at an excellent average of 16.90, and a strike rate of 39.2. He picked up as many as nine five-fors, and five 10-wicket match hauls in the year.
Murali’s best innings performance of 8 for 70 came against England at Nottingham. The hosts were chasing 325 for victory in the game, and the off-spinner ran through the clueless English line-up as they were bowled out for 190.
Murali knocked over a strong England top and middle-order comprising Marcus Trescothick, Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen.
His best match performance of 12 for 225 came against South Africa at the P Sara Oval in Colombo in 2006. Murali picked up 5 for 128 in the first innings as the Proteas posted 361. He did even better in the second innings with 7 for 97. Herschelle Gibbs, Ashwell Prince, AB de Villiers and Mark Boucher were among his big victims.
In a fascinating finish, Sri Lanka chased down 352 with one wicket in hand thanks to Mahela Jayawardene’s brilliant 123.
In the previous Test against South Africa at the SSC, Murali claimed 4 for 41 and 6 for 131 as Sri Lanka won by an innings and 153 runs. This was the same match in which Mahela Jayawardene (374) and Kumar Sangakkara (287) featured in the record stand of 624.
Murali also ended the year with 10 wickets in the Wellington Test (4 for 31 and 6 for 87) as the Lankans won the Test by 217 runs.
1. Shane Warne (96 wickets in 2005)
Australia’s spin wizard Shane Warne holds the record for most Test wickets in a calendar year. In 15 Tests he claimed 96 wickets at an average of 22.02 and a strike rate of 45.1, with six five-fors and two 10-wicket match hauls.
Warne’s best bowling performance in an innings, 6 for 46, came against England at Birmingham in the second innings of the legendary Test as England were bowled out for 182. Warne dismissed Strauss, Ian Bell, Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff.
Chasing 282, the Aussies fell tantalizingly close to lose by two runs, with a desolate Brett Lee stranded on 279.
The legend’s best match figures of 12 for 246 came in the same Ashes at The Oval in a drawn encounter. This was the Test in which Kevin Pietersen scored the famous 158 to ensure the Ashes fell in England’s kitty.
Against New Zealand in the second innings at Christchurch in March, Warne ran through the Kiwis with figures of 5 for 39. The Kiwis crumbled to 131 all out to lose the Test by nine wickets.
Towards the end of the year, Warne also claimed 5 for 48 against West Indies at Brisbane, and 6 for 80 at Adelaide, as Australia won the three-match series 3-0.