400 Test wickets: Quickest bowlers to the milestone
Taking wickets in Test cricket at regular intervals is one of the most difficult feats to achieve, given the relentless precision and prolonged patience it demands from a bowler.
And it precisely points out the magnanimity of Ravichandran Ashwin’s achievement in the pink ball Test played between India and England at the new Motera Stadium.
However, the Indian spinner isn’t the only one to reach that milestone as the history of cricket has encountered some of the finest turners of the game over the years. We look at four such bowlers who breached the 400-wickets mark in red-ball cricket in a short time.
Sri Lanka’s very own ‘Wizard of Oz’ is revered as the numero uno in the all-time Test wicket-takers list with 800 wickets. He is also the quickest to 400 Test wickets and the youngest bowler ever to achieve this feat.
In January 2002, at 29 years of age, Muralitharan registered figures of 5/67 against Zimbabwe in his 72nd career Test match, and his 400th victim was fast bowler Henry Olonga.
Nicknamed the ‘Smiling Assasin,’ the Sri Lankan icon went on to play 133 Tests and registered 67 five-wicket hauls, and 22 ten-wicket hauls to his name. While his bowling action was unorthodox, Muralitharan often left spectators speechless with his temperament and quick ability to take wickets in precarious situations.
Ravichandran Ashwin added a new chapter to his historic folklore as he became the second-fastest to 400 Test scalps in the third Test against England, in his 77th game.
The 34-year-old, fastest to 200, 250, and 300 Test wickets, hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down in the format where he debuted with match figures of 9/128 against West Indies in 2011.
With 29 five-wicket hauls to his name, Ashwin is also the second-highest wicket-taker in home Tests - 278 wickets in 46 Tests. Once criticized for prioritizing variations over stock balls, the spinner has since become a vital cog in Team India’s bowling setup in the gentleman’s game.
With an average of 24.95, Ashwin continues to be a pillar of strength and a catalyst of victory for a team that is the current leader in the ICC World Test Championship.
Sir Richard Hadlee
Sir Richard Hadlee’s legendary Test cricket career spanned over 17 years from 1973 to 1990, but what sets him apart from the other mentions in this list is that he is the first to take 400 wickets in red-ball cricket
Hadlee, a fast bowler by right, didn’t have the pace levels that his peers Dennis Lillee and Malcolm Marshall often commanded in their spells. However, what sets him apart was his ability to blend accurate bowling with sheer intelligence and always out-think the batsman at the other end.
The New Zealand all-rounder took 80 Tests to breach the 400-wicket mark in the gentleman’s game, having achieved it in the 1990 Test against the Indian cricket team at Christchurch. He retired with 431 wickets at an eye-catching economy rate of 2.63.
A modern-day legend, Dale Steyn entered the 400 wickets club in his 80th Test game for South Africa but is one of the stellar talents whose career tumbled due to injuries and fitness concerns.
Steyn’s hunger for wickets has been the central point of his success with the Proteas, and while he is the second bowler after Shaun Pollock to achieve the feat, the now-retired pacer bowled the least deliveries - 16634 balls - to his 400th Test scalp.
One doesn’t often find a quality pacer who could withstand any conditions available to a swing bowler, but in Dale Steyn, South Africa found a match-winner and someone who continued the valued art of reverse-swing, which was propagated by Wasim Akram.
Steyn’ Test career stats read as 439 wickets in 93 Tests, with 26 five-wicket hauls and five 10-wicket hauls.
Feature image courtesy: Sportsadda