The Ashes is undeniably one of the most highly-anticipated series in Test cricket history. The storied rivalry between Australia and England has witnessed riveting matches where players have stood up and been counted with bat and ball.
While the 1882 solitary Test gave birth to the legend of the ‘Ashes’, the first-ever multi-match Test series was played in 1882-83, with England claiming a 2-1 win. The history books show that Joey Palmer was the first bowler with the most wickets in an Ashes series after he bagged 17 wickets at an economy of 2.11.
Fast forward 74 years later and Jim Laker scripted history as he took a whopping 46 wickets in the 1956 Ashes series, with four five-wicket hauls and two 10-wicket hauls in five matches.
Only three bowlers, Terry Alderman (twice), Rodney Hogg and Shane Warne, have emulated Laker by taking 40-plus wickets in a single Ashes series. Here we have a look at how those select few bowlers went about taking more than 40 wickets in one Ashes series.
Jim Laker: 46 wickets in 1956 Ashes
Jim Laker is one of the greatest bowlers ever to have played in the Ashes. Laker was the wrecker-in-chief in the first Test at Old Trafford in 1956, bagging 19 Australian wickets for 90 runs.
With figures of 9 for 37 in the first innings and 10 for 53 in the second, the legendary English bowler also bettered the record for best figures in a first-class match previously held by Harold Arkwright (18/96).
Jim Laker was also the first bowler to claim 10 wickets in a single Test inning, a feat matched later by India’s Anil Kumble in 1999.
Terry Alderman: 42 wickets (1981) and 41 (1989)
Among the many bowlers that came after Jim Laker, Terry Alderman was the only player who came close to eclipsing the English legend’s record for most wickets in an Ashes series, not once but twice.
Alderman had a fruitful debut in Test cricket, as he bagged nine wickets in the first Ashes Test at Nottingham in 1981. He finished with 42 wickets in that series, which is the best tally in an Ashes series after Laker’s 46. The performance saw him break Rodney Hogg’s record for most wickets in an Ashes series by an Aussie bowler (41).
Eight years later, Terry Alderman returned to the Australian side for the 1989 Ashes and marked his comeback with 19 wickets across the first two Tests. The Perth-born pacer went on to claim another 22 scalps and ended the series with 41 wickets.
Rodney Hogg: 41 wickets (1978-79)
Former Australian pacer Rodney Hogg is regarded as one of the one-hit wonders in Ashes history, as he failed to make a sizeable impact in his six-year-long Test career beyond the series against England.
Hogg announced himself with seven wickets in the first Test, with Graham Gooch his favourite bunny in the fixture as he dismissed him in both England innings. In the second and third Tests of the 1978-79 Ashes, Rodney Hogg took 10 wickets each.
Hogg finished with 41 wickets at the end of the series and became the Australian bowler with maximum wickets in a single Ashes until Terry Alderman broke his record in 1981.
Shane Warne: 40 wickets (2005)
One of the greatest spinners to play cricket, Shane Warne has gone down in history as England’s great tormentor with spin in modern Ashes history.
Warne holds the record for most wickets in the Ashes (195 wickets) and is one of the players who helped Australia hold onto the urn for almost two decades.
In the 2005 Ashes, the legendary Australian spinner registered six wickets in both innings of the fifth and final Test at the Oval, but his efforts went in vain as England won the Ashes for the first time since 1986-87.
Shane Warne bagged 40 wickets in 2005 against England and is the last bowler to record 40 wickets or more in a single Ashes.
Author: William Paul
Featured photo: AFP / William West