Test cricket is the purest type of sport. The ODIs and T20Is are quite entertaining formats of cricket. However, a true cricket fan would always prefer top-quality Test cricket over the other two forms. In comparison, one can say that the popularity of Tests has reduced because of the wide gap in the teams’ strengths.
However, when top-tier teams like India, England, Australia, and New Zealand play Tests against each other, they receive much attention. The first innings of a Test match is quite crucial. It determines which team will have the momentum heading into the next three innings. The fast bowlers are usually more successful in the first innings because the new pitch helps them generate swing and some seam movement.
In this listicle, we will look at the five bowlers with the most wickets in the first innings of a Test match.
5. Courtney Walsh – 158 wickets
As mentioned earlier, fast bowlers are more successful in the first innings of Test matches. West Indian fast bowler Courtney Walsh kicks off the list at number five with 158 wickets to his name in the first innings. Walsh represented the Caribbean team in 132 Test matches.
He picked up 519 wickets for the Men in Maroon. Out of those 519 wickets, 158 came in the first innings. The right-arm pacer bowled 73 times in the first innings, where he returned with 158 wickets at a magnificent economy rate of 2.64. Walsh’s best figures in the first innings were 6/54.
4. James Anderson – 167 wickets
English fast bowler James Anderson recently made history by touching the epic milestone of 600 Test wickets. The legendary pacer has represented England in 156 Tests.
Anderson has got an opportunity to bowl in the first innings 68 times. In those 68 games, Anderson has taken 167 wickets. His economy rate of 2.88 shows how he has tormented the opposition batsmen in the first innings.
3. Anil Kumble – 168 wickets
Anil Kumble is the only Indian name to appear on this elite list. Kumble might lose his third spot to James Anderson soon because the Englishman is still active in Tests, and the difference between the two bowlers is only of one wicket.
Kumble played 132 Tests for the Indian cricket team. He picked up 619 Test wickets for the Indian team, out of which 168 wickets came in the first innings. Kumble achieved ten five-wicket hauls in the first innings.
2. Sir Richard Hadlee – 194 wickets
Former New Zealand great Sir Richard Hadlee holds the record for the most wickets by a fast bowler in the first innings of Tests. Hadlee played 86 Test matches for the Blackcaps and got a chance to bowl in the first innings in 56 of them.
Richard picked up 194 wickets in those 56 games. He returned with a five-wicket haul 18 times when bowling in the first innings. Also, he achieved his best bowling figures of 9/52 in the first innings of the 1985 Brisbane Test against Australia.
1. Muttiah Muralitharan – 230 wickets
Sri Lankan legend Muttiah Muralitharan holds many world records in Test cricket. He took 800 Test wickets in his legendary career, and 230 of them came in the first innings. Muttiah had an economy rate of 2.64 in the first innings.
The right-arm off-spinner bowled 2,302.1 overs in the first innings. 509 out of the 2,302 overs were maidens. Like Sir Richard Hadlee, Muttiah Muralitharan picked up a five-wicket haul 18 times in the first innings. His best bowling figures were 9/51.