Several magnificent bowlers, audacious spells of bowling and absolutely unplayable balls have been a regular affair when Australia and England lock horns for the historical Ashes series. Several bowlers, modern day and yesteryear greats have had fans on the edge of their seats with their unmistakable skills and exceptional display of the same in the series of unparallel.
Such is the rich history of the Ashes that naming one or even two bowlers that really stood out over the years is next to impossible. From George Lohmann to James Pattinson, every bowler has had a fair share of a basking-in-the-glory moment in the Ashes. This makes numbers a prominent factor when analysing the best bowlers that have ever bowled in the Ashes. A glance at the top wicket-takers in this historic series over the years and you will know that number of wickets is indeed a great benchmark to compare the best bowlers.
A magician, one of a kind and possibly the greatest leg-spinner that ever walked the earth, Shane Keith Warne picked up 708 wickets over the course of his controversial, yet scintillating career. Not only was he the apple of Australia’s eye every time he came onto bowl but also the strike bowler in a dream team with a ruthless battery of pace bowlers.
That he was the leading wicket-taker in his debut Ashes series in 1993 (34 wickets) is a tribute to his outrageous performances in whites for Aussies against the Poms. The very first ball he bowled in the series would go down into history books as the “Ball of the Century”. A sharp leg-spinner that turned from outside the leg of Mike Gatting to knock out his off-stump.
The sensational 2005 Ashes series, remembered for the closely fought edge of the seat thrillers, saw Shane Warne at his peak. The leggie was always a revelation against England and picked up 40 scalps in the series, 16 more than the next best bowler, Andrew Flintoff. That Australia lost the series is no discredit to his spectacular performance in England in that year.
He retired on December 21, 2006, after the fifth match of that year’s Ashes in Australia. He wanted to retire on a high and also mentioned that had the Aussies won the 2005 series, he would have bowed out then.
Matches – 36, Wickets – 195, Avg – 23.25, BBI – 8/71
Arguably the second best bowler that Australia have ever produced, the tall, lanky, immaculate, persistent Glenn McGrath was a menace in the Ashes, more so for his bowling than his ability to pick on bunnies before the series. With 563 Test scalps, McGrath is the most successful Test fast bowler of all-time and it is no surprise that his success translated into the Ashes.
With 157 wickets in 30 matches, McGrath showed that he could be a beast when on fire, with his sensational spell in the 2005 Ashes opener, where he picked up five scalps in his first 13 overs to reduce England to zilch, being the highlight. (His spell consisted of five wickets and two runs conceded)
In the same Test, he dismissed Marcus Trescothick to become just the second fast bowler to take 500 Test wickets after Courtney Walsh. McGrath. In the 2006-07 Ashes, when Australia whitewashed England, McGrath picked up 21 wickets at an average of 23.90. It turned out to be his final bow in Test cricket as he never figured in a Test afterwards. He did take a wicket with his final ball in Test cricket.
Matches – 30, Wickets – 157, Avg – 20.92, BBI – 8/38
A mesmeric bowler from the ‘Golden age of cricket’, Hugh Trumble was a tall, quickish off-spinner with terrific accuracy and smart variations in pace. A fine lower-order batsman and a reliable slip fielder, Trumble was a complete player. He made his Test debut in 1890 against England in England in an Ashes series.
It took him six years to establish himself on the side but once he did, there was no looking back. In the 1899 tour of England, the all-rounder took 1183 runs and picked up 142 wickets and a couple of years later he was named as Australia’s skipper.
In the second Test of the 1901-02 Ashes, Trumble picked up a hat-trick dismissing Arthur Jones, John Gunn and Sydney Barnes. He loved bowling on the soft, wet English wickets and was a menace every time he came onto bowl. In 1902 he toured England for the final time and the Wisden praised his bowling with the words “Trumble, paying us his fifth visit, bowled perhaps better than ever”.
Trumble had retired by the time England toured Australia next but was forced out of retirement for a final bow in the second Test of the 1903-04 series. He picked up 24 wickets in the series, with his final match performance including a jaw-dropping hat-trick, his second in Tests.
Matches – 31, Wickets – 141, Avg – 20.88, BBI – 8/65