5. Derek Underwood – 329 wickets
No nickname was better earned that the “Deadly” which Derek Underwood’s Kent team-mates conferred on him for the havoc he caused on rain-affected pitches. Such was his accuracy and, for a left-arm spinner, pace – either side of medium when the ball was really biting – that when conditions favoured him an avalanche of wickets was almost guaranteed. At Hastings in 1973, Underwood demolished Sussex by taking 8 for 9 after a bare-footed Kent team helped the Fire Brigade mop up another flooded ground. He has played 86 and 26 matches in Test and ODI respectively and took 297 and 32 wickets. His best Innings bowling and best Matches bowling is 8/51 and 13/71 in Tests. In ODI his best bowling is 4/44.
4. Rangana Herath – 332 wickets
Rangana Herath is an orthodox left-arm spinner who has taken over from Muttiah Muralitharan as Sri Lanka’s main wicket-taking bowler in Tests. As a left-arm spinner, his strengths are his accuracy and his ability to bowl long spells, but to that he has added a ‘mystery’ ball, a delivery that is quicker and darts back into the right-hander. He has played 57 and 60 matches in Test and ODI respectively and took 260 and 60 wickets. His best Innings bowling and best Matches bowling is 9/127 and 14/184 in Tests. In ODI his best bowling is 4/20.
3. Shakib Al Hasan – 341 wickets
A talented left-hand batsman and left-arm spinner, Shakib Al Hasan is unarguably the best cricketer that Bangladesh have ever had. As a bowler, he is accurate, consistent, and canny; and his aggression and a wide range of strokes are the keys to his batting. Even more importantly, he has self-belief an excellent temperament, unflustered by the big occasion and ready to do battle against the top teams. He has played 35 and 136 matches in Test and ODI respectively and took 129 and 171 wickets. His best Innings bowling and best Matches bowling is 7/36 and 9/115 in Tests. In ODI his best bowling is 4/16.
2. Sanath Jayasuriya – 440 wickets
It’s hard to imagine that for the first half-decade of his career, Sanath Jayasuriya was considered a bowler who could bat a bit. Think of him now and you think of forearms straight out of a smithy, shots hammered through point and cover and scythes over the leg side. You recall a man who could score equally briskly in every form of the game, who slashed and burned his way through bowling attacks. As with anyone who relied so much on extraordinary hand-eye coordination, there were troughs and lean times, but just as the obit writers got busy, he would produce another innings of supreme power. The bowling, always canny and relying more on variations in pace than sharp turn, became the supporting act, though 440 international wickets should tell you that he was pretty adept at what he did. He has played 110 and 445 matches in Test and ODI respectively and took 98 and 323 wickets. His best Innings bowling and best Matches bowling is 5/34 and 9/74 in Tests. In ODI his best bowling is 6/29.
1. Daniel Vettori – 681 wickets
Daniel Vettori has been on the international scene so long it is sometimes hard to believe he has only recently crossed into his thirties. The youngest man to play Test cricket for New Zealand, at the age of 18, he is one of only eight players to have managed the double of 300 Test wickets and 3000 runs. With time on his side, he could one day creep up towards Hadlee’s 431 Test dismissals, but to do that Vettori would need to avoid the stress fractures in his back that troubled him earlier in his career. He also cannot afford another form slump like the one he suffered in 2003-04. He has played 112 and 227 matches in Test and ODI respectively and took 360 and 284 wickets. His best Innings bowling and best Matches bowling is 7/86 and 12/149 in Tests. In ODI his best bowling is 5/7.