India vs South Africa 2019: Top 5 bowlers with most wickets in Tests in India

Renin Wilben Albert

Harbhajan Singh was lethal with the ball for India in his heyday.

Apart from Rohit Sharma and Mayank Agarwal's heroics with the bat, the Visakhapatnam Test also saw some brilliant performances by India's bowlers against South Africa. The 203-run win for the hosts saw off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin claiming a total of 8 wickets, the last of which saw him equal Muttiah Muralitharan's record for the fastest bowler to reach 350 wickets. He got to the landmark in 66 Tests.

Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja also had a good game, picking up six wickets in the match, including three in one over on the last day of the Test. Jadeja also had a record-breaking game, becoming the quickest left-arm bowler to reach 200 Test wickets. He reached the landmark in 44 Tests, overtaking Sri Lanka's Rangana Herath who took 47 Tests for the same feat.

Both Ashwin and Jadeja have tasted excellent success against South Africa in home conditions.

On that note, we take a look at the top five bowlers with most wickets in India versus South Africa Tests played in India.


#5. Dale Steyn

Dale Steyn

For fast bowlers across the world, the pitches of India have proved to be graveyards. Not for Dale Steyn though. He is someone who could make a mark irrespective of the surface, with the pace he generated and his nagging accuracy. This is exactly what Dale Steyn did in India, where he produced a couple of fantastic spells of fast bowling. He is the highest wicket-taker for South Africa in India, with 26 wickets in six games at an average of 21.38, with two five-wicket hauls and one 10-wicket match haul. 

Steyn’s standout performance came in the Nagpur Test in February 2010. His 7 for 51 saw India collapse from 221 for 4 to 233 all out after Hashim Amla’s 253 not out and Jacques Kallis’ 173 enabled South Africa to post 558 for 6 declared. Steyn added another three wickets in the second innings to finish with 10 wickets as South Africa won by an innings and six runs. 

The South African speedster also claimed 5 for 23 in the Ahmedabad Test of April 2008 as India embarrassingly crumbled to 76 all out. Steyn’s victims in the innings included big guns Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid. After AB de Villiers’ unbeaten 217, Steyn dismissed India’s second-innings top scorer Sourav Ganguly for 87 and polished off the tail as South Africa won by a handsome margin of an innings and 90 runs.

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#4. Ravindra Jadeja

To say Ravindra Jadeja has been effective against the Proteas would be an understatement. 

With the six wickets he picked up at Visakhapatnam, Jadeja is at number four in this list. In five Tests so far against South Africa at home, Jadeja has 29 wickets at a stunning average of 15.86, including two five-wicket hauls to his credit. With his ability to bowl tight lines and stifle the opposition batsmen as well as claim wickets at regular intervals, he has been doubly difficult to get away.

He played in all four Tests of the previous series against South Africa at home, and finished with his credibility enhanced significantly. In four Tests in 2015, Jadeja picked up 23 wickets at a stunning average of 10.82, helped by his impressive economy rate of 1.76. 

Jadeja picked up 3 for 51 and 5 for 21 in the first Test at Mohali, 4 for 50 in the second Test at Bengaluru, 4 for 33 at Nagpur and rounded off the series with 5 for 30 and 2 for 26 at Delhi. The South African batsmen could neither keep Jadeja at bay nor save their wickets against him, and the left-arm spinner feasted on the Proteas batsmen’s uncertainty. 

#3. Anil Kumble

Anil Kumble has two five-wicket hauls to his name against South Africa.

The retired Indian leg-break bowler has undoubtedly been one of India’s greatest match-winner at home. Not surprisingly, he comes third on the list of highest wicket-takers against South Africa in India. In a total of nine Tests, he picked up 39 wickets at a slightly high average of 31.53 with two five-wicket hauls. In comparison to his home record against other nations, these figures pale in comparison, particularly when one considers how weak the Proteas have been against spin traditionally. 

Kumble’s best bowling figures of 6 for 131 came in a drawn Test at Kanpur in November 2010. The leggie got the scalps of Graeme Smith, Andrew Hall and Jacques Kallis among others. However, South Africa posted a formidable 510 for 9 on the board. It needed a fighting knock of 164 from Virender Sehwag to ensure the match ended in a stalemate. 

Kumble also picked up 6 for 143 during the Bangalore Test in March 2000. However, South Africa posted 479 in response to India’s 158 and won by an innings and 71 runs despite Mohammad Azharuddin’s valiant 102, in what turned out to be his last Test match. Kumble got the wickets of Gary Kirsten, Herschelle Gibbs, Nicky Boje, Jacques Kallis and Daryl Cullinan, but four of these five scored half-centuries. 

#2. Ravichandran Ashwin

Ravichandran Ashwin has enjoyed playing against South Africa at home.

With eight wickets, the veteran Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin is on par with Kumble in terms of wickets -- 39. However, he makes it the two number slot on the basis of better overall figures. In five Tests, Ashwin has claimed 39 wickets at an average of 13.69 with as many as five five-wicket hauls. He claimed 7 for 145 in the 1st innings at Visakhapatnam.

Ashwin also came up with a stupendous performance in the 2015 series at home, just like his spin partner Jadeja. Ashwin performed even better than Jadeja, claiming 31 wickets in four Tests at an average of 11.12, with four five-wicket hauls and one ten-wicket match haul. Ashwin was next to unplayable in that Test series against South Africa. 

He began the Test series with 5 for 59 and 3 for 39 at Mohali. In the second Test at Bengaluru, where only one day’s play was possible, he picked up 4 for 70 as South Africa crumbled for 214. His best effort in the series came at Nagpur as he claimed 5 for 32 in the first innings and 7 for 66 in the second to finish with match figures of 12 for 98. South Africa crumbled to 79 in the first innings and 185 in the second as India won by 124 runs. Ashwin capped off the series with another five-wicket haul in the second innings at Delhi, after South Africa were set 481. They managed only 143 as Ashwin bagged the man of the series award. 

#1. Harbhajan Singh 

Harbhajan Singh has 42 wickets in seven matches against South Africa.

At the top of the list is experienced off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, who is yet to announce his retirement but certainly has played his last match for India. Harbhajan was at the peak of his bowling powers when he took on South Africa in India, and that shows in his numbers – 42 wickets in seven matches at an average of exactly 26 with three five-wicket hauls. 

The Turbanator, as he is fondly known, got his best figures in a Test against South Africa in India at Eden Gardens, the same venue where he first made a big impression against the Aussies, during the match played in late 2004. Trailing India by 106 runs in the first innings, South Africa were all out for 222 in their second innings as Harbhajan claimed 7 for 87 in 30 overs. His scalps included Smith, Kallis and Hashim Amla. 

Harbhajan also got a five-for in the 2008 Chennai Test renowned for Sehwag’s triple hundred. However, a more memorable performance came at Kolkata again in the Test played in February 2010. South Africa were trailing India by 347 runs on the first innings as Sehwag, Tendulkar, Laxman and Dhoni all hit tons. Harbhajan ran through the Proteas middle and lower order to finish with 5 for 59. Amit Mishra chipped in with three as Amla was stranded on 123. India won by an innings and 57 runs.