Six great Ashes bowlers

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Australia 1882

The 'Demon' Spofforth, back row, fourth from left, with the touring Australians in 1882, the series from which the Ashes were born

Frederick Spofforth

18 Tests; 94 wickets @ 18.41
Best innings figures 7-44; best match figures 14-90

Mere mention of the ‘Demon’ Spofforth’s name conjures up images of helpless England batsmen being terrorised by a crazed pace bowler, yet Spofforth was not known for his great pace.

Instead, he bowled with unremitting accuracy and immense stamina, attributes which saw him take a wicket, on average, every seven overs in Tests.

He played all his Tests against England and, although some came before the concept of the Ashes, Spofforth can claim to have played a key role in their origins. He took seven wickets in each innings in the 1882 Oval Test, condemning England to a defeat which heralded the famous mock headline in the Sporting Times.

His match figures of 14-90 remain the second best by an Australian against England – one of four 10-wicket hauls in just 18 Tests – and he was the first bowler to take a Test hat-trick, in Melbourne in 1879.

Sydney Barnes

The legendary SF Barnes, who announced himself to Australians with 5-35 on his Ashes debut

Sydney Barnes

18 Tests; 106 wickets @ 21.58
Best figures 7-60; 13-163

It was obvious that SF Barnes was more than just an average bowler when he was picked for the 1901-02 Ashes tour Down Under on the back of a single net session against England captain Archie McLaren.

He did not disappoint, taking 5-65 in 35.1 overs in the first innings of the opening Test and claiming 13-163 in the second, which remain his best match figures against Australia. One wonders how many wickets he would have taken had a leg injury sustained in the third Test not cut short his involvement in that series.

Barnes was regarded by many as the finest bowler of his era – his combination of late inswing and sharp spin away from the batsman yielded 189 wickets in only 27 Tests – and his mastery of Australian conditions is reflected in the fact that 77 of his 106 Ashes wickets came away from home.

He had a famously astute grasp of his worth, and was often not the easiest player to manage. Hence he did not play for England from 1902-1907, although his performance at the MCG in 1911 – he took 5-44 and 3-96 – sparked an England comeback from 1-0 down to win the remaining four Tests.

Jim Laker

Jim Laker's name will forever be synonymous with the Ashes after he took 19 Australia wickets in the 1956 Old Trafford Test

Jim Laker

15 Tests; 79 wickets @ 18.27
Best figures 10-53; 19-90

There are many bowlers who have taken more Ashes wickets than Laker, but he deserves his place on the list for one performance alone, when he took 10 wickets in the second innings and 19 in the match against Australia at Old Trafford in 1956.

It is an oft-forgotten fact that he had taken 11 wickets in the previous match, and went on to claim seven in the next in a series which yielded an astonishing 46 victims at 9.60 apiece.

Laker was arguably the finest off-spinner of his generation, an ability to extract vicious turn while maintaining unerring accuracy the hallmarks of a glittering career.

He enjoyed considerable success against Australia – he claimed all 10 in an innings when the tourists played Surrey in a tour match – and also behind the microphone after he moved into commentary following his retirement.

Dennis Lillee

A sight that became all too familiar for England batsman during Dennis Lillee's devastating Ashes career

Dennis Lillee

29 Tests; 167 wickets @ 21
Best figures 7-89; 11-138

Although West Indies produced a host of great fast bowlers in the years following Lillee's retirement, the abrasive Australian is still regarded by many distinguished judges as the greatest quick of them all.

It was not only Lillee's pace and accuracy but also his mastery of seam movement and swing that made him such a lethal proposition.

He battled back from a serious back injury to become the thorn in England's side for most of his career. Armed with a frightening bouncer, a deadly yorker and a sharp tongue, Lillee was the scourge of England batsmen for more than a decade.

He enjoyed touring England - taking 31 wickets in 1972, 21 in 1975 and 39 in 1981. His tally of 167 against England is bettered only by Shane Warne, and included match figures of 11-165 in the 1977 Centenary Test. He ended his career with 355 Test wickets.

Ian Botham

Ian Botham cemented his reputation as one of the England's most popular cricketers with his deeds in 1981

Ian Botham

36 Tests; 148 wickets @ 27.65
Best figures 6-78; 11-176

All-rounder Ian Botham carved his name into Ashes folklore with his deeds in the 1981 series, which was won against huge odds by England.

Botham, then captain, began the series miserably and resigned the leadership after bagging a pair in the second Test at Lord's. But he suddenly woke up to his electrifying best at Headingley, when he took six wickets and smashed an unbeaten 149 as England pulled off a remarkable triumph despite following on.

A dazzling burst of five wickets for one run in 28 balls then set up victory at Edgbaston, and his century at Old Trafford helped clinch the series and cement his place in the pantheon of greats.

His presence was often enough to plant doubt in the minds of the usually ultra-confident Australians, and Botham went on to overtake Dennis Lillee's then world record tally before retiring with 383 Test victims.

Shane Warne

Shane Warne has taken more wickets in Ashes contests than any other bowler - 195 in 36 Tests from 1993 until 2007

Shane Warne

36 Tests, 195 wickets @ 23.25
Best figures 8-71; 12-246

Shane Warne sits proudly atop the list of leading wicket-takers in Ashes history, with a scarcely believeable 195 victims.

England fans will need no reminding of his introduction to the Ashes – Warne’s ‘ball of the century’ to Mike Gatting at Old Trafford was his first in a Test in England – and he was one of the constants in Australia’s almost complete dominance over their principal rivals for the next 10 years.

He won every series he played in until England snatched back the urn in 2005, a feat achieved despite Warne’s 40 wickets in five Tests. His big-turning leg-breaks, flippers and ‘zooters’ – not to mention his brazen showmanship – were too much for those batsmen whose careers were unfortunate enough to coincide with a true great of the game.

Controversy has gone hand in hand with Warne throughout his career, which may explain why there is still debate over who is the greatest spinner to have played the game. Surely there is no doubt.

Statistics refer to all Tests between England and Australia, including those when the Ashes were not at stake.

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