The cream has risen to the top in the ICC World Test Championship as the leading wicket-takers come from the teams that finished the league cycle sitting in the four highest spots in the standings.
Australia and India are set to meet at the ICC World Test Championship decider at The Oval from June 7 and it comes as little surprise that the finalists provide two of the top three wicket-takers from the current WTC cycle.
A South Africa speedster sits between them in second spot after powering his team to a third-place finish in the WTC standings where turning just one draw into a victory might have secured their spot in the final.
After a dire start to the cycle, England’s BazBall success lifted them to fourth in the WTC standings as a fresh, assertive approach paid dividends, but was arguably built just as much on classy, reliable bowling.
With just the WTC final still to play in the current cycle we look at the highest wicket-takers.
1. Nathan Lyon - 83 wickets
The spinner played a major role in his side’s success both home and away with the ball.
Lyon averages 26.97 per wicket and also has five five-fors and a 10-for to his name during this WTC cycle.
With only one game to go - the WTC final - Lyon is already locked in to finish as the leading wicket-taker of this edition.
He began with the Ashes at home, where his 16 wickets at an average of 23.56 backed up the Australia pace attack well.
This was followed by a disciplined display in testing conditions in Pakistan. Lyon took 12 wickets at 44.91 on batting wickets, with his 5/83 in the second innings at Lahore playing a major role in Australia’s historic series win.
Lyon thrived in more favourable conditions in Sri Lanka, picking up 11 wickets at 28.63 including a match-winning 9/121 in Galle. He followed up with 22 wickets in the five Tests played against West Indies and South Africa at home.
The veteran's finest efforts arguably came against India in the Test series played out in February-March 2023. Lyon was the highest wicket-taker for Australia with 22 scalps, and also helped trump India at Indore with 3/35 and 8/64.
2. Kagiso Rabada - 67 wickets
The Proteas pacer averaged 21.05, better than his usual 22.34, during this run of WTC.
Rabada began with a scintillating performance against India, being the pick of the bowlers with 20 wickets coming in at 19.05. His best bowling figures in the series were 4/42, as South Africa were able to defeat India 2-1 despite losing the first Test.
He was again South Africa’s best in New Zealand, averaging 21.9 for his 10 wickets. Rabada's 8/106 at Christchurch ensured that the Proteas returned home with honours even.
Rabada remained his side’s main hope during the tough away tours of England and Australia. In England he was the second most damaging bowler during the Basil D'Oliveira Trophy, taking 14 scalps at 23.35, while Down Under he claimed 11 wickets at 32.
In the home series against West Indies, Rabada topped the wicket charts yet again in a crushing 2-0 win for his team, taking 12 wickets at measly average of 11.
3. Ravichandran Ashwin - 61 wickets
Ashwin was the leading wicket-taker in last edition of WTC and is currently placed third in this cycle. This is despite the spinner missing five of India’s WTC encounters.
His average of 19.67 in this edition of WTC is also the best among the top 10 wicket-takers.
Ashwin began this edition of WTC with 14 wickets at 11.35 against New Zealand at home. His 8/42 in Mumbai eclipsed Ajaz Patel’s 10-for in a single innings, to help India to a massive 372-run win.
Though Ashwin found the going tough in South Africa, picking up merely three wickets at 60.66, he was back to his best against Sri Lanka at home as India’s highest wicket-taker with 12 wickets at 15.08.
He continued with important contributions against Bangladesh which included seven wickets at 35.14. He also won Player of the Match for his 6/137 and 42* in the second Test at Mirpur.
Ashwin was then the leading wicket-taker against Australia with 25 wickets at 17.28, including 6/91 on a flat surface at Ahmedabad.
4. James Anderson - 58 wickets
The evergreen fast bowler is fourth on the list of the leading WTC wicket-takers as Anderson averaged a mere 20.37 while giving up only 2.27 runs per over.
Anderson featured in all the Pataudi Tests and was the joint second-highest wicket-taker along with Ollie Robinson. His 21 scalps came at 22.66, and included a brilliant 5/60 in the first innings of the final Test at Birmingham in July 2022.
The veteran pacer remained one of the few bright spots during England’s disastrous Ashes campaign in Australia, taking eight wickets at 23.37.
Still going strong at 40! 👊— ICC (@ICC) February 22, 2023
England's evergreen superstar James Anderson has climbed the summit of @MRFWorldwide ICC Men's Test Bowlers' Rankings 🎉
More 👉 https://t.co/5xN970tOob pic.twitter.com/OVzCsAP77d
Touching 40 in the home season of 2022, Anderson became even more incisive. He took 11 wickets at 18.63 against New Zealand, and 10 wickets at 16.6 against South Africa.
Anderson finished off with eight wickets during the tour of Pakistan. Averaging 18.5 with an economy of 2.2 runs an over in the series, to show that he has much more cricket left in him.
=5. Ollie Robinson - 53 wickets
Another England pacer is next on this list but the right-armer may drop out of the top five after the WTC final with an Australia duo close behind.
Robinson's 53 wickets see him tied with Australia skipper Pat Cummins, while Mitchell Starc has 51 wickets so far in the WTC cycle.
The England quick thrived in home conditions during the Pataudi Trophy, averaging 21.33 for his 21 wickets. This included a Player of the Match effort at Leeds, where he picked up 7/81 in the game.
The pacer wasn’t at his best during the Ashes, suffering from fitness issues, yet managed to claim 11 wickets at 25.54.
The arrival of BazBall seemingly rejuvenated Robinson has he took 12 wickets at 15 against South Africa, including 7/89 in a nine-wicket win over the Proteas at the Oval.
He carried this confidence into Pakistan, and claimed nine wickets at 21.22 in conditions which favoured batters.
=5. Pat Cummins - 53 wickets
The Australia skipper has been at his devastating best for much of the WTC cycle while collecting 53 wickets at an average of 21.22 from 15 Tests.
Cummins has been particularly prolific on home soil in recent times, with 21 wickets at 18.04 in four Tests against England in 2021/22, and 12 wickets at 16.91 in three Tests against South Africa the following summer.
The star pacer showed that he can also make an impact away from familiar conditions with 12 wickets at 22.5 in three Tests in Pakistan, and looms as a crucial player in the WTC final set to be played at the Oval from 7 June.