Getting All Ten Wickets In an Inning?

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One of my favorite shows, SportsNight, has a storyline about a bowler getting all ten wickets in an inning but none of them understand why that is important. And then they never do. Can someone help? They were likely referencing Anil Kumble doing it in 1999.

What I (think) know: A bowler gets a wicket, the batsman is out. 10 wickets end the match.

My questions: How many wickets are normal for 1 inning? Who determines when to stop?

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In test cricket each team bats 2 innings. So a bowler can (if they are fucking awesome) get all 10 wickets in one innings. Basically that bowler gets the entire team out which is a hell of an achievement

An innings is 50 overs. An over is 6 deliveries by the bowler. With 11 players getting 10 wickets is “all out” and the other team gets to bat. This doesn’t end the game unless the team at bat is the second team. Cricket statistics is a black art, as there are many variations. It seems that in test cricket about 2.5 wickets per inning is the top end average.

Unlike baseball, cricket allows 10 wickets per inning (equivalent to outs in baseball, but there are only 2 innings each rather than 9)

Furthermore, each bowler has to bowl 6 times and then another one has to go. Imagine in baseball each pitcher has to pitch 6 times and then another guy has to do 6 before the first guy can go again.

10 wickets in an inning is unlikely because 1. You have to be good enough to get 10 people out and 2. No other bowler on your team managed to get anyone out

Let’s clear one thing up before we get stuck in to this. Cricket is played all around the world at all sorts of levels, from incompetent children to professional and international. Achievements at lower levels generally aren’t considered in the record books. The cricketing authorities recognise a specified set of teams as “First Class”, and it’s only matches between them that feature in the record books; but beyond that most people focus even more closely on international matches. One reason for that is that professional cricket dates back to the 1700s, but there is no universal agreement on when “First Class” cricket started; plus it goes without saying that things were very different back then. International cricket started in 1877 and it’s generally considered that playing conditions have been sufficiently stable since then for records to be meaningful. There are all sorts of [ridiculous](http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/records/283445.html) [achievements](http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/records/283210.html) by bowlers in minor cricket, but Anil Kumble’s achievement was notable because he did it in a Test Match (India vs Pakistan).

The next thing to note is that there are various different types of cricket. The primary ones are:

* Twenty20 (T20): each team gets a maximum of 20 overs = 120 legal deliveries
* One Day: each team gets a maximum of (usually) 50 overs = 300 legal deliveries
* First Class and Test Matches: teams can bat for as long as they like – I don’t know what the average length of an innings is, but it’s probably in the vicinity of 100 overs = 600 legal deliveries.

All three forms of the game have 11 players per team, and therefore require 10 wickets to end an innings.

In T20 and One Day cricket, 20 or even 50 overs usually isn’t enough to get all 10 wickets down – the innings usually ends because they run out of overs, not because they’re all out. Obviously if the total number of wickets to fall is less than 10, then an individual bowler can’t get 10.

Furthermore, these short forms of the game have a rule whereby each bowler can bowl no more than 1/5th of the total overs allowed – so a maximum of 4 overs per bowler in T20 and 10 overs per bowler in One Day matches. The best bowlers have strike rates (the number of balls they need to bowl, on average, to take a wicket) of around 15 in T20 and around 25 in One Day. So clearly getting 10 wickets in 4 overs or even 10 overs is ridiculously difficult – especially when you remember that there are two bowlers operating in tandem (one from each end), so you’d have to get your wickets with the bowler at the other end getting none.

As it happens – and as you’d expect – nobody has ever got close to taking 10 wickets in a T20 international (T20I) or One Day international (ODI) match:

* In T20Is, [the best is 6 wickets](http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/records/283973.html), which has been achieved only 3 times.
* In ODIs [the best is 8 wickets](http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/records/283204.html), which has been achieved only once, and even 7 wickets has been achieved only 11 times.

So that leaves First Class cricket, and Test Matches in particular. In these matches, there is no artificial limit to the length of the innings, and no limit to how many overs a bowler can bowl. Of course it’s still the case that two bowlers operate in tandem, so even if a team uses only two bowlers (which is [pretty rare](http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/records/282890.html)), you have to get your wickets without the bowler at the other end getting any. And of course the bowler at the other end is going to be international standard, by definition. It’s more usual for a team to use 4 or more bowlers in an innings, and quite commonly 5 or 6, so even if he’s bowling really well it would be quite unusual for one bowler to deliver more than about 25% of the balls. In Test Matches the best bowlers have strike rates of about 40-50 balls per wicket; so if you’re bowling 25% of an innings which lasts 100 overs you might expect to get about 3 wickets. And in fact very very few bowlers have averaged more than 3 wickets per innings throughout their careers.

Getting all 10 wickets in a test Match has [only been achieved twice](http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/records/283203.html) in 140+ years and nearly 2400 matches. The first time was by [Jim Laker for England against Australia in 1956](https://www.espncricinfo.com/series/17417/scorecard/62814/england-vs-australia-4th-test-australia-tour-of-england-1956). (He also took 9 wickets in Australia’s other innings in the match, which is incredible and unparalleled.) And the second was by [Anil Kumble for India against Pakistan in 1999](https://www.espncricinfo.com/series/15864/scorecard/63829/india-vs-pakistan-2nd-test-pakistan-tour-of-india-1998-99). That’s why it’s so special.

(Since Kumble’s achievement, 9 wickets in an innings has been achieved 3 times. One of them was very nearly another 10-wicket haul: [Muttiah Muralitharan for Sri Lanka against Zimbabwe in 2002](https://www.espncricinfo.com/series/15436/scorecard/63970/sri-lanka-vs-zimbabwe-2nd-test-zimbabwe-tour-of-sri-lanka-2001-02). Muralitharan took the first 9 wickets, and continues to bowl. The last pair of batsmen faced 71 deliveries, of which Muralitharan bowled 35, but he didn’t get either of them out and the bowler at the other end took the last wicket. To put that in context, Muralitharan had taken his 9 wickets in 34.1 overs = 205 deliveries, so bowling 35 deliveries at the two weakest batsmen without getting either of them out was quite unexpected.)