Australia’s been blessed with three world class leg spinners since the end of World War II – Richie Benaud, Shane Warne, and Stuart MacGill.
Benaud’s stellar career ended in 1964, well before both Warne and MacGill were born in 1969 and 1971 respectively. But their comparisons make interesting reading:
Tests played – Warne 145, MacGill 94, Benaud 63.
Wickets taken – Warne 708, Benaud 248, MacGill 208.
Wickets per Test – Warne 4.89, Benaud 3.94, MacGill 2.21.
Career average – Warne 25.41, Benaud 27.03, MacGill 29.02.
Economy rate – Benaud 2.10, Warne 2.65, MacGill 3.22.
Strike rate – MacGill 54, Warne 57.4, Benaud 77.
Two facts surface from those stats – Tests were scarce in the Benaud era of the 50s and 60s, and MacGill was an under-rated leggie.
MacGill and Warne’s Test careers were virtually in tandem, but they only played 16 together as the national selectors of the day didn’t usually see fit to have both in the side.
In those 16 Tests together, MacGill was well ahead of his arch rival, capturing 82 wickets at 22 to Warne’s 71 at 31.
The gap is even wider at the spin-friendly SCG where they played five Tests together. The Australians won all five in a canter against England, South Africa, Pakistan, the ICC World XI, and South Africa for a second time between 1999 and 2006, thanks to the two leggies.
MacGill captured 40 wickets at 17, Warne 21 at 33 – daylight separating the two.
There’s no argument Shane Warne is the greatest right-handed over-the-wrist spinner in the history of the game.
But it’s fair to say Richie Benaud and Stuart MacGill have earned their seat at the top table.