25 Most Lethal Fast Bowlers in Cricket History- Part 1


There is no more beautiful sight in world cricket than a genuine pace bowler sneaking past the batsman’s defense and uprooting that middle stump.

Fast bowlers have to be lethal. They need that ‘death stare’ to tell the batsman “You might have hit this one to the fence, but beware of the cannonball coming right at you.” A fast bowler is someone who literally makes you shit your pristine white trousers when you see him charging down the run up like a 1930s steam locomotive. (Note: The above anecdote has no resemblance to reality and is certainly not out of personal experience.) So when he starts hurling those 5 1/2 ounce red (or white, depending on your preference and attention span) mortar shells at you, just be scared, very scared.

Now, I’m not trying to list out the greatest or the best fast bowlers of all time; just the most lethal ones. What does that mean? That means that you don’t necessarily have to be a world-class bowler but you have to be scary, demonic scary, one way or the other. It can be your pace, your wicket-taking ability, your sheer consistency or just the impact you had on the game or the batsmen’s psyche in your time.

Some 1200 fast bowlers have taken up the ball in the 2008 tests that have been played between 1877 and 2011; but these are the 25 that no sane man in his right state of mind would ever want to face. Here is the bottom 13 in the first of this two-part list.

25. SIR RICHARD HADLEE (NZ)

Tests- 86, Wickets- 431, Average- 22.30

Now here was a man with an insatiable appetite. A world record 431 wickets just weren’t enough for him, so he also scored 3,000 odd runs at an average of 27 with 2 tons. He was a genuine wicket-taking machine who racked up a monumental 36 fifers in his career, the most by any fast bowler. But he is so low on the list simply because; he wasn’t exactly the fast and the furious. He was effective, consistent, and even classy; but not outright lethal.

24. IMRAN KHAN (PAK)

Tests- 88, Wickets- 362, Average- 22.81

Imran Khan’s greatness was beyond numbers and lists. It lay in his presence on the cricket field, in the confidence he inspired in his team mates and the awe he inspired in his opponents. Add to this an astute cricketing brain that, at 40, was still sharp enough to lead a team of underdogs to a memorable World Cup triumph. And oh, did I mention, he was the pioneer of that irksome thing known as the reverse swing. But despite all this, he never got terrifying. His method of taking wickets never involved getting under the skin of the opposition, something that he left to his two famous protégés.

23. SF BARNES (ENG)

Tests- 27, Wickets- 189, Average- 16.43

Statistically, Barnes is to bowling what the Don is to batting- unmatchable. He took 189 wickets in his career at the rate of 7 wickets per match, a rate quicker than all the bowlers who have taken 100 wickets or more. In the pre- World War I days, Barnes epitomised bowling. To say that batsmen feared him would be like saying that US is not too fond of Al Qaeda; it tells the bare minimum. He was the nemesis to all batsmen in his age. Despite this, he goes no higher than 23 because sadly, Barnes was a medium pacer and he seldom bowled over 75 miles an hour. But even then, he was terrifying for the opponents and perhaps one of the select few, who could inspire fear without the advantage of raw pace. For that, R.E.S.P.E.C.T!

22. CHARLIE GRIFFITH (WI)

Tests- 28, Wickets- 94, Average- 28.54

Griffith was one-half of Windies captain Frank Worrell’s demonic new ball attack that might have been used to terrorise half the civilized world in the absence of any weapons of mass destruction. In 1962, a Griffith bouncer shattered the skull of the Indian captain Nari Contractor. Barely hanging on to his life, Contractor never played Test cricket again. Now any bowler good enough to end a career with a single delivery is lethal in my book. He was everything a Caribbean fast bowler should be- fast, menacing and unpredictable. The only thing that did him in was inconsistency. Had he played more, Griffith might have sent a few more promising batsmen to the trauma centre at the Kingston General.

21. FRANK ‘TYPHOON’ TYSON (ENG)

Tests- 17, Wickets- 76, Average- 18.56, Fastest- 94.0

They called him Typhoon Tyson. I think I should rest my case right here. With a name like Frank Holmes Tyson, he could either have been a bareknuckle brawler or a tearaway fast bowler. To the relief of several brawlers in London and the dismay of many batsmen around the world, Tyson chose the latter. Few can ever match him in terms of raw pace and aggression. However, his unorthodox action led to several injuries and he retired after just 8 years on the professional circuit.

20. FRED ‘THE DEMON’ SPOFFORTH (AUS)

Tests- 18, Wickets- 94, Average- 18.41

Spofforth was probably the first great bowler in Test cricket history. During the times when Australia were nothing but a side England liked to beat every now and then, Spofforth was the one name that stood up to the likes of WG Grace and Arthur Shrewsbury. Though he was not a tearaway fast bowler, he managed to scare the opposition with a larger-than-life action and wicket taking ability. He single-handedly gave Australia their first ever Test victory in 1881 taking 7/44 with such ferocity that the opposition dubbed him ‘The Demon Bowler.’

19. BILL VOCE (ENG)

Tests- 27, Wickets- 98, Average- 27.88

In the 1932 Ashes series, when left arm pacer Bill Voce struck the Australian batsman Stan McCabe on the head, it almost caused a diplomatic row. The series was immortalized as the infamous Bodyline Tour where Voce confounded the Australian batsmen with his steep bounce and lethal line. But, he was not just a one-race-horse. Even after abandoning the bodyline technique, Voce terrorised the hell out of Bradman and company in several subsequent Ashes series taking wickets and breaking jaws at will.

18. KEITH MILLER (AUS)

Tests- 55, Wickets- 170, Average- 22.97

When Australia toured England after the Second World War, they stopped at Ceylon to play a practice game against the local side. The inexperienced groundsman at Colombo prepared a 20-yard pitch instead of the usual 22. When the Australian skipper Bradman found this out, he barked at the ground staff, “You expect them to play Keith Miller at 20 yards? Why don’t you break their fingers yourselves?” Miller was pace personified. He was raw, unbridled speed and could make any seasoned batsman feel like a lost kid trying to find his mommy. And before I forget, he started his career as a batsman and scored nearly 3,000 runs at an average of 37 with 7 tons.

17. GLENN ‘PIGEON’ MCGRATH (AUS)

Tests- 124, wickets- 563, Average- 21.64, Fastest- 88.5

Now before you slap a straitjacket on me and question my sanity, let me say this out loud for everyone to hear- he might not have had the pace but he sure was lethal. Glenn McGrath would probably be the last man on earth you’d want to face in the dying stages of any limited over game. That razor sharp accuracy, that stifling line and those questioning eyes earned him over 500 wickets at a phenomenal average. Without any express pace or deadly bounce, Pigeon still managed to break a few ribs along the way. (For those in doubt, contact Kevin Pietersen.)

16. DALE STEYN (RSA)

Tests- 46, Wickets- 238, Average- 23.21, Fastest- 93.8

Steyn looks more like a demonic apparition than any other cricketer in history. He seems to have taken over the mantle from Allan Donald in making batsman wet their trousers on a regular, consistent basis. He is currently the best bowler in the world, and that too by a country mile. On his day, Steyn can bowl at a whirlwind pace, generating an unbelievable amount of bounce and make batsmen rethink about their decision of taking up cricket in the first place.

15. BRETT LEE (AUS)

Tests- 76, Wickets- 310, Average- 30.81, Fastest- 99.8

In terms of sheer speed, there are only a few who can match up to this blonde bombshell. For over a decade, Brett Lee was relentless in churning out the fastest deliveries in the history of cricket and having a personal contest with Shoaib Akhtar over being called the fastest ever. He did not possess the wicket taking ability of Lillee or the accuracy of McGrath, but he had the heart of a lion that enabled him to bowl at a phenomenal 97 mph at the age of 34 in the 2011 IPL.

14. WASIM AKRAM aka ‘THE SULTAN OF SWING’ (PAK)

Tests- 104, Wickets- 414, Average- 23.62

In his heyday, Wasim Akram could bend it better than Beckham. The wholesale proprietor of the ‘banana swing,’ Akram used his mentor Imran Khan’s teachings to a devastating effect. He was rattling the off, middle and leg stumps of the world’s best when the likes of Akhtar and Steyn were in playschool; and to his credit, he continued to do so right until the next generation arrived. For a diabetic man to leave a sour taste in the batsmen’s mouth is surely the epitome of irony.

13. COURTNEY WALSH (WI)

Tests- 132, Wickets- 519, Average- 24.44, Fastest- 93.4

For the first half of his career, Walsh played the supporting role to the much quicker Malcolm Marshall; but soon after the senior pro retired, Walsh came into his own. He delivered the ball from a towering height of 10 feet, making it impossible for mere mortals to do anything but run for cover. Even in his late 30s, Walsh was untouched by injuries (note to self: send Indian bowlers to Walsh for fitness tips) and could bowl in the 90 mph bracket consistently with a steep, deadly bounce.

Catch the twelve most lethal ones in Part 2

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About Mad Crazy Hatter

Well, honestly the world ain't such a dull place after all. There are queer new developments happenin' everyday. I'm just one crazy fella who loves to observe, ridicule and dissect the craziness called life.

Posted on October 5, 2011, in The Lists and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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