25 Most Lethal Fast Bowlers in Cricket History- Part 2
Last time around, we looked at the bottom half of the 25 fiercest, most venomous vipers ever to have terrorized batsmen on a cricket field. Let us conclude the series by taking a look at the final 12 most lethal fast bowlers in cricket history.
12. JOEL GARNER aka ‘BIG BIRD’ (WI)
Tests- 58, Wickets- 259, Average- 20.97, Fastest- 91.0
When this lighthouse of a man delivered, it seemed like they were hailstones hurtling down from a dark and sadistic heaven. At 6 feet 8 inches, Joel Garner was one scary human specimen. He could make the ball bounce up from the good length, ushering in the era of helmets in professional cricket. Add to that a real toe-crunching yorker and you have a slightly oversized cruise missile at your disposal. The fact that West Indies used him as their number four bowler should be enough to tell you how badass the other three were.
11. WAQAR YOUNIS (PAK)
Tests- 87, Wickets- 373, Average- 23.56, Fastest- 95.2
If Imran was the one who developed it and Wasim the one who exploited it, then it was truly Waqar who used reverse swing to a devastating effect. Pitching it menacingly fast and full, Waqar aimed for the base of the leg stump and if the batsman’s toes came in the way, well, that was just collateral damage. He was single-handedly responsible for getting M/S Nike and Adidas more business as batsmen of his generation stocked in quality shoes to protect their ankles from those 93 mph cruise missiles of his.
10. WES HALL (WI)
Tests- 48, Wickets- 192, Average- 26.38
When the regular opening bowler of a Barbados club failed to turn up in a club game in the 1950s, wicketkeeper-batsman Wesley Hall was given the new ball. Thus was born the first great Caribbean speed demon. He was a scary sight for batsmen world over, as he hurtled his tall, muscular frame to deliver excruciatingly fast and accurate deliveries. In the 1963 Lord’s test, he bowled unchanged for three-and-a-half hours, unprecedented for an express bowler. Yet, he still bowled fast enough to break Colin Cowdrey’s arm during the spell.
9. ALLAN DONALD aka ‘THE WHITE LIGHTNING’ (RSA)
Tests- 72, Wickets- 330, Average- 22.25, Fastest- 96.7
“Nice guys finish last!” Allan Donald was one man who seemed to have taken this adage a little too seriously. On the field, he was simply the devil incarnate, mocking world-class batsmen with bouncers and threatening blows to the body like a high-school bully. The Apartheid ban meant that Donald lost some of his best years toiling in the first-class circuit, unable to play at the top level. But when he finally got the chance to play Test cricket at 26, he looked in a hurry to make up for lost time. Frighteningly accurate and amazingly quick, Donald was the fastest of his age and as the batsmen soon found out, not one of the friendliest either.
8. ANDY ROBERTS (WI)
Tests- 47, Wickets- 202, Average- 25.61, Fastest- 97.2
What made Andy Roberts truly scary was not his 97 mph pace or his relentless aggression, but the fact that he never let any emotion show on his face. The batsmen were always clueless about what this Antiguan assassin was thinking. If you wanted to willingly face Roberts, you had to be brain dead. If not, then his bouncers would have surely sent you into that state. Roberts was the perfect combination of raw pace and controlled accuracy. He was the benchmark used by Clive Lloyd to build his devastating pace quartet that terrorized the batsmen world over for well over a decade.
7. CURTLY AMBROSE (WI)
Tests- 98, Wickets- 405, Average- 20.99, Fastest- 93.0
Tall, menacing and enigmatically quiet- Curtly Elconn Lynwall Ambrose was lethality personified. No one of his generation bowled faster and with greater ferocity. When Ambrose released the ball from some 100 feet above the ground, the batsman could do just three things- pray, pray and pray some more. Ambrose had a devastating jaw-ripping bouncer, coupled with a pace that made it seem unfair for the batsman to try and survive his gruesome assaults.
6. MICHAEL HOLDING aka ‘WHISPERING DEATH’ (WI)
Tests- 60, Wickets- 249, Average- 23.68, Fastest- 95.2
Wisden says no one in the game has bowled faster. His one legendary over to the great Geoff Boycott in 1981 has been often dubbed as the ‘most ferocious, fastest gambit of all time.’ His ability to bowl fast and straight even on dead pitches earned him respect and fear from all quarters. His mesmerising, long run-up where he moved stealthily towards the crease earned him his enigmatic nickname. Fast bowling wouldn’t have been what it is today if it wasn’t for Michael Holding.
5. MALCOLM MARSHALL (WI)
Tests- 81, Wickets- 376, Average- 20.95
Many regard Marshall as the finest fast bowler ever to play the game of cricket. I am one of the many here. Marshall had all the weapons of a true fast bowler in his arsenal- pace, aggression, variety and wicket-taking ability. In the 1980s, he stood head and shoulders above all the legendary fast bowlers of his generation. (which, by the way included almost half a dozen from his own team) He could bowl bouncers at will, while hurling down toe-shattering yorkers the very next delivery; and he did all of this with a remarkable consistency. Truly, a legend!
4. JEFF THOMSON (AUS)
Tests- 51, Wickets- 200, Average- 28.00, Fastest- 99.1
One of the fastest ever, Thomson was bold and lethal enough to be considered one of the best bowlers in the world at a time when the West Indian pace quartet was at the height of its powers. Thomson’s name was enough to scare the hell out of any opposition in the 1970s. He regularly bowled in excess of 95 mph, often reaching tantalisingly close to the ever-elusive 100. He bowled the fastest and most dangerous bouncer ever seen in the history of the game, responsible for a few broken jaws and fingers here and there. To the batsmen’s dismay, even after dropping his pace; the ‘slow’ Jeff Thomson was still fast enough to break some more digits along the way.
3. SHOAIB AKHTAR (PAK) aka ‘THE RAWALPINDI EXPRESS’
Tests- 46, Wickets- 178, Average- 25.69, Fastest- 100.3
Akhtar is to batsmen what the bogeyman is to kids. End of story! He burst on to the scene with a Thomson-like slinging action, superb wrist movement and a run-up that was almost as long as the Thanksgiving Day Parade. More often than not, batsmen failed to even see the ball, let alone play it. The terror that he inspired in the batsman hadn’t been seen since the times of Griffith and Larwood. The pace was unparalleled, the consistency remarkable and the aggression simply scary. Shoaib Akhtar personified express pace bowling in an era when medium pacers shamelessly paraded as quick bowlers.
2. DENNIS LILLEE (AUS)
Tests- 70, Wickets- 355, Average- 23.92
Lillee has to be the most ‘complete’ bowler to have graced the game. In his early days, he was all-out pace, with a riotous rage and uncontrollable, unfathomable aggression. He was the demolisher, reminding you that it’s the bowling attack and not the bowling defence. He was fast, accurate and had modelled himself on the West Indian greats of the past. Returning from a career-threatening spinal fracture, Lillee continued with the same amount of venom in his bowling as before; a testament to his sheer greatness. Any mention of fast bowling is just incomplete without the mention of the incomparable Dennis Lillee.
1. HAROLD LARWOOD (ENG)
Tests- 21, Wickets- 78, Average- 28.35, Fastest- Close to 100
When Australian batsman Bill Ponsford returned to the pavilion after being dismissed in the 1932 Adelaide Test, he had as many as 50 bruises on his body, as if he had just returned from a boxing bout and not a cricket game. He retired two years later. Harold Larwood had rendered him incapable of playing the short delivery. In the same series, Larwood struck Woodfull on the heart and broke Oldfield’s finger. Over the next few years, he continued to spew venom and knocked out as many as three batsmen unconscious, who had to be stretchered out of the ground. Many a times, batsmen seemed to develop mysterious ailments and found themselves unable to play when Larwood was bowling. He ended the careers of Woodfull and Ponsford; made Bradman seem ordinary and injured more batsmen than any other bowler in the history of the game.
Controversy’s favourite child, he was the tormentor-in-chief in the infamous Bodyline Tour, where he took a phenomenal 33 wickets in 4 tests, dismissing the great Bradman 4 times. When he refused to apologize for the Bodyline tactics as he was just obeying his captain’s orders, he was never selected for England again. One of the game’s greatest fast bowlers ever, his career was brutally over at the age of just 28.
Posted on October 7, 2011, in The Lists and tagged allan donald, bodyline, dennis lillee, fastest bowlers ever, harold larwood, jeff thomson, malcolm marshall, michael holding, most dangerous fast bowlers, shoaib akhtar, waqar younis. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.