Being a fast bowler is very crucial in cricket. For any team, having a world class fast bowler is a godsend. They constantly have the potential to significantly affect how well the team performs. Greatest fast bowlers take wickets and pose a threat with their raw pace in any situation, which is a batsman’s nightmare and a team’s delight. We are all aware that fast bowling is a challenging skill to learn and that fast bowlers are particularly prone to injury. But there have been a number of great fast bowlers over the years who have maintained their health and gone on to become game legends.
Here’s a list of Top 10 Greatest Fast Bowlers of All Time –
1. Dennis Lillee
Dennis Lillee was the greatest and most ideal fast bowler—truly quick, aggressive, and precise. He set the benchmark for fast bowling in the middle of the 1970s thanks to his pace, talent, and tremendous amount of acumen. His superpowers included an incredibly quick outswing, cutters, yorkers, bouncers, incredible stamina, willpower, and charisma. Naturally, he also swung the ball away, which is obviously far more deadly when done at his pace. His left arm was raised high and bent at the elbow and wrist in a traditional manner, and he ran up perfectly. He terrorised batsmen all over the world in the 1970s and the early 1980s.
He would always choose to go on the offence over the defensive. In 1972 Ashes series against England at Old Trafford with 6-66 in their second innings and ended with ten wickets in the Oval Test for a total of 31 wickets. With 31 wickets in the series, he set a record for an Australian bowler in England. He also recorded 67 wickets in 14 World Series “Supertests,” more than any other bowler in those particularly difficult conditions. Against the Rest of the World’s XI in 1971–1972. Despite the World team’s top caliber, Lillee single-handedly destroyed them at the WACA on a typically fast pitch with figures of 8 for 29, bowling them out for just 59. When Lillee retired from Test cricket in 1984, he had taken 355 wickets was a world record at an average of 23.92, which was more than any other player.
2. Malcolm Marshall
Malcolm Marshall is widely recognized as one the greatest fast bowlers of all time the game has ever seen. He was a complete best fast bowler in the world because he could bowl on extremely flat surfaces, roll his fingers over, and attempt to cut the ball in addition to swinging the ball incredibly quick. He was the fastest bowler and extremely uncomfortably quick for any batsmen. He was completely aware of how to ball to various situations and batsmen. In addition to all of that, he was prepared to toil for his wickets. He had all the attributes to be one of the best fast bowlers in the world. After Andy roberts and Michael holding, he became the acknowledged leader of the pack in the early years of Walsh, Ambrose and Patterson in 1980s. He recorded a phenomenal strike rate of one wicket every 46 deliveries while taking 376 Test wickets overall.
He established himself in the West Indies team during the 1983 test series against India, taking twenty-one wickets. He set the tone for the 1984 series vs England by breaking Mike Gatting’s nose with a nasty bouncer and took 27 wickets in that 5-0 whitewash series. He once more destroyed the England side in the 1988 test series, taking 35 wickets overall in five tests at just 12.65, including a career-high 7-22 at Manchester. He was an outstanding fast bowler, taking more than four and a half wickets on average per Test. His record of 376 Test wickets in 81 matches at an average of 20.94 per figure unmatched by any other fast bowler of the 20th century supports the claim that he is the greatest of all time.
3. Wasim Akram
Wasim Akram is the one of the greatest fast bowlers to have ever lived. Wasim Akram is the master of swing and seam and one of the greatest left-arm fast bowlers with a lightning-quick action the game has ever seen. Wasim bowled as fast as anyone in the world, had remarkable control over both the new and old balls, and had the ability to reverse swing both. Wasim Akram is the only fast bowler in cricket history with 400 wickets throughout both Test and ODI cricket. No other fast bowler can beat Wasim Akram’s 414 test wickets, which he added to miraculously by taking 502 wickets in one-day internationals at an average of 23, across both formats.
In three test matches against the West Indies in 1988, he took 21 wickets at 14.19. He was one of only three players in Test history to accomplish the feat when he came on second change in the Lahore Test and got four wickets in five balls. Against New Zealand in 1994 in three Test matches, Wasim took 25 wickets at an average of 17.24 , with his career best of seven for 119 in Wellington.
If speed was his surprise, swing was his art. Wasim Akram is one of the best exponents of reverse swing, which quickly became a huge factor for other bowlers all around international cricket. He was a highly skilled performer, a wonderful entertainer, and a prolific wicket-taker. He was undoubtedly the most entertaining to observe because of his audacity, risk, and constant excitement. He frequently resembled a magician who takes pleasure in pulling off improbable tricks (hence, perhaps, his record four international hat-tricks).
4. Glenn McGrath
Glenn McGrath, who is regarded as one of the greatest fast bowlers of all time and is fourth on the all-time list, holds the world record for the most Test wickets by a fast bowler (behind Anil Kumble, Shane Warne and Muralitharan, all spinners). He was intelligent enough, but his secret was that, more often than any other fast bowler, he managed to direct the ball into the places that batsmen found most challenging. Throughout his entire career, McGrath bowled very few bad balls and the batsman was always under pressure against him. Every batsman who faced McGrath was troubled by his metronomic line and length on or near the off stump as well as his ability to add additional bounce to all but the flattest pitches.
He was truly exceptional. He consistently delivered the ball to all batters in the right place, both over and around the wicket. With the skills he possessed—height, pace, bounce, and microscopic accuracy—along with a healthy dose of self-confidence and a desire for excellence, he was incredibly effective at the highest level. He was the total package. In the 1997 Ashes victory, he took 8-38 at Lord’s and 7-76 at The Oval. To this day, no other overseas bowler has taken more wickets at Lord’s. McGrath’s 300th Test wicket was Brian Lara in the middle of a hat-trick at Perth, and his 500th wicket came at Lord’s vs England in 2005 when he delivered a spell of five wickets for another victory.
Glenn McGrath set a World Cup record by taking 26 wickets in 2007 world cup, was named player of the tournament, and ended it as the leading wicket taker in the history of the world cup with 71 wickets (1996–2007). Of all the pace bowlers, he has been the most reliable. The skipper could confidently send the ball to him if Australia was having a problem. He leads the attack responsibly, separates the openers frequently, and often dispatches the opposition’s most dangerous player. At the time of his retirement, he had taken 563 Test wickets, more than any other fast bowler in test cricket history even took 381 wickets in ODIs.
5. Curtly Ambrose
Curtly Ambrose is undoubtedly regarded as one of the greatest fast bowlers of all time who was truly the most accurate all the time. Curtly Ambrose had smooth, effective action, was incredibly consistent and always putting the ball in the right spot. He consistently delivered brilliant deliveries that would hit batsmen in the ribcage. He wasn’t just quick and bouncy; he was also a very skillful fast bowler who knew how to use the seam better than anyone. He was undoubtedly quick, especially in the middle of the 1990s, and the extra bounce his beanpole body produced made things even more difficult for every batsmen in the world. Pace, movement, and accuracy are the three main requirements for good bowlers. Ambrose possessed them all.
His phenomenal bowling performance occurred in January 1993 vs Australia at the WACA in Perth, where he had taken seven wickets for just one run in thirty-two deliveries, that is the most sensational even destroying spell in test cricket history. In 1994 at Port of Spain, another devastating spell of Ambrose came against England when they required 194 to win. He took 6-22 in 7.5 overs, England team was bowled out for just 46, the second-lowest total in England test cricket history. Ambrose is the leading wicket-taker ever for the West Indies against England in test cricket with 164 wickets at 18.79.
Given the bounce he used to generate, it was natural Ambrose had to do well in Australia, as he did. He took terrific 26 wickets in 1988–89 test series and 33 wickets again when West Indies next visited in 1992–93. Overall, he took 128 wickets at 21.23 against Australia. Hence, Ambrose was the most consistently accurate of all genuinely fast bowlers. His track record is self-evident. Any other fast bowler cannot match his economy rate of 2.30 with 200 wickets who have lower rates are all from earlier eras. Ambrose ended his test carer with 405 wickets in 99 matches with his career-best 8- 45 even took 225 ODIs wickets.
6. Waqar Younis
Waqar Younis is also known as the toe crusher, who is considered to be one of the greatest fast bowlers of all time. He had developed an unstoppable mix of a long, swift run-up with a late swing that spelled disaster for batsmen all over the world. He bowled the most gorgeous outswing and producing toe crushing inswinging yorkers, at a real nasty pace. After 31 tests he had racked up an incredible 180 wickets at an average of 18.78, with only Sydney Barnes having taken fewer Tests to claim the same number of wickets. His statistics is incredible in Test cricket, Waqar got a wicket every 32 balls from 1990 to 1994. For that long, no one has ever performed better.
Waqar’s strength lies in a deadly combination of explosive pace and huge swing, with which he has frequently been able to shatter the stumps or bruise the toes of seemingly well-established batsmen. As a result, an astonishing number of Waqar’s wickets have been clean bowled or have come from leg-before decisions. In 1990 in the three-match home series against New Zealand he took 29 wickets at 10.86 each, including seven for 76 in Faisalabad, his best Test figures. In 1993 against West Indies in three-Test series, Waqar took 19 wickets at 22.5 and at home against Zimbabwe in December 1993 had 27 wickets in three Tests at 13.81.
In all of ODI cricket, he claimed thirteen five-wicket hauls, still holds the great record. Additionally, he had the lowest balls-per-wicket strike rate of any bowler of the modern period. At 18 years and 164 days, he is the youngest bowler to ever claim a five-wicket haul in an ODI. He still owns the ODI cricket record for most four-wicket hauls (27). He took 373 test wickets in 87 tests and 416 in just 262 ODI matches which just goes to show what special kind of bowler he was.
7. Dale Steyn
Dale Steyn is certainly the greatest fast bowler of the modern times. Steyn had been consistently outstanding for a number of years; he was quick, accurate, aggressive and able to swing the ball, and he was completely devoted to leading the South African attack. His outswing was his primary tool, but he also possessed a wicked bouncer that was deceptively swift and appeared to track the batsman. He received recognition as a 2013 Wisden Cricketer of the Year and Wisden Leading Cricketer in the World. From 2008 until 2014, Dale Steyn held the record for the most Test bowlers to hold the No. 1 spot.
He helped South Africa win a Test series in England for the first time in 2008, earning him the title of ICC Test Cricketer of the Year. In just five years, he had passed the 300 wickets mark. In 2015, he became the second South African to reach the 400 wickets mark, and he finished his career as his nation’s all-time leading Test wicket-taker. At a 22.95 average, Dale Steyn concluded the Test format with 439 wickets. Additionally, he recorded 26 5-wicket hauls, more than any other fast bowler.
8. Kapil Dev
Kapil Dev is one the greatest fast bowlers of all time and he is far and away the best fast bowler India has ever produced. He had a fantastic start to his career and was skilled at quickly swinging the ball away from the bat with his beautiful, high action which challenged the best batsmen. He was extremely accurate fast bowler. India didn’t typically produce fast bowlers, but Kapil defied the norm. One of the best all rounder in the world, at age 21, Kapil completed the 1,000-run/100-wicket double in less than a year, the quickest time ever and a record that still holds today.
Kapil DevIndia at last got a fast bowler with the pace and swing to finish off the opponents. At the MCG in 1981, he took 5-28 against Australia for just 83 runs and lead an incredible Indian victory by 59 runs, that was a terrific performance. He dismissed Hashan Tillekeratne in February 1994 at Ahmedabad, breaking Richard Hadlee’s previous mark of 431 test wickets. The current crop of Indian pace bowlers may all credit Kapil Dev as being their biggest influence because he brought hope to a new generation of seamers that wickets could be taken in certain circumstances.
9. Richard Hadlee
Richard Hadlee is regarded one of the greatest fast bowlers in cricket history. He is still the crowning achievement of Kiwi cricket and by far the greatest cricketer New Zealand has ever produced. His ability to strike the seam and the proper length was one of his greatest strengths. His natural outswing was aided by his side-on delivery stance, and he later added an inswinger and an off-cutter to his arsenal. He played a significant role in New Zealand’s first series victory 2-1 over Australia in 1985–86. His 9 for 52 in first-innings and 15 for 123 total at the Gabba are the best for New Zealand Test cricket ever. Hadlee took marvellous 33 wickets at 12.15 in 3 games. He had taken 7th time 10 wickets in a Test match and the 27th five-for of his Test career. Both these achievements were world records.
He was an incredibly accurate bowler who appeared to be able to guide balls in any direction. It makes sense why he became the first bowler to ever capture more than 400 test wickets. He placed the ball correctly, swung it, seamed it, and cut it off the wicket. He was a highly methodical and cerebral bowler. In 1978 at Wellington, England was defeated for the first time in 48 years; Hadlee shredded them with figures of six for 26. He currently dominates all other New Zealand bowlers by a wide margin. He took 431 Test wickets—more than twice as many as any other Kiwi bowler—at a 22.30 average, more than four runs higher than the average of any other Kiwi bowler with 100 Test wickets.
10. Fred Trueman
In 1952 Fred Trueman made his debut vs India and he took 28 wickets fantastically in 4 test match series. Between May 1957 and May 1963, Trueman took awesome 197 Test wickets. Fred Trueman is the first bowler in the history of the cricket to take 300 Test wickets, which Trueman did in 1964. He had achieved on top of his terrific record of 307 wickets in 67 matches at 21.57 average, one every 49 balls. He held the world record for most Test wickets for nearly 12 years.
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