Australian bowler Pat Cummins reaches for the ball on the second day of the fourth Test cricket match between South Africa and Australia won by South Africa at Wanderers cricket ground on March 31, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa. / AFP PHOTO / GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (Photo credit should read GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

Here it is. The top ten fast bowlers of all-time.

We have reached the end of our journey, to find the greatest fast bowler since 1900.

To form this list, I selected a rough list of about 80 fast bowler’s worthy of selection, before then researching their statistics and comparing them all in categories I deemed worthy of excellence.

These categories are as follows:

  • Bowling Average and Strike Rate across their career against every opponent that took a wicket in their time period. For example (Malcolm Marshall took 376 wickets in 81 tests at an average of 20.94 from 1978-1993. I looked at every cricketer that took a wicket during Marshall’s career and subtracted his average from the average of all bowlers 29.97 between 1978-1993)
  • The second category was to appraise how these fast bowlers performed in second innings when the ball losses its swing and is harder to take wickets with.
  • The third category, I compared how all the bowlers in losses and draws. I decided to use this category to see if these top 50 superstars still bowled well and had a good strike rate in tests they did not win.
  • The fourth category, I checked to see how they bowled in test matches played abroad. This indicator is a testament to the great bowlers whose nations could depend on them in any condition.
  • Lucky last, here I researched which bowlers had the most dominant five-year period and just like for the Malcolm Marshall example, compared how dominant they were in that period to everyone else over the half-decade span.

Part 1: 50-41

Part 2: 40-31

Part 3: 30-21

Part 4: 20-11

  1. Joel Garner (West Indies)
Career Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
1977-87 58 259 20.97 50.8 29.53 63.17 7 0
5-year Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
1980-84 38 161 21.04 53.8 29.33 61.6 6 0

 

Any bowler who can bowl a toe-crushing yorker then follow up with a cutthroat bouncer is a handful for any batting order. ‘Big Bird’ Joel Garner at 6 foot, 8 inches could deliver yorkers from the clouds.

He would be the first bowler picked in any overseas tour, anywhere. He averaged 19.74 with the ball on the road. Garner is also one of the greatest One-Day bowler of all time, and his spell of five for four from 1.5 overs in the 1979 World Cup Final is regarded as the one of the best ever.  One of the four fast bowlers of the Apocalypse I’ve named ‘Big Bird’ pestilence.

Interesting Stats

136 wickets at 19.74 from 29 away tests (era average 31.64)

117 wickets at 22.51 in 28 draws and losses (era average 35.40)

92 wickets at 17.93 against England

 

 

  1. Pat Cummins (Australia)
Career Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
2011-21 34 164 21.59 47.1 30.43 59.03 5 1
5-year Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
2017-21 33 157 21.81 47.5 27.28 54.37 4 1

 

Pat Cummins burst on the scene as a tearaway 18-year-old taking six for 79 against South Africa in 2011, some of his victims were Amla, Kallis and de Villiers. Akin to the celebrated story of Dennis Lillee, Cummins’ body was broken by injuries and didn’t bowl a test ball till six-years later yet came back bigger and stronger than ever.

A pure thoroughbred, Cummins has taken 128 wickets since 2018, at an average of 20.01. He became the number one bowler in the world, retained the Ashes in England with 29 wickets at 19.62 and achieved an ICC test player bowling ranking of 914, equalling Glenn McGrath as the fifth highest ranking of any bowler in test history and the equal third highest ranking by a fast bowler since 1900.

Interesting Stats

73 wickets at 18.05 in the second innings (era average 27.61) 2nd overall.

76 wickets at 24.26 in 16 draws and losses (era average 39.14) 1st overall.

72 wickets at 21.86 from 14 away tests (era average 34.04) 4th overall.

 

  1. Waqar Younis (Pakistan)
Career Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
1989-03 87 373 23.56 43.4 30.55 63.81 22 5
5-year Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
1990-94 31 184 18.49 35.3 30.73 65.63 19 4

 

Waqar Younis, in his own right, is one of the most dangerous bowlers to play the game. When he teamed with Wasim Akram they became the deadliest of all time. Waqar was able to take hold of the dark art of reverse swing and used it to such great effect that he was virtually unplayable at home and had one of the best in-swinging Yorkers, ever.

Waqar between 1990 till 1994 was unstoppable taking 184 wickets at 18.49 and 19 five-wicket hauls in only 31 tests. Waqar’s career strike-rate of 43.4 was nearly 21 less than the 15-year average of 63.81 during his career.

Interesting Stats

Equal quickest fast bowler to 200 test wickets (38 tests)

14 wickets a 40.50 in Australia.

148 wickets at 20.97 in the second innings (era average 28.23) 2nd lowest S/R overall.

211 wickets at 26.06 from 54 away tests (era average 32.71) 5th lowest S/R overall.

 

  1. Alan Donald (South Africa)
Career Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
1992-02 72 330 22.25 47 30.5 64.15 20 3
5-year Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
1996-00 40 201 19.25 42.1 29.66 63.3 15 1

 

South Africa’s dominant era of fast bowling during the late 2000s can be credited to one man. Alan Donald, also known as ‘White Lightning’, was the hero for many young fast bowlers growing up.

Donald burst onto the scene after the apartheid break and became South Africa’s leading bowler for a decade. The first South African to 300 test wickets, Donald took 12 wickets against India in 1992, leading South Africa to their first test victory since 1970. Donald for many years, before Shaun Pollock, shouldered their bowling attack and performed in any condition.

Interesting Stats

130 wickets at 19.53 in the second innings (era average 27.44)

153 wickets at 22.96 from 34 away tests (era average 31.97)

29 wickets at 28.44 in Australia.

 

  1. Imran Khan (Pakistan)
Career Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
1971-92 88 362 22.81 53.7 30.29 64.8 23 6
5-year Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
1982-86 24 138 14.31 39.1 30.79 62.44 11 3

 

Imran Khan was Pakistan’s greatest heartthrob during the 1970s and 80s. Imran Khan to Pakistan was more than a cricketing hero, he was a God. Imran captained Pakistan in 48 of the 88 tests he played, including leading them to a World Cup victory at the MCG in 1992 at 40 years of age.

In his last decade of test cricket, Imran averaged 19 with the ball. Out of all the bowlers on this list, Imran has the most dominant five-year period. Between 1982-1986, Imran took 138 wickets at a remarkable average of 14.31, less than half any other bowler averaged (30.79) during that five-year period. Always destined for bigger things Imran is currently Pakistan’s President.

Interesting Stats

1st overall average differential in five-year period (138 at 14.31, era average 30.79)

199 wickets at 25.76 from 50 away tests (era average 31.21)

46 wickets at 14.31 against Sri Lanka.

187 wickets at 20.26 from 48 tests as captain.

 

  1. Glenn McGrath (Australia)
Career Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
1993-07 124 563 21.64 51.9 31.81 62.81 29 3
5-year Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
1997-01 57 272 20.85 50.1 30.59 63.81 17 3

 

If my life depended on any bowler in the history of cricket hitting the stumps 10 out of 10 times, I wouldn’t want anyone else than Glenn McGrath.

Most of world’s greatest batsmen have stumbled into McGrath’s ‘corridor of concern’ at one time or another and have perished. McGrath bowled in an era where fast bowlers bowled exceptionally fast, yet McGrath succeeded all of them with a rhythmical bowling style that enhanced his longevity and an immaculate line and length with a little bit of seam movement.

A fiery competitor, McGrath gave it back to the Windies in 1994-95, when they retained the Frank Worrall Trophy after 20 years. He thrived playing in England, annihilating them in their own backyard twice in 1997 and 2001 with 36 wickets at 19.47 and 32 wickets at 16.94. McGrath was unstoppable between 1997-01 taking 272 wickets at 20.85 from 57 tests, the most by a fast bowler in a five-year period.

Interesting Stats

2nd highest career average differential with 563 wickets at 21.64 (era average 31.81)

274 wickets at 20.81 from 58 away tests (era average 34.30) 2nd overall.

87 wickets at 19.34 in England.

72 wickets at 23.02 in the sub-continent.

 

  1. Dale Steyn (South Africa)
Career Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
2004-19 93 439 22.95 42.3 32.33 60.64 26 5
5-year Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
2007-11 41 228 21.07 37.7 34.21 62.53 15 4

 

Dale Steyn, statistically, has proven himself to be the best. Steyn’s career strike rate alone is unbelievable. He has the lowest strike rate of any test bowler with 10,000 career deliveries.

He only needed 16,634 deliveries to bring up his 400th wicket, Hadlee needed 20,232, McGrath 20,526, Ambrose 21,695 and Anderson needed 23,312. Steyn is the most complete fast bowler and able to perform anywhere.

He averages 14.41 less than other fast bowlers who have toured the sub-continent and for 268 weeks between 2006 to 2014, he was the number one bowler in the world. Despite the thicker bats, better protection and higher quality pitches (all conducive to better batting), Steyn still had a bowling average of 22.95 from 16 seasons.

Interesting Stats

4th highest career average differential with 439 wickets at 22.95 (era average 32.33)

134 wickets at 37.39 in 45 draws and losses (era average 40.6) 42nd overall.

178 wickets at 24.91 from 41 away tests (era average 35.30) 7th overall.

3rd overall average differential in five-year period (228 at 21.07, era average 34.21)

Equal quickest fast bowler to 350 test wickets (69 tests).

Equal quickest fast bowler to 400 test wickets (80 tests).

 

 

  1. Sydney Barnes (England)
Career Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
1901-14 27 189 16.43 41.6 27.14 58.14 24 7
5-year Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
1909-14 18 139 14.8 37.4 28.08 60.64 18 6

 

Remembered for his gob-smacking 6229 career wickets at 8.33 across his 46-year career. The best way to describe Syd Barnes’ bowling prowess would be with this delicious anecdote when he was at the ripe old age of 56 playing for Staffordshire against Lancashire’s second XI.

A young Lancashire batsman was coming in at six left the rooms to go watch Barnes ball, he was abruptly forced back into the dressing room and ordered to put his pads on. Confused the young lad returned and saw that four of his teammates were already padded up. “There were four of us all padded up waiting and we were all out in the middle and back again in half an hour.”

Barnes was still regarded as the best bowler in the world in his mid-40s and there were no bowlers even remotely close to him, in fact he in the 50 innings he bowled a cricket ball, Barnes took a five-wicket haul in 24 of them.

The last four years of Barnes’ career was monumental, 34 wickets at 22.88 in the 1911/12 Ashes series in Australia, 39 wickets at 10.35 from six tests during the 1912 triangular test series between against Australia and South Africa, 34 wickets at only 8.29 from three tests in England’s 1912 home test series against South Africa, then a record 49 wickets 10.93 from only four tests on matting pitches in the 1913/14 tour of South Africa.

In his last test Barnes took 14 for 144 and didn’t play the fifth and final test due to match payments. Barnes’ remarkable 43-year career proved age is just a number, he was 55-years old when he took 12 for 118 against the touring West Indies side in 1928 (the flabbergasted West Indian side rated Barnes the best bowler they faced all tour). In his last season at 67-years of age for Stone CC in the Staffordshire League, Barnes took 126 wickets at 6.94.

Interesting Stats

Highest career average differential with 189 wickets at 16.43 (era average 27.14)

126 wickets at 17.96 from 17 away tests (era average 28.13) 9th overall.

89 wickets at 19.79 in the second innings (era average 28.58) 4th overall.

Most wickets in a test series with 49 wickets from 4 tests at 10.94 against South Africa

Quickest bowler in test history to 150 test wickets (24 tests)

=2nd quickest bowler in test history to 100 test wickets (17 tests)

 

  1. Malcolm Marshall (West Indies)
Career Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
1978-91 81 376 20.94 46.7 29.97 63.61 22 4
5-year Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
1984-88 38 212 19.17 43.2 30.76 63.7 15 3

 

From a land of 6 foot, 6 inch giants, Malcolm Marshall at 5 foot 11 proved to be taller than all of them. Marshall could perform on any pitch in the world. Up there as one of the most intelligent bowlers, Marshall was brutally fast, devilishly accurate, and had the best bouncer in the world.

He was also courageous, taking seven for 52 in 1984 against England with his left hand in plaster due to a broken thumb. A genius with the ball, Marshall took wickets in the sub-continent, but loved playing in England, taking 826 first-class wickets at 18.64 for Hampshire and 94 wickets in 18 tests at 18.70.

Marshall’s greatest series came after the retirement of many West Indians in 1988 when they toured England. Marshall led a young bowling attack featuring Ambrose, Walsh, Patterson, Benjamin and Bishop, who only took 38 wickets between them, Marshall completely obliterated England with 35 wickets at 12.65. Marshall averaged under 25 in America, Oceania, Asia and Europe, and took 216 wickets at 19.76 under the captaincy of Viv Richards.

Interesting Stats

5th highest career average differential with 376 wickets at 20.94 (era average 29.97)

219 wickets at 21.57 from 50 away tests (era average 31.63) 11th overall.

176 wickets at 19.17 in the second innings (era average 28.52) 3rd overall.

127 wickets at 19.18 against England.

 

  1. Richard Hadlee (New Zealand)
Career Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
1973-90 86 431 22.29 50.8 30.18 64.56 36 9
5-year Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
1983-87 35 204 18.94 46.7 31.31 63.95 19 5

 

Knighted a year after his retirement, he remains New Zealand’s greatest cricketer of all time.

Sir Richard Hadlee filled up at least two spots in the New Zealand line-up, an intelligent bowler with the stamina to match, Hadlee was an immortal on the cricket field. After a disappointing home series against Australia in 1977, Hadlee went on to take 370 wickets at 20.11 from 67 tests, with 34 five-wicket hauls and eight 10-wicket hauls.

Hadlee adapted to all conditions taking 230 wickets at 21.72 away from home, he changed his run-up to keep his stamina and used a side on action to generate more pace and swing. It was the 1985/86 test series in Australia that Hadlee produced the greatest test bowling performance of all time, taking nine for 52 off 23.4 in the first innings and six for 71 off 28.5 in the second innings. To prove how good Hadlee was, he took 33 out of the 56 wickets to lead them to a memorable victory.

Interesting Stats

230 wickets at 21.72 from 43 away tests (era average 31.36)

142 wickets at 21.34 in the second innings (era average 28.38)

5th overall average differential in five-year period (204 at 18.94, era average 31.31)

77 wickets at 17.83 in Australia

68 wickets at 21.58 in the sub-continent.

Equal quickest fast bowler to 350 test wickets (69 tests).

Equal quickest fast bowler to 400 test wickets (80 tests).

 

So there we have it, the top 50 greatest fast bowlers since 1900.

All of these greats have had success, yet only a few have succeeded in all conditions.

This top 10, dominated in all categories, took wickets in all conditions around the globe and that is why I placed them on a pedestal.

The algorithm has thrown up some interesting placements, including some unheralded names. Who would've guessed Ryan Harris would sneak into the top 20.

The West Indian fast bowling factory featured five bowlers in the top 20, followed closely by Australia who's dry conditions have always been conducive to the fast bowling fraternity.

 

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