LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 12: England bowler James Anderson celebrates the wicket of Murali Vijay, his 100th Test wicket at Lords during day 4 of the Second Test Match between England and India at Lord's Cricket Ground on August 12, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Take a look below and see who made the top 20.

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 5: 10-1

  1. Ryan Harris (Australia)
Career Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
2010-15 27 113 23.52 50.7 32.5 61.7 5 0
5-year Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
2010-14 26 111 22.77 49.2 32.39 61.55 5 0

 

Criminally underrated. Ryan Harris preformed for Australia away from home, kept a tidy average in draws and losses, and was a handful in the second innings averaging 19.93. Harris’ second innings feat in the third and final test between Australia and South Africa will go down in history.

Needing 511 for an unlikely victory, South Africa’s war of attrition wore down the Aussies. Bowling with a sore knee and five overs to play, Harris provided the breakthrough dismissing Dale Steyn, two balls later he castled Morne Morkel to lead Australia to a famous victory. His figures 24.3 overs, 15 maidens, four wickets for 32 and one bad knee.

Australia v England - Third Test: Day 4 : News Photo

Interesting Stats

58 wickets at 19.93 in the second innings (era average 30.34) 1st overall.

45 wickets at 26.74 from 11 draws and losses (era average 41.47) 2nd overall.

64 wickets at 22.48 from 14 away tests (era average 35.15) 3rd overall.

 

  1. Michael Holding (West Indies)
Career Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
1975-87 60 249 23.69 50.92 29.6 63.09 13 2
5-year Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
1980-85 37 159 22.64 49.9 29.23 61.82 9 1

 

The owner of possibly the coolest nickname of all time, Michael Holding was known as ‘Whispering Death’ during his career.

The nickname evolved from his long rhythmic run-up, where his feet hovered over the turf like a cheetah. The whispering part was because umpires would often turn around to see him, unable to hear him coming into bowl.

Holding tormented England, and two of their old warhorses Brian Close and Geoff Boycott faced famous spells that have gone down in folklore. His 14 for 149 on a lifeless pitch at the Oval in 1976 became one of the turning points for Windies domination across the next 20 years.

3rd Test Match - England v West Indies : News Photo

Interesting Stats

63 wickets at 21.13 from 13 tests in England

163 wickets at 23.65 from 37 away tests (era average 31.60)

99 wickets at 24.83 in the second innings (era average 27.57)

 

  1. Courtney Walsh (West Indies)
Career Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
1984-01 134 519 24.44 57.8 30.04 63.46 22 3
5-year Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
1997-01 47 198 23.04 59 29.3 62.48 10 1

 

Courtney Walsh waited in the shadows, bowling uphill as Holding, Garner and Marshall feasted on their prey.

As the three eventually retired, Walsh was joined by Curtly Ambrose, and they became the world’s most feared opening pair.

Walsh’s longevity saw him become the first bowler to take 500 test wickets over 134 tests that pushed through three decades. Remarkably, Walsh’s most successful five-year period occurred in his last five seasons.

6th Test Match - West Indies v England : News Photo

Interesting Stats

240 wickets at 19.76 in the second innings (era average 28.14) most wickets in the 2nd innings

77 wickets at 20.53 in 17 tests in the sub-continent

43 wickets at 18.55 from 7 tests in India.

Walsh’s bowling average in his last two was 10.73 lower than the decade average of 30.46 during the 2000s.

290 wickets at 25.03 from 74 away tests (era average 31.47)

 

  1. Kagiso Rabada (South Africa)
Career Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
2015-21 47 213 22.75 41.2 29.11 57.47 10 4
5-year Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
2016-20 40 195 22.62 39.55 28.62 56.60 9 4

 

At only 26 years of age, Kagiso Rabada already has 213 wickets. With a strike rate unseen since the 1890s when pitches were uncovered, Rabada became the youngest number one bowler in the world and the youngest to take 150 test wickets.

Rabada even has the potential to move past Donald, Pollock and Steyn as the greatest bowler to come out of South Africa, maybe even in the world.

CRICKET-WIS-RSA-1STTEST : News Photo

Interesting Stats

91 wickets at 19.96 in the second innings (era average 26.28)

141 wickets at 20.09 in South Africa.

Youngest test-cricketer to 150 test wickets.

 

  1. Sean Pollock (South Africa)
Career Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
1995-08 108 421 23.11 57.8 32.12 62.46 16 1
5-year Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
1997-01 56 237 20.54 54.3 30.65 63.65 13 1

 

With a name like Pollock, it’d be hard not to find yourself with a cricket bat in hand from a young age.

Shaun Pollock became a champion fast bowler for South Africa, just like his father Peter. Pollock’s immaculate line and ability to swing the ball became the perfect foil for Allan Donald, as they turned South Africa into a powerhouse after the apartheid hiatus.

South African paceman Shaun Pollock (C) : News Photo

Interesting Stats

235 wickets at 21.09 in South Africa

70 wickets at 22.96 from 16 tests against the West Indies

198 wickets at 28.54 from 59 draws and losses (era average 12.51) 5th ranked.

186 wickets at 25.68 from 49 away tests (era average 35.04)

 

  1. Fred Trueman (England)
Career Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
1952-65 67 307 21.57 49.4 28.79 73.15 17 3
5-year Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
1959-63 40 194 21.06 49.6 29.19 70.81 11 3

 

Before there was Anderson, there was Trueman. Bred in the mines of Yorkshire, Fred Trueman was the first bowler in test history to take 300 wickets.

Prone to producing unbelievable spells, on debut he had India reeling at four for zip. In 1961 at his home (Headingly), the Aussies went from two for 182 to all out for 237, ‘Fiery Fred’ took five for zero in a 24-ball spell.

Outspoken, comedic and fiery, Trueman would struggle to find a spot in today’s PC society, but every cricket side in the world would have him in a heartbeat.

County Championship - Yorkshire v Middlesex : News Photo

Interesting Stats

53 wickets at 14.85 from 9 tests against India

111 wickets at 22 in the second innings (era average 27.35)

229 wickets at 20.04 from 47 tests at home

 

 

  1. Wasim Akram (Pakistan)
Career Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
1985-02 108 414 23.62 54.6 30.37 63.77 25 5
5-year Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
1992-96 33 168 21.12 48 30.3 64.36 12 2

 

The greatest left-arm bowler in the history of cricket, Wasim Akram possessed everything, and even more.

A complete master at swinging or seaming the ball, Wasim could also change his speed and bowl a mean bouncer. 216 wickets at 22.53 in the sub-continent and 103 wickets at 23.13 in swinging conditions, Wasim could do it all.

Many great batsmen have stated their inability to pick Wasim’s ‘Banana Swing’ delivery which curved around corners.

Pakistan`s bowler Wasim Akram celebrates the runou : News Photo

Interesting Stats

216 wickets at 22.53 from 59 tests in the sub-continent

260 wickets at 24.44 from 63 away tests (era average 32.06)

119 of his 414 test wickets were LBW.

 

 

  1. James Anderson (England)
Career Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
2003-21 168 632 26.62 56.6 32.11 60.41 31 3
5-year Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
2014-18 54 225 21.49 51.6 31.01 59.29 11 1

 

The most prolific fast-bowler in test history. Like fine wine, Anderson has aged extremely well taking, in fact, he has taken 364 wickets in 95 tests at 23.86 after his 30th birthday! After a sluggish start to his career (Anderson took 148 wickets in his first seven seasons at 34.86) he has turned himself into the most devastating bowlers ever seen.

England v New Zealand: Day 1 - Second Test LV= Insurance Test Series : News Photo

Interesting Stats

294 wickets at 34.43 in 93 draws and losses (era average 40.98)

230 wickets at 30.85 from 71 away tests (era average 34.81)

402 wickets at 24.20 from 95 home tests.

 

  1. Curtly Ambrose (West Indies)
Career Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
1988-00 98 405 20.99 54.5 29.99 63.2 22 3
5-year Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
1990-94 31 159 18.71 51 30.65 65.04 10 3

 

Curtly Ambrose didn’t need to say anything to scare the batsmen on the cricket field, his stare had even the bravest cowering behind their bat. Rated as the greatest of his generation, Ambrose could generate steep bounce time and time again from a good length. He was also consistent in producing match-winning spells.

In 1992, South Africa were cruising at two for 123 chasing 201 until Ambrose, took five wickets to knock them out for 148.

The same summer, the Windies toured Australia and most journos brushed the Windies off after the retirements of Richards, Marshall, Greenidge and Dujon. Australia was 1-0 after three tests, when they met in Adelaide.

The Windies set Australia 185 for victory and Ambrose, after taking six for 74 off 28.2, followed it up with four for 46 and the Windies won by a run. The deciding final test at the WACA, Ambrose produced his greatest spell taking seven wickets for one run in a 31-ball spell and the Windies kept the Frank Worrell Trophy.

THIRD TEST : News Photo

Interesting Stats

202 wickets at 20.78 from 46 away tests (era average 31.11)

162 wickets at 19.77 in the second innings (era average 28.28)

8th most dominant five-year period (159 wickets at 18.71, era average 30.65)

 

  1. Dennis Lillee (Australia)
Career Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
1971-85 70 355 23.92 52 29.67 65.3 23 7
5-year Tests Wickets Average S/R Era Ave Era S/R 5Wi 10Wi
1977-81 31 185 21.23 45.2 27.5 62.75 15 6

 

The great ‘DK’ is a once in a generation fast bowler. The perfect way to describe Lillee as a bowler would be ‘Lionheart’. Lillee was the man, all Australian captains turned to when they needed a breakthrough.

Lillee burst on to the scene taking eight for 29 against a World XI side featuring, Gary Sobers, Clive Lloyd, Graeme Pollock and Sunil Gavaskar. All these legendary batsmen regarded him the quickest in the world.

Lillee took his form over to England and took 31 wickets at 17.68 in their 2-2 Ashes draw. All was well until he broke down with a spinal stress fracture and embarked on a strenuous rehab that saw him come back slower, but fitter than ever before. Lillee changed his action and came back to destroy England with Jeff Thomson at home and away.

‘DK’ then left for World Series Cricket and took 67 wickets in 14 super tests. A credit to Lillee’s accuracy and his clever use of swing, he took 146 wickets in his last 29 tests. The only reason he isn’t higher on this list is because he didn’t dominate the sub-continent.

3rd Test Match - England v Australia : News Photo

Interesting Stats

124 wickets at 24.28 in away tests (era average 30.78)

152 wickets at 31.47 in 39 draws and losses (era average 35.04)

Most wickets by a fast bowler in a calendar year (85 wickets 20.95)