Who is the greatest fast bowler of the past 40 years?

Glenn Mitchell Columnist

By Glenn Mitchell, Glenn Mitchell is a Roar Expert

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    Recently on Twitter I was asked who I thought the best fast bowler was since 1970. It got me thinking, so here is what I reckon. And yes, I am expecting to be challenged significantly by all of you out there in the ‘Roar-iverse’

    Given the wealth of nominees in the past 42 years it is a little like being asked to nominate which one of your five children you love the most.

    First of all, let’s discount some high quality bowlers who boast very fine records but in my estimation all fall short of the top-10. I should point out that I am assessing players on their Test performances only.

    Interestingly, I don’t think there is a true candidate from England despite the claims of the likes of Bob Willis (325 wickets), Ian Botham (383) and James Anderson (288).

    Chaminda Vaas (355), Mkaya Ntini (390), Brett Lee (310), Zaheer Khan (295), Jason Gillespie (259) and Jeff Thomson (200) have all put up very solid numbers, but again, I can’t see them being inside the top-10, with the biggest no-show in my opinion being Kapil Dev (434).

    Of the current quicks, Dale Steyn is the only contender, but having said that I am leaving him out as he is still going around. I am limiting my selections to players have finished their careers.

    His record is superb – 312 wickets at 23.7. He is an old-fashioned fast bowler in that he genuinely swings the ball, old or new. His strike rate is the best of any bowler to have claimed 300-plus wickets, a staggering 42.

    Having 19 five-wicket hauls from just 62 Tests underlines his outstanding abilities. At the age of 29 he has the potential to capture over 500 Test wickets.

    He has two countrymen who had stellar careers – Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock.

    Donald, dubbed ‘White Lightning’, bowled with a beautiful high action at genuine speed. He was 25 by the time he debuted, honing his skills in both South Africa and England as his country of birth saw out the last years of its international ban.

    He could move the ball both ways and struck at a rate of a wicket every 47 balls, capturing 330 at 22.3 in his 72 Tests, including 22 five-wicket hauls. On the sub-continent, he averaged a superb 20.3 while against the powerful Australian line-up his 29 wickets came at 28.4.

    Pollock was a bowler very much in the Glenn McGrath mould, bowling almost exclusively stump to stump. Hailing from a famous South African cricketing family he relied more on seam than swing.

    Early on he was extremely miserly, averaging under 21 after his first 78 Tests before ending up with 421 wickets at 23.1. Australia was a thorn in his side with his 32 wickets coming at 34.3. In 108 Tests he captured 16 five-wicket hauls and ten in a match just the once.

    It is impossible to talk about pace bowlers of the past four decades without reflecting on the astounding array put forward by the West Indies. Of those to terrorise opponents in the 1970s and ‘80s, I have four candidates for the top-10, with apologies to Andy Roberts in particular.

    Malcolm Marshall is a stand-out. Unusually short for a Caribbean quick, he broke one of the major tenets of fast bowling, namely that you can’t bowl effective out-swingers with a front-on delivery action.

    Marshall destroyed that theory with a wonderfully controlled out-swinger delivered at genuine pace and given his height his deliveries appeared to skid onto the bat.

    In 87 Tests he notched up 376 wickets at 20.9, striking every 47 balls. He was an all-surface bowler, averaging 20.1 at home and 21.6 away. He was particularly successful in the sub-continent, capturing his 71 wickets at 23.0.

    Joel Garner was a giant in every way, standing 203cm he made life at times near impossible for batsmen. Whist not express, what was a drive-able length to most bowlers was played off the chest when facing Garner. His pin-point yorker proved a test for any batsman.

    Through 58 Tests he captured his 259 wickets at a miserly 21.0 with a strike rate of 51. Interestingly, he played 29 Tests both home and away with an average of 22.3 in the Caribbean and 19.7 on the road, although his average in Australia was 34.3.

    He very seldom opened the bowling given the wealth of talent and pace, among his teammates. That fact contributed significantly to the fact that he took five in an innings on just seven occasions.

    Curtly Ambrose was another extremely tall West Indian quick at 201cm. Like Roberts before him he was largely a silent assassin, save for a highly publicised verbal altercation mid-pitch with Steve Waugh.

    Like Garner, one of his main weapons was the height from which he delivered the ball, although he did at a far greater pace than ‘Big Bird”. When on song he was virtually unplayable.

    This was never better illustrated than his amazing spell of 7 for 1 at the WACA Ground in in 1992-93. Late in his career when his blistering pace deserted him he became an expert in subtle nip off the pitch.

    In all, he captured 405 wickets at 21.0 from 98 Tests with a strike rate of 54. Against England his 164 wickets came at 18.8, while he averaged 21.2 across his 128 scalps against Australia.

    Michael Holding was simply poetry in motion as he glided to the crease off one of the longest run-ups in the game. ‘Whispering Death’ was a true express bowler who could maim just as efficiently as he captured wickets.

    At The Oval in 1981 he delivered what is widely regarded as the most menacing over in history when he pummelled Geoff Boycott. He played 60 Tests and snared 249 scalps at 23.7, striking at 51. He was Mr Consistency averaging the same away as he did at home, even though 163 wickets came on foreign soil.

    Courtney Walsh was cricket’s version of the Eveready Bunny. He seemed to be perennially on the field in both domestic and international cricket.

    In the latter he churned out over 30,000 deliveries through 132 Tests, capturing 519 wickets at 24.4. He was another of the long line of tall West Indian quicks with his high delivery action from wide of the stumps, which was a perilous mix for batsmen.

    He shared a successful opening partnership with Ambrose although late in his career he was forced to shoulder much of the work himself.

    When it comes to the Black Caps’ quicks, there really is only one through their history in the international game – Sir Richard Hadlee.

    He was an almost fanatical character with many believing cricket was on his brain 24/7. No great bowler has ever had to shoulder his team’s fortunes in the field more than Hadlee.

    Without being disrespectful to his teammates, none held a candle to the man who retired with a world record 431 wickets at 22.3 from 86 Tests. He struck at 51 and on 36 occasions he captured five in an innings and nine times ten in a match.

    On the 1985/86 tour of Australia he was devastating with the highlight being a haul of 9/52 at Gabba and 15 for the match.

    He was genuinely quick early on but over time he lessened his pace and bowled his out-swingers very much stump-to-stump with great effect. He mastered sub-continental conditions with his 68 wickets coming at just 21.6 and captured his 51 wickets against the might of the West Indian line-up at 22.0.

    Pakistan has a trio in the mix for the top-10 – Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis.

    Imran was a champion all-rounder and with the ball he was superb – 88 Tests, 362 wickets at 22.8. He played in an era when the West Indies were the dominant force in the game, although looking at Imran’s figures against them you wouldn’t think so as he claimed his 80 wickets at just 21.0.

    Bowling with a front-on action from wide of the crease he hooped the ball back into the right-handers at pace.

    Wasim generated tremendous pace, thanks in the main to his broad shoulders as his run-up was one of the shortest around.

    For many batsman the ball seemed to arrive before they were ready for it. He is the most lethal left-arm quick of all-time with 414 wickets at 23.6 from his 104 Tests. His ability to swing the ball back to the right-handers late in his trajectory was often unplayable.

    His partner in crime, although not in life given their often tumultuous relationship, Waqar was perhaps the finest exponent of old ball swing. His in-swinging yorkers delivered at considerable pace often shattered the batsman’s stumps, if not their toes.

    His 87 Tests produced 373 wickets at 23.6 with a top-notch strike rate of 43. He struggled in Australia however, with his seven Tests producing just 14 wickets at 40.5.

    And what of the Australian candidates? I think there are two certainties – Dennis Lillee and Glenn McGrath.

    The Lillee name is legend. His approach to the crease in his prime was a delight to watch a combination of balance and power.

    Broad of shoulder and strong of heart he was the quintessential macho man of the 1970s. He went from outright express to medium fast thanks in the main to ongoing problems with stress fractures in his back.

    A master of away swing, he played 70 Tests and retired as the world record holder with 355 wickets at 23.9.

    He made the then often low and slow MCG his own. Buoyed by a chanting crowd he captured 82 wickets there at 21.9 in 14 Tests with seven five-wicket hauls. One downside during his career was his performances in the sub-continent where he played just four Tests, capturing his six wickets at 68.

    McGrath, I believe, will be looked upon in an even greater light in years to come. A total of 124 Tests produced a world best for pace bowlers, a mountainous 563 wickets at 21.6.

    From a substantial height he nipped the ball off the pitch with a very much stump-to-stump mentality. He was a master of line and length with batsmen often drawn to play more deliveries than they would like.

    At his best and with a pitch that suited he could single-handedly destroy a team – 8/24 against Pakistan in Perth and 8/38 at Lord’s are both classic examples. He was extremely successful on the sub-continent, playing 17 Tests for 72 wickets at 23.

    OK, now the tough bit, my top-10. Cue the music and sharpen the knives!
    1 Malcolm Marshall
    2 Curtly Ambrose
    3 Glenn McGrath
    4 Dennis Lillee
    5 Richard Hadlee
    6 Wasim Akram
    7 Joel Garner
    8 Imran Khan
    9 Allan Donald
    10 Michael Holding

    Over to you, but please…be gentle!

    Glenn Mitchell
    Glenn Mitchell

    After 21 years as a sports broadcaster with the ABC, since mid-2011 Glenn Mitchell has been freelancing in the electronic and written media. He is an ambassador for mental health in Australia, and tweets from @mitchellglenn.

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    The Crowd Says (301)

    • January 17th 2013 @ 7:13am
      Steve said | January 17th 2013 @ 7:13am | ! Report

      Great question Glenn and I’m going to have to agree with you. Malcolm Marshall had the ability to bowl with both the new and old ball, was great on unresponsive surfaces and could bowl long spells. He was fast, nasty, economical, had a lethal lifter and was striking in the mid 40’s.

      Comment left via The Roar’s iPhone app. Download it now [http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/the-roar/id327174726?mt=8].

      • Columnist

        January 17th 2013 @ 12:35pm
        Glenn Mitchell said | January 17th 2013 @ 12:35pm | ! Report

        Thanks for all the quality feedback and personal suggestions below from all you Roarers. Given I got through relatively unscathed, stay tuned as I will soon put up a best batsman list since 1970. Cheers!

    • January 17th 2013 @ 7:18am
      Darwin Stubbie said | January 17th 2013 @ 7:18am | ! Report

      Bit of a futile exercise – we all have our favourites ..having seen most on the list I wouldn’t have McGrath anywhere near the top 5 and have Hadlee closer to the peak – as he really galvanised a side to play beyond its potential over a decade …

      • January 17th 2013 @ 8:27am
        nachos supreme said | January 17th 2013 @ 8:27am | ! Report

        I wouldn’t have included McGrath as a fast bowler. Nor Hadlee.
        I think to really appreciate a fast bowler you need to have a look at them in person based on that I’ll only include (in a very subjective list) who I’ve managed to see….Donald for the record was significantly quicker to the naked eye…bloody hell he was quick


        • January 17th 2013 @ 8:34am
          allrounder said | January 17th 2013 @ 8:34am | ! Report

          there was no way that donald was a better fast bowler than mcgrath or hadlee. he may have been quicker but that didn’t make him better

          • January 17th 2013 @ 9:16am
            nachos supreme said | January 17th 2013 @ 9:16am | ! Report

            Not saying he was a better bowler. But I’d put it to you that both Hadlee and McGrath aren’t fast bowlers.

            • January 17th 2013 @ 9:32am
              Red Kev said | January 17th 2013 @ 9:32am | ! Report

              How about you say that from the striker’s end of a cricket pitch.

              • January 17th 2013 @ 9:52am
                nachos supreme said | January 17th 2013 @ 9:52am | ! Report

                I’d smash em. 😉

            • January 17th 2013 @ 9:48am
              allrounder said | January 17th 2013 @ 9:48am | ! Report

              yes they were medium fast bowlers

              • January 17th 2013 @ 11:07am
                hog said | January 17th 2013 @ 11:07am | ! Report

                Hadlee in his early days was a genuine fast bowler,but changed his run up and pace to pro-long his career.

            • January 19th 2013 @ 6:27am
              The Great G Nepia said | January 19th 2013 @ 6:27am | ! Report

              How on earth can you say Hadlee or McGrath are not fast bowlers?? Both are the epitome of a fast bowler, I would’ve thought.

        • Roar Guru

          January 17th 2013 @ 9:16am
          The Bush said | January 17th 2013 @ 9:16am | ! Report

          You’re not including McGrath because he wasn’t quick enough right? Not because he wasn’t good enough?

          I don’t think the author intended this as a debate about what is medium pace as against genuine speed. Out of interest, what is your cut off to a “fast” bowler?

          • Roar Guru

            January 17th 2013 @ 10:38am
            TheGenuineTailender said | January 17th 2013 @ 10:38am | ! Report

            As an indicator, a stock ball in the mid to low 140s is fast bowling. 135 to 140 is going to be your fast medium bowlers. 130 to 135 is a medium fast and 130 down is a medium pacer. But that’s just my opinion.

            • January 17th 2013 @ 10:49am
              Red Kev said | January 17th 2013 @ 10:49am | ! Report

              In that case are there any fast bowlers at all playing at the moment? Johnson and Steyn are not putting more than 50% of their deliveries over 140kph according to recent series.

              • January 17th 2013 @ 10:58am
                allrounder said | January 17th 2013 @ 10:58am | ! Report

                steyn is back to top form against new zealand bowling between 140-150 consistently.

              • January 17th 2013 @ 11:04am
                Red Kev said | January 17th 2013 @ 11:04am | ! Report

                To be honest I never really trusted those speed guns anyway. Remember the 2011/12 India series where they consistently clocked Hilfenhaus at 140kph?
                Steyn I can believe, do any other bowlers genuinely fit in that category? Can’t really include Pattinson or Cummins of so small a sample size.

              • January 17th 2013 @ 11:14am
                allrounder said | January 17th 2013 @ 11:14am | ! Report

                i agree with you that there are no express youngsters coming through (apart from Cummins who is sadly injured and possibly a sad case of an injury proned young man…. i hope not)

                Steyn controls his speed in order to swing the ball but i’ve seen him bowl up to 154kmph in IPL.

              • Roar Guru

                January 17th 2013 @ 1:09pm
                TheGenuineTailender said | January 17th 2013 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

                Shaun Tait has been letting them rip in the BBL.

              • Roar Rookie

                January 17th 2013 @ 1:14pm
                josh said | January 17th 2013 @ 1:14pm | ! Report

                Kemar Roach for Brisbane bowls in the 140s regularly. Ask Ponting.

              • January 18th 2013 @ 11:41am
                Red Kev said | January 18th 2013 @ 11:41am | ! Report

                Shaun Tait … don’t make me laugh, he’s at the end of a very mediocre career. He is just Mitch Johnson under a different name (at his best he scares batsman but the rest of the time he has trouble hitting the side of a barn). Tait will send down some very quick deliveries but has never been capable of a genuine 5-6 over spell of fast bowling.

            • January 17th 2013 @ 1:56pm
              Pteranodon said | January 17th 2013 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

              as i understand the convention, pace bowling is categorised according to the imperial scale:

              > 90 miles an hour + (145 + km/h) = fast
              80-90 mph (128-145 km/h) = fast medium
              < 80 mph = medium

              • January 17th 2013 @ 10:32pm
                dadiggle said | January 17th 2013 @ 10:32pm | ! Report

                How is 145km/h out of the bowlers hand fast when it still have to hit a pitch that will either make it slower than a the modern indian pace attack or within 15km/h of the release speed which makes it come nicely onto the bat.

                Speed counts if you are aggressive and have a deadly bouncer or you can tamper the ball and bowl reverse swing after 15 to 20 overs and call it a Pak.. oops almost said it secret. Setting a batsman up is one of the greatest skill a fast bowler can show. Making a batsman come forward then get one that angles away from him etc etc.

                In the pre bouncer restriction era you can set him up by bowling 4 at his head and suprise him with a yorker or beat his reflexes due to the fact that you knocked his eye blue and cracked his skull with the previous 3 balls.

              • Roar Guru

                January 18th 2013 @ 12:15am
                TheGenuineTailender said | January 18th 2013 @ 12:15am | ! Report

                Uhm dadiggle, I’m fairly sure you’d be sh**ting yourself facing 130km/h. How can you say 145 isn’t quick. 145 is serious heat and there is only an exclusive group of bowlers in the world who can hit that speed consistently. To question whether 145km/h is fast or not shows some ignorance on your part.

              • January 18th 2013 @ 8:24pm
                Dadiggle said | January 18th 2013 @ 8:24pm | ! Report

                Ugm well the speed you see on the tv is the speed which it is released from its hand. If the seem moves a bit the gun will extra km/h. But it still have to hit the pitch then it will slow down. r India vs. Pakistan at Kolkata, the releasing speed of the ball was calculated as 141kmph which was bowled by Shoiab Akthar in short length. And the speed of the ball when it hit the bat was 114kmph.
                The difference is 141kmph-114kmph=27kmph.That is a dead pitch You will not beat any batsman reflexes with that. His timing ability will be tested. You can normally subtract 5km/h from the speed gun reading cause of the error margin. Then you subtract another 15 if its a good pitch where the ball comes on to the bat. On slower pitches is normally anything over 20km/h difference.

        • January 17th 2013 @ 10:10am
          Pradeep said | January 17th 2013 @ 10:10am | ! Report

          Guys where is kali dev, he got his wickets in flat pitches suited to batting and spin, surely he should be in the top 5

        • Roar Guru

          January 17th 2013 @ 1:34pm
          apaway said | January 17th 2013 @ 1:34pm | ! Report

          If McGrath wasn’t a fast bowler, what was he doing opening the bowling all those years and taking 500 plus wickets? The imposter! 🙂

          • Roar Guru

            January 17th 2013 @ 2:33pm
            The Bush said | January 17th 2013 @ 2:33pm | ! Report

            I reckon – surely someone could have told him…

          • January 19th 2013 @ 6:33pm
            Brendon said | January 19th 2013 @ 6:33pm | ! Report

            Apparently the speed gun used to piss him off lol, maybe that’s partly what he muttered about when he was walking back to the top of his run up.

        • October 6th 2013 @ 10:06pm
          Ahmed said | October 6th 2013 @ 10:06pm | ! Report

          I would say Akram,Akram. Waqar Holding, Marshal, Hall

      • January 17th 2013 @ 8:41am
        Train Without A Station said | January 17th 2013 @ 8:41am | ! Report

        You hav to consider that McGrath played in a more batsman friendly era though also. He bowled to Kallis, Cronje, Tendulker, Dravid, Laxman, etc. in an era when many batsmen began to average 50. In addition he was also a definite selection in one of the greatest test sides of all time, and his rolled ankle in 2005 probably cost us the ashes.

        • January 17th 2013 @ 8:52am
          Red Kev said | January 17th 2013 @ 8:52am | ! Report

          You also have to remember what McGrath did to Lara, getting out one of the generations greatest batsmen cheaply more often than not.
          He deserves to be on the list.

          • January 17th 2013 @ 11:36am
            bill said | January 17th 2013 @ 11:36am | ! Report

            Saw McGrath skittle the windies at the Gabba for under 150 before tea once – was marvelous – got Lara very early. Of course always overshadowed by him coming out a week later in Perth and getting a Hattrick including wicket number 300 but still one of the better live performances i’ve ever seen.

        • January 17th 2013 @ 11:59am
          Eddard said | January 17th 2013 @ 11:59am | ! Report

          Actually it’s a bit half and half. The 90’s was a very good decade for bowlers compared to the previous few decades. Batting averages in the 90’s were the lowest since the 1950’s: http://www.espncricinfo.com/decadereview2009/content/story/441892.html

          On the other hand batting dominated a lot more in the 00’s. McGrath’s career was pretty evenly split between the two decades.

          • January 17th 2013 @ 4:34pm
            Pope Paul VII said | January 17th 2013 @ 4:34pm | ! Report

            Winter is coming. Can you let the selectors know?

            • January 17th 2013 @ 6:42pm
              Jason said | January 17th 2013 @ 6:42pm | ! Report

              You know nothing PP7.

              • January 18th 2013 @ 12:34pm
                Pope Paul VII said | January 18th 2013 @ 12:34pm | ! Report


    • January 17th 2013 @ 7:25am
      allrounder said | January 17th 2013 @ 7:25am | ! Report

      Really enjoyed the article Glenn.

      The question is where does Dale Steyn rate? (leaving him out because he’s still playing is questionable) Perhaps he’s no 1? perhaps you and the australian public in general do not wish to contemplate that?

      i think Dev was a bettre bowler than Kahn, although Kahn was the better all rounder.

      • Roar Guru

        January 17th 2013 @ 9:18am
        The Bush said | January 17th 2013 @ 9:18am | ! Report

        Why would the Australian Public be afraid to rate Steyn number one – the author’s just ranked a West Indian number one.

        The author definited the terms of the discussion around people who haver retired and that’s fair enough – how can you judge someone until their career has finished?

        • January 17th 2013 @ 9:59am
          allrounder said | January 17th 2013 @ 9:59am | ! Report

          australians in general struggle to give much credit to overseas players….. if steyn was australian you’d be on here arguing why do we have to wait for his career to end. is his 300 odd wickets from 60 matches not already good enough to be classed as one of the very best?

          • January 17th 2013 @ 10:05am
            Jason said | January 17th 2013 @ 10:05am | ! Report

            What a crock.

            • January 17th 2013 @ 10:09am
              allrounder said | January 17th 2013 @ 10:09am | ! Report

              truth hurts

              nice come back btw

              • January 17th 2013 @ 12:13pm
                Jason said | January 17th 2013 @ 12:13pm | ! Report

                Which truth is that?

          • Roar Guru

            January 17th 2013 @ 2:35pm
            The Bush said | January 17th 2013 @ 2:35pm | ! Report

            Considering the vast majority of posters on here are Australian and have listed non-Australian’s as the best, I think for the moment your comment doesn’t really hold water. If Steyne was Australian I wouldn’t be arguing anything, because the author clearly set the parametres of the discourse (must be retired).

            • January 17th 2013 @ 2:49pm
              allrounder said | January 17th 2013 @ 2:49pm | ! Report

              i question the reason behind this isn’t the fact that mcgrath and lillee would have to be moved 1 rank down

              • January 18th 2013 @ 11:22am
                matt h said | January 18th 2013 @ 11:22am | ! Report

                That’s crap. If you are alledging bias against South Africans, what are Donald and Pollock doing in the article with Donald making the list? If you are alledging bias against overseas players why are West Indians 1 and 2 and why are only two Australians on the list?

                Everyone aknowledges that Steyn is probably the only truly great fast bowler going around at the moment. He is probably celebrate in Australia as much as anywhere else because 1. We are a fast bowling nation and 2. He’s a hard bastard and we love that. When he retires he will fit into this article nicely and probalby in the top 5.

                Interesting bit will be the howls of outrage in respect of the batting list when not yet retired Tendulkar and Kallis are left out 🙂

          • February 20th 2013 @ 7:11am
            Steve said | February 20th 2013 @ 7:11am | ! Report

            I’m Australian,, and I think Dale Steyn is absolutely Marvelous, as is his terrific new ball partner, Vernon Philander. I think when he’s finished his career there’s going to be no doubt that he will considered one of the 5 best. Australians aren’t like that at all, Steyn hasn’t gotten the props yet because thankfully SA fans arent obnoxious like Indian fans, that’s why its only been in the last year or so that Jacques Kallis is finally getting the credit he deserves.

            My personal top ten : 1. Marshall 2. Hadlee 3. Lillee 4. Ambrose 5. Steyn 6. Mcgrath 7. SF Barnes 8. Imran 9. Donald 10. Akram

        • Roar Guru

          January 17th 2013 @ 10:39am
          TheGenuineTailender said | January 17th 2013 @ 10:39am | ! Report

          He didn’t look like the greatest fast bowler ever in our recent series…

          • January 17th 2013 @ 10:56am
            allrounder said | January 17th 2013 @ 10:56am | ! Report

            wasn’t he coming back from injury and didn’t his 7 wickets in the third test make you think he was simply getting back into the swing of it.

            i’d say his 8 wickets the other day against new zealand backs this up

          • Roar Guru

            January 17th 2013 @ 1:11pm
            TheGenuineTailender said | January 17th 2013 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

            I’m a massive Steyn fan, but his performances against us left a bit to be desired. Injury may be a contributing factor. Let’s be honest, New Zealand would struggle to win a game of grade cricket the way they’re playing.

            • January 17th 2013 @ 3:22pm
              allrounder said | January 17th 2013 @ 3:22pm | ! Report

              so explain his 7 wickets at perth?

              • January 17th 2013 @ 3:38pm
                Ninja said | January 17th 2013 @ 3:38pm | ! Report

                Right, he got 7 wickets in Perth, notoriously hard for fast bowlers to get any wickets there. So on that one performance I rate him the best bowler ever, and his performance in two tests against possibly the finest NZ side to ever grace a cricket field just confirm it.

              • January 17th 2013 @ 4:05pm
                allrounder said | January 17th 2013 @ 4:05pm | ! Report

                Ninja read the context of the discussion…. then apologise for offering nothing of value to the discussion

              • Roar Guru

                January 17th 2013 @ 6:05pm
                TheGenuineTailender said | January 17th 2013 @ 6:05pm | ! Report

                I actually thought Ninja made a very valid point. When the going was tough in Brisbane and Adelaide, a true great would step up and earn those hard wickets, which Steyn didn’t manage to do. Then in bowler friendly conditions the inevitable occurred.

              • January 17th 2013 @ 7:14pm
                allrounder said | January 17th 2013 @ 7:14pm | ! Report


                i’m sorry pal but even the greats have tests where they don’t bowl well and don’ take a lot of wickets. Steyn has tajken bag fulls all over the world. Ive seen steyn rip through india in india on a dead pitch to take 7 wickets which was frankly one of the best spells of all time.

                you obviously live in an australian bubble because some of the best spells i’ve ever seen have come from steyn.

                frankly his record is amazing and worthy of a bit more respect even from hacks like you.

                my point was if you can read was that he was coming back from injury and by the third test was back to his best. indeed if you’ve watched him against new zealand he certainly is back to his best taking his 19th 5 wicket hail from 62 tests. thats 3 behind marshall who took 22 5 wicket hauls from 82 tests.

                if steyn doesn’t better marshall by his 82nd test i’ll eat my hat.

                as for not producing the goods in australia well i seem to remember him cleaning us up here four years ago… and getting a nice 70 odd.

                with his 12 wickets from this summers test series in australia to go with his 18 from 4 years ago he has taken 30 wickets from 6 tests in australia. it doesn’t get much better than that. in fact in australia marshall took 45 wickets from 10 tests. thats slightly less wickets per test in australia than steyn.

              • January 17th 2013 @ 9:15pm
                Ninja said | January 17th 2013 @ 9:15pm | ! Report

                @allrounder sorry, this is my first day of using the internet, so I didn’t realise there was a way to read things in context, so thank you for enlightening me. I have have followed your magnanimous advice and have come to the conclusion that Steyn is the best bowler of all time, which oddly enough is the same conclusion I came to last time, go figure??

                I am curious though, and feel you are just the person to educate us frankly ignorant people who should just be honoured that you would grace hacks with your presence.

                1) Based on your comparisons of five wkt hauls, which is the new vanguard for best fast bowler. Steyn with 19 in 62 tests isn’t a patch on Hadlee with 36 in 82 tests, so surely he should be no 1, not Dale.

                2) ‘The question is where does Dale Steyn rate? (leaving him out because he’s still playing is questionable) Perhaps he’s no 1? perhaps you and the australian public in general do not wish to contemplate that?’

                This conspiracy actually concerns me, if they are powerful enough to keep Steyn from his rightful no. 1 position, what else are they capable of?

                3) Steyn has, as you noted, taken 30 wkts in 6 tests against Australia. As you also noted context is everything, so his average of 27.28 while good, doesn’t seem great. He has however beaten up on Bangladesh, NZ and WI so I guess that certainly qualifies him as great.

                4) Malcolm Marshall took 76 wkts at an avg of 21.98 in India, on deader pitches then they have now. It also got 6 5 wkt hauls there, but Steyns avg is better, so I guess he should be no. 1.

                5) Can you answer Jason’s question about truth (see above). I’m quite keen to know too, unless of course you can’t because of the aforementioned conspiracy.

                Your sincerely


              • Roar Guru

                January 18th 2013 @ 12:16am
                TheGenuineTailender said | January 18th 2013 @ 12:16am | ! Report

                Hacks like me? That’s where your credibility went out the window pal.

              • January 18th 2013 @ 7:21am
                Red Kev said | January 18th 2013 @ 7:21am | ! Report

                I thought it added nicely to his argument actually. Steyn isn’t included because his record is not complete, he could end in a heap being carted after losing some pace, or he could double his wicket tally and improve his average. The author set the terms of reference for the discussion, it has nothing to do with Steyn not being Australian. Talk about paranoid little man syndrome.

              • Roar Guru

                January 19th 2013 @ 1:48am
                biltongbek said | January 19th 2013 @ 1:48am | ! Report

                Steyn averages 28.03 at a strike rate of 48.1 in eleven innings in Australia, he also has 2 fifers and 1 ten wicket haul in OZ.

                At home vs OZ his record stands at 27 wickets at an average of 26.44 and a strike rate of 43.7 in 10 innngs

                In total he has 57 wickets at a strike rate of 46 and an average of 27.28 in 21 innings.

                Not too shabby.

      • May 5th 2013 @ 2:47am
        Amil said | May 5th 2013 @ 2:47am | ! Report

        It is totally a wrong comment . Kapil Dev is the best bowler among all Indians but not in the world . Yes , he is an superior all rounder with in all time best of 5 but as a bowler he should not be listed with in alltime best of 10 . On the other hand , majority former test cricketers and cricket journalists list Imran Khan as a bowler with in alltime best of 10 . My all time best bowlers are –
        1. Dennis Lilly
        2.Sydney Barnes
        3.Richard Hadlee
        4.Malcom Marshall
        5.Glenn Mcgrath
        6.Wasim Akram
        7.Imran Khan
        8.Michel Holdingle
        9.Curtly Ambrose
        10.Joel Garner

        My best 5 all rounders are –
        1. Gary sobers
        2.Imran khan
        3.Kapil Dev
        4.Ian Botham
        5.Jack Kallis

    • January 17th 2013 @ 7:28am
      Jason said | January 17th 2013 @ 7:28am | ! Report

      A lot of it is a matter of tastes well. Different captains prefer different types of players. Hence one sensible captain could quite reasonably pick an Ambrose and another could just as reasonably pick a Lillee.

      On top of mere stats, you could also look at leadership and willingness to get your hands dirty when things aren’t going well. Or the ability to bring te crowd into play. Or where the match is to be played.

      I’d also add in the fact that the 40 year period includes WSC which aren’t reflected in your stats.

      For what it’s worth, your top 10 is pretty impossible to argue against once you sneakily disqualify Steyn. It feels like Steyn would probably be in te list but buggered if I know who you’d leave out.

      If I was picking my team the first fast bowler I would take is Lillee for being a mix of a Rolls Royce and a Land Cruiser as the case requires. But I acknowledge that he played most of his career in only Australia and England.

      Having said that, it is hard to say that any bowler was greater than Maco.

      So my top 3: Marshall, Lillee and McGrath.

    • Roar Guru

      January 17th 2013 @ 7:32am
      biltongbek said | January 17th 2013 @ 7:32am | ! Report

      Nice article Glenn.

      I don’t subscribe to subjective reasoning when it comes to batsmen and bowlers though as it comes from personal experiences.

      I merely look at the effectiveness of a bowler.

      I did an analysis on the top fast bowlers over the history of cricket and looked at bowlers who has taken more than 200 wickets. My consideration was simpy to ignore the longevity of bowlers who took oodles of wickets merely because they played over 100 tests, but rather considering the fact that a guy who has taken more than 200 wickets in the test arena can qualify as the greatest (or rather most effective)

      Working on a system whereby I add the bowlers average to his strike rate tells me everything I need to know.

      Going by this basis here is my top 10.

      Waqar Younis (Pak)
      MD Marshall (WI)
      AA Donald (SA)
      J Garner (WI)
      RJ Hadlee (NZ)
      GD McGrath (Aus)
      M Holding (WI)
      CEL Ambrose (WI)
      DK Lillee (Aus)
      Imran Khan (Pak)

      Currently on this formula if Dale Steyn were to retire today he will place ontop of that list.

      By further adding in the innings ratio to fifers per bowler and adding that with the result of the average and strike rate, my list changes to.

      Waqar Younis (Pak)
      MD Marshall (WI)
      AA Donald (SA)
      RJ Hadlee (NZ)
      DK Lillee (Aus)
      GD McGrath (Aus)
      Imran Khan (Pak)
      M Holding (WI)
      CEL Ambrose (WI)
      Wasim Akram (Pak)

      Again if Steyn were to retire tomorrow, he would top the list;

      More scientific I know, but more objective in my view. Not that I am criticising your llist in any way. 🙂

      • January 17th 2013 @ 7:53am
        Red Kev said | January 17th 2013 @ 7:53am | ! Report

        Hard to argue with your method, facing an attack of Younis, Marshall and Donald would be uncomfortable to say the least. Seeing where Steyn fits when he gives it away in the future will be really interesting.

        • January 17th 2013 @ 1:22pm
          jammel said | January 17th 2013 @ 1:22pm | ! Report

          Steyn won’t be anywhere near the top 10, imo.

          I’d put him well after Donald and probably equal with Pollock in a South African list.

          But don’t think he is anywhere near the class of Marshall Wasim Ambrose McGrath Lillee.

          • Roar Guru

            January 17th 2013 @ 5:37pm
            biltongbek said | January 17th 2013 @ 5:37pm | ! Report

            You’re entitled to your opinion mate, even if it is wrong. 😉

            • January 17th 2013 @ 5:47pm
              Jason said | January 17th 2013 @ 5:47pm | ! Report

              I agree with bb. Steyn is undeniably in the same class as those mentioned. Doesn’t mean he is better but certainly in that class.

          • January 18th 2013 @ 11:28am
            matt h said | January 18th 2013 @ 11:28am | ! Report

            Sorry, in this era of freindly wickets, friendly bats, etc Steyn is in a class all his own. the man is an out and out legend. He will definitely be prominent in that list.

      • Roar Guru

        January 17th 2013 @ 10:36am
        sheek said | January 17th 2013 @ 10:36am | ! Report


        Looking at your list, it certainly makes sense. But then it might be too simplistic as well.

        Some years a go a method was used to determine all-rounders which simply divised the difference between batting & bowling averages. This favoured batting allrounders over bowling allrounders enormously.

        Where do we end up with all this analysis? What about a bowler’s economy? What about his early spells (when wickets are more desired) than later spells (when wickets might no longer be so desired)? What about success rate against top 7 batsmen compared to those 8-11? What about the quality of opposition each bowler faced?

        Stats are a useful guide, but eventually we come back to our perceptions.

        • January 17th 2013 @ 11:20am
          Bayman said | January 17th 2013 @ 11:20am | ! Report

          ….and what about the more attacking style of batting today, with a corresponding lessening of defensive skills, which sways average and strike-rate toward modern bowlers like Steyn.

          Having seen all of the bowlers under discussion I’m more than happy to have Marshall number one on any list we care to name and under any method that we care to devise it.

          Steyn is a very good bowler but, in my opinion, he’s not a good as Marshall, Lillee or Hadlee. He’s simply playing in an era when batsmen are generally easier to dismiss.

          Glenn’s list is pretty good, even in the rankings, and I wouldn’t be too concerned about whether a bowler was fifth on the list or eighth. They were all pretty damn good. The problems arise from having to pick a top ten which, in this case, leaves out Andy Roberts and maybe John Snow.

          I can tell you there are plenty of batsmen from the early seventies who would have been happy to miss facing those two. Snow was a great fast bowler but inclined to be a bit moody. Some days he wanted to play and some days he did not. It was best to get him on the days he did not. Roberts was a great fast bowler, sometimes moody but always nasty and even more so on his moody days.

          Some bowlers hit batsmen as a consequence of the ball they bowled and the shot that was played. Roberts hit batsmen because he wanted to and he liked it.

          • January 17th 2013 @ 11:31am
            Red Kev said | January 17th 2013 @ 11:31am | ! Report

            I would suggest that smaller grounds thanks to the ropes and bats these days swings average away from modern bowlers.

            • January 17th 2013 @ 12:25pm
              Jason said | January 17th 2013 @ 12:25pm | ! Report

              Great bowlers should do better because the batsmen aren’t as technical. To hit the roped off boundary with your computer engineered bat, you still need to hit the ball.

            • January 17th 2013 @ 12:51pm
              nachos supreme said | January 17th 2013 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

              Not to mention decks that are the same colour as Richie’s jackets!

            • January 17th 2013 @ 9:20pm
              Bayman said | January 17th 2013 @ 9:20pm | ! Report


              Yes, on reflection you may be right regarding averages but strike rates today can really only be compared to other bowlers of today. On the question of averages I was initially thinking, really, about strike rate which implied wickets falling more quickly hence an impact on average. However, I think you are probably right in thinking last decade’s wicket is this decade’s six.

              • January 18th 2013 @ 7:24am
                Red Kev said | January 18th 2013 @ 7:24am | ! Report

                So if strike rates are dropping but averages rising due to modern batting, then adding the two is a reasonable metric across eras, not perfect, but good.

          • Roar Guru

            January 17th 2013 @ 1:43pm
            sheek said | January 17th 2013 @ 1:43pm | ! Report

            Yeah Bayman,

            Those of us who saw Roberts & Snow rate them highly. The 70/71 Ashes was a batting bore-fest except for Snow – he was the ultimate difference between the two teams.

            There’s something special about being the first & Roberts was the first off the Windies pace production line in the early 70s through to the late 90s. Damn, he was good. Others like (in chronological order) Holding, Garner, Marshall & Ambrose became better bowlers.

            But they learnt from Roberts, the first master among equals.

            • January 17th 2013 @ 1:50pm
              allrounder said | January 17th 2013 @ 1:50pm | ! Report

              don’t forget Colin Croft

          • January 18th 2013 @ 11:31am
            matt h said | January 18th 2013 @ 11:31am | ! Report

            Yes I loved Robert’s comments that:

            – his variation was not a slower ball. He bowled at 90% and his variation was a quicker one
            – he use to bowl a slightly slower bouncer at a batsman a few times and then line him up with his faster one as it increased his chances of hitting them. A truly nasty bowler in a team of wolves.

            • January 28th 2013 @ 9:59pm
              Oracle said | January 28th 2013 @ 9:59pm | ! Report

              Loved Andy Roberts,a truly mean and brilliant fast bowler.
              Malcolm Marshall for me, then Richard Hadlee, Dennis Lillee, Dale Steyn has been the best for the past five years.
              Best left arm fast bowler, by the length of the Flemington straight, Wasim Akram. simply superb.
              Pity Simon Jones’ knees didn’t hold up.
              On a lighter note, where did Sam Gannon rate????????

        • Roar Guru

          January 17th 2013 @ 3:20pm
          biltongbek said | January 17th 2013 @ 3:20pm | ! Report

          Hi Sheek, looking at the allrounder method, it would be important to factor in the number of wickets per innings and also the number of not outs an all rounder had whilst batting.

          I have seen many lists over the year of “the best” and most of those lists ignore statitistics and use them merely as a guide.

          Waqar Younis is mostly ignored on these lists and similarlry alan Donald.

          Most of the excuses are nto as dangerous, or nor as skillsful, nor enough support bowlers to compete for wickets.
          People say batsmen are less skilled these days because of T20, and it helps with strike rates, so strike rates will be better. Nonsense, Steyn’s strike rate stands out above alll other bwoelrs.

          People say batsmen are less skilled and yet we have higher averages than ever before.

          There are comments of bowlers being assisted for the other side which impacts their bowling, then others say when you are the lone crusader that is a factor to consider.

          You can’t have it both ways.

          Steyn’s strike rate is similar now before Philander came along, and his average as well.

          I agree it is simpler, but in my view more effective.

          Someone on this thread alluded to the fact that Steyn is good, but more in line with Pollock than the top bowlers.

          Nonsense I say, Why is Waqar Younis being negated?

          Conjecture and subjective reasoning is what I am thinking.

      • Roar Guru

        January 17th 2013 @ 10:41am
        TheGenuineTailender said | January 17th 2013 @ 10:41am | ! Report

        The five-fors factor is more an indicator of the strength of the rest of the attack. Guys who take lots of five wicket hauls tend to be carrying their sides attack, ie Murali or Hadlee, where as some of those West India quicks were part of a ruthless attack. To take a five-for there, the other bowlers would all have needed to have a shocker.

      • January 17th 2013 @ 12:00pm
        Australian Rules said | January 17th 2013 @ 12:00pm | ! Report

        Great work biltong

    • Roar Guru

      January 17th 2013 @ 7:33am
      Damien said | January 17th 2013 @ 7:33am | ! Report

      Hadlee for me is the greatest fast bowler, with Marshall then Lillee to round out the top three.

      Hadlee had no support and basically did it all himself.

      Not diminishing the achievements of the other fast bowlers but at least they could rely on the other bowlers to put pressure on from the other side.

      To put it in context I reckon Hadlee was more important to the fortunes of NZ Cricket than Carter,McCaw and Grahame Henry combined !!

      • January 17th 2013 @ 8:39am
        BennO said | January 17th 2013 @ 8:39am | ! Report

        Well it’s certainly true that NZ cricket has suffered in the era of Carter, McCaw and Henry. 🙂

        • Roar Guru

          January 17th 2013 @ 10:17am
          Damien said | January 17th 2013 @ 10:17am | ! Report

          It wasn’t just NZ Cricket LOL..

      • January 17th 2013 @ 8:49am
        kramer said | January 17th 2013 @ 8:49am | ! Report

        Another one for Hadlee for the points you made.

        I guess i knew he was great when i hated him so much as a youngster, it was really all about the admiration!

        No Shane warne, Waqar Younis, Joel garner etc at the other end to help, but boy he could swing it and put it on a dime.

        He was also a lot quicker then what most people think as well!

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