Over the years, the Border-Gavaskar Trophy has had no dearth of extraordinary cricket and riveting drama. But what transpired in Brisbane on 19 January 2021 was in a different realm altogether.
The physical toll on a fast bowler’s body has seen many great bowlers not fulfill their potential.
Bruce Reid was a super talent for Australia whose body just didn’t cope with fast bowling. Pat Cummins missed six years of Test cricket due to injury and the game virtually missed a gem in Shane Bond, who only got 18 Tests out of his body.
However, on the other end of the scale are those who bodies have just kept on going. Players who have been brilliant in their longevity despite the physical demands of bowling year in, year out for their country.
One of those bowlers is Jimmy Anderson. In playing his 146th Test match he is now the bowler with most Test matches ever played.
The first Test against the West Indies saw him take over Shane Warne as the most capped bowler of all time.
Jimmy Anderson is lean and with a Lamborghini engine. He just keeps bowling and bowling and bowling and… you get the idea.
Let’s look at the top five Test cricket fast bowlers with engines Formula One teams would be proud of.
5. Kapil Dev
For any bowler to have taken over 400 Test wickets playing a big percentage on spin-friendly Indian wickets is a huge effort.
Kapil Dev was still bowling beautifully at the end of his career. He played a total of 131 Tests for India over a 16-year period.
4. Glenn McGrath
Despite a tall and skinny frame similar to Bruce Reid, McGrath’s engine was terrific. His simple action meant he didn’t miss too much cricket to injury.
The only summer he didn’t have great influence over was the 2003-04 summer against India, but generally was fit and firing, leading Australia’s fast men for over a decade.
Far from the most naturally gifted cricketer, he worked out what he did well, and combined it with a simplicity in action to end with 563 wickets from 124 Tests.
3. Chaminda Vaas
To give an indication of his quality and longevity, Vaas’ 355 wickets for Sri Lanka remains a full 226 wickets ahead of next best Sri Lanka paceman Suranga Lakmal (129 wickets).
He has been the only great Sri Lankan paceman to have ever played Test cricket. Although he had Murali alongside him, he carried his nation, as far as seamers were concerned, for a full 15 years, bowling on wickets usually more suited to his off spinning countrymen.
Vaas played 111 tests for Sri Lanka in their most successful period as a Test-playing nation.
2. Jimmy Anderson
The most capped bowler to have played Test cricket can only be doing it with a first class motor. Like McGrath, he has done it with a beautiful action honed in to help him swing the ball.
Anderson has done what every player tries to do – get better with experience. He has been arguably a better bowler in his 30s than in his 20s, which also ticks the box in terms of learning and improving.
A lack of injuries is no accident, and can be put down to a good economical action and continued success as he heads towards 600 Test wickets.
1. Courtney Walsh
The Jamaican joined the West Indies team at their peak, as the into-the-wind workhorse among other great bowlers.
By the time he finished, he was their leader, still doing spells of hard yakka in a team no longer great, but he was still delivering the goods.
Walsh’s career lasted a total of 16-and-a-half years, and was the first bowler ever to pass the 500-wicket mark.
Walsh was still delivering in the twilight years of his Test career. In his final 20 tests he took 93 wickets at 19.73, as age did not stop his effectiveness.
A tall gangly type of bowler, Walsh’s career was rock solid from beginning to end, finishing with a total of 519 wickets from 132 tests.
Not only was he a great bowler, he also had the pressures of carrying a fading team and the captaincy as well. Walsh was a Mercedes in a fast bowler’s body.