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The six greatest ODI fast bowlers of all time

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1st June, 2019
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Since 1971, ODIs have become a major part of the gentleman’s game. They have changed the way players approach cricket. 

There have been great ODI fast bowlers who have left their mark on the 50-over format. Bowling tight lines, variations, toe-crushing yorkers and sparingly sharp bouncers, these pacers were nightmares for opposition batsmen.

Glenn McGrath
250 ODIs, 381 wickets at 22.02, 16 four-wicket hauls, 7 five-fors, best figures of 7/15 against Namibia at the 2003 World Cup, economy rate of 3.88 at a strike rate of 34.04.

The Australian great troubled batsman not only in Tests but also in the shorter format of the game. His deadly accuracy along with quality yorkers, bouncers, slower balls, off and leg cutters led to McGrath retiring as Australia’s greatest ODI wicket-taker.

He is one of only three players to be a part of three successful World Cup campaigns, holding a tournament record with 71 wickets from 39 games, as well as the Cup’s best bowling average (18.20), best bowling figures (7/15), most wickets in a single tournament (26 in 2007), and the most maiden overs (42). He also has six man of the match awards at World Cups.

‘Pigeon’ is the seventh highest ODI wicket-taker of all time and he is also ranked No.5 on the ICC’s all-time greatest ever ODI bowlers list.

Wasim Akram
356 ODIs, 502 wickets at 23.5, 17 four-wicket hauls, 6 five-fors, best figures of 5/15 against Zimbabwe at Karachi in 1993, an economy rate of 3.89 at a strike rate of 36.2.

Arguably Pakistan’s greatest fast bowler and the best left-arm paceman to ever play the game, Wasim Akram had every skill in his repertoire. He formed a deadly opening bowling partnership with Waqar Younis.

Wasim claimed the most ODI wickets as a captain (158) as well as the most ODI wickets at a single ground with 122 wickets at Sharjah.

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The Pakistani legend is one of only five bowlers to have taken two ODI hat-tricks. Akram was the first bowler to take 500 ODI wickets, picking up 22 man of the match awards along the way.

He has an impeccable World Cup record with 55 wickets and a huge hand in Pakistan’s 1992 triumph.

Brett Lee
221 ODIs, 380 wickets at 23.36, 23 four-wicket hauls, 9 five-fors, best figures of 5/22 against South Africa at the Telstra Dome, Melbourne in 2006, an economy rate of 4.76 at a strike rate of 29.43.

If you want to see the best of Brett Lee, then watch his 2003 World Cup highlights. He was frightening to play, reaching speeds of 160km/h and above. He was scary to face for any opposition batsman.

Brett Lee takes a hat-trick

Brett Lee celebrates a hat-trick at the 2003 Cricket World Cup against Kenya. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Lee is the eighth-highest ODI wicket-taker of all-time, and is also the second fastest bowler in terms of deliveries bowled to reach 150, 200 and 250 wickets.

Along with having the third most five-fors after Muttiah Muralitharan and Waqar Younis, Lee also has the best strike rate for bowlers with 300-plus wickets. Every time Lee got a five-for, Australia won.

Brett Lee’s 2003 World Cup campaign was simply brilliant with 22 wickets at 17.9 from his ten games. He was the second highest wicket-taker for the tournament, including a hat trick.

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Shaun Pollock
303 ODIs, 393 wickets at 24.51, 17 four-wicket hauls, 5 five-f0rs, best figures of 6/35 against the West Indies at East London in 1999, an economy rate of 3.68 at a strike rate of 39.98.

Shaun Pollock has the best economy rate for bowlers with over 300-plus career wickets. There were only two years in his 13-year career when he averaged above 30 and two years when he had an economy rate above 4. His final year was his best in terms of economy rate, going for just 2.79 an over.

Before he retired in 2008, he was ranked No.1 in the ICC ODI bowling rankings and was 144 points ahead of the second-placed Shane Bond.

Pollock is the sixth highest ODI wicket-taker of all time and the highest non-Asian ODI wicket-taker of all time.

Pollock liked to take the wickets of the best opposition batsman – he took the prized scalp of Sachin Tendulkar nine times, Adam Gilchrist 12 times, Sanath Jayasuriya eight times, Nathan Astle seven times, and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Aravinda de Silva, Chris Gayle and Marcus Trescothick six times each.

Joel Garner
98 ODIS, 146 wickets at 18.8, 5 four-wicket-hauls, 3 five-fors, best figures of 5/31 against Australia at the MCG in 1983, an economy rate of 3.09 at a strike rate of 36.51.

The towering Barbadian Joel Garner is regarded by many as the greatest ODI bowler of all time. He had lethal yorkers released from a daunting height and extracted bounce from awkward lengths. He was one reason why the West Indies were dominant from 1977 to 1983.

Garner’s bowling average of 18.8 is the second best for a bowler with 100-plus wickets, one of just two below 20. Along with his fantastic bowling average, Big Bird’s economy rate of 3.09 is the best of all time.

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His 5/38 in the 1979 World Cup final remain the best figures in a World Cup final. Furthermore, in the ICC best-ever ODI bowling rankings, Joel Garner is ranked No.1.

Waqar Younis
262 ODIS, 416 wickets at 23.84, 27 four-wicket hauls, 13 five-fors, best figures of 7/36 against England at Headingley in 2001, an economy rate of 4.69 at a strike rate of 30.52.

A peerless exponent of the yorker, the former Pakistani captain had a stellar ODI career alongside Wasim Akram.

Not only is Younis the third highest ODI wicket-taker of all time, but he is also the fastest bowler to reach 300, 350 and 400 career wickets. His strike rate is the second best among bowlers who have taken more than 300 wickets.

Waqar Younis is the only bowler to have taken three consecutive ODI five-fors and the only bowler to have done it on three occasions. He is also the only bowler to have picked up three consecutive four-wicket hauls on three occasions. No other bowler has done it more than twice.

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He is the only captain to have taken seven wickets in an ODI. He achieved the feat in the 2001 with 7/36 against England at Leeds.

‘The Burewala Express’ has the most five-fors and four-wicket wicket-hauls in ODI cricket history.