Not long after the start of play on Day 5 of the final England-Pakistan Test of the 3-match series, Jimmy Anderson had Pakistan skipper Azhar Ali caught at slip by English skipper Joe Root. The symbolism could not have been more appropriate for a scene that Test cricket will treasure - a fast bowler reaching the landmark of 600 wickets.
For all the fanfare that followed the historic achievement, there were also some comments that sparked genuine curiosity about what made Anderson successful for such an extended period.
Cricket history has been littered with fast bowlers, all of different builds, bowling speeds and actions, but not one of them before Jimmy could reach the landmark.
Glenn McGrath (563 wickets) and Courtney Walsh (519 wickets) finished honourably close to the mark, and the younger Stuart Broad (514 wickets to date) may yet have some years left in him to challenge the figure.
However, there were some quality bowlers who had the skills to succeed at this level and were standout names in their time, but were unable to take close to as many wickets.
In this article, we look at pace bowlers who had injury-ridden careers that were shorter than Anderson's, and were unlucky to miss out on an opportunity to top the charts.
#3 Allan Donald (1992-2002; 330 wickets)
During Allan Donald's first ODI, against India in 1991-92, he made his debut alongside 10 other players, with 9 of them being South African debutants. Indeed, he was part of South Africa's first teams after their post-apartheid readmission to cricket.
Playing for a very internationally inexperienced team, Donald became the captain's pick to break a partnership, or to bowl a long spell, very early on in his career.
While Donald lived up to the expectations, becoming South Africa's first bowler ever to the career landmark of 300 Test wickets, he was unable to have an injury-free or lengthy career.
White Lightning bowled for the early part of his career without significant international quality support. While he was indeed joined later on by Shaun Pollock in 1995 and by Makhaya Ntini in 1998, both of whom went on to scalp more career wickets, Donald was overworked and overplayed.
He struggled with injuries during the latter part of his career, ending his Test run after a massive home defeat to Australia in 2001-02.
Donald was seen in the exhibition Cricket All-Stars Series, playing alongside many yesteryear greats in 2015-16. Indian Premier League fans would know him better for his stint as the bowling coach of the Royal Challengers Bangalore, as he played a huge role in the team's sensational turnaround in 2016 where they marched to the finals.
More recently, in July 2019, Donald was inducted into the coveted ICC Cricket Hall of Fame.
#2 Curtly Ambrose (1988-2000; 405 wickets)
One of the first names that comes to your mind when you think of West Indies' past bowling greats is that of Sir Curtly Ambrose. The 6'7" bowler was famous for breakneck pace, steep bounce, as well as several tricks in the bag when Plan A didn't work out. Starting his career at the relatively late age of 25, Ambrose was part of the Windies bowling line-up for more than 12 years.
The Antigua and Barbuda pacer played a major part of his career in the 1990s, which was a period during which the West Indian team was going through an overall decline. They often relied heavily on Ambrose as well as Courtney Walsh, with not enough support from the other bowlers.
Post-1995, Ambrose went through ups and downs in form, and suffered shoulder and elbow injuries due to his bowling workload. He was often harshly judged by critics to be a shadow of his former self - however, he kept delivering winning performances for his team till the end of his career.
Despite the injuries, Ambrose pulled out some key performances, most notably during the 1996-97 tour to Australia. Ambrose, struggling with a hamstring injury, took nine wickets in the third Test and a five-wicket haul in the fifth, almost single-handedly winning matches for his team. He retired after a five-match series in England in 2000 despite the erstwhile board president pleading that he continue.
Ambrose too was instated into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame. He was also given the title of Knight Commander of the Order of the Nation (KCN) by the government of Antigua and Barbuda. Since retiring, Ambrose has been part of a reggae band as a bass guitarist, and been an influential voice regarding West Indies cricket.
#1 Dale Steyn (2004-2019; 439 wickets)
The only member in this feature who had an active playing career stretching well into recent public memory, Dale Steyn lit up South African cricket for a good part of 15 years.
Steyn still holds the record for the longest time spent at the top of the ICC Test Bowling Rankings - no less than 263 weeks, between 2008 and 2014. He has also been a force to reckon with for South Africa in the shorter formats of the game.
While Steyn did become the fastest bowler to 400 Test wickets in July 2015, his struggle with injuries thereon is exemplified by how long it took him to scalp the next 22 wickets to beat Shaun Pollock's South African record. It was only in December 2018 that he managed to become the leading Test wicket taker for South Africa.
In the preceding three years, Steyn suffered a spate of injuries, including a broken shoulder during the 2016-17 season and a heel injury during India's tour to South Africa in 2017-18. Each of these ruled him out for several weeks.
In late 2019, Steyn hung up his Test boots to focus on the shorter formats. He will be seen in the Royal Challengers Bangalore outfit during the upcoming Indian Premier League, also having played for them as a replacement signing last season.
Published 31 Aug 2020, 17:47 IST