Sri Lankan left-arm spinner Rangana Herath has been having a tremendous run over the past 4 to 5 years. The 38-year old, who made his debut back in 1999, spent most part of his career in the shadow of legendary off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan.
However, Herath came into prominence after Murali quit the Test arena in 2010 and has particularly been on a roll since 2012 with a staggering tally of 232 wickets in 41 Tests. Although he may be in his late 30s, Rangana Herath currently leads Sri Lanka’s bowling attack and seems to be getting better with every match.
The history of Test cricket has quite a few examples of bowlers showing fine form towards the late stages of their career, just like Herath. Let’s take a closer look at 5 such bowlers:
#5 Brett Lee
Former Australian cricketer Brett Lee has etched his name in cricket history as one of the fastest bowlers to have played the game. Although Lee enjoyed more success in limited-overs cricket, he had a very decent Test career as well, claiming 310 wickets in 76 Tests.
The New South Wales pacer may have picked wickets throughout his run in the longest format but he was at his consistent best in the last 3-4 years of his career. During this period, Lee grabbed 171 wickets in 39 Tests, including his best match figures of 9 for 171.
Brett Lee may have been able to achieve much more in Tests had he not quit the format prematurely in order to extend his limited-overs career.
#4 Darren Gough
Darren Gough was one of the mainstays of the England bowling attack for a major part of the 1990s and the early 2000s. In a Test career which saw Gough play 58 Tests, the paceman picked up 229 wickets at an average of just over 28.
Despite being consistent with the ball almost throughout the span of his career, the Yorkshire cricketer was at his best during his last few years in the Test arena. Between the years 2000 and 2003, Darren Gough claimed as many as 94 wickets in just 24 Tests.
Gough, however, continued to play limited-overs cricket till 2006 but called it a day after missing out on England’s 2007 World Cup Squad.
#3 Chris Cairns
Chris Cairns is easily among the greatest all-rounders to have represented New Zealand in international cricket. Known primarily for his hard-hitting batting, Cairns was also highly effective with the ball and is the 4th highest wicket-taker for his country in Tests.
Although he made his debut in the late 1980s, it took the 2nd generation cricketer almost a decade to discover his true bowling prowess. Out of the 218 wickets that Chris Cairns claimed in his Test career, 115 came in his last 28 Tests played between 1999 and 2004 at an average of under 26.
Cairns’ limited-overs career extended for another couple of years after he made his final Test appearance and he quit international cricket in 2006.
#2 Javagal Srinath
Former Indian cricketer Javagal Srinath is one of the few successful fast bowlers to have emerged from a cricketing nation which has always depended on its spinners. The Karnataka bowler led the Indian pace attack for almost a decade and took 236 wickets in the 67 Tests that he appeared in.
Despite having been India’s primary fast bowler for so long, Srinath reached his peak form only in his last few years as a Test cricketer. Starting from the year 1999, the lanky paceman grabbed 118 wickets in 33 Tests at an average of below 30, including his career best match figures of 13 for 132.
Having played his last Test late in 2002, Javagal Srinath ended his career post the 2003 ICC World Cup in South Africa.
#1 Mitchell Johnson
Mitchell Johnson is one of the finest fast bowlers to have played for Australia in the past decade or so. The left-arm pacer made a name for himself with his ability to swing the ball at high speeds and also extract steep bounce from the pitch.
However, it was during the last 3 to 4 years of his career that Johnson really found his mojo and became a terror to the batsmen. The Queensland cricketer picked 123 wickets in 26 Tests between 2012 and 2015 at a staggering average of under 24.
Perhaps his most memorable performance in Test cricket also came during this period when Mitchell Johnson almost single-handedly destroyed the England batting line-up. The Aussie pacer’s fabulous run in his final few years is among the best examples of a bowler peaking late in his career.