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Top 10 England fast bowlers of all time

  • A close look at ten of the greatest pacers to have ever represented England.
  • Only two of these 10 pacers still play for England at the international level.
S Samaddar
ANALYST
Top 5 / Top 10
Modified 28 Apr 2020, 14:40 IST
Darren Gough in full flow
Darren Gough in full flow

Having played the game for more than 130 years now, England is the oldest cricketing nation in the world. Throughout their rich cricketing history, they have produced some of the finest cricketers. Among those greats, many have been fast bowlers.

Here are ten of the best fast bowlers to have played for England. Quite a few towering figures such as Frank Tyson and Harold Larwood could not make the cut. However, it is not a slight on their abilities but rather a reflection of the sheer riches of fast bowling talent that England have produced throughout their cricketing history.


10. Darren Gough

Darren Gough
Darren Gough

Darren Gough was England's pace spearhead from the mid-1990s through to the early 2000s. Throughout his international career, he shone for the team in both Test matches as well as in ODIs.

Gough could bowl seriously quick, and although he was not tall, he could still generate enough bounce to trouble the best batsmen. On the other hand, he was an excellent swing bowler and could generate reverse swing with the old ball as well. In 58 Test matches, he picked up 229 wickets at an average of 28.39. He also played 159 ODIs and picked up 235 wickets at an average of 26.42 and economy-rate of 4.39.

9. Brian Statham

Brian Statham
Brian Statham
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Brian Statham was one of the world's best bowlers during his 14-year career between 1951 and 1965. During those years, England enjoyed a period of sustained success owing to the consistent performances of the right-arm seamer.

Statham was a quick bowler who could extract both seam and swing. However, his real skills lay in being one of the most accurate bowlers of his era. Statham's accuracy could be stifling, and hence batsmen had to be extremely patient to get runs against him. It often worked in his favour. He played a total of 70 Test matches for England and picked up 252 wickets at an excellent average of 24.84.

8. Sir Alec Bedser

Sir Alec Bedser
Sir Alec Bedser

In the era directly following the Second World War, Sir Alec Bedser emerged as England's best bowler and is still regarded as one of the finest fast bowlers to have played for the country. He made his debut in 1946 when he was 28 years old, but his prowess as an eminent bowler was never in doubt.

Over the next nine years, Bedser played 55 Tests during which he picked up 236 wickets. He averaged 24.89 and recorded an economy rate of only 2.21. He was an unconventional bowler, and his strength lay in the inswinger. However, his leg cutter made him an even more difficult bowler to face as the ball deviated away from right-handed batsman at pace from an awkward length.

7. John Snow

John Snow
John Snow

John Snow's disciplinary issues prevented him from enjoying a much longer career. But his status as one of England's finest ever fast bowlers is beyond dispute. He played only 49 Tests from 1965 to 1976. During that period, he was England's pace spearhead and was renowned for single-handedly bringing about the downfall of many batting sides.

Snow was an extremely accurate bowler who also possessed stinging pace as well as the ability to extract seam movement. Most importantly, his vicious bouncer could catch many batsmen napping. In those 49 Tests, Snow picked up 202 wickets at an average of 26.66 and recorded a strike rate of only 59.5. He was one of the chief architects of England's Ashes triumph in Australia back in 1971.

6. Sydney Barnes

Sydney Barnes
Sydney Barnes

Sydney Barnes made his debut for England in 1901 and played till 1914. For those who played with and against him, he was the greatest bowler that they had ever seen. There was nothing that Sydney Barnes couldn't do. As a medium-fast bowler, his strengths lay in swinging and seaming the ball with aplomb either way. In addition to those, he could also bowl vicious cutters that often found the batsmen at their wit's end.

According to those who had the fortune of watching him bowl, Barnes was a rarity among swing and seam bowlers. He could move the ball even if the pitch did not offer much assistance. His Test record makes for astonishing reading. In only 27 Tests, Barnes picked up 189 wickets and recorded a remarkable average of only 16.43. Additionally, he had a strike rate of 41.6. There is no doubt that he was the deadliest bowler of his era.

5. Stuart Broad

Stuart Broad has served England cricket with distinction
Stuart Broad has served England cricket with distinction

When he eventually finishes his Test career, Stuart Broad will go down in cricket history as one of England's greatest fast bowlers. In a career that has spanned ten years thus far, he has been the team's work-horse across all conditions.

However, Broad's bowling is not only about relentless intensity. In addition to that, he also has the ability to extracting swing in helpful conditions and his innate gift of finding seam movement on almost any pitch. In 138 Test matches so far, he has picked up 485 wickets at an average of 28.50 and is currently second in the all-time list of highest wicket-takers for England. In the shorter formats of the game, he has picked up 178 wickets in 121 ODIs and 65 wickets in 56 T20Is.

4. Sir Ian Botham

Ian Botham is one of the finest all-rounders in the history of the game
Ian Botham is one of the finest all-rounders in the history of the game

Renowned for being one of the greatest all-rounders to have ever played the game, former England star Sir Ian Botham could have played the game as a bowler alone. He was a swing and seam bowler par excellence. The right-armer could also bowl a 'heavy ball' when necessary and remained one of England's bowling stars for the majority of his career.

Botham first played for England in 1977 and continued to play for them till 1992. During the course of his career, he picked up 383 wickets in 102 Test matches. He was England's leading Test wicket-taker for many years before James Anderson eventually broke his record. Botham averaged 28.44 and had a strike rate of around 57. He also played 116 one-dayers in which he snared 145 wickets at an average of 28.54. 

3. Bob Willis

Bob Willis in action against Australia at Headingley in 1981
Bob Willis in action against Australia at Headingley in 1981

Bob Willis was England's strike-force of the 1970s and early 1980s. He played 90 Tests and picked up 325 wickets at an average of 25.20. In addition to that, he also played 64 ODIs with a considerable amount of success.

Willis was 6 feet 6 inches tall, and his long sprint to the crease generated a lot of pace. He could cut the ball, swing it and could bowl a stinging bouncer whenever he wanted. Willis was also the architect of many famous victories, and one of his most notable performances came in the Ashes in 1981. Defending just 130, he took 8-43 in 15.1 overs to raze Australia for 111 in the fourth innings at Headingley

2. James Anderson

James Anderson is the leading wicket-taker for England
James Anderson is the leading wicket-taker for England

Without any shred of doubt, James Anderson is one of the greatest swing bowlers to have ever played the game. While Anderson might primarily be a swing bowler, he used to be quite quick in the early part of his career.

Exemplary control of swing, accuracy and seam movement has helped him torment numerous world-class batsmen in helpful conditions. With 584 wickets, he is the highest wicket-taker in the history of England cricket. An average of 26.83 and strike-rate of 56.1 is a vindication of his prowess with the red ball. In ODIs, he has played 194 matches and picked up 269 wickets at an average of 29.22 and economy-rate of 4.92.

1. Fred Trueman

Fred Trueman was arguably the greatest fast bowler of his era
Fred Trueman was arguably the greatest fast bowler of his era

Even though many have come before and after him, Fred Trueman remains the greatest fast bowler produced by England. Armed with an orthodox approach to the crease, he was easy on the eye and could bowl quick. On top of that, the Yorkshireman also could move the ball to make life doubly difficult for even accomplished batsmen.

Trueman's most important attribute was probably his gift of sniffing out the weakness in an opposition batsman in quick time. His exploits in 67 Tests between 1952 and 1965 made him the most feared fast bowler of his generation.

He was also the first bowler to reach the 300 wicket landmark. It has often been said that had he not been out of the side for disciplinary problems at some points, then he could have reached 400 wickets as well. An average of 21.57 and a strike rate of around 49 is further testament to his stature as one of the game's all-time greats.

Published 18 Dec 2017, 01:16 IST
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