One of the most dreaded components of fast bowling is its sheer pace. It’s just nightmarish for the batsmen and more so in those decades of 1980s or early 1990s when protection was just not enough and technique was all that a batter had in his disposal to negotiate with these 10 deadly pacers from the earlier decade or two.

It’s a tale of 10 most successful fast bowlers and yes, some of them may be forgotten at present. Let us for our part sneak into a statistical analysis (considering Test matches only) of these dreaded bowlers namely –

  • Curtly Ambrose, Joel Garner, Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall (the quartet from West Indies)
  • Dennis Lillee, Craig McDermott (the pair from Australia)
  • Imran Khan, Waqar Younis (the pair from Pakistan)
  • Sir Richard Hadlee (New Zealand)
  • Alan Donald (South Africa)

First of all, let us have a look at their career stats.

Overall career stats

Bowler Tests Wickets Avg SR 5I/10M
Ambrose 98 405 20.99 54.5 22/3
Donald 72 330 22.25 47.0 20/3
Garner 58 259 20.97 50.8 7/0
Hadlee 86 431 22.29 50.8 36/9
Holding 60 249 23.68 50.9 13/2
Imran 88 362 22.81 53.7 23/6
Lillee 70 355 23.92 52.0 23/7
Marshall 81 376 20.94 46.7 22/4
McDermott 71 291 28.63 56.9 14/2
Waqar 87 373 23.56 43.4 22/5

 

Hadlee, Ambrose and Marshall look terrific with their overall stats. Waqar’s balls-per-wicket ratio looks ominous. Garner is a bit of surprise to have never bagged a 10-fer in a match but not to bother had some decent overall figures that give hints at his enviable consistency. Lillee’s average or strike-rate may not be that impressive but those 23 5-fers and 7 10-fers surely made him a demon on his days. Ditto for Imran. McDermott too was fearsome with his pace and his 14 5-fers are just a testimony of that. Donald had a brilliant strike-rate too. Holding too had his shares of success.

Let us now break these stats for further analysis as per conditions. We are taking two major aspects in this regard – result of the match and home-away factors. The similarities and differences according to various contrasting scenarios in that regard would definitely put forward the more detailing that is so necessary to figure out how they had contributed to the success of their respective sides and how their team used to rely on them for the better part of their career. So let us have a good look at those filtered parameters.

Stats in all wins and losses

  In winning cause In losing cause
Bowler Wickets Avg SR 5I/10M Wickets Avg SR 5I/10M
Ambrose 229 16.86 44.4 13/3 95 26.63 63.4 4/0
Donald 187 16.79 35.5 14/3 59 30.01 59.0 3/0
Garner 142 19.71 46.1 3/0 20 24.60 55.4 0/0
Hadlee 173 13.06 33.5 17/8 125 26.29 57.2 11/0
Holding 152 18.36 40.1 6/1 31 28.22 58.6 3/1
Imran 155 14.50 38.3 11/6 69 25.84 55.4 6/0
Lillee 203 18.27 39.0 17/6 59 29.49 64.7 2/0
Marshall 254 16.78 38.1 17/4 27 27.70 64.0 1/0
McDermott 131 22.74 48.1 8/2 66 33.60 62.7 1/0
Waqar 222 18.20 35.0 14/4 88 30.39 53.6 4/1

 

Now it’s quite clear why Sir Hadlee is so much revered in the cricketing fraternity. His stats are just the best in any scenario – whether he is leading his side to victory or otherwise. The former Kiwi captain’s stats though double up worse in loses – a testimony that how dependent his side was on his abilities. The stories are similar for Ambrose, Donald, Imran and Waqar as well. The Caribbean might is clear from the stats of their quartet, especially Marshall, Garner and Holding – who represented the West Indies at their peak in 1980s. Cumulatively, these three pacers had 7 times more scalps in victory than that in defeat. However, Garner is the most indifferent of the lot – with fluctuations as little between victory and defeat – as far as average and strike-rate are concerned.

Coming to Australia, Lillee was more lethal than McDermott – although the latter was better in losing causes. Waqar and Holding had one of their 10-fers in losing cause. Contrast to Lillie and Marshall, Imran and Hadlee had some great spells in losing causes as well.

Stats at home and abroad

  At home Abroad
Bowler Wickets Avg SR 5I/10M Wickets Avg SR 5I/10M
Ambrose 203 21.19 55.7 11/2 202 20.78 53.3 11/1
Donald 177 21.64 45.0 12/2 153 22.96 49.3 8/1
Garner 123 22.34 51.0 3/0 136 19.74 50.6 4/0
Hadlee 201 22.96 53.0 15/3 230 21.72 48.9 21/6
Holding 86 23.75 50.1 2/0 163 23.65 51.3 11/2
Imran 163 19.20 47.0 10/3 199 25.76 59.2 13/3
Lillee 231 23.73 49.9 15/4 124 24.28 55.9 8/3
Marshall 157 20.06 42.4 8/2 219 21.57 49.8 14/2
McDermott 193 26.47 53.8 11/2 98 32.88 63.1 3/0
Waqar 162 20.29 38.7 11/3 197 25.96 47.3 11/2

 

Coming to home and away demarcation, Ambrose and Hadlee stand out – although the New Zealander looks more successful away from home. Another bowler who was hotter abroad than at home was Garner. Holding and Lillee look equally good – although the West Indian had more sharp spells away while the Aussie tormented his rivals at home. McDermott’s figures too looks similar to Lillee. Imran and Waqar looked brothers-in-arms with their figures once again so very close – both more lethal at home than abroad. Marshall and Donald had similar figures – but some of their greatest spells coming more regularly in one particular than the other.

In the final take, Sir Richard Hadlee must be the unanimous pick of the lot – the man for all seasons. Donald, Ambrose and Lillee come next. Waqar and Imran look lethal at home and in victories. Waqar had a fantastic strike-rate. Garner, Marshall and Holding complemented one another. McDermott might have looked a bit inferior in this elite list – but in his time, he was equally good.

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