Some call it the game of gentlemen, while others call it a boring game. Cricket has nonetheless established itself as a widely played and highly appreciated sport all over the world. For true cricket fans, analysts and enthusiasts, cricket is a game of many arts - there is much technicality involved in batting and bowling. Some of the greatest athletes in sports history have graced the game of cricket - Sachin Tendulkar, Donald Bradman, Brian Lara, Wasim Akram are just a few names that pop into mind; but none have, by and large, been more flamboyant than the sheer fast-bowlers with their audacious pace at the peak.
Fast bowling requires art and skill. Fast bowlers may be regarded by many as stereotypes, bowling without thinking much, but over the decades the game has shown that mastering the art of acute, high-speed bowling requires more of a big heart and quick brain as opposed to pure talent. In today's competitive cricket, the main concern for the fast bowlers has been injuries and setbacks which tend to affect their regular performance on the pitch. Shane Bond's case is a good example example; a really gifted New Zealand fast bowler whose career at its peak hung in the balance due to injuries.
With a fast bowling, a bowler mostly aims at throwing the ball hard and fast so that it bounces erratically off the pitch or moves sideways, making it very difficult for the batsmen to hit the ball. The typical range for a fast delivery is between 137 and 153 km/h. Some fast bowlers often vary their paces to confuse the batsman. Some sacrifice a part of their pace to maintain length and line, but for the others, sheer pace is the only way to go.
Here we are going to take a look at some of the fastest bowlers the game of cricket has seen. These players may not necessarily be the best fast bowlers or the best bowlers, period. But this article ranks the top players just in terms of the highest recorded pace at which they threw the ball. So, here are the top 10 fastest bowlers in the history of cricket.
10 Lasith Malinga - Sri Lanka - 155.7 km/h (96.747 mph)
A right arm pace bowler, Lasith Malinga is considered by many to be one of the most feared fast bowlers in the world. Making his debut in 2004, the Sri Lankan has made his name as one of the most consistent performers in world cricket. Malinga is a fast bowler specialist; with a rare round-arm action, he developed different variations and techniques including the slow yorker. His fastest delivery to date, 155.7 km/h, was recorded during the 2011 World Cup against New Zealand at Mumbai.
9 Dale Steyn - South Africa - 155.7 km/h (96.747 mph)
In the modern cricket era, Dale Steyn is cited by many as the number one bowler in Test Cricket. He has established himself as one of the most aggressive bowlers with excellent ability to bowl on line and length, something that many fast bowlers find difficult to maintain. He made his debut for South Africa in 2004. The right arm fast bowler's peak delivery was recorded at 155.7 km/h against New Zealand; the same record makes Steyn the second fastest active bowler in cricket.
8 Shane Bond - New Zealand - 156.4 km/h (97.182 mph)
The fastest bowler from New Zealand, Shane Bond is cited by many as the country's best bowler after Richard Hadlee. He started his career in 2001 against Australia, and made his name instantly with his power-driven pace and accuracy. His name was enough to puzzle any batsman in the ODI matches, but unluckily the 38-year-old became prone to injuries and couldn't achieve greater heights. During the 2001/02 season, Bond became the first pace bowler to record a bowling speed of 150 km/h. His fastest delivery stands at 156.4 km/h, recorded during the 2003 ICC World Cup against India.
7 Mohammad Sami - Pakistan - 156.4 km/h (97.182 mph)
Mohammad Sami is a right arm fast bowler, famous for this in-swing yorkers and low pitch bouncers. He made his debut in 2001 against New Zealand, and got 8 wickets in the very same match. That saw him play frequently in the Pakistani team which always boasted of many good bowlers, competing for the playing eleven. Later, Sami could not live up to the expectations and hype that surrounded him; his bowling was decent and pace-driven, but lacked accuracy in terms of line and length. The 33-year-old's 156.4 km/h delivery against Zimbabwe at Sharjah in April 2003 makes him the seventh fastest bowler of all time and the second fastest in Pakistan cricket history.
6 Fidel Edwards - West Indies - 157.7 km/h (97.99 mph)
Fidel Edwards made his name at quite a young age with his high arm-action and fast deliveries. Just after a game for Barbados, he made his Test cricket debut against Sri Lanka; he was also spotted in the nets by Brian Lara. He had slingy bowling action like Malinga's, but he did not have much accurate control over his pace. Edwards' career best figures of 6/22 in 7 overs came in his ODI debut against Zimbabwe. His fastest delivery was recorded at 157.7 km/h against South Africa in 2003.
5 Andy Roberts - West Indies - 159.5 km/h (99.109 mph)
One of the greatest bowlers of all time, Andy Roberts was an excellent fast bowler with tremendous pace and power. He made his debut for West Indies in 1974, and he, along with Colin Croft, Michael Holding and Joel Garner, made the renowned Fearsome Four. Roberts was one of the most dangerous pace bowlers in the 70s and early 80s, and was part of the 1975 and 1979 World Cup-winning West Indian team. His fastest delivery stands at 159.5 km/h, recorded against Australia in Perth 1975.
4 Jeffrey Thompson - Australia - 160.4 km/h (99.668 mph)
During the 1970s, Jeffrey Thompson alongside Deniss Lillee were two of the fastest bowlers in world cricket. The combination of the two made them the fastest opening pair in Test cricket history. Thompson made his debut in 1972, and over the years he was admired by everyone for his pace and cited by his peers as the fastest bowler in the world. He claimed 200 wickets in just 50 Test matches he played. Thompson's fastest bowling speed of 160.4 km/h was recorded against West Indies in Perth 1975.
3 Shaun Tait - Australia - 160.7 km/h (99.854 mph)
Shaun Tait's career started in 2005, and he is believed by many to have bowled some of the fastest balls in cricket history. Although he lacked accuracy to some extent, Tait consistently reached the 150 km/h mark in almost every match he played. His career didn't last long, and he soon retired from Tests and ODI cricket. During an ODI game against Pakistan in Melbourne in 2010, Tait's delivery was recorded as 160.7 km/h. This makes him the third fastest bowler in cricket, the second fastest in Australian cricket, and the record itself stands as the fastest ball ever thrown in an Australian pitch.
2 Brett Lee - Australia - 160.8 km/h (99.854 mph)
Brett Lee is the fastest bowler in Australian cricket history. His record fast bowl clocked at 160.8 km/h against New Zealand in Napier 2005, makes him the second fastest bowler in cricket history. However, his fastest bowl was recorded at 161.8 km/h; this would make him the fastest bowler in cricket history, but the record was made in an unofficial game and is not recognized by the ICC. Lee was a specialist in in-swinging and out-swinging. He was also a handy lower order batsman and an athletic fielder overall. Constant strain on the shoulders and other injuries limited Lee's career. He was a key player in 2 World Cup-winning Australian squad.
1 Shoaib Akhtar - Pakistan - 161.3 km/h (100.23 mph)
Nicknamed The Rawalpindi Express, Shoaib Akhtar is the first name that comes to minds of cricket enthusiasts when talking of speed. Making his debut in 1977, the Pakistani rose to fame when he bowled Sachin Tendulkar off the first ball the batsman faced with a brilliant yorker. He dropped down many other great batsmen during the late 90s, and was considered the most fearsome bowler of his era to play against. Akhtar was the first bowler to reach the 100 mph mark, and over his career he bowled at an average fast pace of around 158 km/h. His delivery of 161.3 km/h against England in the 2003 World Cup has been officially named as the fastest bowl ever recorded in cricket.