When I was growing up watching cricket in the 1970s, Australia had some of the best fast bowlers of that era and they still field effective pacemen in the modern day. Here are some of the best.
Best Australian Fast Bowlers
1. Glenn McGrath
Glenn McGrath may not be the fastest Australian bowler on this list but he was certainly the most effective of Australia’s quicker men. The key to his success lay in an almost perfect wrist position. The ball hit the seam with unerring regularity and that made things extremely difficult for opposition batsmen.
McGrath made his debut against New Zealand in 1993 and his international career would last for 14 years. He played 124 tests and 376 international matches in total which is a remarkable number for a fast bowler. He took 563 test wickets which was a test record for a seamer until it was later overtaken by England’s Jimmy Anderson. Included in that total are best figures of 8/24 which came against Pakistan in Perth in 2004.
2. Dennis Lillee
In contrast to McGrath, Dennis Lillee had plenty of pace and he combined it with sheer hostility. He was a fearsome competitor on the pitch and he developed a potent new ball pairing with Jeff Thomson in the 1974/75 Ashes series.
With his bristling moustache and hairband, Lillee was a distinctive figure at the end of his long run and his sheer pace and bounce was an effective weapon. He made his test debut against England in 1971 and he was particularly potent in Ashes series. Lillee played in 70 tests between 1971 and 1979 and he took 355 wickets with a best of 7/83. Added to that tally are 103 wickets from 70 One Day Internationals.
3. Mitchell Starc
The first left armer on the list, Mitchell Starc is still playing the game at the time of writing and has time to add to his haul of 277 test wickets. He can also add an impressive tally of 355 victims in the shorter formats.
Starc has pace but he can also generate swing. Conventional swing and reverse swing are among his weapons and that can be a productive combination. I recommended checking out a video from the 2022 test series against Pakistan where Starc dismissed Fawad Alam with a vicious reverse swinging yorker.
When he gets his line and length right, Mitchell Starc can be virtually unplayable and we hope that he can stay fit and firing for a few more years.
4. Brett Lee
Brett Lee is probably Australia’s consistently fastest bowler of the modern era. A smooth run up and perfect delivery stride allowed him to send the ball down at speeds in excess of 90 miles per hour with great regularity.
Lee was a good foil to Glenn McGrath’s seam movement and the two also formed a fearsome combination in all forms of the game. He made his test debut against India in the MCG Boxing Day game of 1999 and made an instant impact, taking five wickets in the first innings and seven in the match.
The man known as Bing would become Australia’s one of the most successful fast bowlers in test cricket history as he went on to claim 310 victims. Brett Lee was effective in the limited overs forms too, taking 408 wickets in 246 combined One Day Internationals and T20is.
5. Shaun Tait
There may be some debate over Shaun Tait’s inclusion. Injuries restricted him to just three test matches and 59 international appearances overall but he made his mark in that time. Tait is here because of his express pace which made him one of the most lethal bowlers of his day.
His test returns were disappointing but he really came into his own in one day cricket. In 35 One Day Internationals, Tait claimed 62 wickets with a best of 4/39 and an impressive bowling average of 23.56. His T20i stats are also strong and they led to a period of playing franchise cricket around the world.
Shaun Tait may be a debatable inclusion but he was seriously quick when fit and firing. If he’d had more luck with injuries then he would have been among Australia’s leading wicket taking bowler in all formats.
6. Jeff Thomson
Jeff Thomson could still lay claim to being the fastest bowler in the history of cricket. Before official measures were used, it’s said that Thommo would nudge speeds of 100 miles per hour and that’s a daunting prospect in the days before helmets.
Thomson bowled with a very ‘slingy’ action that was likened to a javelin thrower. His express pace would have been generated by this approach but he could also get serious bounce from any wicket.
Jeff Thomson made his test match debut against Pakistan at the MCG in December 1973 but there was little sign of what was to come as he returned figures of 0/100 in the first innings. He could be a bit wayward in those days but he recalibrated his radar to claim exactly 200 wickets in 51 tests.
Thommo was part of the Australian test team that lost the 1975 World Cup final and he can add 55 wickets in 50 ODIs to his overall international tally.
7. Josh Hazlewood
Australia are blessed with some fine fast bowlers in the modern day. Along with Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood usually slots in to form a speedy and hostile attack. In any era, he could have made an effective contribution to the side as he has a lot of qualities,
Hazlewood has pace and a strong wrist position which helps him to get considerable movement off the seam. He can also get significant swing when the conditions are in his favour. At the end of the second test against Pakistan in March 2022, Josh Hazlewood had taken 215 test match wickets in 57 tests with best figures of 6/67. He also had 133 wickets in limited overs internationals at that time.
He’s 31 at the time of writing and if he keeps playing until his mid-30s’ Hazlewood could well climb towards the top of Australia’s lists of leading wicket takers.
8. Pat Cummins
It’s rare for a fast bowler to be made captain of his national team but that honour has been bestowed on Australia’s Pat Cummins. This underlines just how respected he is in the game and he’s led by example since taking over from Tim Paine.
As a fast bowler, Cummins is the quickest member of the current Australian attack. He suffered a lot with injuries in his early career but has the capability of exceeding 90mph on a regular basis when he is fit and firing.
Pat Cummins made his test match debut against South Africa in 2011 and he was another player to make an instant impact. In the second innings of that game in Johannesburg, he returned the brilliant figures of 6/79.
By the end of the second test against Pakistan in March 2022, Cummins had played 40 tests and had taken 189 wickets. His best figures have improved to 6/23 and he’s also claimed 155 victims in ODIs and T20is.
9. Nathan Coulter-Nile
This may be another debatable inclusion but I think that Nathan Coulter-Nile is a very underrated bowler and he is unlucky not to have played more international cricket. He hasn’t featured for Australia in test matches and, at the age of 34, he’s unlikely to do so at this late stage of his career.
Coulter-Nile has been a force in limited overs cricket and that’s why he’s been a regular fixture at the IPL and in other franchise tournaments all over the world. He’s also played 32 One Day Internationals and 28 T20is for Australia and the national selectors might still want to look at him moving forward.
Across those 60 international matches, Nathan Coulter-Nile has taken 86 wickets. His best figures of 4/31 in T20s are impressive and his averages and economy rates are exceptional. Coulter-Nile possessed genuine pace at the height of his career and was particularly effective in the death overs so I believe he deserves to be here.
10. James Pattinson
A man who struggled with injury for much of his career, James Pattinson has now retired from international cricket but he remains a force in the domestic game. Like Shaun Tait, however, you can’t help but wonder what might have been, had he stayed fitter for much longer.
Pattinson, whose brother Darren famously played one test match for England, possesses a big frame. That body strength helps him to bowl at 90mph consistently and he also generated plenty of bounce.
His body has let him down on occasions, however, and he left the international scene after playing just 21 test matches, 15 One Day Internationals and four T20 internationals. He took exactly 100 wickets in that time and the highlight came when he claimed five wickets in each of his first two games back in 2011.
He’ll continue to feature in domestic cricket for a while but it’s a shame that we won’t be seeing more of James Pattinson in the test match whites or Canary yellow of Australia.
There are some impressive names on this list and it underlines just how effective Australia have been at producing fast bowlers. There will be some debate over the names that are here and Mitchell Johnson is certainly one who might have been included.
Those that have made the cut comprise a list of fast bowlers who could have made any international side and Australia have certainly been blessed with effective pace batteries over the years.