Playing conditions in New Zealand are far more conducive to seam and swing as opposed to spin. That’s partly why the country has produced some of the greatest quick bowlers in the game and here is a list of the best.
Who is the Best Bowler in New Zealand?
Few, if any cricket fans, would argue against the theory that Sir Richard Hadlee was the best New Zealand bowler of all time. In fact, the statistics back that up and he is the country’s leading wicket taker in tests with 431 wickets in 86 games.
He bowled with pace and swing and was effective over a long international career that lasted from 1973 to 1990.
The Top 15 Best New Zealand Fast Bowlers
Sir Richard Hadlee
We’ve already seen confirmation that Sir Richard Hadlee was New Zealand’s greatest ever fast bowler. The key element to those statistics lies in the number of games that he played.
Remember that Hadlee’s 431 wickets came in just 86 tests. The nearest Kiwi challenger among fast bowlers is Tim Southee who has 347 victims in 88 games.
Those 431 wickets include stunning best figures of 9/52. Sir Richard Hadlee also took 158 wickets in 115 ODIs.
Like Richard Hadlee, Chris Cairns was effective for New Zealand with both bat and ball. As a bowler, he delivered at good speeds, and he generated bounce because of his natural height.
In 62 test matches, Cairns claimed an impressive haul of 218 wickets. His best figures in a test innings are 7/27 against West Indies in 1999. He also took 202 wickets in 217 limited overs internationals.
A tall left arm bowler with the ability to generate bounce and swing, Richard Collinge was an effective bowler at home and away. When he left the international arena in 1978, he was New Zealand’s leading wicket taker across the two formats that were available at the time.
In test matches, Collinge claimed 116 wickets with best figures of 6/63. One Day cricket was in its infancy at that time, but he still managed to add 18 wickets in 15 ODIs. Collinge was instrumental in some of New Zealand’s finest moments in the 1970s and is fondly remembered by those who saw him play.
As a batter, Chris Martin was known as a ‘walking wicket’ but, thankfully, that wasn’t his job in the team. He was a useful seamer in the longer format and could bowl with decent pace at times.
In 71 test matches between 2000 and 2013, Martin took 233 wickets with best figures of 6/26. He also claimed 25 victims in 26 limited overs internationals.
In the present day, he’s known for his lively and excitable commentary. He’s such a colourful character that it’s easy to forget just how good a bowler Danny Morrison was.
He was short in stature with a skiddy action which worked well in New Zealand conditions. Morrison played in 48 tests and 96 ODIs, claiming a total of 286 wickets. His best innings figures of 7/89 came against Australia in the 1992/93 test series.
Jack Cowie could be considered as New Zealand’s first great pace bowler. He played in just nine tests between 1937 and 1949 but, like all players at that time, his career was interrupted by the Second World War.
Reports at the time praised his speed, together with swing and lift off the pitch. Cowie’s career highlight came on New Zealand’s tour of England in 1937 when he claimed 114 wickets at an average of under 20.
Cowie’s returns in international cricket don’t quite bear testament to his ability. He claimed 45 wickets in nine games with best figures of 6/40.
A player who would often share the new ball with Richard Hadlee, Ewen Chatfield played 43 test matches for New Zealand between 1975 and 1989. His debut against England was one to forget as he was struck a sickening blow on the head by Peter Lever and his heart stopped.
Happily, Chatfield made a full recovery and would go on to take 123 wickets in those tests with a best of 6/73. He was picked more consistently in the One Day arena where Chatfield claimed 140 victims in 114 matches.
It’s a great shame that injuries prevented Shane Bond from playing more international cricket. When he was at his best, he was arguably the quickest bowler ever to represent the Kiwis. He was capable of hitting 155kph and he also generated steep bounce.
In 18 tests, Bond claimed an impressive haul of 87 wickets with best figures of 6/51. His fitness issues allowed him to play in 102 limited overs internationals where he took an additional 172 wickets.
A seam bowler who bowled outswing at pace, Dick Motz was the first New Zealander to take 100 test wickets. He was forced to retire due to injury shortly after claiming that 100th victim on the Kiwis’ tour to England in 1969.
Those wickets came at an average of 31.48 and Dick Motz returned best figures in a test innings of 6/63.
Swing and seam are his main weapons in the modern day, but Tim Southee also had some serious pace in his youth. Following New Zealand’s tour to England in 2022, Southee had claimed 347 test wickets in 88 matches.
If he can maintain his fitness, there is an outside chance that Southee could go past Sir Richard Hadlee’s record of 431 test wickets. For now, those 347 wickets have come at an average of 28.99 with best figures of 7/64. Southee can also add 301 wickets from limited overs internationals in both formats.
Many feel that Bruce Taylor was New Zealand’s first great all rounder. He made two test hundreds in his career but was most effective with ball in hand. In his 30 tests, Taylor took 111 wickets at a respectable average of 26.60.
He made his mark on debut against India in Kolkata with figures of 5/86 and a hundred. He couldn’t always find that consistency, but Taylor did surpass those figures, taking 7/74 against the West Indies in 1971/72.
With decent pace and the ability to move the ball both ways, Bruce Taylor was a fine asset and a bowler who could be effective in any conditions.
Father of Chris Cairns and a long-time foil to Richard Hadlee, Lance Cairns was also a great quick bowler in his own right. He bowled big inswingers and his awkward action, off the wrong foot, was enough to deceive many batters.
Cairns played in 43 test matches and 78 ODIs between 1974 and 1985. He claimed a total of 219 international wickets with best figures of 7/74.
A left arm seamer with an aggressive approach to the game, Neil Wagner has been an effective bowler for New Zealand since making his debut. He was initially known for his pace and bounce but his ability to bowl with reverse swing has helped to extend his career into his mid-30s.
Following New Zealand’s tour of England in 2022, Wagner had taken 246 wickets in just 59 test matches. His impressive best figures of 7/39 came against the West Indies in 2017.
A left armer who can bowl with pace, Trent Boult is also a master of the swinging ball. When the conditions are in his favour, he can be unplayable and he’s considered by many to be the best swing bowler in 2022.
Boult is another bowler who is still playing regularly for New Zealand at the time of writing. He featured extensively on the tour of England in 2022 and, at the end of that series, he had claimed 317 test wickets in 78 matches.
He’s another player who could eventually go past Richard Hadlee’s all-time record, but he’ll need to keep playing for a few more years. Boult has best test figures in an innings of 6/30 and he also had 231 wickets in the two forms of limited overs internationals.
Adam Milne is one of the quickest bowlers on the Kiwi circuit right now and is capable of hitting 90mph. He took a wicket with his second ball in first class cricket and continues to be a useful player in all forms of the game.
He’s never quite been a regular in the national set up but Milne has certainly been effective at times. He’s yet to play test cricket but has claimed 73 wickets in 71 limited overs internationals with best figures of 4/37.
His statistics don’t quite do him justice, but Adam Milne deserves a slot on this list in terms of his sheer pace.
There are some great Kiwi quicks coming through and, in the near future, we may well be adding Lockie Ferguson, Matt Henry and Kyle Jamieson to this list. For now, these are the best that New Zealand has offered in the pace department.
There are some great names from history while it’s interesting to note that four of the bowlers are still playing. There’s even time for someone to overtake Richard Hadlee at the top of the leading wicket takers list but there is a way to go before anyone can overhaul the very best.