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The pacemen always bring an extra element to the game, so it’s time to take a closer look at the fastest bowlers in the history of cricket.
Who is the Fastest Bowler in Cricket History?
The fastest bowler in the history of cricket is Shoaib Akhtar. Playing for Pakistan against England in 2003, the bowler sent down a delivery that was measured at 161.3 kilometres per hour.
The ball was delivered at the 2003 World Cup and that measurement converts to a staggering 100.2 miles per hour.
10 All-Time Fastest Bowlers in Cricket
Shoaib Akhtar – 161.3 kmph – Pakistan vs England – 2003
Shoaib Akhtar was nicknamed the Rawalpindi Express, which was ironic as that was quite a slow, lumbering train. In contrast, the bowler had some serious pace and, as we’ve seen, he bowled the fastest ball in the history of cricket.
Because he had some extreme pace, Shoaib Akhtar could also send down deceptive slower deliveries, and he claimed some memorable wickets when he took pace off the ball.
Shaun Tait – 161.1 kmph – Australia vs England – 2010
Injuries eventually brought a premature end to Shaun Tait’s international career. He continued to perform in T20 matches, but was never quite the same bowler after he hit his peak.
That peak came around 2010 when Tait sent down his fastest delivery which was measured at 161.1 kmph. England were Australia’s ODI opponents on the day, and this exceptionally quick delivery converts to 100.1 miles per hour.
Brett Lee – 160.8 kmph – Australia vs New Zealand – 2005
Brett Lee was the most consistent of Australia’s best fast bowlers and he remained largely injury free throughout his career. He was capable of hitting speeds in excess of 90 mph on a regular basis, while his fastest delivery trumped that figure by a clear margin.
Lee delivered at 160.8 kph which comes in at a fraction under the 100 miles per hour mark. The match in question saw Australia take on New Zealand in Napier in the fifth ODI of the series in 2005.
Jeff Thomson – 160.6 kmph – Australia vs West Indies – 1975
In the days before speed guns became more reliable and were more widely used, it was claimed that Jeff Thomson could bowl at speeds up to 100 miles per hour. That’s open to debate, but his official fastest delivery of all time is still pretty impressive.
It came in a match against the West Indies in 1975 and it was a record that would subsequently stand for over 25 years. During the match, Thommo was clocked at 160.6 kph which converts to 99.8 miles per hour.
Mitchell Starc – 160.4 kmph – Australia vs New Zealand – 2015
Australia’s left armer Mitchell Starc is known for his prodigious swing, but he can also bowl with genuine pace at times. It may be true to say that a string of injuries mean that he may never quite get back to the levels that saw him send down his fastest delivery in 2015.
That ball was delivered in a match against the cross-Tasman rivals New Zealand in 2015. Starc was bowling a speedy and hostile spell and he was clocked at 160.4 kilometres per hour. Those that work in imperial measures will need to know that this converts to 99.7 mph.
Andy Roberts – 159.5 kmph – West Indies vs Australia – 1975
It’s a question that often gets asked. Who was the quickest of all the great West Indian fast bowlers? There is plenty of competition with Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall and others in contention, but the man who delivered the fastest ball for the West Indies was Andy Roberts.
The delivery in question came against Australia in 1975 at a time when both teams were fielding some serious pacemen. Roberts was measured by the speed gun at 159.5 kph and this converts to 99.1 miles per hour.
Fidel Edwards – 157.7 kmph – West Indies vs South Africa – 2003
We tend to think that pace has gone out of the game in the West Indies. It’s always been tough for the current crop of fast bowlers in the Caribbean to live up to the legacy of their successors. Some have responded to the challenge better than others, and the quickest West Indian bowler of the new millennium is Fidel Edwards.
In a match against South Africa in 2003, Edwards sent down a blistering delivery that measured 157.7 kmph on the speed gun. Converted into miles per hour, this comes out at an impressive 97.9.
Mitchell Johnson – 156.8 kmph – Australia vs England – 2013
Australia’s Mitchell Johnson may have experienced some issues with his radar at times, but there were no such problems with his pace. The left armer had a slingy action which allowed him to get more speed into his delivery and he was seriously quick when at his peak.
Johnson’s fastest delivery came against England in 2013 and it was measured at 156.8 kilometres per hour. In imperial measurements, this translates to 97.4 miles per hour.
Mohammad Sami – 156.4 kmph – Pakistan vs Zimbabwe – 2003
This one might come as a surprise. As well as Shoaib Akhtar, Pakistan have produced some great fast bowlers, but we might have expected either Imran Khan, Waqar Younis or Wasim Akram to be included.
Instead, the honour of crashing into the Top Ten goes to Mohammad Sami who sent down a delivery measuring 156.4 kph when his team played Zimbabwe in 2003. That measurement converts to 97.1 for those who prefer miles per hour.
Shane Bond – 156.4 kmph – New Zealand vs India – 2003
Shane Bond was another bowler whose career was beset by injuries, but he had time to make an impression on the game. He’ll forever be remembered as the fastest of all New Zealand’s bowlers and no Kiwi has matched Bond for pace, before or since.
His fastest delivery came against India in 2003 and it was clocked at 156.4 kph which converts to 97.1 miles per hour.
There are some seriously impressive numbers on this list and I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to be at the batsman’s end to any of these deliveries. As for those who are included here, there are no real surprises.
The nickname Rawalpindi Express was meant to convey the sheer speed and hostility that Shoaib Akhtar put into his bowling. He was famously the first man to break the 100 mph barrier and that’s a feat that is almost unique.
Shaun Tait would eventually come close to matching Shoaib as he also hit the 100 mph mark. The rest of the list reads like a ‘who’s who’ of fast bowling. Brett Lee, Andry Roberts, Mitchell Johnson and Shane Bond are all here.
We may not have expected to see Mohammad Sami make the top ten, but the Pakistani quick could be very ‘slippery’ when he was firing.
The question, moving forward, is when will this list be threatened? The last entry here was from 2015 and it’s surprising that there has been no genuine threat to the top ten after that point.
Across the cricketing world, there are some good fast bowlers coming through. India’s Umran Malik has quickly emerged to become the quickest of all the Indian pacemen. Pakistan have a great crop of young speedsters, while England also have an exceptional new ball pairing in white ball cricket.
Mark Wood and Jofra Archer can comfortably hit 95 mph when they are at full speed. Injuries have been an issue for Wood and Archer, and they’ve also affected the careers of some of the bowlers on this top ten list.
Pace bowling can be hazardous for the human body, but it’s a serious weapon in all forms of cricket, and it’s been a thrill to see these players in action.