Top 10 Bowlers by Strike Rate in Modern Test Cricket

Chris Teale@@chris_tealeFeatured ColumnistDecember 2, 2013

Top 10 Bowlers by Strike Rate in Modern Test Cricket

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    The regularity of a bowler taking a wicket is measured by the strike rate, and it is a fairly good indicator of how potent a player is in Test match cricket.

    The measure rewards bowlers who manage to get batsmen out on a routine basis, regardless of the number of runs they concede while doing so.

    Looking back over the history of modern Test cricket, which bowlers have had the lowest, and therefore best, strike rates?

    Which individuals have taken a lot of wickets in a very short space of time?

    Let’s take a look.


    All statistics courtesy of ESPN Cricinfo.


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    Firstly, the strike rates of bowlers from the early history of Test cricket in the 19th and early 20th centuries are very low.

    This is due to the quality of the pitches matches were played on being very bowler-friendly, so individuals like George Lohmann and J.J. Ferris took full advantage of this.

    To try and get around this, we will look at only the last 50 years of Test matches, an era when pitches improved and thus allowed a more even contest between bat and ball.

    Secondly, the use of strike rate as the key statistic does not reward bowlers who concede very few runs while taking their wickets.

    Instead, it places a large emphasis on taking wickets regularly as opposed to doing so while drying up runs at the same time.

    So while it is perhaps not the best indicator of the top bowlers in modern Test cricket, it is a statistic that throws up some interesting results.

Honorable Mentions

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    No. 13: James Pattinson

    The bowler with the 13th-best strike rate in the history of modern Test cricket is young Australian James Pattinson.

    The 23-year-old has taken his 47 wickets at a rate of 48.4, which combined with his economy rate of 3.27 is very impressive.

    If he can stay fit, he could be a dominant bowler in international cricket.


    No. 12: Steven Finn

    At No. 12 is Englishman Steven Finn, a seamer who has perhaps struggled with conceding runs but has a strike rate of 48.3.

    If he is able to combine his high strike rate with a lower economy rate, the 24-year-old will be quite a proposition in international cricket.


    No. 11: Doug Bollinger

    Our final honorable mention goes to another Australian—Doug Bollinger.

    The left-armer has taken his 50 Test wickets at a rate of 48.0, a superb return in just 12 matches.

    He may have fallen down the pecking order somewhat for the Baggy Green, but there might still be time for the 32-year-old to regain his spot in international cricket.

No. 10: Simon Jones

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    47.8 strike rate; 59 wickets; 18 Tests; 28.23 average

    In at No. 10 is a man who last played Test cricket in 2005 as he helped England regain the Ashes at home—Simon Jones.

    In a career plagued by injuries, Jones was clearly a potent bowler as his strike rate shows, but even getting on the pitch and staying through an entire series was a struggle.

No. 9: Allan Donald

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    47.0 strike rate; 330 wickets; 72 Tests; 22.25 average

    At No. 9 comes one of the best bowlers of the 1990s, as Allan Donald makes his entry into this list.

    South Africa’s leading seamer after their re-entry into international cricket, Donald terrorised opposition batsmen with his sheer pace and aggression and was rewarded for his consistency with 330 wickets.

No. 8: Malcolm Marshall

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    46.7 strike rate; 376 wickets; 81 Tests; 20.94 average

    Another of the best seam bowlers in modern times joins this list at No. 8, with West Indian Malcolm Marshall rewarded for his cunning and skill with the ball.

    Among the West Indies’ battery of fast bowlers in the 1980s, Marshall was perhaps the best as he was able to adapt to all conditions while maintaining incredible pace.

No. 7: Jermaine Lawson

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    46.3 strike rate; 51 wickets; 13 Tests; 29.64 average

    A surprising entry at No. 7 is West Indian Jermaine Lawson, a man who has not played Test cricket since 2005.

    Lawson is on this list due to his stunning bursts of wickets, like when he took six wickets for just three runs against Bangladesh in Dhaka and 7-78 against Australia in St. John’s.

    He might surprise some people by being on this list, but it just goes to show that short bursts of wickets can be a great reward for any bowler in Test matches.

No. 6: Ryan Harris

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    45.9 strike rate; 76 wickets; 17 Tests; 21.81 average

    Above Lawson comes Australia’s Ryan Harris, another who has struggled with injuries during his relatively short international career.

    While his body has let him down regularly, Harris has shown he is able to be a leading fast bowler, and Australia will be hoping he can put his fitness concerns behind him.

No. 5: Shoaib Akhtar

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    45.7 strike rate; 178 wickets; 46 Tests; 25.69 average

    At No. 5 is the man who was once the fastest bowler in the world but was guilty of believing the hype that surrounded him—Shoaib Akhtar.

    On his day, however, Akhtar could be an incredibly dangerous bowler to face owing to his extreme pace, and as such he sits on this list as a reward for his incredible bursts of hostile bowling.

No. 4: Waqar Younis

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    43.4 strike rate; 373 wickets; 87 Tests; 23.56 average

    Above Akhtar comes one of the most important seam bowlers of the 20th century, as Waqar Younis sits at No. 4.

    Alongside his fast-bowling partner Wasim Akram, Younis combined swing and seam movement with a terrifying yorker and so was able to collect numerous wickets in a relatively short space of time.

No. 3: Dale Steyn

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    41.4 strike rate; 340 wickets; 67 Tests; 22.65 average

    Into the top three, and at No. 3, is Dale Steyn, the man regarded as the best seam bowler in the world right now.

    Steyn manages to combine pace and power with swing and seam movement, making him one of the most dangerous bowlers to face in the world game.

    His ability to pick up wickets quickly and for few runs is a testament to how difficult he is for opposition batsmen.

No. 2: Shane Bond

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    38.7 strike rate; 87 wickets; 18 Tests; 22.09 average

    Above Steyn is the New Zealander Shane Bond, a bowler who could have been one of the most dominant on the international stage but was let down by his fragile body.

    In his short Test career, however, Bond showed he was New Zealand’s best seam bowler since Sir Richard Hadlee.

    It was just unfortunate his body could not stand up to the rigours of international cricket.

No. 1: Vernon Philander

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    37.9 strike rate; 95 wickets; 18 Tests; 17.50 average

    Sitting atop this list is another hugely talented South African seamer, one who could be a key figure for the Proteas in the years to come—Vernon Philander.

    The second-fastest bowler in the history of the game to reach 50 Test wickets, Philander makes up for his slight lack of pace with swing and accuracy.

    Once again, South Africa seems to have produced yet another world-class seamer.