Ranking the Top 50 Bowlers in Modern Test Cricket by Strike Rate
For bowlers in Test cricket, one figure they wish to keep as low as possible during their career is their strike rate, which indicates the number of balls they deliver per wicket.
It serves as a good indicator of how potent a bowler can be, although it does not take into account the runs they concede.
Since 1964, plenty of bowlers have had very low strike rates during their careers, with some of the lowest coming from some surprising players.
Our starting point is 1964, given that it gives us a 50-year span, but also because before 1964 wickets were poor and bowlers could expect much lower strike rates than their modern peers.
With all that in mind, read on for the top 50 bowlers in modern Test cricket, ranked in order of their strike rate.
All stats courtesy of ESPN Cricinfo, correct as of August 17 2014.
50. Matthew Hoggard (England)
67 Test matches; 248 wickets; 30.50 average; 7-61 BBI; 56 strike rate
Starting off this list is one of England’s most consistent modern bowlers, Matthew Hoggard.
A regular on the team sheet during the early part of the 21st century, Hoggard was a tremendous performer with the new and old ball.
He was especially potent when there was swing in the air, even against the strongest batting lineups.
Hoggard may not have been the most explosive bowler in the world, but his consistency stood him in good stead.
49. Kenny Benjamin (West Indies)
26 Test matches; 92 wickets; 30.27 average; 6-66 BBI; 55.7 strike rate
One of a number of superb West Indian pace bowlers to make this list, Kenny Benjamin joins at No. 49.
Even as the team started to crumble, Benjamin helped hold everything together with his deadly pace and steepling bouncers.
He will perhaps consider himself unlucky to have played only 26 Tests, but he looked rather impressive in doing so.
48. Trent Boult (New Zealand)
25 Test matches; 92 wickets; 27.45 average; 6-40 BBI; 55.7 strike rate
A bowler who should move up this list as his career goes on is Trent Boult, who is currently at No. 48 but has the ability to make further progress.
Alongside fellow New Zealander Tim Southee, Boult has formed one of the most potent seam partnerships in the world with the new ball.
The left-armer has shown himself to be capable of taking wickets almost anywhere, but he is especially dangerous when the ball is swinging.
Look for Boult to move up this list in the coming years.
47. Bruce Reid (Australia)
27 Test matches; 113 wickets; 24.63 average; 7-51 BBI; 55.2 strike rate
Another tall left-armer joins the list next, as Australian Bruce Reid makes an appearance.
A bowler who was limited by injury, Reid still managed to have a superb impact in limited opportunities.
Unfortunately, his body could not quite cope with international cricket, but he managed to torment England even so.
His 13 wickets at Melbourne in the 1990-91 Ashes were a particular highlight.
46. Andy Roberts (West Indies)
47 Test matches; 202 wickets; 25.61 average; 7-54 BBI; 55.1 strike rate
Having terrified batsmen the world over, Andy Roberts makes his appearance after a stellar career that saw him pick up over 200 Test wickets.
An intelligent bowler who always kept his emotions in check, Roberts bowled with sheer pace but also with a good deal of cunning.
His bouncer was always regarded as one of the best, too, and even as his pace dropped he continued to take wickets.
Later in his career, his ability to swing the ball made up for a lack of pace, hence Roberts makes this list.
45. Damien Fleming (Australia)
20 Test matches; 75 wickets; 25.89 average; 5-30 BBI; 55.0 strike rate
It is often said that if Damien Fleming were to have been born in any country other than Australia, he would have played 100 Tests or more.
Using swing at a good pace, he was overshadowed tremendously by his Australian counterparts but still managed a decent return in just 20 games.
It seems unfortunate, then, that he fell behind the likes of Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee, and was unable to fulfill his tremendous potential.
44. Muttiah Muralitharan (Sri Lanka/ICC World XI)
133 Test matches; 800 wickets; 22.72 average; 9-51 BBI; 55.0 strike rate
A surprising entry comes at No. 44, as Muttiah Muralitharan comes in much lower down than might have been expected.
He was always a restrictive bowler, hence his low average, but he would find wickets came after building sustained pressure and a hold over a batsman.
Often, his turning deliveries would beat the bat and go through for a dot ball, meaning his strike rate is pushed a little higher than perhaps it could have been.
However, he will always be remembered as one of the greatest of all time.
43. Jason Gillespie (Australia)
71 Test matches; 259 wickets; 26.13 average; 7-37 BBI; 54.9 strike rate
Jason Gillespie follows after a successful career in which he managed to make himself one of Australia’s top fast bowlers.
Alongside Glenn McGrath, he terrorised batsmen all over the world with his combination of pace and swing.
He may have had an even greater impact had it not been for a number of injuries, but he still did well to take over 250 wickets.
Gillespie’s strike rate could have been even higher, had more of the plays-and-misses that he forced been edged behind.
42. Chris Tremlett (England)
12 Test matches; 53 wickets; 27.00 average; 6-48 BBI; 54.7 strike rate
Whether Chris Tremlett comes back into Test cricket and improves his position in this list remains to be seen.
What we do know is that in just 12 Tests, he showed himself to be very potent indeed and capable of causing batsmen all sorts of problems.
His form in the 2010/11 Ashes was incredible as he took advantage of Australia’s bouncy pitches, although he could not replicate that form last winter in the same country.
He may yet return to international cricket.
41. Stuart Clark (Australia)
24 Test matches; 94 wickets; 23.86 average; 5-32 BBI; 54.7 strike rate
Another hugely talented Australian paceman, Stuart Clark is someone else who would surely have played more Tests had it not been for the greats that stood in his way.
As it was, in his 24 matches he managed to take almost 100 wickets by using his height to good effect.
It seems a little unfortunate that his opportunities were so limited, both by injury and by the competition.
However, he showed himself to be more than capable of having an impact in international cricket.
40. Wasim Akram (Pakistan)
104 Test matches; 414 wickets; 23.62 average; 7-119 BBI; 54.6 strike rate
Left-armer Wasim Akram follows at No. 40 after a stellar career in which he was a dominant force for Pakistan for well over a decade.
Capable of generating enormous swing with the new or old ball, he did so at tremendous pace and was constantly experimenting with new ways to make his deliveries move.
He will almost certainly be remembered as one of the best left-arm seam bowlers of all time, if not the best.
39. Curtly Ambrose (West Indies)
98 Test matches; 405 wickets; 20.99 average; 8-45 BBI; 54.5 strike rate
Another tremendous bowler follows at No. 39, as West Indian Curtly Ambrose takes his place in this list.
Incredibly consistent on any surface, Ambrose exploited the “corridor of uncertainty” to great effect as he hit the same spot with virtually every ball.
He was rewarded with over 400 Test wickets, and alongside his partner-in-crime Courtney Walsh they both terrorised batsmen inside and outside the Caribbean.
38. Stuart MacGill (Australia)
44 Test matches; 208 wickets; 29.02 average; 8-108 BBI; 54 strike rate
An Australian leg-spinner, Stuart MacGill spent his career in the shadow of another notable leg-spinner from the same country, Shane Warne.
However, in his rare opportunities on the field, MacGill showed he was a superb replacement who may have been first-choice under different circumstances.
Prolific in state cricket, he was unfortunate to spend much of his time behind Warne, especially as he generated incredible turn on even the most placid pitches.
A strike rate of 54 is incredibly healthy for a man long regarded as a reserve.
37. Imran Khan (Pakistan)
88 Test matches; 362 wickets; 22.81 average; 8-58 BBI; 53.7 strike rate
One of Pakistan’s greatest ever all-rounders, Imran Khan was a joyous bowler to watch with the enormous leap at the end of his delivery stride.
Based on figures alone, he was the best all-rounder in the world during the 1980s as he helped lead Pakistan to the top of international cricket.
Not only that, he did not find his performances suffered due to the strains of captaincy, even as injuries took their toll toward the end of his career.
36. Chris Cairns (New Zealand)
62 Test matches; 218 wickets; 29.40 average; 7-27 BBI; 53.6 strike rate
Chris Cairns was an excellent all-rounder who struggled a little with injury throughout his career.
When he was on song, his bowling and batting were both of a high standard, and with the ball he would seemingly always find a way to chip in with wickets.
It is unfortunate that he had fitness battles throughout his career, as his strike rate would almost certainly have been much higher.
35. Makhaya Ntini (South Africa)
101 Test matches; 390 wickets; 28.82 average; 7-37 BBI; 53.4 strike rate
A South African superstar, Makhaya Ntini was a key component of the Proteas bowling attack as they became a world power.
Perhaps not as quick as others, he instead was reliant on an incredible consistency and work ethic that stood him in good stead even on the most lifeless pitches.
His career may have come to a sad end but having played 100 Test matches and taken almost 400 wickets, his place in South Africa’s cricketing history is secure.
34. Bob Willis (England)
90 Test matches; 325 wickets; 25.20 average; 8-43 BBI; 53.4 strike rate
At No. 34 comes former England captain Bob Willis, a seam bowler who bowled with incredible pace despite a number of injury issues.
Most famous for his 8-43 against Australia in 1981 at Headingley, Willis willed himself to a long career that saw him pass 300 wickets and cause problems for all batsmen.
33. Brett Lee (Australia)
76 Test matches; 310 wickets; 30.81 average; 5-30 BBI; 53.3 strike rate
At one stage one of the fastest bowlers in the world, Brett Lee of Australia used that pace to great effect in his Test career.
Many found themselves simply unable to cope with his searing speed, especially when coupled with a bouncer capable of unsettling anyone.
In addition, Lee also managed to swing the ball at times, making him a lethal bowler to face with the new or older ball.
He may have been overshadowed a little by his team-mates, but he was definitely successful.
32. Len Pascoe (Australia)
14 Test matches; 64 wickets; 26.06 average; 5-59 BBI; 53.1 strike rate
A very fast bowler, Len Pascoe promised much and began to deliver on that potential in 14 Tests for Australia.
Unfortunately, he chose to defect to World Series Cricket in a decision that affected his international career.
However, while on the field for Australia, he struck fear into opposition batsmen.
31. Jeff Thomson (Australia)
51 Test matches; 200 wickets; 28.00 average; 6-46 BBI; 52.6 strike rate
One of Australia’s original speed demons in the game’s modern era, Jeff Thomson had an action like a slingshot and propelled the ball forward at a terrifying rate.
He and Dennis Lillee tormented England in their traumatic Ashes tour of 1974-75, with Thomson rewarded with 33 wickets in a dominant display.
Unfortunately, his unorthodox action put immense strain on his body and he came down with injuries regularly, but he was definitely a brilliant seam bowler.
30. Nantie Hayward (South Africa)
16 Test matches; 54 wickets; 29.79 average; 5-56 BBI; 52.2 strike rate
At one stage seen as Allan Donald’s successor for South Africa, Nantie Hayward could be a little wayward but still managed to pick up wickets during his short time on the international circuit.
With genuine pace, he had incredible potential for greatness but was criticised for seeming unwilling to take on advice from his coaches, as highlighted by Peter Robinson of ESPN Cricinfo.
A strike rate of 52.2 hints at what might have been.
29. Ian Bishop (West Indies)
43 Test matches; 161 wickets; 24.27 average; 8-57 BBI; 52.2 strike rate
Ian Bishop was an enormously promising fast bowler who suffered from more than his fair share of injury problems.
It was unfortunate, as the West Indian showed in his limited time in the Test match arena that he was a match for any batsman.
With the team in transition in the late 1990s, Bishop gave them plenty of reasons to cheer, although his time at the top was cruelly cut short.
28. Dennis Lillee (Australia)
70 Test matches; 355 wickets; 23.92 average; 7-83 BBI; 52 strike rate
Coming in at No. 28 comes Dennis Lillee, one of the greatest Australian seam bowlers of all time.
Having been a fast bowler with searing pace, Lillee then reduced his speed after injury and used consistency and accuracy instead.
He retired as the world’s leading wicket-taker in Tests, having been one of the greatest bowlers in the game.
27. Glenn McGrath (Australia)
124 Test matches; 563 wickets; 21.64 average; 8-24 BBI; 51.9 strike rate
Another great Australian seamer comes into this list at No. 27 as Glenn McGrath’s years of consistency are rewarded.
Managing to maintain a high level of fitness, he was unerringly accurate in his line and length throughout his career.
He also had a habit of taking key wickets at vital times, especially the opposition’s most dangerous players.
26. Patrick Patterson (West Indies)
28 Test matches; 93 wickets; 30.90 average; 5-24 BBI; 51.9 strike rate
Generally regarded as one of the fastest West Indian seamers of all time, Patrick Patterson was a terrifying proposition for a few short years.
He made life very uncomfortable indeed for opposition batsmen in a relatively short space of time, and he was rewarded with a good strike rate just over 50.
Unfortunately, he was prone to losing his rhythm, something that brought about his downfall at times.
25. Darren Gough (England)
58 Test matches; 229 wickets; 28.39 average; 6-42 BBI; 51.6 strike rate
England’s charismatic paceman Darren Gough follows at No. 25 after a career affected by injuries but one that was pretty successful.
A big-hearted performer, Gough was often England’s most consistent bowler during the 1990s and early 2000s, and he was a key part of some of their biggest successes.
Even more tellingly, he had the ability to take wickets overseas in conditions that were not always helpful, meaning his strike rate is very healthy.
24. Lasith Malinga (Sri Lanka)
30 Test matches; 101 wickets; 33.15 average; 5-50 BBI; 51.5 strike rate
Another to possess a slingshot bowling action, Sri Lankan Lasith Malinga remains a tough bowler to face in limited-overs cricket.
Sadly, his body could not stand up to the rigours of the five-day version, and he retired from Tests having played just 30 games.
In the course of those matches, however, he showed himself to be capable of making the red ball move a great deal as he took wickets regularly.
23. Kemar Roach (West Indies)
26 Test matches; 100 wickets; 27.04 average; 6-48 BBI; 51.2 strike rate
Still going strong in Test cricket, West Indies seamer Kemar Roach may well move up this list in the coming years if he can keep his place in the team.
He may not be the tallest, but he has good pace and the ability to make the ball skid on tremendously.
If he can remain consistent in a team that always seems to be in transition, he should remain a potent force.
22. Michael Holding (West Indies)
60 Test matches; 249 wickets; 23.68 average; 8-92 BBI; 50.9 strike rate
Known as “Whispering Death” for his silent approach to the wicket that was followed by an explosive delivery, Michael Holding was one of the finest seamers of the 1970s and '80s.
Along with his other fast bowling colleagues, the West Indian made life incredibly difficult for opposition batsmen and hustled out plenty of wickets in a relatively short time.
21. Richard Hadlee (New Zealand)
86 Test matches; 431 wickets; 22.29 average; 9-52 BBI; 50.8 strike rate
The first cricketer to be knighted while still playing the game, Richard Hadlee was New Zealand’s premier fast bowler for almost two decades.
Having begun his career as a very quick bowler, Hadlee shortened his run-up and became a seamer who used swing and seam movement to his advantage.
His ability to bowl well on any surface—even those lacking any pace or bounce whatsoever—served him well and ensured his strike rate remained low.
20. Joel Garner (West Indies)
58 Test matches; 259 wickets; 20.97 average; 6-56 BBI; 50.8 strike rate
An imposing presence at 6’8” tall, West Indian Joel Garner had one of the most effective yorkers in the game and used it to great effect.
With his height enabling him to get steepling bounce, Garner rarely conceded many runs, as an average of 20.97 shows.
In addition, batsmen found themselves struggling to get anywhere near his deliveries that seemed to come out of the sky and land right on their toes.
19. Shabbir Ahmed (Pakistan)
10 Test matches; 51 wickets; 23.03 average; 5-48 BBI; 50.5 strike rate
Just 10 Tests for No. 19 Shabbir Ahmed, but that is enough for him to make an appearance on this list with a strike rate just slightly over 50.
The joint-fastest Pakistan bowler to 50 wickets—level with Waqar Younis—things looked bright for the right-armer in his first 10 Tests.
However, he was banned for a year for a suspect bowling action in December 2005, and when he returned he had been overtaken in international cricket.
It is a great shame, as he had so much potential.
18. Dean Headley (England)
15 Test matches; 60 wickets; 27.85 average; 6-60 BBI; 50.4 strike rate
Another to play limited Tests but make a decent impact is Dean Headley, who took the field 15 times for England but makes this list at No. 18.
Exploiting incredible movement off the seam, Headley looked very promising indeed and decimated Australia during the 1998-99 Ashes series.
However, like so many others, his career was blighted by injury and he was forced to retire early.
17. Mitchell Johnson (Australia)
59 Test matches; 264 wickets; 27.42 average; 8-61 BBI; 50.1 strike rate
Judging by his recent performances for Australia, left-armer Mitchell Johnson may well find himself making some upward progress in this list very soon.
Having been something of a laughing-stock a few years ago, Johnson has turned things around spectacularly to become one of the Baggy Green’s biggest bowling threats.
His speed in itself is pretty daunting, but considering he can also get swing and seam movement as well, he has become a very tough bowler to face.
16. James Pattinson (Australia)
13 Test matches; 51 wickets; 27.07 average; 5-27 BBI; 50 strike rate
Another who will likely make progress up this list is James Pattinson, who has had horrendous luck with injuries but seems to be on the way back.
In his 13 Tests so far, he has shown enormous potential and the ability to take wickets regularly.
If he can stay fit and secure his place in the side, he could make a real impact on international cricket.
15. Colin Croft (West Indies)
27 Test matches; 125 wickets; 23.30 average; 8-29 BBI; 49.3 strike rate
Another of West Indies’ legion of pace bowlers joins this list now, as Colin Croft takes his spot at No. 15.
His bouncer was feared all over the world, especially in the days before the widespread use of helmets.
Many of his wickets came through sheer intimidation, and even though his career was a short one, it was certainly eventful.
14. Gary Gilmour (Australia)
15 Test matches; 54 wickets; 26.03 average; 6-85 BBI; 49.2 strike rate
Gary Gilmour’s place in history is assured after taking 6-14 against England in the 1975 World Cup semi-final, but he also had an impact in Tests, too.
A left-arm bowler, Gilmour swung the ball both ways and showed enormous promise during his 15 Tests.
Unfortunately, a combination of injuries and a relaxed view on training finished his career before it could really gather momentum.
13. Mohammad Asif (Pakistan)
23 Test matches; 106 wickets; 24.36 average; 6-41 BBI; 48.7 strike rate
Mohammad Asif gained notoriety off the field, but in his short time on it he also made a terrific impression.
The tour of England in 2010 saw his best and worst, as he swung the ball prodigiously and took wickets regularly.
Unfortunately, he was then found guilty of spot-fixing and banned, and it is that incident that he will perhaps be best remembered for.
12. Ryan Harris (Australia)
24 Test matches; 103 wickets; 22.56 average; 7-117 BBI; 48.3 strike rate
It is possible that Ryan Harris will move up this list, but given his injury problems it may also not happen.
A big-hearted seam bowler, Harris has willed himself to 100 Test wickets despite a body that breaks down often and leaves him out of the team for long periods.
His pace is high despite his knee issues, but he may find that life on the international stage is too tough to maintain.
11. Steven Finn (England)
23 Test matches; 90 wickets; 29.40 average; 6-125 BBI; 48.3 strike rate
One of England’s most talented current seam bowlers, Steven Finn will surely get another chance in international cricket.
He fell apart during last winter’s Ashes tour and was deemed to be out of contention for selection, but prior to that he had been an irresistible force with the ball.
A tall man reliant on having his rhythm, Finn is slowly rebuilding his confidence in county cricket and could well be back in England colours soon.
10. Doug Bollinger (Australia)
12 Test matches; 50 wickets; 25.92 average; 5-28 BBI; 48 strike rate
Into the top 10 we go, and this section of the list is opened by Doug Bollinger at No. 10.
A left-arm seamer who has played just a dozen Tests, Bollinger is capable of getting a great deal of swing in the air.
He may yet return for Australia, but at 33 years of age, time is perhaps not on his side.
9. Simon Jones (England)
18 Test matches; 59 wickets; 28.23 average; 6-53 BBI; 47.8 strike rate
Perhaps the unluckiest man to play for England, Simon Jones was one of the best in the world when he was in form but was prevented from staying in the side by a brittle body.
Like many, he started out as a raw paceman but then began to rely more on swing and variation of pace, and that served him well.
His demolition of the Australians in the 2005 Ashes will live long in the memory, especially his use of reverse swing.
Unfortunately, his body failed him on a number of occasions.
8. Allan Donald (South Africa)
72 Test matches; 330 wickets; 22.25 average; 8-71 BBI; 47 strike rate
South African great Allan Donald follows at No. 8 after a decade of sustained brilliance in Test cricket.
A crucial part of the Proteas' reintroduction to international cricket, Donald used raw pace and aggression to great effect.
He set a high standard that South African bowlers look to live up to, and he will be remembered as one of their first modern superstars.
7. Malcolm Marshall (West Indies)
81 Test matches; 376 wickets; 20.94 average; 7-22 BBI; 46.7 strike rate
With a skiddy action and the ability to find swing and bounce almost anywhere, Malcolm Marshall was one of the most versatile West Indian seamers of all time.
In his country’s battery of fast bowlers, Marshall was arguably the best of all as he used his brain to out-think batsmen rather than just his sheer pace.
He more than made up for his lack of height and was widely mourned when he passed away aged just 41.
6. Jermaine Lawson (West Indies)
13 Test matches; 51 wickets; 29.64 average; 7-78 BBI; 46.3 strike rate
For a time, West Indies thought they had found a successor to Marshall in the form of Jermaine Lawson.
A tall man who was quick and accurate, Lawson looked more than capable of greatness as he destroyed Bangladesh and Australia in 2003.
However, his career was dogged by allegations of an illegal action and having suffered some injury problems he quickly faded from the scene.
5. Vernon Philander (South Africa)
26 Test matches; 115 wickets; 21.57 average; 6-44 BBI; 45.8 strike rate
A bowler who will have plenty of opportunities to move up this list in the future is South African Vernon Philander.
He reached 50 wickets in just seven Tests—the second-fastest to ever reach the landmark—and since then has affirmed his position as one of the Proteas’ best bowlers.
Philander is not as quick as his counterparts but he is cunning and makes good use of swing and seam movement to pick up his wickets.
If he continues at his current rate, he will surely only get better and better.
4. Shoaib Akhtar (Pakistan)
46 Test matches; 178 wickets; 25.69 average; 6-11 BBI; 45.7 strike rate
The controversial Shoaib Akhtar follows at No. 4 after a Test career that was interesting, to say the least.
Once the fastest bowler in the world, Akhtar ripped apart batting lineups seemingly at will with his searing pace and accuracy.
Unfortunately, his radar would sometimes go awry and he was in and out of the side.
Coupled with his poor disciplinary record, he never quite fulfilled his promise.
3. Waqar Younis (Pakistan)
87 Test matches; 373 wickets; 23.56 average; 7-76 BBI; 43.4 strike rate
Another Pakistan speedster follows at No. 3, as Waqar Younis is rewarded for a great career with a spot on this list.
Exploiting reverse swing and doing so at express pace, Younis also had a yorker that was as deadly as any in the world.
Like others, he had his injury struggles but always managed to come roaring back with more inspirational performances for his country.
At his retirement, he held the record for the lowest strike rate of any bowler to have 200 Test wickets, and his mark of 43.4 will likely stand the test of time.
2. Dale Steyn (South Africa)
75 Test matches; 383 wickets; 22.56 average; 7-51 BBI; 41.7 strike rate
Above Younis at No. 2 comes South Africa’s speed king Dale Steyn, a man more than capable of moving up in this list.
His sustained excellence has taken him to the top of the ICC Player Rankings, and after a decade with South Africa he remains their most important fast bowler.
Combining some incredible movement in the air and off the pitch, Steyn has decimated even the best batting lineups and will continue to do so for years to come.
At 31 years old, he has plenty of time left in international cricket.
1. Shane Bond (New Zealand)
18 Test matches; 87 wickets; 22.09 average; 6-51 BBI; 38.7 strike rate
Top of the pile comes a somewhat surprising name—New Zealander Shane Bond.
When on form, his pace was more than a match for any batsman, and his refusal to reduce it at all meant he was susceptible to injury.
He broke down regularly, and managing just 18 games in an eight-year span tells its own story.
However, in full flight he was truly memorable to watch and a strike rate of 38.7 hints at what could have been a truly magnificent career had he fully realised his potential.