The Top 5 Best Bowling Attacks of All-Time In Test Match Cricket

Nathan Lyon, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood could become one of the best bowling attacks of all-time in test match cricket for Australia

The Top 5 Best Bowling Attacks of All-Time

An excellent bowling attack is crucial to the success of any test match team. Taking 20 wickets is the only way that you can win a test match. It is therefore no coincidence, that some of the greatest test teams ever, have possessed some of the best bowling attacks of all-time.

Recently, Australia and India both have excellent attacks for all conditions. Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon make up a superb quartet.

India for the first time in their history are blessed with quicks such as Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma. Add that to Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin and you have a solid set of bowlers.

But, what are the top 5 best bowling attacks of all-time in test match cricket?

5. England Attack 1950s/1960s

Brian Statham, Alec Bedser, Fred Trueman, Jim Laker, Frank Tyson, Tony Lock

15th August 1964: England skipper Ted Dexter leads England fast bowler Freddie Trueman back to the pavilion after Trueman has taken the last Australian wicket and his 301st test wicket in the 5th and final test at the Oval. With them are (from left) Jim Parks, Ken Barrington, Tom Cartwright and Peter Parfitt. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

Perhaps the least talked about, among all the best bowling attacks of all-time. England were blessed to have such a formidable group of bowlers in the 1950s. England managed to win three Ashes series in a row against Australia.

This included the 1953 series, 1954/55 series and the 1956 series. Alec Bedser took 39 wickets in the 1953 series against Australia. In the 1954/55 series, Frank Tyson and Brian Statham took 28 and 18 wickets respectively.

In the famous 1955 series, Jim Laker topped the charts with 46 wickets at a staggering 9.60. This included the 19 wickets he picked up at Manchester in that series. He was well backed up by Fred Trueman, Brian Statham and Tony Lock.

Also, Read – Top 5 Most Test Match Wickets For England

They also bowled India out for 58 at Old Trafford in 1952 and won both the game and series comprehensively.

Fred Trueman averaged under 22 with the ball in test match cricket. Jim Laker was even more proficient, averaging just 21 with the ball. Brian Statham and Alec Bedser also averaged under 25 with the ball.

Watch – Babar Azam LBW To James Anderson

England’s greatest attack is number five on our list of best bowling attacks of all-time in test match cricket.

4. Pakistan Attack 1980s/1990s

Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Abdul Qadir, Imran Khan, Saqlain Mushtaq/ Mushtaq Ahmed

Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis will open the bowling in Pakistans best test XI
6-11 Dec 1990: Portrait of Pakistan fast bowlers Wasim Akram (left) and Waqar Younis during the Third Test match against the West Indies at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, Pakistan. The match ended in a draw. Mandatory Credit: Pascal Rondeau/Allsport

Undoubtedly Pakistan’s best-ever bowling attack and perhaps one of the most unluckiest bowling attacks in test match history. Had Pakistan’s fielding been up to standard or above standard in the 1990’s, this bowling attack could rank much higher. Nevertheless, they were a superb quartet, capable of producing breathtaking performances.

Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis were the two leaders of the pack. Together, they formed a formidable duo. Both had the ability to move the new ball, bowl bouncers, bowl unplayable yorkers and most importantly reverse swing the ball both ways. They helped Pakistan triumph against many strong opponents in the 1990s.

Also, Read – Picking Pakistan’s All-Time Test XI

Abdul Qadir and Imran Khan only played with the duo for the first halves of their careers. However, they had a huge impact in transferring their knowledge learnt to Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Saqlain Mushtaq and Mushtaq Ahmed. Pakistan drew 1-1 against the mighty West Indies in 1990 – at a time when the Caribbean side were still at their peak.

Pakistan won back-to-back test series in England in 1992 and 1996. They also beat Australia at home in 1994/95 inbetween.

The Pakistani bowling attack is number four on our list of best bowling attacks of all-time in test match cricket.

3. South African Attack 2010s

Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir, Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander

South Africa’s Dale Steyn (R), teammate Vernon Philander (C) and Kagiso Rabada (L) leave the ground at the end of the Sri Lankan innings during the third day of the opening Test match between Sri Lanka and South Africa at the Galle International Cricket Stadium in Galle on July 14, 2018. (Photo by LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI / AFP) (Photo credit should read LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI/AFP via Getty Images)

The greatest bowling attack in the last decade. South Africa did not lose a single test series away from home between 2006 and 2015. They only lost at home to Australia. An exceptional record, if ever there was one. The South African bowling attack played a major part in this feat.

Dale Steyn spearheaded this bowling attack. He is without doubt the greatest bowler of his generation. Steyn has the best strike rate of any bowler that has taken over 200 test match wickets in the history of the format. He was lethal in the subcontinent – a rarity for most fast bowlers. Steyn averaged 21 in India, 25 in Pakistan and 14 in Bangladesh. His 7-51 at Nagpur remains one of the greatest spells of all-time.

Also, Read – Top 5 Most Wickets Asia By Overseas Fast Bowlers

Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander formed a formidable trio of pace bowlers that helped South Africa win test match series in England, Australia and Sri Lanka. Morkel extracted enormous bounce and Philander had subtle seam movement. On his day, Vernon Philander was close to unplayable.

Imran Tahir was perhaps the best spinner that South Africa had in their time. He was often expensive with the ball in test match cricket but still had his moments of magic. His 8 wickets at Dubai in 2013, helped South Africa to a superb victory against Pakistan in the UAE.

Watch – Sizzling Steyn Rips Through Aussies

Kagiso Rabada was the last bowler to enter the formidable attack. Though he only played for a short time period with the rest, his impact was huge. Along with Philander, he helped South Africa to a third successive series triumph in Australia in 2016. The four pacers together demolished India and Australia at home in 2017/18.

The gun South African pace attack is number three on our list of best bowling attacks of all-time in test match cricket.

2. Australian Attack 2000s

Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Brett Lee, Michael Kasprowicz

Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath of Australia leave the field at the end of England’s 2nd innings in 5th Test match between Australia and England at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney, Australia, 5th January 2007. Australia won the match by 10 wickets and took the series 5-0. It was the last Test match played by Warne and McGrath for Australia. (Photo by Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath as a duo were formidable themselves. Even with little help, they might have bowled oppositions out just between the two of them. But, add the pace of Brett Lee and the variety in skills of Jason Gillespie or Michael Kasprowicz and the attack has a deadly look to it.

They formed part of the great Australian test match team of the late 1990’s and the early 2000’s. Australia dominated in test match cricket from 1995 to 2007 and their bowling attack had a huge part to play in their success.

Also, Read – Top 5 Most Test Match Wickets For Australia

Glenn McGrath with the new ball would give nothing away to the opposition and almost certainly pick up one or two wickets. His relentless accuracy combined with the ability to extract subtle movement meant that opposition batsmen were always on the back-foot when facing Glenn McGrath.

Michael Kasprowicz was outstanding in India in 2004, as was Jason Gillespie. Brett Lee often added the fear factor to the attack due to his ability to bowl upwards of 90 miles per hour.

And then there was Shane Warne. Simon Hughes once asked “How can a guy who bowls at the speed of a milk float cause so many problems?”

But he did more than just cause problems. In fact, he ran through most oppositions at will as batsmen struggled to play him well due to his bowling intelligence and skill. Shane Warne is without a doubt the greatest ever spinner to play the game and arguably the greatest ever bowler as well.

Australia’s awesome attack is number two on our list of best bowling attacks of all-time in test match cricket.

1. West Indies Attack 1980s

Michael Holding, Sir Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Colin Croft, Malcolm Marshall

The West Indies pace quartet is unarguably the greatest bowling attack of all-time
West Indian fast bowlers (left to right) Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Colin Croft and Joel Garner, February 1981. (Photo by Getty Images)

Undoubtedly, the greatest bowling attack of all-time. Five genuine fast bowlers meant that no specialist spinner was required in the West Indies test match line-up. The West Indies did not lose a single test series between 1980 and 1995. Their fast bowlers were at the heart of this feat.

All five of the fast bowlers averaged under 26 with the ball in test match cricket. This meant that they weren’t conceding many runs while taking wickets. A deadly combination. Eventually, Malcolm Marshall became the leader of the attack.

He was perhaps the finest of the lot. Marshall picked up 376 test match wickets at under 21 a piece. He could move the ball both ways and had a variety in his bowling as well. He bowled two bouncers – a slower one and a quicker one which were not easy for the batsmen to pick up.

Also, Read – Picking the West Indies Best Test XI

The attack complimented each other beautifully. Joel Garner extracted steeping bounce from his release point of almost 2 meters. Michael Holding was very rapid and could run through oppositions with his pace. Together with Colin Croft, Sir Andy Roberts and Malcolm Marshall, the duo excelled. As a result, the West Indies had a lethal bowling attack that could bowl sides out in any conditions.

The West Indies pace quartet is number one on our list of best bowling attacks of all-time in test match cricket.

Which attack do you think could become of the best bowling attacks of all-time from the current generation?


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