Best Cricket Bowlers of All Time
Batsmen are crowd favorites in cricket, but bowlers win Test matches. It doesn't matter how many runs batsmen score. If bowlers fail to bag 20 wickets, the game will end in a draw.
In the limited-overs formats (ODIs and T20Is), teams win based on how many runs they score. Although picking up wickets can change a game, bowlers who contain batsmen by preventing the run flow also come in handy.
Nowadays, the game favors batsmen since pitches are more batting-friendly and bats have become bigger. Still, the best bowlers find a way. They introduce new deliveries and vary the pace or bowl jaw-dropping yorkers and bouncers.
These are the best match-winners with the ball in cricket history.
50. Darren Gough
Other major teams: Essex, Yorkshire
Career stats in Tests: 58 matches, 229 wickets, 28.39 average, 51.6 strike rate, 3.30 economy, 6-42 best bowling, 9 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 159 matches, 235 wickets, 26.42 average, 36.0 strike rate, 4.39 economy, 5-44 best bowling, 2 5w
Bottom line: Darren Gough was England’s spearhead in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He was the first English bowler to master reverse swing and used pace variations to good effect.
Gough was the chief architect of England’s four consecutive Test series win in the 2000-2001 season. He was named Man of the Series in two of the mentioned series as well, against West Indies and Sri Lanka.
The former Essex bowler was the first England bowler to take 200 wickets in ODIs. Injuries cut short his career, and he had to retire from Tests at the age of 32.
49. Abdul Qadir
Other major teams: Lahore, Punjab
Career stats in Tests: 67 matches, 236 wickets, 32.80 average, 72.5 strike rate, 2.71 economy, 9-56 best bowling, 15 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 104 matches, 132 wickets, 26.16 average, 38.6 strike rate, 4.06 economy, 5-44 best bowling, 2 5w
Bottom line: Abdul Qadir carried leg-spin on his shoulders during the late 1970s and 1980s, an era which was dominated by fast bowlers.
He was a magician with the ball and had six different deliveries per over in his arsenal. He also had two googlies, the top-spinner and the flipper.
The legendary spinner was the first Pakistani to pick up 200 wickets and holds the record of the best bowling figures by a Pakistan player in Tests, 9-56.
He also got the better of the Vintage Windies team, which destroyed bowling lineups across the world by picking up 6 wickets for 16 runs and helped bowl them out for a paltry 53.
48. Vernon Philander
Country: South Africa
Other major teams: Cape Cobras, Middlesex
Career stats in Tests: 58 matches, 214 wickets, 21.64 average, 48.6 strike rate, 2.66 economy, 6-21 best bowling, 13 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 30 matches, 41 wickets, 24.04 average, 31.1 strike rate, 4.62 economy, 4-12 best bowling, 0 5w
Bottom line: Vernon Philander’s strength is his pinpoint accuracy. He could hit the same length over and over again.
He stormed onto the international scene in Tests by getting Man of the Match in his first match and Man of the Series in the debut series. He continued his form and picked up fifers against Sri Lanka in his third Test.
His bowling average, 21.64 in the longest format, is the sixth-best among bowlers who have picked up 200-plus wickets.
The South African pacer hasn’t replicated his Test success in ODIs yet, but he's only played only 30 ODIs so far.
47. Lasith Malinga
Country: Sri Lanka
Other major teams: Galle Cricket Club, Mumbai Indians
Career stats in Tests: 30 matches, 101 wickets, 33.15 average, 51.5 strike rate, 3.85 economy, 5-50 best bowling, 3 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 226 matches, 338 wickets, 28.87 average, 32.3 strike rate, 5.35 economy, 6-38 best bowling, 8 5w
Bottom line: Lasith Malinga is known as "Yorker King." His ability to hit the blockhole consistently made him unplayable during death overs.
The Sri Lanka pacer bagged more hat tricks (5) than anyone and picked up 4 wickets in 4 balls twice.
Although he didn’t play many Tests, he is the ninth-highest wicket-taker in ODIs and the highest wicket-taker in T20Is.
46. Rangana Herath
Country: Sri Lanka
Other major teams: Wayamba, Surrey
Career stats in Tests: 93 matches, 433 wickets, 28.07 average, 60.0 strike rate, 2.80 economy, 9-127 best bowling, 34 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 71 matches, 74 wickets, 31.91 average, 43.8 strike rate, 4.37 economy, 4-20 best bowling, 0 5w
Bottom line: Rangana Herath was a bit unlucky during his early years, as he was overshadowed by Muttiah Muralitharan, arguably the greatest bowler of all time. Because of Murali’s Herculean feats, Herath rarely got consistent opportunities.
Once Murali retired, Herath became Sri Lanka’s leading spinner and scripted many wins single-handedly. His best performance came against Pakistan at Colombo, where he picked up 9 wickets for 121 runs in the first innings and 5-57 in the second innings
In 2012, he was the highest wicket-taker in Tests and bagged 60 wickets at an average of 23.61. Although he was one of the best in Tests, he was less effective in ODIs and played only 71 matches.
45. Harbhajan Singh
Other major teams: Punjab, Mumbai Indians
Career stats in Tests: 103 matches, 417 wickets, 32.46 average, 68.5 strike rate, 2.84 economy, 8-84 best bowling, 25 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 236 matches, 269 wickets, 33.35 average, 46.3 strike rate, 4.31 economy, 5-31 best bowling, 3 5w
Bottom line: Harbhajan Singh made headlines in the 2001 home series against Australia by picking up 32 wickets in three Tests, including a hat trick. Australia was the best team back then, and its batsmen had no clue against Harbhajan.
The off-spinner from Punjab formed a perfect foil to Anil Kumble, leg-spinner and one of the best bowlers of his time. Singh's ODI exploits helped him displace Anil Kumble as the No.1 spinner for India in ODIs.
Singh played a supporting role to Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh during India’s World Cup win 2011.
Since 2012, Harbhajan Singh was in and out of the side due to the emergence of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
44. Zaheer Khan
Other major teams: Baroda, Mumbai
Career stats in Tests: 92 matches, 311 wickets, 32.94 average, 60.4 strike rate, 3.27 economy, 7-87 best bowling, 11 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 200 matches, 282 wickets, 29.43 average, 35.8 strike rate, 4.93 economy, 5-42 best bowling, 1 5w
Bottom line: Zaheer Khan was India’s best bowler for a long time. His ability to unsettle left-handers was second to none. South Africa’s Greame Smith, one of the best southpaws of his time, was all at sea against Zaheer.
The left-arm pacer was instrumental in India’s World Cup win in 2011 and emerged as the highest wicket-taker (21 wickets) in the tournament. He always provided wickets whenever his captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni brought him to the attack, with a new ball or old ball in that tournament.
He also was India’s leading wicket-taker in 2003 World Cup, where India ended as runner-up, by picking up 18 wickets at an average of 20.77.
In Tests, he used reverse swing to good effect and was lethal with the old ball.
43. Daniel Vettori
Country: New Zealand
Other major teams: Queensland, Warwickshire
Career stats in Tests: 113 matches, 362 wickets, 34.36 average, 79.5 strike rate, 2.59 economy, 7-87 best bowling, 20 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 295 matches, 305 wickets, 31.71 average, 46.0 strike rate, 4.12 economy, 5-7 best bowling, 2 5w
Bottom line: Daniel Vettori debuted at young age of 18 and became the backbone of the Kiwis' attack thereafter. He is New Zealand’s highest wicket-taker in ODIs and second-highest wicket-taker in Tests.
He also is the most successful left-arm spinner and accounted for 705 scalps across three formats.
His bowling average could be misleading, though, since he averages above 30 in both ODIs and Tests. But it’s due to the lack of support he got from the other end.
When Shane Bond, one of the fastest bowlers of his time, was in the playing 11, Vettori’s bowling average rose to 24.74.
42. Javagal Srinath
Other major teams: Karnataka, Gloucestershire
Career stats in Tests: 67 matches, 236 wickets, 30.49 average, 64.0 strike rate, 2.85 economy, 8-86 best bowling, 10 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 229 matches, 315 wickets, 28.08 average, 37.8 strike rate, 4.44 economy, 5-23 best bowling, 3 5w
Bottom line: India didn’t have many great fast bowlers. Then came Javagal Srinath, who bowled at a good pace and generated good bounce.
He had to carry Indian pace bowling alone on his shoulders for a long time as India lacked quality pace bowlers during his time.
He announced his retirement in 2002 citing he was tired, but the India captain Sourav Ganguly convinced him to come back and he led India to the final of the 2003 World Cup by picking up 16 wickets at an average of 23.06.
41. Bishan Singh Bedi
Other major teams: Delhi, Punjab
Career stats in Tests: 67 matches, 266 wickets, 28.71 average, 80.3 strike rate, 2.14 economy, 7-98 best bowling, 14 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 10 matches, 7 wickets, 48.57 average, 84.2 strike rate, 3.45 economy, 2-44 best bowling, 0 5w
Bottom line: Bishan Singh Bedi’s spin bowling is known as an art of purity and perfection. He formed India’s famous spin quartet along with Erapalli Prasanna, Srinivas Venkataraghavan, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar. Between them, they played 231 Tests and took 853 wickets.
Bedi was able to perform well even in pitches that are conducive to fast bowling. He took 10 wickets for 94 runs in a Test match against Australia at Perth in 1977-78. He also bagged 31 wickets in that series at an impressive average of 23.87.
The spinner from Punjab also holds the record of most wickets in first-class matches by an Indian, 1560 scalps at an average of 21.69, including 106 5-wicket hauls.
40. Jason Gillespie
Other major teams: South Australia, Yorkshire
Career stats in Tests: 71 matches, 259 wickets, 26.13 average, 54.9 strike rate, 2.85 economy, 7-37 best bowling, 8 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 97 matches, 142 wickets, 25.42 average, 36.2 strike rate, 4.21 economy, 5-22 best bowling, 3 5w
Bottom line: Jason Gillespie forged a successful bowling partnership with Glenn Mcgrath during Australia’s golden years in the 2000s. The duo was a nightmare of quality batsmen, too.
Gillespie unsettled the batsmen with his movement off the pitch, and plays-and-misses often were a sight when he was bowling. Since batsmen missed many balls, he didn’t get the number of wickets he deserved.
The Aussie bowler was known for setting up the batsmen to play a false shot. One such example is when he set up and clean bowled Brian Lara in 2000.
Although Gillespie was Man of the Series in his last series against Bangladesh, he was dropped and never played a match after that.
39. Lance Gibbs
Country: West Indies
Other major teams: Guyana, Warwickshire
Career stats in Tests: 79 matches, 309 wickets, 29.09 average, 87.7 strike rate, 1.98 economy, 8-38 best bowling, 18 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 3 matches, 2 wickets, 29.50 average, 78.0 strike rate, 2.26 economy, 1-12 best bowling, 0 5w
Bottom line: Lance Gibbs was the first spinner and the second bowler to take 300 wickets in Tests. He finished with 309 wickets in the longest format, the then-highest wickets tally.
Batsmen struggled to score against him, which is evident from his career economy rate of 1.98, the best economy rate among bowlers who have picked up at least 200 wickets in Tests.
ICC showed respect to Gibbs' contributions and inducted him as one of the 55 members of the inaugural Hall of Fame.
38. Ravichandran Ashwin
Other major teams: Tamil Nadu, Chennai Super Kings
Career stats in Tests: 65 matches, 342 wickets, 25.43 average, 53.7 strike rate, 2.84 economy, 7-59 best bowling, 26 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 111 matches, 150 wickets, 32.91 average, 40.1 strike rate, 4.91 economy, 4-25 best bowling, 0 5w
Bottom line: Ravichandran Ashwin’s IPL success helped him earn the national call-up, and he became a permanent fixture of the limited-overs squads. He was part of India’s successful World Cup campaign in 2011.
Although he is currently off the radar in ODIs and T20Is, Ashwin is one of India’s mainstays in Tests and holds the record of fastest to reach 300 wickets.
The off-spinner has claimed seven Man of the Series in Tests, an Indian record and fourth-best in the world.
37. Mitchell Johnson
Other major teams: Queensland, Western Australia
Career stats in Tests: 73 matches, 313 wickets, 28.40 average, 51.1 strike rate, 3.33 economy, 8-61 best bowling, 12 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 153 matches, 239 wickets, 25.26 average, 31.3 strike rate, 4.83 economy, 6-31 best bowling, 3 5w
Bottom line: Mitchell Johnson rattled opposition batsmen with his pace and bounce. His career was a roller-coaster ride with plenty of ups and downs.
His most memorable performance came in the 2013-14 Ashes, where he picked up 37 wickets at an average 13.97 and guided Australia to 5-0 win. He followed it up with another brilliant performance against South Africa in an away series by bagging 22 wickets at an average 17.36.
The left-arm pacer was effective in ODIs, too. He took 15 wickets in an away series by bagging 22 wickets at an average 17.36.
36. Morne Morkel
Country: South Africa
Other major teams: Titans, Kent
Career stats in Tests: 86 matches, 309 wickets, 27.66 average, 53.3 strike rate, 3.10 economy, 6-23 best bowling, 8 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 117 matches, 188 wickets, 25.32 average, 30.6 strike rate, 4.95 economy, 5-21 best bowling, 2 5w
Bottom line: Morne Morkel is tall (1.96 meters, or 6 feet, 4 inches), and his height helped him generate extra bounce at a good pace. He formed a successful pair with Dale Steyn and intimidated players around the world.
He bagged 14 wickets and was the highest wicket-taker on the Australia tour in 2012, which South Africa won 1-0. His career-best performance, 6-23, came against New Zealand at Wellington in the same year.
The Proteas pace bowler picked up 17 wickets, third-best in 2015 World Cup, and guided South Africa to the semifinals of the showpiece event.
35. Craig McDermott
Other major teams: Queensland
Career stats in Tests: 71 matches, 291 wickets, 28.63 average, 56.9 strike rate, 3.01 economy, 8-97 best bowling, 14 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 138 matches, 203 wickets, 24.71 average, 36.7 strike rate, 4.03 economy, 5-44 best bowling, 1 5w
Bottom line: Craig McDermott was the bowling hero of Australia in the 1987 World Cup, which the Kangaroos won. McDermott was the highest wicket-taker in the tournament, picking up 18 wickets at an average of 18.94.
Although he was more successful in ODIs, his Test numbers are impressive as well. He was more lethal against archrivals England and bagged 84 wickets in 17 Tests in the Ashes.
The right-arm fast bowler was at his best when his 8-97 helped Australia dismiss England from a strong position of 191-2 to 244 all out at Perth in 1991.
34. Ian Botham
Other major teams: Durham, Somerset
Career stats in Tests: 102 matches, 383 wickets, 28.40 average, 56.9 strike rate, 2.99 economy, 8-34 best bowling, 27 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 116 matches, 145 wickets, 28.54 average, 43.2 strike rate, 3.96 economy, 4-31 best bowling, 0 5w
Bottom line: Ian Botham was one of the best all-rounders of his era along with Richard Hadlee, Imran Khan and Kapil Dev. Botham could walk onto the English team either as a specialist batsman or a bowler.
His all-round ability was on display when he became the first player to pick up 10 wickets and score a century in a Test in February 1980.
When Botham hung up his gloves, he was the highest wicket-taker in Tests. He is also the highest wicket-taker against Australia with 148 scalps at 27.65.
He also played a pivotal role in England’s World Cup Final appearance in 1992 by picking up 16 wickets at an impressive average of 19.12.
33. Makhaya Ntini
Country: South Africa
Other major teams: Kent, Warriors
Career stats in Tests: 101 matches, 390 wickets, 28.82 average, 53.4 strike rate, 3.23 Economy, 7-37 Best Bowling, 18 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 173 matches, 266 wickets, 24.65 average, 32.6 strike rate, 4.53 economy, 6-22 best bowling, 4 5w
Bottom line: Makhaya Ntini was the first black player to represent South Africa and is a proud holder of some South African bowling records.
He holds the record of most wickets in a Test by a South African player — 13 wickets that he took against West Indies in Port of Spain. He also holds the best ODI figures by a South African player, thanks to his 6-22 against Australia in 2006.
He was the third Proteas bowler to take 300 wickets in Tests after Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock. He is also the third-highest wicket-taker in Tests and fourth-highest wicket-taker in ODIs by a South Africa player.
32. Brian Statham
Other major teams: Lancashire
Career stats in Tests: 70 matches, 252 wickets, 24.84 average, 63.7 strike rate, 2.33 economy, 7-39 best bowling, 9 5w
Bottom line: Pace bowlers often use bouncers to unsettle the tail-enders, but Brian Statham was different. He never used bouncers against tail-enders and only used them against quality batsmen. He was quick and formed a successful partnership with Frank Tyson and Fred Trueman.
He did whatever his captain asked him to do without any complaints. He sent down 29 overs on the trott against South Africa and bagged 7-39 at Lord’s in 1955.
The England pacer briefly held the record of highest wicket-taker in Tests in 1963, before his fellow pacer Trueman broke the record.
31. Stuart Broad
Other major teams: Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire
Career stats in Tests: 132 matches, 467 wickets, 28.67 average, 57.7 strike rate, 2.98 economy, 8-15 best bowling, 17 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 121 matches, 178 wickets, 30.13 average, 34.3 strike rate, 5.26 economy, 5-23 best bowling, 1 5w
Bottom line: Stuart Broad was on the receiving end when India’s Yuvraj Singh hit him for 6 sixes in an over in 2007 World T20. It could have dented the confidence of any bowler and ended up with a mediocre career, but not Broad. The English pacer came back strongly and currently is the seventh-highest wicket-taker in Tests of all time.
He and James Anderson have led England’s pace battery for more than 10 years and still continue to do so. Although Anderson is the leader of the attack, Broad leads from the front when the former is unavailable. One such incident happened in the fourth Test at Nottingham in August 2015, where Broad destroyed the Aussies' batting lineup by picking up 8 wickets for 15 runs and bowling out the visitors for 60 in the first innings.
The right-arm pacer could overtake Courtney Walsh’s tally of 519 wickets if he continues his form with the ball.
30. Derek Underwood
Other major teams: Kent
Career stats in Tests: 86 matches, 297 wickets, 25.83 average, 73.6 strike rate, 2.10 economy, 8-51 best bowling, 17 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 26 matches, 32 wickets, 22.93 average, 39.9 strike rate, 3.44 economy, 4-44 best bowling, 0 5w
Bottom line: Derek Underwood was one of England's best bowlers of all time. He was unplayable on wet pitches and was called "Deadly" because of his effectiveness.
The left-arm spinner got the better of his generation’s best batsmen and dismissed Greg Chappel 13 times and Sunil Gavaskar and Doug Walters 12 times apiece.
His bowling average of 15.18 in wins is third-best among England bowlers behind Sydney Barnes and Jim Laker.
29. Bret Lee
Other major teams: New South Wales, Sydney Sixers
Career stats in Tests: 76 matches, 310 wickets, 30.81 average, 53.3 strike rate, 3.46 economy, 5-30 best bowling, 10 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 221 matches, 380 wickets, 23.36 average, 29.4 strike rate, 4.76 economy, 5-22 best bowling, 9 5w
Bottom line: Bret Lee is one of the fastest bowlers to ever play the game. He hit 150-plus kph (93 mph) consistently and had an excellent outswinger. His fiery pace made his Yorker and bouncer brutal too.
The Aussies' pacer had an excellent ODI career and is the eighth highest wicket-taker in the format. His average, 23.36, was bettered by only Muttiah Muralitharan (23.08) and Glenn Mcgrath (22.02) in the top 10 wicket-takers in the 50-over format.
The two-time World Cup winner had a successful Test career, too, and picked up 310 wickets.
28. Bob Willis
Other major teams: Surrey, Warwickshire
Career stats in Tests: 90 matches, 325 wickets, 25.20 average, 53.4 strike rate, 2.83 economy, 8-43 best bowling, 16 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 64 matches, 80 wickets, 24.60 average, 44.9 strike rate, 3.28 economy, 4-11 best bowling, 0 5w
Bottom line: The 1981 Headingley Ashes Test is known for Ian Botham’s incredible 149* when England was asked to follow-on. Botham’s heroics helped England set Australia a target of 130.
England needed an inspiring bowling performance to draw the Test, let alone win it. Bob Willis provided exactly that by taking 8 wickets for 43 runs and the visitors folded for 111.
Willis' career was more than just bowling records. He had to undergo surgeries on both knees in 1975 and had to bowl with pain for the rest of his career. He didn’t give up and played nine more years after that.
27. Andy Roberts
Country: West Indies
Other major teams: Hampshire, Combined Islands
Career stats in Tests: 47 matches, 202 wickets, 25.61 average, 55.1 strike rate, 2.78 economy, 7-54 best bowling, 11 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 56 matches, 87 wickets, 20.35 average, 35.8 strike rate, 3.40 economy, 5-22 best bowling, 1 5w
Bottom line: Andy Roberts was the first to arrive on the international scene in the famed West Indian quartet, who ruled cricket in the late 1970s and 1980s.
He bounced the batsmen out with his express pace after setting up them with a slower bouncer.
He had an excellent ODI career, which included two World Cup wins in 1975 and 1979, and his ODI average of 20.35 is the seventh-best of all time,
The Antiguan had a good Test career as well and picked up 202 wickets. His first-class numbers are more impressive, 889 wickets at an average of 21.01.
26. George Lohman
Other major teams: Surrey
Career stats in Tests: 18 matches, 112 wickets, 10.75 average, 34.1 strike rate, 1.88 economy, 9-22 best bowling, 9 5w
Bottom line: George Lohman’s name is written in golden letters as one of the bowling greats, though his career was short-lived due to tuberculosis. His bowling average of 10.75 is the best average of all time.
His 931 points are the second-best ICC ranking points of all time behind Sydney Barnes’ 932. He also picked up 35 wickets in a 3-match Test series, a world record, at an average of 5.80 in 1896.
Even though Lohman's numbers are better than anyone in the world, he doesn't rank higher among all-time cricket bowlers because he played in many fewer matches.
25. Saqlain Mushtaq
Other major teams: Surrey, Sussex
Career stats in Tests: 49 matches, 208 wickets, 29.83 average, 67.6 strike rate, 2.64 economy, 8-164 best bowling, 13 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 169 matches, 288 wickets, 21.78 average, 30.4 strike rate, 4.29 economy, 5-20 best bowling, 6 5w
Bottom line: Off spinners generally spin into the batsman’s body, and "Doosra" is a delivery that spins away from the batsman while keeping the off-spinning action. Saqlain Mushtaq was the first bowler to master doosra, and batsmen even now find it difficult to pick doosra.
Saqlain set the record of fastest to pick up 100 wickets in 53 matches in 1997. He held the record for 19 years until Mitchell Starc broke it in 2016. Currently, he is the third-fastest to pick 100 wickets in ODIs.
He also the fastest to pick 200 and 250 wickets in ODIs.
24. Shoaib Akhtar
Other major teams: Rawalpindi, Somerset
Career stats in Tests: 46 matches, 178 wickets, 25.69 average, 45.7 strike rate, 3.37 economy, 6-11 best bowling, 12 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 163 matches, 247 wickets, 24.97 average, 31.4 strike rate, 4.76 economy, 6-16 best bowling, 4 5w
Bottom line: Shoaib Akhtar is the fastest bowler cricket has ever seen. He bowled the fastest delivery in international cricket, against New Zealand in 2002, when he clocked 161 kilometers per hour (100 mph). He also holds the first six fastest deliveries in international cricket: 160, 159.9, 159.5, 159 and 158.4.
Speed was not his only strength. He had vicious bouncers and pinpoint yorkers.
During a Test match in 1999, he clean bowled Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar, two of the best batsmen of his generation, in successive deliveries by hitting the blockhole.
23. Chaminda Vaas
Country: Sri Lanka
Other major teams: Middlesex, Hampshire
Career stats in Tests: 111 matches, 355 wickets, 29.58 average, 66.0 strike rate, 2.68 economy, 7-71 best bowling, 12 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 322 matches, 400 wickets, 27.53 average, 39.4 strike rate, 4.18 economy, 8-19 best bowling, 4 5w
Bottom line: Chaminda Vaas may not be considered one of the greats of the game, but his numbers speak for himself —761 international wickets, eighth highest of all time. He holds the best figures of a bowler in ODIs, 8-19, which he picked against Zimbabwe in 2001.
The left-arm pacer played more in subcontinent pitches, which are tailor-made for spinners, so pace bowlers rarely get any purchase from the wickets. He used off-cutter and reverse swing to good effect and emerged successful on those pitches.
Vaas, the best Sri Lankan fast bowler by a fair distance, also claimed a hat-trick with the first three balls of the match against Bangladesh in the 2003 World Cup.
22. Kapil Dev
Other major teams: Haryana, Northamptonshire
Career stats in Tests: 131 matches, 434 wickets, 29.64 average, 63.9 strike rate, 2.78 economy, 9-83 best bowling, 23 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 225 matches, 253 wickets, 27.45 average, 44.2 strike rate, 3.71 economy, 5-43 best bowling, 1 5w
Bottom line: Kapil Dev guided India to its maiden World Cup title win in 1983 against the mighty West Indies. The then 24-year-old was instrumental with both bat and ball by taking 12 wickets and scoring 303 runs in the showpiece event.
When he hung up his boots, his 434 wickets were the highest wicket tally in Tests. He played the majority of his matches in the Indian subcontinent pitches, which were spin-friendly, making his record all the better.
The "Haryana Hurricane" picked up 72 wickets against West Indies in the 1980s at an average of 22.98. It was the most wickets by any bowler against the strongest team of the era. Only Imran Khan (16.68) and Richard Hadlee (22.03) had a better average against the Windies during the period.
21. Imran Khan
Other major teams: Lahore, Sussex
Career stats in Tests: 88 matches, 362 wickets, 22.81 average, 53.7 strike rate, 2.54 economy, 8-58 best bowling, 23 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 175 matches, 182 wickets, 26.61 average, 40.9 strike rate, 3.89 economy, 6-14 best bowling, 1 5w
Bottom line: Imran Khan is known for his leadership skills and all-round ability. He led Pakistan to a World Cup title 1992 and became the prime minister of Pakistan, the nation, in 2018.
With the ball, he was unplayable from 1980 to 1988, picking up 236 wickets in Tests at a stunning average of 17.77, the best average of all bowlers, beating the likes of Richard Hadlee, Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner, and Michael Holding, among others.
Khan is perhaps the greatest allrounder of the modern era as he was successful as a batsman, too. With the bat, he scored 947 runs at an average 72.84 in the last three years of his Test career.
20. Michael Holding
Country: West Indies
Other major teams: Jamaica, Derbyshire
Career stats in Tests: 60 matches, 249 wickets, 23.68 average, 50.9 strike rate, 2.79 economy, 8-92 best bowling, 13 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 102 matches, 142 wickets, 21.36 average, 38.5 strike rate, 3.32 economy, 5-26 best bowling, 1 5w
Bottom line: Michael Holding is known as "Whispering Death" — because his run-up was silent, but the pace and bounce he generated were deadly. West Indies produced a few of the greatest bowlers, yet Holding holds the best figures by a West Indian, 14-149 at the Oval in 1976.
His over against Geoff Boycott in 1981 is known as the greatest over in Test match history. Boycott somehow survived the first five balls, but he was bowled in the sixth and final bowl of the over. Holding bowled with fiery pace, bounce and accuracy in that over.
He also got the better of the best batsmen of his generation, Sunil Gavaskar, by dismissing him 11 times. And he took the wicket of Boycott, another quality batsman, six times.
19. Courtney Walsh
Country: West Indies
Other major teams: Jamaica, Gloucestershire
Career stats in Tests: 132 matches, 519 wickets, 24.44 average, 57.8 strike rate, 2.53 economy, 7-37 best bowling, 22 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 205 matches, 227 wickets, 30.47 average, 47.6 strike rate, 3.83 economy, 5-1 best bowling, 1 5w
Bottom line: Courtney Walsh is the most successful West Indian bowler of all time and the third-highest wicket-taker in Tests by pacers.
Walsh achieved all these records even though he only got his chance as a new ball bowler nine years after his debut.
He, along with Curtly Ambrose, formed the best opening bowling pair of all time, claiming 421 wickets in just 49 Tests as a duo.
While most cricketers, let alone pace bowlers, become a pale shadow of themselves after turning 35, Walsh was different. He took 180 wickets, the third-best wicket-taker after turning 35.
18. Dale Steyn
Country: South Africa
Other major teams: Cape Cobras, Essex
Career stats in Tests: 93 matches, 439 wickets, 22.95 average, 42.3 strike rate, 3.24 economy, 7-51 best bowling, 26 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 125 matches, 196 wickets, 25.95 average, 31.9 strike rate, 4.87 economy, 6-39 best bowling, 3 5w
Bottom line: Dale Steyn is the most lethal fast bowler of the current era and the greatest match-winner from South Africa. His bowling is a rare combination of pace, swing and accuracy.
He reached 400 wickets in his 80th Test and became the fastest pace bowler to reach the feat. His strike-rate, 42.3, is the best among players who have picked up 200-plus wickets in Tests.
Nowadays, the "Steyn Gun" is not the same bowler as he battles injuries. A shoulder issue kept him out of the ICC World Cup 2019.
17. James Anderson
Other major teams: Lancashire
Career stats in Tests: 148 matches, 575 wickets, 26.93 average, 56.2 strike rate, 2.87 economy, 7-42 best bowling, 27 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 194 matches, 269 wickets, 29.22 average, 35.6 strike rate, 4.92 economy, 5-23 best bowling, 2 5w
Bottom line: James Anderson has picked up more wickets (575) in Tests than any other pace bowler and is still going strong. He has taken all these wickets in an era when bat dominated bowl, which makes the stats even more special.
He bowls outswingers and inswingers and bowls these two with an equal amount of ease, even when the ball is new. It is an incredible skill since most bowlers only can swing the ball both ways when it becomes old.
If he maintains his form, he could become the first fast bowler to pick up 600 wickets. He also could go past Anil Kumble’s tally of 619 wickets and enter into the top three wicket-takers of all time.
16. Shaun Pollock
Country: South Africa
Other major teams: Dolphins, Durham
Career stats in Tests: 108 matches, 421 wickets, 23.11 average, 57.8 strike rate, 2.39 economy, 7-87 best bowling, 16 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 303 matches, 393 wickets, 24.50 average, 39.9 strike rate, 3.67 economy, 6-35 best bowling, 5 5w
Bottom line: Shaun Pollock began his career under the shadow of Allan Donald, the best South African bowler of that time.
When Pollock retired, he held the record of most wickets by a South African in Tests (421) and ODIs (393). Dale Steyn overtook his wicket tally in Test, but in ODIs, he is 115 ahead of the next best, Donald.
Pollock's strength was his line and length. His ODI economy rate, 3.67, shows he was a tough customer for every batsman.
The Port Elizabeth-born pace bowler dismissed Sachin Tendulkar, the greatest ODI batsman of all time, nine times.
15. Jim Laker
Other major teams: Essex, Surrey
Career stats in Tests: 46 matches, 193 wickets, 21.24 average, 62.3 strike rate, 2.04 economy, 10-53 best bowling, 9 5w
Bottom line: Jim Laker is the first bowler in history to pick up 10 wickets in an innings of a Test match. He took 10 wickets for 53 runs against Australia in 1956. Anil Kumble is the only bowler who achieved this feat again, 42 years after Laker’s heroics.
Laker also holds the record of most wickets in a Test match, 19 wickets (19-90), one short of the maximum wickets that can be achieved in a Test.
He did the unthinkable in the same Test, when he bagged 10 wickets in an innings.
14. Anil Kumble
Other major teams: Surrey, Royal Challengers Bangalore
Career stats in Tests: 132 matches, 619 wickets, 29.65 average, 65.9 strike rate, 2.69 economy, 10-74 best bowling, 35 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 271 matches, 337 wickets, 30.89 average, 43.0 strike rate, 4.30 economy, 6-12 best bowling, 2 5w
Bottom line: Anil Kumble may be the greatest match-winner India has ever produced. But there's no doubt he is the greatest Indian bowler who ever graced a cricket field.
He finished his career as the third-highest wicket-taker in Tests with 619 wickets, behind Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan.
Even though Kumble was a leg-spinner, he didn’t spin the ball much but focused on the line and length. His deliveries also bounced at an uncomfortable height, which made him difficult to play.
Only two bowlers picked up entire 10 wickets in an innings, England’s Jim Laker and Kumble. "Jumbo" took 10 wickets for 74 runs in Pakistan’s second innings in Delhi in 1999.
13. Fred Trueman
Other major teams: Derbyshire, Yorkshire
Career stats in Tests: 67 matches, 307 wickets, 21.57 average, 49.4 strike rate, 2.61 economy, 8-31 best bowling, 17 5w
Bottom line: Fred Trueman could be the greatest England bowler of all time. He was the first bowler to pick up 300 wickets in Tests.
Only Allan Donald, Malcolm Marshall, Waqar Younis and Dale Steyn have a better strike rate than his (49.4), and only Curtly Ambrose and Marshall have a lower average than Trueman's 21.57.
He could have become the first bowler to pick up 400 wickets, but due to various disciplinary actions, he participated in only 67 of the 118 Tests played by England during his playing days.
12. Waqar Younis
Other major teams: Karachi, Lahore, Glamorgan
Career stats in Tests: 87 matches, 373 wickets, 23.56 average, 43.4 strike rate, 3.25 economy, 7-76 best bowling, 22 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 262 matches, 416 wickets, 23.84 average, 30.5 strike rate, 4.68 economy, 7-36 best bowling, 13 5w
Bottom line: Waqar Younis was a pioneer. While the successful fast bowlers before him believed in bowling short-pitched deliveries, Waqar changed the game by bowling it full. He used late swing to good effect and moved the bowl toward batsmen’s leg stump or toes, earning him the nickname, "Toe Crusher."
Along with Wasim Akram, he formed one of the fearsome opening bowling pairs. His strike-rate, 43.4 in Tests, is the second-best of all time behind Dale Steyn for bowlers who have picked up at least 200 wickets.
The former Pakistan captain has more fifers than anyone in ODIs, 13. His 27 4-plus wickets in an innings is a world record as well.
11. Sydney Barnes
Other major teams: Wales, Warwickshire
Career stats in Tests: 27 matches, 189 wickets, 16.43 average, 41.6 strike rate, 2.36 economy, 9-103 best bowling, 24 5w
Bottom line: Sydney Barnes took 189 wickets in Tests at a surreal average of 16.43, the best bowling average among bowlers who have picked up 150-plus wickets. Barnes could swing the ball both ways. He also had off-break and leg-break in his arsenal.
The right-arm bowler retired from international cricket in 1914 but continued to play first-class cricket until 1930. His first-class numbers, 719 wickets at an average of 17.09 are magical. He bagged 7-51 and 5-67 against a visiting West Indies team when he was 55 years old while playing for Wales.
10. Malcolm Marshall
Country: West Indies
Other major teams: Barbados, Hampshire
Career stats in Tests: 81 matches, 376 wickets, 20.94 average, 46.7 strike rate, 2.68 economy, 7-22 best bowling, 22 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 136 matches, 157 wickets, 26.96 average, 45.7 strike rate, 3.53 economy, 4-18 best bowling, 0 5w
Bottom line: The West Indies' battery ruled the cricket world in the late 1970s and '80s. They breathed fire with devastating pace, and pitches became graveyards for batsmen. Their bouncers were lethal, and yorkers were unplayable. Of all the great West Indian fast bowlers, Malcolm Marshall, the shortest of them all, became the deadliest fast bowler.
Marshall, "Striding Death," hit Andy Lloyd in Lloyd’s first Test match, and he didn’t play an international match thereafter. He broke the nose of Mike Gatting in 1985-86 in an ODI.
Apart from Marshall's vicious bouncers, he could swing the ball both ways, and batsmen couldn’t read which way the ball swung.
His average, 20.94 in Tests, is the best of bowlers who have picked up more than 200 wickets. His strike-rate of 46.7 in Tests is the third-best among bowlers who have taken 200-plus wickets, behind Dale Steyn and Waqar Younis.
9. Dennis Lillee
Other major teams: Tasmania, Northamptonshire
Career stats in Tests: 70 matches, 355 wickets, 23.92 average, 52.0 strike rate, 2.75 economy, 7-83 best bowling, 23 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 63 matches, 103 wickets, 20.82 average, 34.8 strike rate, 3.58 economy, 5-34 best bowling, 1 5w
Bottom line: Dennis Lillee was the best fast bowler in the 1970s and ended his career as the highest wicket-taker in Tests of that time with 355 wickets.
In his early years, he bowled with serious pace and was a nightmare to opposing batsmen. Injuries made him shorten his run-up, yet he accounted for many scalps with accuracy.
The Aussie spearhead formed a fearsome bowling pair with Jeff Thomson and terrorized opposition ranks. Lillee also forged a successful partnership with wicket-keeper Rod Marsh, and Lillie’s 95 Test victims were caught by Marsh, a world record that still stands.
8. Curtly Ambrose
Country: West Indies
Other major teams: Leeward Island, Northamptonshire
Career stats in Tests: 98 matches, 405 wickets, 20.99 average, 54.5 strike rate, 2.30 economy, 8-45 best bowling, 22 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 176 matches, 225 wickets, 24.12 average, 41.5 strike rate, 3.48 economy, 5-17 best bowling, 4 5w
Bottom line: West Indies has produced some great fast bowlers, and Sir Curtly Ambrose is one of them. He was a touch above 2 meters tall (6-foot-7), and with high arm action, he brought fear into the opposition.
His Test bowling average of 20.99 is the third-best among bowlers who have picked up 200-plus wickets. The right-arm fast bowler also was the 10th-fastest to reach 400 wickets in the longest format of the game.
Batsmen found it difficult to score on him, and his 1,194 maidens underline that. To add to that, Ambrose only conceded five runs in 10 overs and took a wicket in an ODI game against Sri Lanka.
7. Allan Donald
Country: South Africa
Other major teams: Free State, Warwickshire
Career stats in Tests: 72 matches, 330 wickets, 22.25 average, 47.0 strike rate, 2.83 economy, 8-71 best bowling, 20 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 164 matches, 272 wickets, 21.78 average, 31.4 strike rate, 4.15 economy, 6-23 best bowling, 2 5w
Bottom line: Allan Donald was South Africa's first superstar in the post-apartheid era. He bowled with serious pace and threatened even the best batsmen of his generation.
Donald’s fiery spell against Mike Atherton in 1998 at Trent Bridge was a pure exhibition of fast bowling. The South African’s short-pitch deliveries at express pace were too much to handle for Atherton.
His ODI bowling average, 21.78, is the best among bowlers who have picked up 200-plus wickets. Also, his ODI bowling strike-rate was the fifth-best of bowlers with 200-plus wickets.
6. Joel Garner
Country: West Indies
Other major teams: Barbados, Somerset
Career stats in Tests: 58 matches, 259 wickets, 20.97 average, 50.8 strike rate, 2.47 economy, 6-56 best bowling, 7 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 98 matches, 146 wickets, 18.84 average, 36.5 strike rate, 3.09 economy, 5-31 best bowling, 3 5w
Bottom line: Playing balls with pace and bounce is a tough task — especially when they are released from a height of eight feet. Who would want to be a batsman then?
Joel Garner, the legendary West Indian fast bowler was 6-foot-8 tall, and with his high arm action, the ball looked as if it was coming from the sky. And landed even before one could react.
He has the second-best ODI bowling average of all time (18.84), and his economy in ODIs (3.09) is a testimony of how difficult it was to play against him. His Test average (20.97) is the second-best among players who have played at least 50 matches.
"The Big Bird" is the only player who has picked up five wickets in a World Cup final, a record he made in the 1979 World Cup, as his five-for helped West Indies clinch the trophy.
5. Richard Hadlee
Country: New Zealand
Other major teams: Canterbury
Career stats in Tests: 86 matches, 431 wickets, 22.29 average, 50.8 strike rate, 2.63 economy, 9-52 best bowling, 36 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 115 matches, 158 wickets, 21.56 average, 39.1 strike rate, 3.30 economy, 5-25 best bowling, 5 5w
Bottom line: Richard Hadlee carried New Zealand bowling alone on his shoulders during his heyday. He was the first bowler to pick up 400 wickets in Tests. He also was the highest wicket-taker (431) in Tests when he retired.
Although his Test career average of 22.29 is impressive, he was lethal from 1978 to 1988, when he picked up 330 wickets at an enviable average of 19.57. He took fifer a whopping 32 times during the period.
Hadlee averaged an unreal 13.06 with a strike-rate of 33.5 in Tests, which New Zealand won by picking up 173 wickets.
The Kiwi legend was highly effective in ODIs, too, as his average (21.56), economy (3.30) and strike-rate (39.1) were as good as anyone.
4. Wasim Akram
Other major teams: Lahore, Hampshire
Career stats in Tests: 104 matches, 414 wickets, 23.62 average, 54.6 strike rate, 2.59 economy, 7-119 best bowling, 25 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 356 matches, 502 wickets, 23.52 average, 36.2 strike rate, 3.89 economy, 5-15 best bowling, 6 5w
Bottom line: Wasim Akram is known as the "King of Swing," since he swung the ball in the air and off the pitch equally well. Along with Waqar Younis, he formed a deadly combo for Pakistan, and the duo was a nightmare for batsmen all around the world.
Akram was the player of the match in the 1992 World Cup final, which Pakistan won. He picked up most wickets in the tournament, too, with 18. He also bagged 15 wickets in the 1999 edition of the World Cup, where he captained Pakistan to the final.
The left-arm bowler is the second-highest wicket-taker (502) in ODIs and second-highest wicket-taker (916) as a pace bowler in international cricket.
3. Shane Warne
Other major teams: Hampshire, Melbourne Stars
Career stats in Tests: 145 matches, 708 wickets, 25.41 average, 57.4 strike rate, 2.65 economy, 8-71 best bowling, 37 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 194 matches, 293 wickets, 25.73 average, 36.3 strike rate, 4.25 economy, 5-33 best bowling, 1 5w
Bottom line: When Wisden chose the top five cricketers of the 20th century, Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting, Glenn McGrath, Wasim Akram and even Muttiah Muralitharan didn't make the cut. But Shane Warne was one of the elite cricketers alongside Sir Donald Bradman, Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Jack Hobbs and Sir Vivian Richards.
Warne was a magician, and he performed his tricks even on pitches that offer little help. His 1001 international wickets speak volumes of his ability. His ball to dismiss Mike Gatting in the 1993 Ashes, termed as the "Ball of the Century," and the delivery to pick the wicket of Andrew Strauss in the 2005 Ashes series is right up there as well.
Warne was the first bowler to pick up 700 wickets and retired as the leading wicket-taker in Tests with 708 wickets under his name though Muttiah Muralitharan surpassed him later. In 2005, Warne took a world record of 96 wickets in a calendar year.
2. Glenn McGrath
Other major teams: New South Wales, Middlesex
Career stats in Tests: 124 matches, 563 wickets, 21.64 average, 51.9 strike rate, 2.49 economy, 8-24 best bowling, 29 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 250 matches, 381 wickets, 22.02 average, 34.0 strike rate, 3.88 economy, 7-15 best bowling, 7 5w
Bottom line: Glenn McGrath is the greatest fast bowler of all time. He didn’t have express pace, but his accuracy was spot on, and he bowled in the same line over and over again.
His 563 wickets in Tests is the second-most by any fast bowler, and he picked up those scalps at an impressive average of 21.64. He also was the seventh-highest wicket-taker in ODIs, with 381 wickets at an average of 22.04, the best average among top 10 wicket-takers.
The "Pigeon" performed better than anyone else in ODI World Cups, claiming 71 wickets at an average of 18.19, and played a pivotal role in Australia’s World Cup triumphs in 1999, 2003, and 2007.
1. Muttiah Muralitharan
Country: Sri Lanka
Other major teams: Tamil Union Cricket and Athletic Club, Kent
Career stats in Tests: 133 matches, 800 wickets, 22.72 average, 55.0 strike rate, 2.47 economy, 9-51 best bowling, 67 5w
Career stats in ODIs: 350 matches, 534 wickets, 23.08 average, 35.2 strike rate, 3.93 economy, 7-30 best bowling, 10 5w
Bottom line: Muttiah Muralitharan is the most prolific bowler of all time as he picked up 345 wickets more than the second-placed Shane Warne.
Muralitharan also is the highest wicket-taker in Tests (800) and ODIs (534) and the fastest bowler to pick up 350, 400, 450, 500, 600 and 700 Test wickets. He is the only player to pick up 800 wickets.
Murali was a true match-winner, and he was named Man of the Series for a world-record 11 times in Tests. He received Man of the Match 19 times in Tests, second behind Jacques Kallis.
Related: Greatest Cricket Captains