Throughout the history of cricket there have been bowlers both feared and revered. Having a huge fan base, these were the bowlers respected by opposition batsmen and their teammates alike. Their ability to turn the match around on its head and take apart even the most explosive of batsmen at their own whim and will was unique and honored. Whether it be their express speed making the batsmen go weak in the knees, their ability to swing the ball or the deadly spin that could boggle batsmen with the highest degree of focus; these were simply the best and the most formidable in the business. A scrutiny of the most ferocious bowling attacks in the history of cricket brings to notice these top 10 squads listed here.
10. Kumble and Harbhajan – jumping googlies and spinning doosras:
In late 90s and the beginning of the new millennium, Kumble and Harbhajan spearheaded India’s spin attack. Reliving the magic of India’s spin quartet days, it was on account of these two that Indians fans started having faith on their spinners once again. Dissecting every batting line-up in their way, particularly destroying Australia multiple times, they spun the ball like none of their contemporaries and bowled mind-boggling spin. Lending fame to the ‘Doosras’ and the googlies, they surely deserve a place in the top 10.
9. Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh – head hitting bouncers that wreaked havoc:
These two are definitely among the greatest bowlers of all time. Together they formed a pair that was dubbed the ‘Stealth Bombers’. Both bowlers being well above 6 feet, they towered over most batsmen and were perfectly capable of wreaking havoc on their day. Their pace intimidated the batsmen and they worked as a pair to get the best of results. While Curtly Ambrose instilled fear with his sheer pace, Walsh was always meticulous with his line and length and the combination worked wonders for the West Indies.
8. Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock – when accuracy complimented speed:
Giving the meaning of pace-attack a new dimension, Donald and Pollock defined South African cricket team’s success to a great deal during the late 90s. The swinging yorkers of Allan Donald at a deadly pace, and the sheer accuracy and cunning variations of Shaun Pollock had batsmen worrying about their feet rather than the wickets. Making it almost impossible to score off them, they brought the run-scoring to a stand-still, forcing batsmen to make mistakes and lose their precious wicket to their ability. They laid the foundation to South Africa being the formidable side they still continue to be.
7. Wasim Akram, Waqar Younus and Shoaib Akhtar – reverse swinging yorkers:
The ‘Sultan of Swing’, the undoubted best in reverse-swinging the cricket ball and the ‘Rawalpindi Express’ made Pakistan’s pace attack the best in the world at a point of time. Wasim’s caliber combined with Waqar’s experience gave strength to the young gun Shoaib’s rustling pace and made them a daunting trio. Wasim’s ability to ball six wicket-taking deliveries in an over was superbly complemented by Waqar’s reversing deliveries. The rest was taken care of by Shoaib’s sheer speed. The result: batsmen had no way out of the predicament. Consequently, Pakistan won innumerable matches banking on the three.
6. Bedi, Prasanna, Chandrasekhar and Venkataraghavan – invincible masters of spin:
They gave birth to the era of spin in world cricket and India. Each being a deadly specialist in his own right, they worked like a team to carve out victories for India. Never had the cricketing world seen such a combination of spinners who were perfectly capable of turning the game around on any given day. With their competence and dexterity, they saw many a side crumbling to their will and magic. Prasanna with his off spin, Bedi with his slow left arm orthodox bowling, Chandrasekhar with his leg spin and off spinner Venkataraghavan mastered all the dimensions of spin bowling and were seldom seen failing the task.
5. Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas – spin wizard and ‘miser’ seamer:
This was a duo that got Sri Lanka recognition on the cricketing map. During the World Cup of 1996, these two gave the meaning of bowling attacks a very different touch. They haunted the opposition and successfully buried them. Continuing their good work, they worked magic for Sri Lankan bowling throughout their careers. Incidentally, out of the top four best ODI performances of all time, the top two rest with them. While Murali kept batsmen guessing, Vaas was more known for his economy rate and verity. The combination worked wonderfully for Sri Lanka and was the major contributor towards their being World Champions.
4. Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath – flippers and accuracy, hand in hand:
The enchanting leg-spinner from Australia and his swift and deft counterpart took the country to be the number one position for a successive three World Cups. Warne’s clairvoyant leg-spin entrapping numerous batsmen and McGrath with his spot-on accuracy, while not being on the plane style-wise, was a force to be reckoned with. Batsmen never knew what hit them and were out of the field in a jiffy. Never giving the opponents a breathing space, their relentless precision always worked for the Aussies and kept them at the prized position for years on end.
3. Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson – when speed instilled fear:
Two of the fiercest bowlers Australia ever produced, Lillee and Thomson are a must on any list ever made on the best bowling attacks. With deliveries clocking over 160 km/h, Thompson was easily the fastest of the bowlers of his generation and inculcated fear in the minds of batsmen. His partner in crime, Lillee, was known more for his fiery temperament and never-say-die attitude. Together they made one fearsome pair that is still remembered to be the best by far of any other of Australian origin in Test cricket. Their ability to perform extraordinarily and consistently was what has earned them a mention in this list.
2. Malcolm Marshall, Andy Roberts and Joel Garner – the trio of destruction:
The pace battery comprising of these three was actually what saw the West Indies team rise to dominate all others in the 70s. Yes, they were always backed up well by their batsmen, but they were what instilled the fear of facing a West Indian team in an opposition. Total annihilation of the contention is what they always had in mind while walking on to the field and more often than not, they succeeded in their goal. The forerunners to a long streak of deadly fast bowlers from the Indies, they were the idols for generations upon generations of aspiring bowlers.
1. Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding – speed kills ‘and’ thrills:
This is, without the shadow of a doubt, the most intimidating bowling pair ever to have set foot on a cricket field. I can imagine your consternation on having picked Malcolm Marshall twice but he simply was that good. And paired with Mikey, he was downright lethal. Both Malcolm and Michael complimented and supplemented each other perfectly. At the same time, there was certain viciousness in their attack that is unmatched and unsurpassed to this day. The way they bowled made the most competent of willow-wielders duck for their lives and the crowd could be heard chanting, “Kill them! Kill them”. Seeing them running down to bowl a delivery, one can be pardoned for actually thinking they were going in for the kill.