Cricket may gravitate towards batting by the day but there will always be a place in it for the men who steam in and hurl thunderbolts at the batsmen. Cricket World Cup 2019 has been no different.
The game’s largest event has featured the quickest men from all the prominent teams in world cricket. And one thing has been proven beyond a doubt.
Team scores may inflate beyond 300 on the regular nowadays, but a toe-crushing yorker or an unplayable bouncer still count among the most effective weapons to keep batsmen reined in.
Almost every team taking part in the tournament have their share of fine fast bowling exponents.
Australia have Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins while England, Mark Wood and Jofra Archer. Trent Boult and Lockie Ferguson for New Zealand. The South African attack is led by Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi. India boasts of the world number 1 bowler Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Shami. And Mohammad Amir is still tearing it up for Pakistan.
Point made, I suppose. There has been no dearth of world class fast bowlers on display in the tournament. But which of these bowlers are the fastest?
A statistic released by ESPNCricinfo has an answer to that too, as they list out bowlers who’ve bowled the greatest percentage of balls over 145 kmph.
#5 Kagiso Rabada, South Africa
The South African quick hasn’t had the best of World Cup tournament so far, picking up only 8 wickets in 8 matches so far. To be fair, his returns have mirrored that of his team’s.
South Africa as a whole have endured a torrid World Cup and one they would want to put behind them at the earliest. But it hasn’t been for the want of effort.
No player signifies that more than Rabada who has been on point with his pace for the most part, but has been quite unlucky not to pick up more wickets.
He weighs in at number 5 on the list with 12% of his deliveries averaging above the 145 kmph mark.
#4 Jofra Archer
England’s latest fast bowling find has been one of their best performers of the tournaments having picked up 16 wickets in 7 matches.
The young paceman is so hard to handle because his run up belies the speed at which he releases the cherry – which is usually in the 140 kmph and above region.
His variations are on point and he possesses a particularly potent bouner that Nasser Hussain can’t stop eulogising about.
Archer has bowled 22% of his deliveried over 145 kmph.
#3 Lockie Ferguson
Personally, if I’m allowed to venture an opinion, Lockie Ferguson has been my pick of the quicks in the tournament. It’s especially worth noting that he’s a first change bowler.
He comes on as New Zealand’s replacement for Trent Boult after the left armer has extracted all the swing there is from the Kookaburra ball. Again, like Archer, he’s another bowler who ambles to the crease but generates a surprising amount of purchase from the wicket.
His use of the older ball is masterful and he picks up the kind of wickets new ball bowlers generally tend to get – with a 10-15 over old ball.
And he’s picked up 15 of them this World Cup in just 6 games. Unsurprisingly, his percentage of balls bowled over 145 kmph stands at 23%. That’s almost one in four deliveries. Eesh.
#2 Mark Wood
Mark Wood has been somewhat unheralded due to the brilliance of Jofra Archer but provides a superb foil to his bowling partner with the control he brings.
Factoring in the speed at which he bowls only adds to his impact. Jofra Archer hogged the headlines. But Wood quietly worked himself to 13 wickets in 6 games.
Between him and Archer, they’ve picked up 29 wickets in 7 matches. That’s over 40% of the wickets available for England to take. Talk about a bowling partnership up top.
Wood, like Ferguson, averages over 145 kmph in 23% of his deliveries.
#1 Mitchell Starc
There is no doubt that, along with Mohammad Amir, Jasprit Bumrah and Kagiso Rabada, Mitchell Starc forms the Mount Rushmore of fast bowling in the world today.
In Mitchell Starc’s case, it’s especially poignant because he is also the fastest bowler in the world. The delivery that got Ben Stokes was pure fast bowling porn. Wasim Akram in his prime would have been proud of that delivery.
Only, Starc is faster that Akram was. Surely he must be. How else do you explain the ridiculous statistic that a whooping 32% of his deliveries clock in over 145 kmph.
That comes out to around 2 balls every over.
Maybe cricket isn’t a batsmen’s game after all.