New Zealand’s pace attack was spoken of highly after the win in the World Test Championship finals, and comparisons were drawn to the West Indies quartet. New Zealand showed how a strong pace attack could help force the game’s proceedings and how vital the bowlers are for a team’s success. There have been many periods where a team dominated the international stage and had some fearsome bowlers. We will now look at some famous bowling attacks in times closer to the modern era and how they helped their team impact World Cricket.
The West Indies Pace Quartet and the two Cs
The early West Indies side was one of the most dominant teams and ruled the Cricketing World for two decades. They had a good batting line-up, but it was their pace attack in the days of uncovered pitches and minimal protective gear that instilled fear in batters. Within four years during the 1970s, the West Indies had four brilliant pacers who formed one of the greatest pace quartets in Cricket history. The members of the quartet were Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner, and Colin Croft. Each relied heavily on pace, but their physical build provided some variety.
Michael Holding was 6ft 3 and had a smooth action while he hit high speeds and got decent bounce. The late Malcolm Marshall was shorter than the other West Indies bowlers but had lots of paces and a springy bouncer. His low release point was difficult to pick, and Marshall finished with one of the best Test bowling averages. Joel Garner was the tallest of the four at 6ft 8 and was devastating in limited-overs Cricket.
Colin Croft used to use the crease effectively to bowl lines that disturbed the batters. His run-up was unconventional and challenging for batters to adapt to. Along with the four pacers, the West Indies had Andy Roberts, who chipped in well. Like the others, Roberts had good speed and bounce and an effective slower bouncer, which helped deceive batters. Together along with the likes of Vivian Richards and Clive Lloyd, the West Indies dominated through the 70s and 80s.
The dominance did not stop after the retirement of the quartet. In the late 80s, West Indies found Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose. Both were brilliant pacers, and Ambrose was nearly as tall as Garner. They had Ian Bishop as well, and the pace attack did well in the early 90s. The West Indies continued their dominance until the two Cs began to suffer from injuries. In the late 90s, the West Indies were utterly dependent on their two fast bowlers, and that affected them in the 2000s as the fast bowlers retired.
Pakistan’s Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram
The Pakistan Cricket team is known to produce some fearsome fast bowlers and contained two of the best fast bowlers in the game at one point. The W pair formed a fearsome partnership, and the two bowlers were as perfect as a bowler could get. They had a lot of tricks up their sleeves and complimented each other well. Both bowled at a good pace, could move the new ball both ways, had sharp bouncers and Yorkers, and mastered the art of reverse swing.
Both bowlers had excellent support from their spinners, while Imran Khan played a crucial role as their captain and bowling partner. He helped transfer the art of reverse swing, and together, the three were unplayable in the 1992 World Cup. Imran Khan only played with them in the first half of their career, but at the end of the 90s, Pakistan found another fast bowler who supported the pair. Shoaib Akthar came in with a lot of speed and added another dimension to the attack. The bowling attack looked very good, but the fielding let Pakistan down, so they failed to dominate like the West Indies.
Australia’s Fearsome Era
Australian Cricket has a rich history behind them and countless periods where they seemed unstoppable. One of their dominating periods was the period from the 90s to the 2000s, after the West Indies decline. They were unstoppable and had a team full of match-winners. They won three consecutive World Cups and had some nice Test win streaks on the way.
While the batting was strong, Australia had excellent depth in their pace bowling during the period. Brett Lee and Glenn Mcgrath played most of the games, and both had varying styles. Mcgrath was a little slower, but his accuracy made it difficult for even the best batters. Supporting him was Brett Lee, who attacked with raw pace.
Along with Lee and Mcgrath, Australia used Jason Gillespie and Michael Kasprowicz, who had a good pace and were brilliant at home. The pace attack worked well to win some big games for Australia as they dominated World Cricket for a decade.
Along with the pace attack, Australia was blessed with a crafty leg-spinner in Shane Warne. He complimented the pacers well and picked up a handful of wickets in Test Cricket.
South Africa’s Consistent Run Away from Home
While they may not be up to the level of the Australian or West Indies pace attack, the South African pace attack had some good names as South Africa went unbeaten in an overseas series for over nine years.
The attack consisted of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, and later had Vernon Philander. Before the entry of Philander, South Africa had Makhaya Ntini.
In Dale Steyn, Australia had one of the greatest bowlers in the game. He was fast and could move the ball around well. Supporting him was Morne Morkel, who could generate discomforting pace with his bounce. Ntini is more experienced than the previous two and is famous for his relentless bowling style.
The last piece to the attack was Vernon Philander. Philander came in late but proved helpful with his ability to swing the ball. His movement disturbed the batters early in the innings and helped South Africa set up various games. Together, South Africa won some great games overseas, won a few series overseas, and made it to the knockouts in three World Cups between 2006 and 2015.
The Mitchell Johnson Era
The Australian bowling attack in the early 2010s instilled loads of fear in the touring batters. The attack consisted of Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris, and Peter Siddle. The three pacers played all five Tests in the 2013-2014 Ashes as Australia hammered England at home. The series saw Mitchell Johnson come to life as he destroyed batters with his pace and bounce. His bowling was very intimidating, and he dominated the Ashes and a South African tour after the Ashes. Ryan Harris supported Johnson well with his accuracy and ability to bowl long spells. He was relentless and allowed Johnson to operate in short bursts. The third pacer in the line-up was Peter Siddle, who chipped in with his short balls.
The three pacers had significant backup, with Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, and James Pattinson rising quickly. The side had a strong pool of fast-bowlers. Together they won numerous games at home from 2013 to 2015 and bagged a World Cup as well, in which Mitchell Starc was the leading wicket-taker.
The dominance was brief compared to the previous sides, but Johnson’s form created much fear in batters, and Australia was unbeatable at home during the period.