Cricket fans are crazy about fast bowlers. Everyone likes the view of stumps cartwheeling when a batsman gets bowled and at times enjoys the discomfort a batsman experiences on express fast bouncers or the to-crushing yorkers. The fascination with fast bowlers has led to every cricket team yearning for an express bowler to be a part of their setup.
Shoaib Akhtar has bowled the fastest delivery in Cricket at a speed of 100.2mph (161.3kmph) in 2003. Fast bowlers in cricket can constantly bowl around the speed of 145kmph i.e. about 90mph. A batsman gets about 0.5 seconds to react to the delivery once released from the bowler’s hand.
How do bowlers attain such unprecedented speeds? Who were some of the fastest bowlers in the history of cricket? What are some of the high speeds clocked in cricket? Let’s discuss all these questions and more in the following article.
How Fast do Bowlers Bowl in Cricket?
The fascination with bowling fast in cricket has been around since the days of underarm bowling and unprotected shins. Once the laws made it compulsory to bowl overarm, bowlers have tried everything in their capacity to get their bowling speeds up.
Many have fast bowling to intimidate batsmen, some use it as part of the setup to get wickets, and at times it has been used as a negative tactic, to starve off the scoring in Test cricket.
Some bowlers bowl fast consistently while others use it sparingly as a surprise delivery or for the fear of injury. A fast inswinging yorker or a well-directed bouncer many not always result in dismissal but it has a psychological impact on the batsman who can be set up to give the wicket away on the subsequent deliveries.
Pacers are generally divided into the following categories –
- Slow (110kmph to 120kmph)
- Medium-Fast (120kmph to 130kmph)
- Fast-Medium (130kmph to 140kmph)
- Fast bowlers (140kmph and above)
A genuinely express fast bowler constantly bowls at the speed of around 145kmph (90mph) and above. This roughly translates to the batsman getting just about half a second to react to the incoming delivery once it leaves the bowler’s hand.
Did You Know?
Even though an injury from a cricket ball hitting in the head can be fatal, it is not yet mandatory to wear a helmet in Cricket!
If one such delivery bounces of the pitch and hits the batsman in the head, it can do a great amount of damage! Thus, it is highly recommended to play with a helmet while facing fast bowlers even though the helmets are not mandatory!
We wrote a detailed post on this very topic and gave helpful tips on the type of helmet that one should choose while buying a cricket helmet! Do check it out!
Helmets are not about distrusting your batting technique but it is about avoiding those freakish accidents that may affect your career or, in a rare incident, your life.
That’s how lethal the fast bowlers bowl in cricket. Add it to the fact that the leather bowl is rock hard, and then one can understand how hard the batsman must concentrate every single delivery to thwart off those bullets coming from the bowler’s end. The fastest delivery ever was bowled at a speed of 161kmph (100.2mph) – in short, the poor batsman had roughly about 0.44 sec to react to the delivery. That is scary, isn’t it?
Some Tips on how to bowl fast
The speeds that the fast bowlers generate in cricket are a combination of practice, rhythm, fitness, and physical strength. It would not be advisable, for the fear of injury, to try to constantly exceed your bowling speed if your body is not used to taking such load in the practice.
Here are certain tips that you can follow to get your bowling speed up a notch.
Tip 1 – Focus on the rhythm
Rhythm is summed up as running smoothly to the bowling crease and not knowing how you got there. That’s when you are completely focused on the delivery you want to bowl. It comes from hours of practice.
Rhythm comes when a bowler runs up to the bowling crease in exactly the same number of steps and bows with an action that is the same every single time.
Tip 2 – Learn to grip the ball properly
No matter how strong you are, unless you grip the ball properly, and control how it leaves the hand at the time of delivery, you will not achieve the speeds you want to deliver with.
To begin with, try holding the ball with the index and middle finger on either side of the seam. Get used to it in the practice and then try gripping the ball in different ways as you go along.
Tip 3 – Work on Fitness and Strength
The astonishing speeds cannot be achieved if your body is not ready to take that load. Work on your fitness, strengthen those shoulders, work on your core and lower back muscles, work on your legs.
Many cricketers have lost their careers in trying to achieve speeds their bodies couldn’t take. Don’t be one of those players. It is important to note that the fast bowlers experience the most number of injuries in Cricket!
A research article published by the US National Library of Medicine stated that bowling in cricket is responsible for 41.3% of injuries that happen in Cricket! The research article further stated that lumbar stress facture in fast bowlers is the most severe injury that is caused amongst cricketers!
One easy and important way to avoid injuries is to warm-up and cool-down before and after a bowling session.
For your convenience, we wrote a detailed post on all the exercises that one should do before being a fast bowler. Do check out the article!
Tip 4 – Target Practice
It is often seen that the bowlers lose the sight of accuracy in bowling for the excitement of bowling super fast. Not only it is short-lived but remember that the fast you bowl, the faster it goes off the bat. But there is nothing like an accurate and fast delivery.
In the nets, the bowlers should work on the ideal line and length they want to bowl in the match and gradually work on improving the speeds while keeping the accuracy intact.
Who are Some of the Fastest Bowlers in Cricket?
The world took the first real notice of fast bowlers in 1932 during the infamous ‘Bodyline series’ when England’s bowlers, Ray Lindwall and Bill Voce, following the instructions of captain Doglous Jardine tormented the Australians with fast bouncers target at the body. Unfortunately, there were no speed guns during that era to measure how fast they really were.
Some bowlers, such as Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar, Brett Lee, bowled fast regularly through their careers. Whereas some, like Wahab Riyaz and Mitchell Johnson, were lethal at their pick.
There were some bowling pairs, like Jeff Thompson and Deniss Lillie for Australia or Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram for Pakistan, who put fear in batsmen’s heart. The famed West Indian quartet of Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Joel Garner, and Colin Croft have injured more players in their career than anybody else.
Some bowlers, like Shaun Tait, touted to be the fastest bowler in Australia, faded away due to injuries, whereas some, like Munaf Patel, reduced their bowling speed for the sake of accuracy.
Currently, Mitchell Starc (AUS), Lokie Ferguson (NZ), Kagiso Rabada (SA), Jasprit Bumrah (IND), Kemar Roach(WI) are some of the established fast bowlers playing cricket today who bowl consistently fast irrespective of the surface they are playing on.
What are Some of the Fastest Balls Ever Bowled in Cricket?
There is a general consensus that the bowling speeds have evolved as the game progressed over time. As Cricket became professional and could be played as the full-time profession, players and coaches started investing in fitness and nutrition and crispening of bowling action in quest of more speed without losing accuracy.
Top Fastest Bowls Ever Bowled in Cricket (that have been officially recorded)
|S. No||Bowler Name||Country||Speed (Km/h)|
|1||Shoaib Akhtar||Pakistan||161.3 (or 100.2 mph)|
|2||Brett Lee||Australia||161.1 (or 100.1 mph)|
|3||Shaun Tait||Australia||161.1 (or 100.1 mph)|
|4||Mitchell Starc||Australia||160.4 (or 99.66 mph)|
It was unimaginable in the 1950s, or even a few decades later, that someone could bowl a legal cricket delivery at 100mph. Nobody actually knew how fast the bowlers were bowling. The advent of speed-guns allows us to measure the speed of every delivery.
However, Shoaib Akhtar, the ‘Rawalpindi Express’, who holds the record of the fastest delivery in world cricket, bowled at 100.2mph, i.e. 161.3kmph [Source – Guinness World Records], to Nick Knight of England in 2003. Shoaib Akhtar broke the 100mph barrier earlier in 2002 as well, but that delivery came under scrutiny due to alleged faulty equipment.
Australian pacer Brett Lee holds the record for the second-fastest delivery in cricket when he clocked 100.1mph (161.1kmph) against New Zealand in 2005. Shaun Tait, another Australian bowler, equaled Brett Lee in 2010 when he bowled at 100.1mph at Lord’s against England. Mitchell Starc bowled a delivery at 160.4kmph (99.66mph) in a Test match against New Zealand at Perth.
What is a Speed Gun and how does it work?
A Speed Gun is a device used to measure the speed of the ball from bowling to batting end and thus effectively gives the speed of the ball at the moment of delivery. It has been used in cricket since 1999. The speed gun was first used in the game of Tennis.
A speed gun works on microwave principals. It has a radar head that sends a beam that detects the movement of the ball across the length of the pitch. The beam is directed using a small pipe. The speed gun is mounted on a pole next to the sight-screen.
The wind speed or humidity in the air has no impact on the working of the device and the margin of error is generally around 1kmph and can be further reduced by setting up the device properly.
Do the Pitch or Other Conditions Matter for Bowling Fast?
In a scientific research done to understand the aerodynamics of a cricket ball, it was observed that the drag of the ball decreases as the ball becomes old.
Furthermore, when a cricket ball is bowled, it experiences a drag in the air based on the weight of the ball and loses about 10% to 12% of the speed until it reaches the surface.
Likewise, when the ball hits the surface of the pitch, it experiences another loss of speed by about 30% to 40%. By the time it reaches the batsman, the speed becomes significantly lower, although still pretty substantial in case of a genuinely fast bowler.
Roughly, when a ball is delivered at 150kmph, the ball reaches the batsman in about half-second with a speed of about 85kmph. The swing in the air or off the pitch and the bounce in the surface confounds the matter more for the batsman.
Additionally, it is due to the wear and tear that the ball undergoes over the course of the match the resistance in the air increases. Thus, it is often observed that the same bowlers achieve lower speeds with the old ball.
How Does a Baseball Pitch (throw) Compare to Fast Bowling in Cricket?
Baseball and cricket are quite similar in terms of speed of bowling, or pitching, as they call it in baseball. Cricket mandates a bowler to bowl overarm with an allowance of 15 degrees in arm straightening. If the arm straightens more than 15 degrees then the ball is considered as illegal. It is labeled as chucking in cricket.
Fast bowlers and off-spinners, especially the ones who bowl Doosra (the wrong’un for off-spinner), have been found guilty of breaking this rule to their advantage. There is no such restriction on pitchers in baseball and it is essentially throwing a ball towards the batter.
In cricket, bowlers use the run-up to aid in increasing the speed of the delivery but are restricted by 15-degree rule, whereas a baseball pitcher can pitch as fast as possible without any such restriction, but, without a run-up. This manifests in achieving similar speeds in both sports.
In cricket, the highest bowling speed ever achieved is 100.2mph (161.2kmph) whereas baseball has recorded a slightly quicker speed of around 105mph (169.0kmph). Another difference between cricket and baseball is that the ball never lands on the ground before reaching the batter. So, unlike cricket, baseball players always expect a full-toss which kind of helps them in dealing with a slightly high speed of pitching.
How Do Batsmen Cope with Such High Speeds of a Fast Bowler?
It’s a tough job as a batsman to be able to see, decide, and play a shot on an incoming delivery that reaches you within half a second. Batsmen across the world have different techniques to negotiate express deliveries but everything eventually boils down to a few basic concepts such as
1. Lots of Practice
Batsmen do a targeted practice in the nets against the bowlers who can bowl very fast or using a bowling machine that can bowl at the required speeds and lengths. Playing against such high-speed balls within a fraction of a second needs involvement of muscle memory and tremendous hand-eye coordination. The only way to perfect that is to play thousands of such deliveries in the nets
2. Watching the ball off the bowler’s hand
One of the keys to playing fast deliveries without trouble is to judge the length of the ball before it is delivered. It can be achieved by watching the ball out of the bowler’s hand. If it is delivered late in the bowling action, then it’s a short ball. If it is delivered early, it a fuller delivery.
This is important because once you know the length before the ball is bowled, your body automatically starts to move in the correct position to receive the ball, front or back. This gives you that extra fraction to negotiate the delivery.
3. Early Movement
Some batsmen use trigger movements, like Smith’s exaggerated shuffle or Kohli’s tap to the ground, to get the body moving as soon as the bowler reaches the bowling crease. It helps them react better to fast deliveries since the body is already in motion. The key thing though is to keep the head steady and be balanced.
4. Read bowler’s mind
Many bowlers have a similar pattern of deliveries that they follow as a part of setting up the batsman. Someone like Mitchell Starc would bowl a couple of bouncers and would follow that up with a toe crushing yorker.
Smart batsmen read the bowler’s mind and can often predict the length of incoming delivery even before the bowler reaches the bowling mark. It’s equally important to be ready to face the ball that is actually delivered.
Does Bowling Fast all the Time Guarantee Success in Cricket?
Absolutely not! None of the fastest deliveries mentioned above in the article yielded any wickets. Cunning bowlers use fast deliveries to set the batsman up for a specific kind of dismissal. Bowlers like Mitchell Starc bowl fast bouncers just push the batsman on the back foot so that the upcoming yorker does the job of getting the batsman out.
To get an international batsman out, bowlers need to create an element of surprise which includes dropping the speed of the bowl at times and accurately bowling according to the trap set in the field for the batsman.
Every international cricket team has express fast bowlers in their team now so batsmen across the world have enough exposure to playing express speeds in the nets. As a bowler, you must bring something new to the table to get these run-makers out.
It is astonishing to know how extraordinary speeds can be achieved by bowlers with relentless practice, patience, and fitness. However, it must be noted that speed needs to be treated as an aspect of the art of bowling, and not the whole of it.
A wide ball delivered at 150kmph is still a wide ball. Accuracy, variations, and game awareness are must in addition to the speeds you can generate to become a wicket-taking bowler. It is also important to understand what’s going on in the batsman’s head before delivering every delivery. Try to be a complete package, not just a speedy bowling machine.
So put your shoes on and put in those miles in practice to up your bowling speed a notch.