25 Bowlers Who Gave Us the Best Bowling We've Ever Seen

25 Bowlers Who Gave Us the Best Bowling We’ve Ever Seen

Very few bowlers in cricket history have showcased what we view as the best bowling of all-time. If it weren’t for these talented bowlers keeping batsmen honest, the game wouldn’t be as enjoyable as it is. They help keep the game balanced and are essential to the game’s growth.

The best bowlers are known for giving us the best bowling possible on a game-by-game basis. They make taking wickets look easy, they give batsmen a hard time at the plate, and they put their team in a position to win. They’re the ones you can trust when you need them the most. 

Cricket is often called a ‘batman’s game’ due to recent rule changes and the general evolution of the sport, but that doesn’t mean that bowling is dead. In fact, the game today is full of talented bowlers that display their best bowling skills — which helps keep the game interesting and close.

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Which Bowlers Had the Best Bowling Career?

25 Bowlers Who Gave Us the Best Bowling We've Ever Seen
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Batsmen don’t stand a chance against the best bowling magicians. They throw the ball unlike any other and they limit the amount of runs their opponent scores. A quality and dominant bowler is hard to find today, which is what makes them so valuable to their team’s efforts.

Some bowlers are better than others, but it takes a real bowler to be regarded as one of the best bowlers of all-time. They’re the ones that will be remembered forever and the ones that incoming bowlers will try to emulate as they forge their own careers in the beautiful game of cricket. 

There are a lot of factors that go into ranking the best bowling talents of all-time. You have to consider their stats (wickets, bowling average, economy rate, runs conceded, etc.), how many innings they bowled, how many matches they played, and how they revolutionized the game. 

Without further ado, let’s take a look at who we believe embodied the best bowling in cricket history, starting off with some honorable mentions that didn’t quite crack the top-25. 

Honorable Mentions: Chaminda Vaas (Sri Lanka), Allan Donald (South Africa), Bob Willis (England), Tim Southee (New Zealand), Mitchell Johnson (Australia), Ishant Sharma (India), Zaheer Khan (India), Brett Lee (Australia), Morne Morkel (South Africa), Lance Gibbs (West Indies)

25. Daniel Vettori

Country: New Zealand

Years: 1997-2015 (19 years)

Test: 113 matches, 187 innings, 362 wickets, 34.36 bowling average, 2.59 economy rate, 79.50 bowling strike rate

ODI: 295 matches, 277 innings, 305 wickets, 31.71 bowling average, 4.12 economy rate, 46.00 bowling strike rate

FC: 174 matches, 565 wickets, 31.82 bowling average, 2.61 economy rate, 73.00 bowling strike rate

Daniel Vettori was an all-rounder that found success both bowling and batting. He has the eighth-most balls bowled in test matches, was the fifth-youngest player to take five wickets in the same inning, and scored 4,531 runs, six hundreds, and 23 fifties while batting. 

You can view the rest of Daniel Vettori’s career stats here.

24. Imran Khan

Country: Pakistan

Years: 1971-1992 (22 years)

Test: 88 matches, 142 innings, 362 wickets, 22.81 bowling average, 2.54 economy rate, 53.70 bowling strike rate

ODI: 175 matches, 153 innings, 182 wickets, 26.61 bowling average, 3.89 economy rate, 40.90 bowling strike rate

FC: 382 matches, 1,287 wickets, 22.32 bowling average, 2.64 economy rate, 50.60 bowling strike rate

In test matches, Imran Khan has recorded the third-most player-of-the-series awards, fourth most consecutive ten-wickets-in-a-match, ninth most wickets taken bowled, and the ninth fastest player to 250 wickets. He once had a hundred and bowled five wickets in the same inning.

You can view the rest of Imran Khan’s career stats here.

23. Waqar Younis

Country: Pakistan

Years: 1989-2003 (15 years)

Test: 87 matches, 154 innings, 373 wickets, 23.56 bowling average, 3.25 economy rate, 43.40 bowling strike rate

ODI: 262 matches, 258 innings, 416 wickets, 23.84 bowling average, 4.68 economy rate, 30.50 bowling strike rate

FC: 228 matches, 956 wickets, 22.33 bowling average, 3.26 economy rate, 40.90 bowling strike rate

In test matches, Waqar Younis was the fourth youngest captain to ever play, has the eighth best career strike rate, was the fourth youngest player to take ten-wickets-in-a-match, and has the fifth most wickets taken bowled. He was also the second fastest bowler to take 150 wickets.

You can view the rest of Waqar Younis’ career stats here.

22. Ian Botham

Country: England

Years: 1976-1992 (17 years)

Test: 102 matches, 168 innings, 383 wickets, 28.40 bowling average, 2.99 economy rate, 56.90 bowling strike rate

ODI: 116 matches, 115 innings, 145 wickets, 28.54 bowling average, 3.96 economy rate, 43.20 bowling strike rate

FC: 402 matches, 1,172 wickets, 27.22 bowling average, 3.01 economy rate, 54.20 bowling strike rate

Ian Botham knew how to get the job done as a batter and a bowler. He scored a hundred and bowled five wickets in the same inning five different times, was the fifth fastest player to take 150 wickets, and has the ninth most career five-wickets-in-an-innings of all-time.  

You can view the rest of Ian Botham’s career stats here.

21. Makhaya Ntini

Country: South Africa

Years: 1998-2011

Test: 101 matches, 190 innings, 390 wickets, 28.82 bowling average, 3.23 economy rate, 53.40 bowling strike rate

ODI: 173 matches, 171 innings, 266 wickets, 24.65 bowling average, 4.53 economy rate, 32.60 bowling strike rate

FC: 190 matches, 651 wickets, 28.98 bowling average, 3.23 economy rate, 53.80 bowling strike rate

Makhaya Ntini has the 18th most career wickets in test matches, eighth most wickets taken caught, fourth most consecutive ten-wickets-in-a-match, and the third most bowler/fielder combinations. In ODI matches, he was the seventh fastest bowler to take 250 wickets..

You can view the rest of Makhaya Ntini’s career stats here.

20. Nathan Lyon

Country: Australia

Years: 2011-present (11 years)

Test: 100 matches, 191 innings, 399 wickets, 32.12 bowling average, 2.99 economy rate, 64.30 bowling strike rate

ODI: 29 matches, 29 innings, 29 wickets, 46.00 bowling average, 4.92 economy rate, 56.00 bowling strike rate

FC: 174 matches, 320 innings, 623 wickets, 33.77 bowling average, 2.99 economy rate, 67.50 bowling strike rate

Nathan Lyon is just one of six Australian players to take more than 300 wickets in test matches. Between Test, ODI, and FC matches, he has accumulated seven (7) ten-wickets-in-a-match, 41 five-wickets-in-an-innings, and 41 four-wickets-in-an-innings in 303 total matches. 

You can view the rest of Nathan Lyon’s career stats here.

19. Ravichandran Ashwin

Country: India

Years: 2010-present (12 years)

Test: 79 matches, 148 innings, 413 wickets, 24.56 bowling average, 2.80 economy rate, 52.40 bowling strike rate

ODI: 111 matches, 109 innings, 150 wickets, 32.91 bowling average, 4.91 economy rate, 40.10 bowling strike rate

FC: 135 matches, 240 innings, 655 wickets, 25.49 bowling average, 2.76 economy rate, 55.20 bowling strike rate

Ravichandran Ashwin has the third most player-of-the-series awards, was the fastest player to take 350 wickets, and has sixth most ten-wickets-in-a-match in Test matches. As for his batting stats, he has recorded 2,685 runs, five hundreds, and 11 fifties in 79 matches (111 innings). 

You can view the rest of Ravichandran Ashwin’s career stats here.

18. Harbhajan Singh

Country: India

Years: 1998-2016 (19 years)

Test: 103 matches, 190 innings, 417 wickets, 32.46 bowling average, 2.84 economy rate, 68.50 bowling strike rate

ODI: 236 matches, 227 innings, 269 wickets, 33.35 bowling average, 4.31 economy rate, 46.30 bowling strike rate

FC: 198 matches, 780 wickets, 29.04 bowling average, 2.82 economy rate, 61.60 bowling strike rate

Harbhajan Singh was the ninth fastest player to take 400 wickets, has the ninth most career balls bowled, the fourth most consecutive ten-wickets-in-a-match, the second best strike rate in a single inning, and the sixth best figures in a match. He recorded 63 wickets in 2008 alone.

You can view the rest of Harbhajan Singh’s career stats here

17. Shaun Pollock

Country: South Africa

Years: 1995-2008 (14 years)

Test: 108 matches, 202 innings, 421 wickets, 23.11 bowling average, 2.39 economy rate, 57.80 bowling strike rate

ODI: 303 matches, 297 innings, 393 wickets, 24.50 bowling average, 3.67 economy rate, 39.90 bowling strike rate

FC: 186 matches, 667 wickets, 23.25 bowling average, 2.38 economy rate, 58.50 bowling strike rate

Shaun Pollock was a consistent bowler in all cricket formats, taking a total of 1,481 wickets in his career between 597 FC, ODI, and Test matches. He has the fifth most career balls bowled in ODI matches and was the sixth fastest bowler to take 350 career wickets in ODI matches. 

You can view the rest of Shaun Pollock’s career stats here.

16. Rangana Herath

Country: Sri Lanka

Years: 1999-2018 (20 years)

Test: 93 matches, 170 innings, 433 wickets, 28.07 bowling average, 2.80 economy rate, 60.00 bowling strike rate

ODI: 71 matches, 67 innings, 74 wickets, 31.91 bowling average, 4.37 economy rate, 43.80 bowling strike rate

FC: 270 matches, 1,080 wickets, 25.14 bowling average, 2.73 economy rate, 55.20 bowling strike rate

In Test matches, Rangana Herath was the fifth fastest bowler to take 400 wickets, has the third most wickets taken stumped, the third most career ten-wickets-in-a-match, and the best figures in a match by a captain. He also has the ninth most career runs without tallying a hundred. 

You can view the rest of Rangana Herath’s career stats here.

15. Kapil Dev

Country: India

Years: 1978-1994 (17 years)

Test: 131 matches, 227 innings, 434 wickets, 29.64 bowling average, 2.78 economy rate, 63.90 bowling strike rate

ODI: 225 matches, 221 innings, 253 wickets, 27.45 bowling average, 3.71 economy rate, 44.20 bowling strike rate

FC: 275 matches, 835 wickets, 27.09 bowling average, 2.77 economy rate, 58.50 bowling strike rate

In Test matches, Kapil Dev recorded the best figures in an innings when on the losing side, the 10th most career balls bowled, and the second most wickets taken hit wicket. He also recorded 1,522 career wickets across 631 Test, ODI, and FC matches. He was an excellent pace bowler.

You can view the rest of Kapil Dev’s career stats here.

14. Dale Steyn

Country: South Africa

Years: 2004-2020 (17 years)

Test: 93 matches, 171 innings, 439 wickets, 22.95 bowling average, 3.24 economy rate, 42.30 bowling strike rate

ODI: 125 matches, 124 innings, 196 wickets, 25.95 bowling average, 4.87 economy rate, 31.90 bowling strike rate

FC: 141 matches, 618 wickets, 23.57 bowling average, 3.21 economy rate, 43.90 bowling strike rate

Dale Steyn became the third fastest player to take 400 wickets in Test matches after just 80 matches, as well as the sixth fastest player to take 50 wickets in ODI matches. He has the sixth best career strike rate in Test matches and the fourth most consecutive ten-wickets-in-a-match. 

You can view the rest of Dale Steyn’s career stats here.

13. Stuart Broad

Country: England

Years: 2006-present (16 years)

Test: 149 matches, 274 innings, 524 wickets, 27.84 bowling average, 2.93 economy rate, 56.90 bowling strike rate

ODI: 121 matches, 121 innings, 178 wickets, 30.13 bowling average, 5.26 economy rate, 34.30 bowling strike rate

FC: 239 matches, 841 wickets, 26.80 bowling average, 3.02 economy rate, 53.20 bowling strike rate

In Test matches, Stuart Broad was the seventh-fastest player to take 500 wickets in their career, has the 10th most career matches, the second most career ducks, the sixth most career balls bowled, the third most wickets taken caught by wicketkeeper, and 841 career FC wickets.

You can view the rest of Stuart Broad’s career stats here.

12. Anil Kumble

Country: India

Years: 1990-2008 (19 years)

Test: 132 matches, 236 innings, 619 wickets, 29.65 bowling average, 2.69 economy rate, 65.90 bowling strike rate

ODI: 271 matches, 265 innings, 337 wickets, 30.89 bowling average, 4.30 economy rate, 43.00 bowling strike rate

FC: 244 matches, 1,136 wickets, 25.83 bowling average, 2.63 economy rate, 58.90 bowling strike rate

Anil Kumble was the second fastest player to take 600 wickets in Test matches, has the second most career balls bowled, fourth most career five-wickets-in-an-innings, and holds the record for most wickets taken lbw. He’s also the ninth fastest player to take 300 wickets in ODI matches.

You can view the rest of Anil Kumble’s career stats here.

11. Wasim Akram

Country: Pakistan

Years: 1984-2003 (20 years)

Test: 104 matches, 181 innings, 414 wickets, 23.62 bowling average, 2.59 economy rate, 54.60 bowling strike rate

ODI: 356 matches, 351 innings, 502 wickets, 23.52 bowling average, 3.89 economy rate, 36.20 bowling strike rate

FC: 257 matches, 1,042 wickets, 21.64 bowling average, 2.69 economy rate, 48.20 bowling strike rate

In Test matches, Wasim Akram has the second highest partnership for the eighth wicket, fourth most wickets taken lbw, third most player of the match awards, and has the most sixes in an innings. He was also the second youngest player to take ten-wickets-in-a-match at 18 years old.

You can view the rest of Wasim Akram’s career stats here.

10. Courtney Walsh

Country: West Indies

Years: 1984-2001 (18 years)

Test: 132 matches, 242 innings, 519 wickets, 24.44 bowling average, 2.53 economy rate, 57.80 bowling strike rate

ODI: 205 matches, 204 innings, 227 wickets, 30.47 bowling average, 3.83 economy rate, 47.60 bowling strike rate

FC: 429 matches, 1,807 wickets, 21.71 bowling average, 2.75 economy rate, 47.20 bowling strike rate

Courtney Walsh was the fifth fastest player to take 500 wickets in Test matches, had the fifth most career balls bowled, the third most bowler/batter combinations, the best figures in a match by a captain, and was the oldest player to take ten-wickets-in-a-match at almost 38 years old.

You can view the rest of Courtney Walsh’s career stats here.

9. Dennis Lillee

Country: Australia

Years: 1971-1984 (14 years)

Test: 70 matches, 132 innings, 355 wickets, 23.92 bowling average, 2.75 economy rate, 52.00 bowling strike rate

ODI: 63 matches, 63 innings, 103 wickets, 20.82 bowling average, 3.58 economy rate, 34.80 bowling strike rate

FC: 198 matches, 882 wickets, 23.46 bowling average, 2.77 economy rate, 50.80 bowling strike rate

In Test matches, Dennis Lillee was the second fastest player to take 300 wickets, has the most bowler/fielder combinations, has the fourth most consecutive ten-wickets-in-a-match, and the third most wickets in a calendar year. He was also the fourth fastest to 50 wickets in ODI format.

You can view the rest of Dennis Lillee’s career stats here.

8. Glenn McGrath

Country: Australia

Years: 1993-2007 (15 years)

Test: 124 matches, 243 innings, 563 wickets, 21.64 bowling average, 2.49 economy rate, 51.90 bowling strike rate

ODI: 250 matches, 248 innings, 381 wickets, 22.02 bowling average, 3.88 economy rate, 34.00 bowling strike rate

FC: 189 matches, 835 wickets, 20.85 bowling average, 2.50 economy rate, 50.00 bowling strike rate

Glenn McGrath was the third fastest player to take 450 Test wickets, has the seventh most career balls bowled, the most bowler/batter combinations, the second most ducks in a series, and eighth most five-wickets-in-an-innings. He’s also the third fastest to 300 career ODI wickets.

You can view the rest of Glenn McGrath’s career stats here.

7. Curtly Ambrose

Country: West Indies

Years: 1988-2000 (13 years)

Test: 98 matches, 179 innings, 405 wickets, 20.99 bowling average, 2.30 economy rate, 54.50 bowling strike rate

ODI: 176 matches, 175 innings, 225 wickets, 24.12 bowling average, 3.48 economy rate, 41.50 bowling strike rate

FC: 239 matches, 941 wickets, 20.24 bowling average, 2.34 economy rate, 51.80 bowling strike rate

Curtly Ambrose finished his career with the third most Test bowler/batter combinations, the seventh most career pairs, and the seventh most player of the match awards. In ODI matches, he has the third best economy rate in an innings and the most bowler/batting combinations.

You can view the rest of Curtly Ambrose’s career stats here.

6. Sydney Barnes

Country: England

Years: 1901-1914 (14 years)

Test: 27 matches, 50 innings, 189 wickets, 16.43 bowling average, 2.36 economy rate, 41.60 bowling strike rate

FC: 133 matches, 719 wickets, 17.09 bowling average, 2.33 economy rate, 43.80 bowling strike rate

Sydney Barnes playing days date back over 100 years ago. He was the fastest player to take 150 wickets, has the best figures in a match when on the losing side, has the fifth best career strike rate, and was the fourth oldest player to take ten-wickets-in-a-match at 41 years old. 

You can view the rest of Sydney Barnes’ career stats here.

5. James Anderson

Country: England

Years: 2002-present (20 years)

Test: 166 matches, 309 innings, 632 wickets, 26.62 bowling average, 2.82 economy rate, 56.60 bowling strike rate

ODI: 194 matches, 191 innings, 269 wickets, 29.22 bowling average, 4.92 economy rate, 35.60 bowling strike rate

FC: 267 matches, 1,018 wickets, 24.70 bowling average, 2.83 economy rate, 52.20 bowling strike rate

In Test matches, James Anderson is the fourth fastest player to take 600 wickets, has the most wickets taken caught by wicketkeeper, the sixth most five-wickets-in-an-innings, the fourth most career balls bowled, the third most career wickets, and the fourth most career matches. 

You can view the rest of James Anderson’s career stats here

4. Sir Richard Hadlee

Country: New Zealand

Years: 1973-1990 (18 years)

Test: 86 matches, 150 innings, 431 wickets, 22.29 bowling average, 2.63 economy rate, 50.80 bowling strike rate

ODI: 115 matches, 112 innings, 158 wickets, 21.56 bowling average, 3.30 economy rate, 39.10 bowling strike rate

FC: 342 matches, 1,490 wickets, 18.11 bowling average

In Test matches, Sir Richard Hadlee was the third fastest player to take 400 wickets, has the third most ten-wickets-in-a-match, and has the third most player of the series awards. He also has the fifth-best career economy rate in ODI matches and scored 12,052 runs in FC format.

You can view the rest of Sir Richard Hadlee’s career stats here.

3. Malcolm Marshall

Country: West Indies

Years: 1978-1992 (15 years)

Test: 81 matches, 151 innings, 376 wickets, 20.94 bowling average, 2.68 economy rate, 46.70 bowling strike rate

ODI: 136 matches, 134 innings, 157 wickets, 26.96 bowling average, 3.53 economy rate, 45.70 bowling strike rate

FC: 408 matches, 1,651 wickets, 19.10 bowling average, 2.53 economy rate, 45.20 bowling strike rate

In Test matches, Malcolm Marshall was the fourth fastest player to take 300 wickets, had the fifth most bowler/batter combinations, the fifth most consecutive five-wickets-in-an-innings, and the ninth most player of the series awards. He also scored 11,004 career runs in FC format.

You can view the rest of Malcolm Marshall’s career stats here.

2. Shane Warne

Country: Australia

Years: 1992-2007 (16 years)

Test: 145 matches, 273 innings, 708 wickets, 25.41 bowling average, 2.65 economy rate, 57.40 bowling strike rate

ODI: 194 matches, 191 innings, 293 wickets, 25.73 bowling average, 4.25 economy rate, 36.30 bowling strike rate

FC: 301 matches, 1,319 wickets, 26.11 bowling average, 2.76 economy rate, 56.70 bowling strike rate

Shane Warne was the second fastest player to 700 wickets, has the second most wickets taken stumped, third most career balls bowled, the most wickets in a calendar year, the fifth most career ducks, most career runs without a hundred, and third most player of the series awards.

You can view the rest of Shane Warne’s career stats here

1. Muttiah Muralitharan

Country: Sri Lanka

Years: 1992-2011 (20 years)

Test: 133 matches, 230 innings, 800 wickets, 22.72 bowling average, 2.47 economy rate, 55.00 bowling strike rate

ODI: 350 matches, 341 innings, 534 wickets, 23.08 bowling average, 3.93 economy rate, 35.20 bowling strike rate

FC: 232 matches, 1,374 wickets, 19.64 bowling average, 2.42 economy rate, 48.70 bowling strike rate

Not only does Muthiah Muralidaran have the most career wickets in Test matches, but he has the most player of the series awards, fourth highest strike rate in an innings, second most career pairs, most wickets on a single ground, most wickets taken stumped, and most career balls bowled. 

You can view the rest of Muthiah Muralidaran’s career stats here.

The Best Bowling Makes for a Great Match

It’s always exciting to reminisce about some of the best bowling careers we’ve had the pleasure of witnessing in cricket history. It’s not only an opportunity to relive the past, but it’s a great opportunity to appreciate all the best bowling talent we have in today’s game — and there’s a lot!

For example, James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Ravichandran Ashwin, and Nathan Lyon are all active players that found themselves on the list above. Of course, they’re not the only ones that showcase some of the best bowling we’ve ever seen in today’s game. There’s plenty more!

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Tim Southee, Ishant Sharma, Trent Boult, Mitchell Starc, Yasir Shah, Kemar Roach, Neil Wagner, Shakib Al Hasan, Kagiso Rabada, and Josh Hazlewood are all active bowlers with more than 200 career Test wickets. Who knows, maybe they’ll be featured on this list one day.

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