The Quickest Bowlers in the History of Cricket
When playing cricket, few things are more valuable than genuine, express pace. Few bowlers can even handle the physical demands of bowling at speeds above 90 miles per hour. That’s why the fastest bowlers are highly coveted and feared by batsmen around the world.
Therefore, great fast bowlers are rare and don’t tend to stick around for long.
In a time when the game increasingly favors batters, seriously quick bowling is a commodity that can be invaluable to a captain across all three (or four, if you count The Hundred) formats.
Tymal Mills’s inclusion on England’s T20 World Cup squad in 2021 is proof of that, but he doesn’t hold a candle to the fast bowlers we’re discussing today.
Some bowlers on the international circuit currently have speed clocks that can read 90 mph or more, but those who can reach the upper 90s or even break the 100 mph barrier are in elite company.
So, we thought we’d highlight the top five fastest bowlers of all time. Remember, these are the FASTEST fast bowlers ever, not the BEST.
This list is bound to spark some heated debate, but these five cricket bowlers have the fastest recorded deliveries ever.
Mitchell Starc: Australia – 99.67 mph
Mitchell Starc, the only active player on this list, is the latest in a long line of devastating Australian fast bowlers. In a 2015 Test match against New Zealand, Starc clocked 160.4 kph, or just shy of 100 mph.
Ross Taylor, the unfortunate batter who had to face him, might not have been able to keep it out had the experienced Kiwi not been on 137 not out at the time.
The left-handed pitcher is terrifying to opposing batting orders because of his speed, his ability to swing the ball, and the bounce it creates thanks to his height (1.96m).
It took him some time to establish himself as a regular member of the Australian Test team, but he is now a key member of the team’s bowling attacks across all three formats.
The 31-year-old has amassed 588 wickets across all international formats (Tests: 304; ODIs: 211; T20Is: 73) with no signs of slowing down.
Jeff Thomson: Australia – 99.8 mph
Some England fans, even now, still get the chills just thinking about the names Lillie and Thomson. In the 1970s and 1980s, this Australian pace duo terrorized batters, especially on the hard pitches down under.
Despite bowling with a peculiar action he supposedly picked up from his dad, Jeff Thomson was the faster of the two.
The Australian, who is regarded by some as the quickest bowler of all time, claimed he could reach 180 kilometers per hour, but his fastest recorded ball clocked in at 160.6 kilometers per hour during a fast bowling study in 1976.
Over the course of his 12-year Test career, Thomson took 200 wickets in 51 games. He also had 55 ODI scalps.
Brett Lee: Australia – 99.9 mph
Brett Lee, the third of four Australians on this list, played for a team in the early 2000s that many consider to be the best ever.
Even though he was part of a bowling attack that also included Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, Lee was able to make a name for himself thanks in large part to his lightning fast speed.
In 2005, while playing against New Zealand, Lee’s fastest delivery was recorded at 160.8 kph (99.9 mph), making him the third-fastest bowler of all time.
Much ado was made in the early 2000s of the race between the Australian Michael Clarke and the Pakistani Shoaib Akhtar to be the first to break that barrier. Neither Lee nor I will ever discuss Akhtar.
Although he had a stellar career in the longer format of Test cricket (310 wickets at an average of 30.81) and was instrumental to much of his country’s success, it can be argued that the shorter formats were better suited to his skillset, and he is widely regarded as one of the greatest ODI bowlers of all time.
Shaun Tait: Australia – 100.1 mph
Another Australian quick with an unusual bowling action, Shaun Tait does not have the same international pedigree as Starc, Thomson, or Lee, but he still ranks higher on this list.
Tait’s nickname, “The Wild Thing,” came from the unpredictability of his bowling, which no doubt made batting against him even more nerve-wracking for his opponents.
One of only two recorded balls to have broken the 100 mph barrier, he saved his fastest delivery for Australia’s most formidable opponents, England, in an ODI at Lord’s, the Home of Cricket.
Tait only appeared in three Tests for his country, collecting five wickets. He played in 35 ODIs and 21 T20Is, collecting 62 and 28 respectively, but his most significant contributions were made while playing for various T20 franchises in tournaments around the world. Check out our Cricket Betting Guide for more information on T20 tournaments.
Shoaib Akhtar: Pakistan – 100.2 mph
The man known as “The Rawalpindi Express” being at the top of our list should come as no surprise to anyone.
The 178 Test wickets, 247 ODI wickets, and 19 T20I wickets taken by the Pakistani fast bowler don’t begin to tell the story of his impact on the sport.
In the 1990s, when Akhtar first appeared on the world stage, he brought a fiery pace and an attitude that were just as important.
At Newlands in the 2003 World Cup, against England, the right-arm quick was clocked at 161.3 kph after a lengthy run-up, making him the first bowler to ever exceed 100 mph (100.2 mph).
Although it could be argued that he didn’t reach his full potential as a bowler, he is still the cricketing world’s fastest bowler on record. And in Pakistan, where the sport of cricket is practically a religion, Akhtar is rightly worshiped as a cricketing deity, one who possesses a lethal bouncer.
Obviously, records are meant to be broken, but it will take a truly exceptional player to outdo Akhtar.