England’s Stuart Broad completed 500 Test wickets in the recently-concluded series against the West Indies. Soon after, his mate, mentor and partner-in-crime James Anderson completed 600 Test wickets in the series against Pakistan. They have bowled together in 120 Test matches – inspiring each other; feeding off the energy or sometimes merely piggy-backing when the times have been tough. After all, no one is great all the time.
But that is exactly why the great bowling pairs have hunted together. Make no mistake, on their own, each one of them is great but together, they are pretty much unstoppable. If there is just one good bowler in the side, the batsmen bide their time and have the option of simply waiting out the spells till tiredness starts to creep in. But having two good bowlers means the pressure is always on and that feeling, on its own, can lead to errors from the batsmen.
Most great bowling pairs inspire respect. The batsmen know that there would be no let-up from the bowlers throughout the match and if one didn’t get you, almost always... the other would.
Here’s a very subjective look at some of the great post-war bowling pairs in Test cricket history:
Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller
Australia, 1946-56, 345 wickets in 51 Tests together
Lindwall: 195 wickets; Miller: 150 wickets
For a long time, Lindwall and Miller were the gold standard. Lindwall’s career lasted 61 Tests, Miller’s career 55 Tests, so they were together as a pair almost all through. And they were good. Lindwall was a master of all conditions with a rhythmic approach and the gift of late swing and pace. For many, he is still the greatest fast bowler to have graced the game. Miller, on the other hand, was a bit of a maverick. One never knew whether he would serve up a barrage of bouncers or even a leg-spinner. It all depended on his mood. Not only were they great bowlers but they were almost adventurous batsmen that every skipper would have loved to have in his team.
Sonny Ramadhin and Alf Valentine
West Indies, 1950-1961, 224 wickets in 29 Tests together
Sonny: 111 wickets; Valentine: 113 wickets
The first West Indies pair isn’t made up of fast bowlers. Rather, it is the spin twins who earn that distinction. Ramadhin was the first of many West Indian cricketers of Indian origin, and was one of the five Wisden Cricketers of the Year in 1951. He was a mystery bowler who could make the ball spin either way without any discernible change in action. Valentine, a left-arm spinner, would really give the ball a rip and on uncovered pitches, they were pretty lethal. Together, they played a huge role in helping West Indies win their first series in England (1950).
Fred Trueman and Brian Statham
England, 1954-63, 284 wickets in 35 Tests together
Trueman: 143 wickets; Statham: 141 wickets
Trueman was a fearsome big unit who could work up some serious pace. Statham, a more reticent character, was a bowler who depended on his accuracy to win the day. Their approaches turned out to be the perfect foil for each other and England. They would give little away. While Trueman had no trouble going for the batsman’s head, Statham’s ‘you miss, I hit’ approach worked just as well.
Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith
West Indies, 1960-69, 157 wickets in 23 Tests together
Hall: 72 wickets; Griffith: 85 wickets
They weren’t together for as long as some of the other pairs in this list but they were scary when they were. Hall, with his broad 6’2” frame and long run-up, was a sight to behold. He could bowl long spells at high pace. Griffith, they say, was a nasty piece of work. He would sling the ball in at high pace which made his yorkers tough to handle and his bouncers even more so.
Bhagwath Chandrasekhar and Bishan Bedi
India, 1966-1978; 368 wickets in 42 Tests together
Bedi: 184 wickets; Chandra: 184 wickets
As different as chalk and cheese. Chandra was the match-winning spinner India needed for away Tests. He was unpredictable too and one never quite knew what he would do but on a slightly damp wicket, he was unplayable. Bedi was a more accomplished all-wicket bowler. His variations were more subtle. He wouldn’t blow away the opposition like Chandra could, rather he would lure them in and then pounce on them.
Denis Lillee and Jeff Thomson
Australia, 1972-82; 218 wickets in 26 Tests together
Lillee: 119 wickets; Thomson: 98 wickets
A reign of terror. Batsmen often felt like Thommo was out to get them; as if he really wanted to kill them. He was quick, one of the quickest the game has ever seen and he had no qualms about hitting the batsman. Lillee started off as a quick too but injuries forced him to look at bowling differently. He developed variations and became a much more skillful bowler. When this duo was in operation, the batsmen would never ever feel comfortable.
Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding
West Indies, 1980-1987; 291 wickets in 33 Tests together
Marshall: 162 wickets; Holding 129 wickets
Holding had already been playing for a while before Marshall came into the picture but that didn’t make him any less deadly. He was quick and brutal when he wanted to be. The long run-up was the stuff of nightmares for the batsmen for they knew he would be unleashing another thunderbolt. Marshall was tiny compared to the other West Indian pacemen of the era but what he lacked in height, he made up for in smarts. He was quick, he had variations and a quick-arm action that made him difficult to pick.
Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis
Pakistan, 1989-2002; 559 wickets in 61 Tests together
Akram: 282 wickets; Younis: 277 wickets
The kings of reverse swing. Akram came onto the scene earlier but it wasn’t until Younis came into the picture that we saw the best of both bowlers. They had a fierce rivalry too and they used that fire to demolish the opposition. Akram was a virtuoso who could make the ball talk – inswing, outswing, slower balls, bouncers, over the wicket, around the wicket... he could do it all. Younis was more direct. He ran in hard, didn’t do as much with the new ball and just looked to get batsmen bowled or leg-before. He was also one of the fastest bowlers in the world during his time.
Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose
West Indies, 1988-2000, 762 wickets in 95 Tests together
Ambrose: 389 wickets; Walsh: 373 wickets
Walsh didn’t start off as a new ball bowler. He graduated to it and then kept improving. He wasn’t the quickest around but he gave nothing to the batsmen. His accuracy and stamina were a match for the best. Ambrose was a yard quicker and when angry, even more so. He was unfailingly accurate and was capable of moving the ball in the air and off the pitch. On his day, Ambrose could be unplayable while Walsh would always be at the batsmen. One could say, the great line of West Indies fast bowlers ended with them.
Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne
Australia, 1993-2007; 1001 wickets in 104 Tests together
McGrath: 488 wickets; Warne: 513 wickets
McGrath was the metronome – as consistent as anyone the cricketing world has ever seen. His height (6’6”) allowed him to extract disconcerting bounce from tracks all over the world. He would get just enough seam movement to deceive the batsmen and that, given his accuracy, usually was enough. Warne was the complete opposite. He was always looking to try something new – and if that meant bowling a bouncer then so be it. The leg-spinner had all the variations to bamboozle batsmen all over the world but his greatest trick was his brain. A brilliant thinker who would love to set up batsmen.
Stuart Broad and James Anderson
England, 2008-20*; 919 wickets in 120 Tests together
Broad: 435 wickets; Anderson: 484 wickets
The only current pair that makes this list. Anderson is a classical swing bowler – who is at his best in typically English conditions – but he has had his moments away from home too (India, 2012). Broad is the seam bowler, who doesn’t get as much movement in the air but when he strikes a rhythm he can run through sides. They have been at it for a long time and they have both been getting better with age.
As we mentioned earlier, this is a subjective list. Muralitharan-Vaas or Donald-Pollock might make another version of this list. Still, if you feel we have missed out on any great bowling pairs, let us know in the comments, on Facebook or Twitter.
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