It has been the year of pace when it comes to Test cricket as speed demons have set the stage alight.
According to Pakistan statistician Mazher Arshad, 2019 has been the best year for fast-bowlers since 1913 with the pacers striking at a rate of 48.40.
But while it would normally be Australian, English or South African pacers who would be leading the charts, it has remarkably been their Indian counterparts who have stolen the thunder over the past two years.
In 2019 alone, India’s seam attack has picked up a total of 76 wickets with their cumulative strike-rate standing at a stellar 33.7.
Here, using statistics from ESPN Statsguru we cast a look as to how India’s pacers have compared to the others over the course of the last two years.
INDIA – RANK 1
Jasprit Bumrah: Wickets – 62, Average – 19.24, Strike-rate – 43.7
Mohammed Shami: Wickets – 81, Average – 23.14, Strike-rate – 44.4
Ishant Sharma: Wickets – 65, Average – 21.76, Strike-rate – 47.4
Umesh Yadav: Wickets – 37, Average – 19.81, Strike-rate – 35.5
Skipper Virat Kohli is truly blessed when it comes to the pace battery at his disposal and it is no wonder that No1 ranked India have been pulverising every opponent in the inaugural ICC World Test Championship.
Jasprit Bumrah’s introduction to Test cricket has truly transformed the bowling attack with the white-ball specialist showing he has all the tools to be a trailblazer with the red cherry in hand. But even without Bumrah, India’s pace attack continues to set the standards with the likes of Shami, Ishant and Umesh forging a deadly trio of their own.
The Indian attack scores high when on all three counts – wickets, average and strike-rates – while there is also some excellent strength in depth. Four pacers ranked in the top 22 of the ICC Test charts is unprecedented for India, while they also have the reliable Bhuvneshwar Kumar waiting on the fringes for his chance.
NEW ZEALAND – RANK 2
Trent Boult: Wickets – 64, Average – 23.17, Strike-rate – 46
Tim Southee: Wickets – 47, Average – 22.72, Strike-rate – 47.8
Neil Wagner: Wickets – 44, Average – 23.20, Strike-rate – 48.2
After India, it is Kane Williamson’s New Zealand who have been the best Test outfit over the last two years and is no small part due to their formidable pace trio. Boult, Southee and Wagner have been impressive with their consistency with all three pacers holding a strike-rate below 50.
Their averages are in the low 20s as well, although they could be even better if New Zealand had more red-ball outings scheduled in the calendar. Boult and Southee provide the artistry with swing and seam while Wagner is a fighter who can unsettle the very best of batsmen with his nagging short-pitched lengths.
The Kiwis might not have the incredible depth in reserves that India have currently, although Lockie Ferguson and Matt Henry are not bad options to have on the bench.
AUSTRALIA – RANK 3
Pat Cummins: Wickets – 102, Average – 20.84, Strike-rate – 44.7
Josh Hazlewood: Wickets – 66, Average – 28.03, Strike-rate – 60.3
Mitchell Starc: Wickets – 67, Average – 28.05, Strike-rate – 50.8
The magnificent Cummins has helped the Aussie attack edge arch-rivals England with the 26-year-old scorching every chart in the period. No other bowler, including spinners, has picked up as many wickets as Cummins and he has earned every bit of his No1 ICC ranking.
Topping the wicket-taking charts for two Ashes series in a row is a testament to Cummins’ prowess, though he doesn’t have a bad supporting cast either in the form of Starc and Hazlewood.
Starc and Hazlewood have had their injury woes during the period and their stats have suffered for it ever so slightly. Still, the Aussie bowling attack would not be one any team wants to face, especially with the hugely talented James Pattinson lying in reserve. New faces like Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser are knocking on the doors, too and as such, there is no dearth of pace options for the Aussies.
ENGLAND – RANK 4
James Anderson: Wickets – 69, Average – 23.63, Strike-rate – 59.4
Stuart Broad: Wickets – 79, Average – 27.96, Strike-rate – 58
Jofra Archer: Wickets – 22, Average – 20.27, Strike-rate – 42.5
Ben Stokes: Wickets – 40, Average – 29.8, Strike-rate – 54.1
Chris Woakes: Wickets – 38, Average – 32.21, Strike-rate – 61.2
When it comes to depth and experience, England’s pace attack is up there with any side in the world as veteran James Anderson still leads the line at 37. The all-time leading wicket-taker among pacers has had his injury troubles of late but his performances over the last two years have still been formidable.
He and Broad have been sharing new-ball duties for England for the greater part of a decade and the latter still remains a potent force despite his advancing age. To complement the veterans, Archer has emerged as one of the most exciting pacers in Test cricket with the Barbados man making quite the statement in his debut Ashes series.
Then, there are the likes of Stokes and Woakes who can perform the duties of a third/fourth pacer with distinction. England’s upcoming match-up with New Zealand should make for some exhilarating action.
SOUTH AFRICA – RANK 5
Kagiso Rabada: Wickets – 81, Average – 22.21, Strike-rate – 40.8
Vernon Philander: Wickets – 45, Average – 21.04, Strike-rate – 51.7
Duanne Olivier: Wickets – 31, Average – 17.12, Strike-rate – 26.09
Morne Morkel (r): Wickets – 33, Average – 17.78, Strike-rate – 37
The numbers South Africa’s fast bowlers have put up in the two-year period would normally see them ranked much higher. However, the sample size of some of their bowlers remains too small while big Morne Morkel has since retired from the international game.
In Rabada, the Proteas have the No2 ranked bowler in the world while the experienced Philander is arguably the most deadly seamer in the business when the conditions are suitable. Rabada’s numbers are up there with the very best but injuries have reduced the impact of Philander in the same period.
Since Morkel’s retirement, Olivier has made an electric start to life in Test cricket but the fast-bowler needs more time to prove he isn’t just a flash in the pan. There is Lungi Ngidi and Anrich Nortje behind them in the pecking order, so the strength in depth is definitely there.
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