Soak it up Australia, arguably greatest fast bowler of all time is coming down under

Date: September 2, 2016 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

steynModern day cricket is more of a batsman’s game than ever before.

Shortened boundaries, massive bats and regularly benign pitches have seen batting averages greatly boosted in recent times.

In the 139-year history of Test cricket only 43 batsmen have played over 20 innings and averaged more than 50. Twenty of those – or 46.5 per cent – are either still playing or finished their careers after 2000.

Conversely, there have been 48 bowlers to have bowled over 2000 deliveries and averaged under 23. Only six – or 12.5 per cent – are still playing or ended their careers after 2000.

It is an indication of just how much the game has swung to those who wield the willow rather than fling it. The bowlers’ lot has become increasingly more difficult.

One man who has played the entirety of his cricket over the past 12 years continues to defy the odds. South African quick Dale Steyn has amassed a career that has him genuinely staking a claim as the best fast bowler of all time.

He played his 84th Test earlier this week at Centurion against New Zealand. Once again he was instrumental in a Proteas win with hauls of 3-66 and 5-33. He now has 416 wickets at 22.2. More impressive is his strike rate which is a stunning 41.3.

Only three men in history who qualify under the 2000-ball rule can boast a better strike rate. Englishmen George Lohmann (34.1 in 18 Tests) and J J Ferris (37.7 in nine), who played for both Australia and England, both played before 1900 when batsmen did well if they averaged 35.

The other was injury-riddled New Zealander Shane Bond who captured 87 wickets from 18 Tests at 22.2 with a strike rate of 38.7, before retiring in 2009. For Steyn to strike so regularly over such a period in the batsman friendly past dozen years is a remarkable feat.

There are numerous fast bowlers who come into the argument when discussing the potential best of all-time.

The late Malcolm Marshall (376 wickets at 20.9 and strike rate of 46.7) is rightfully often thrown up. So too are Dennis Lillee (355 at 23.9 & 52.0); Glenn McGrath (563 at 21.6 & 51.9); Wasim Akram (414 at 23.6 & 54.6); Fred Trueman (307 at 21.6 & 49.4); and Sir Richard Hadlee (431 at 22.3 & 50.8).

Comparing sportspeople across eras is a difficult task, and if anything, a good way to spark a friendly debate.

The added complication in comparing Steyn to his predecessors is just how much the game has changed with respect to the greater imposts that the modern-day bowler faces.

Safe to say however, if he is not the greatest of all-time he is certainly a very solid finalist. On his side is the fact he is not done with yet.

Gone are the days where he swung the ball late at 150km/h or more. However, in his most recent series he was still hitting 143km/h at times.

At 33, injury has slowed him a little, although in the 24 Tests he has played since the start of 2013 he has captured 117 wickets at 18.3 with a strike rate of 39.5. His ten wickets at 10.2 in the two-Test series against the Black Caps shows he certainly has something left in the tank.

Cricket fans will be able to witness his deeds first-hand again this summer on what will likely be his last Test tour of Australia.

We can count ourselves lucky to be able to see once again a master craftsman at work.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 1 September 2016, soliciting 52 comments