This week has brought the return to international cricket of Brett Lee and the retirement of Makhaya Ntini. (See the excellent Guardian piece on Ntini on this link). So it's right that Fantasy Bob should spill a little ink on pace bowling.
Fantasy Bob’s readers will probably have worked out that it is extremely unlikely that FB has faced extreme pace in his long but undistinguished cricketing career. FB may well retort that it all seemed bloody fast at the time, but there is fast and there is FAST. FB once cranked the bowling machine at Carlton up to over 85mph which was an amusing experience - more for those watching than for FB himself.
|Makhaya Ntini |
mobbed by fans at his farewell 20-20
But FB will accept that this is a poor substitute for facing the speed kings on a bouncy wicket not having much of a clue as to what the length or line of the next bullet is going to be. He has nothing but admiration for any batter who can withstand this onslaught, and appear to consider different possible shots as the ball screams towards him. The fact that physicist assure FB that the ball is getting slower on its way down the wicket is no comfort.
FB has thrilled as a spectator to a few of the great fast men of our time. Brett Lee against Scotland in 2009 was poetry in motion. Akhtar, Younis, Akram and Holding have also had the privilege of being watched by FB. From the boundary the athleticism, the control and the use of the whole body’s energy in the delivery is remarkable and evident in a way that doesn't come across on TV. The run is of course part of the intimidation of the batter and can be pure theatre. Truly thrilling to watch. Goodness knows what it is like from the business end.
So who is the greatest of the fast men? Who is the one that FB would least like to have faced? Here are some stats of the recent greats and some not so recent for comparison's sake. In random order.
|Curtly talk to no man|
Tyson claimed that he could bowl at 119 mph. Who knows?
Frankly, FB would not have relished facing any of them. Although Marshall shaves it in terms of average and probably had more variation about his bowling, FB thinks he would have been least happy about having to face Curtly Ambrose. His bowling had a meanness about it that marked him out from the others. Not only has he the best economy rate of all the fast men, he didn't do verbals - the caption above is his response to an interview request. Hush was his intimidation.
Mean? Don't take FB's word for it - ask Michael Atherton. Dismissed 17 times by Ambrose in his career. Ask Shane Warne, who ranked him 3 in his list of the 50 greatest cricketers. Curtly Ambrose - stuff of nightmares.