Posse of iconic English fast-bowlers: Fast bowling is one of the grueling arts of cricket that wants you to be at the peak of your fitness consistently. The demand of producing insane speeds makes life very challenging for these artists and the addition of swing and movement with a picture-perfect line and length is what makes the task even more difficult.
However, spanning all the way from being the young gun blasting down the track at some seraphic speed to an experienced campaigner cutting down on his run-up and belting out an even more vicious brand of fast bowling, fast-bowling is also an act of survival.
The ones who can survive will be walking the long mile and the ones who fail may very well have to start looking for an alternative career because there is usually no looking back for a fast bowler once he loses his speed or swing.
Talking about pace and swing being two simultaneous options when blended in perfect proportions can wreak absolute havoc. The recent masters of this venomous art hail all the way from England and Australia with Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins being the Australian pennant-bearers of excellence while Stuart Broad and James Anderson spearheading the English attack.
Since we mentioned Broad and Anderson, they are just the tip of the iceberg of the glorious pace attack that England has commanded over the years. However, this story is not about the icons who lived and prospered but about those English legends who got off to a blinder but lost their way in the middle due to various reasons despite being rollicking monikers of the art. In this story, we will be taking a look at five English fast bowlers who lost their way in the middle.
#1 Matthew Hoggard
If you know those bullish cricketers who will hurl at you with their entire gait, scaring the hell out of you, you will definitely be accustomed to Matthew Hoggard. One of the most promising English fast bowlers who could have gone a long way because of the menacing swing that he used to produce, Hoggard somewhere lost his career due to injury issues which got compounded with his aging.
He played 67 Test matches from which he managed 248 wickets at a decent bowling average of 30.50. He claimed 13 four-wicket hauls and 7 fivers in his limited Test career. Despite getting off to a good start in ODI’s, he could only star in 26 appearances from which he managed 32 wickets and was dropped shortly.
#2 Steven Harmison
His extraordinary spell of 7 for 12 at Sabina Park against West Indies drew contrasts for a brief period with Curtly Ambrose. Sadly, this sturdy fast bowler was always questioned for his contrasting form as in the 2006 Ashes at Brisbane his opening delivery flew straight to Flintoff in the second slip. England successfully tore down at West Indies and New Zealand in 2004 as they secured a 7-0 win over these two nations.
Harmison was their leading fast bowler showing them the path to glory. He was never someone who could reside in the middle path. He was someone who basked in extremes. At times he was tearing down batting line-ups at will and then there were occasions where he was being subjected to severe flak due to questionable commitment. Nevertheless, he found decent momentum in county cricket and continued proliferating there.
#3 Bill Voce
Bill Voce was the junior partner in the famed duo of Larwood and Voce. He was one of the imperative monikers who played an industrious part in shaping the fortunes of the infamous Bodyline series, claiming 15 wickets from three matches in the series. He wasn’t as fast as a regular fast bowler ought to be, but he was substantial and his line from the left-arm over the wicket at a towering height made him a formidable appellation of fast bowling.
He played 27 Test matches and claimed 98 wickets at a stunning bowling average of 27.88 that witnessed 7 four-fers and 3 fivers. More importantly, this man managed to claim 1558 domestic wickets from a staggering 426 matches at an astonishing average of 23.08. He was fierce, he was menacing and he was fearsome.
#4 Simon Jones
Jones belonged to a different level altogether as he fought back from a career-threatening knee injury to bounce back stronger and come ablaze in one of the most iconic and skewered rivalries of cricket, the Ashes.
Despite being a phenomenal fast bowler and one of the most menacing swingers of the ball, Jones would go on to master 59 wickets from 18 Test matches and 7 ODI wickets from 8 appearances. However, this young lad whose career was blighted by back-to-back injuries would go onto destroy Australia with one of the most incredible showdowns of the Ashes. That venomous in-swinger that claimed Michael Clarke is still deemed as one of those rare deliveries witnessed in Test cricket.
#5 Dominic Cork
The incessant demand of pace curtailed the promising career of Dominic Cork who was an adept swinger of the ball. Trying to hit the deck harder than the others, he ended up missing his line and length and that resulted in the fast bowler’s downfall.
From 37 Test matches, he claimed 131 wickets with best figures of 7 for 131 while his ODI figures include 41 ODI scalps from 32 matches. He was an economical customer and his best came against the Rainbow Nation with the Proteas taking a cautionary backseat with Cork running amok.