CAPE TOWN – Nothing gets the hair to stand up on your arms like a genuine fast bowler smelling blood.
Zaahier Adams profiles six tearaways who are set to light up the Cricket World Cup.
1. Jasprit Bumrah (India)
Matches: 49 Wickets: 85 BB: 5/29 Ave: 22.15 Eco: 4.61
Producing high-quality fast bowlers was always the domain of neighbours Pakistan, but India now boast a pace attack that can stand shoulder to shoulder with any team in the world. And their undisputed leader is Bumrah. If the 25-year-old does not suffer any major injuries, he will undoubtedly finish as India’s best fast bowler ever. He clocks speeds consistently above 145km/* but is also armed with a devilish slower ball that flummoxes even the top batsmen in the world.
Bumrah is a unique specimen due to his high-arm action at the point of release that makes his yorkers virtually impossible to keep out. Comfortable with the new ball or at the death, Bumrah has earned his No 1 ODI ranking ahead of some worthy competitors.
2. Kagiso Rabada (South Africa)
Matches: 66 Wickets: 106 BB: 6/16 Ave: 26.43 Eco: 4.98
The Proteas’ jewel in their crown. Their very own Iron Man. Rabada is a genuine superstar. Regardless of the colour of the ball, Rabada has been electrifying. He recently lit up the IPL, spearheading the Delhi Capitals’ charge to the playoffs. The amazing yorker he castled Andre Russell with in a Super Over against the Kolkata Knight Riders is a ball that will be spoken about for years.
It was no surprise that Delhi’s run came to a screeching halt when Rabada returned to SA with a back ailment. Yes, even Iron Man’s armour gets ruptured sometimes. And that is SA’s biggest fear. Rabada has been going full tilt this entire season and everyone is holding their breath with regards to whether the 23-year-old’s body will stand up to the rigours of a high intensity six-week tournament.
3. Mitchell Starc (Australia)
Matches: 75 Wickets: 145 BB: 6/28 Ave: 21.44 Eco: 4.96
It is not often that within one household there are two ICC global tournament champions. Well, that’s the case in the Starc-Healy home with the left-arm speedster propelling Australia to their fifth World Cup title, while his wife, Alyssa Healy, won the World T20 with the Southern Stars last year. All eyes will be on Starc in England and Wales though, to see if he can repeat his heroics of four years ago when 22 wickets earned him the Man-of-the-Tournament award.
Unlike the other premier pacemen around the world, Starc has only played seven ODIs over the past two years – all on home soil – to keep his body in peak physical condition. He has also given the IPL a miss over the past couple of years. Only time will tell whether it was a gamble worth taking.
4. Jofra Archer (England)
Matches: 3 Wickets: 3 BB: 1/6 Ave: 36 Eco: 4.90
The final piece in the World Cup-winning jigsaw. Or at least that’s what England would like to believe when Barbados-born Archer was a last-minute inclusion in their 15-man squad. Having only qualified to represent the country of his father in March, all the talk has been whether Archer would get an invite to this year’s biggest party. Well, he now has his ticket and the 24-year-old is ready to go.
It only took four overs on his ODI debut to convince everyone that the kid who made his name in T20 leagues around the world can mix it with the big boys. No English bowler has bowled at 150km/* in a long, long time.
5. Hasan Ali (Pakistan)
Matches: 49 Wickets: 80 BB: 5/34 Ave: 26.56 Eco: 5.42
Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akthar and Mohammad Amir. All legendary Pakistan bowlers. Yet, Hasan Ali beat them all to become the fastest Pakistani bowler to 50 ODI wickets. That underlines the class of the 24-year-old.
He has a craving for the big stage too, as he demonstrated two years ago when he blew away teams at the Champions Trophy to spearhead Pakistan’s surprise march to the title. In this age of batting dominance, Hasan counters with supreme skill at the death.
6. Trent Boult (New Zealand)
Matches: 79 Wickets: 147 BB: 7/34 Ave: 24.70 Eco: 5.07
Boult’s epic head-to-head with Starc at the last World Cup in Australasia was one of the major highlights, with the two southpaws matching each other blow for blow. Ultimately it was Starc who prevailed, but Boult certainly lit up the tournament with his own exploits.
Boult thrived under Brendon McCullum’s attacking philosophy and looked to swing and strike, claiming 22 wickets in the process. With his strike-partner Tim Southee from four years ago having gone backwards since, the Black Caps will rely even more on Boult for those precious new-ball strikes.
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