March 8, 2002

Brett Lee, the world's fastest bowler?

Eddie Smith and Peter Robinson

Australia's Brett Lee has emerged from Shoaib Akhtar's shadow as the undisputed fastest bowler in the world and the fastest recorded bowler in modern times.

On the first day of the second test in South Africa, Lee was recorded bowling at 157.4 kph (97.8 mph) and 157.3 kph. Previous to this Shoaib Akhtar of Pakistan held the mantle as the `World's Fastest Bowler' due to his 157.2 kph, recorded on the 9th of June 2001 against Australia.

The two express pacemen have provided an interesting tussle for the `World's Fastest' tag since Lee's emergence in December of 1999. In that series, the two went head to head with Lee bowling at 154.8 kph on the 23rd of January 2000 and recording the fastest ball of the summer compared to Shoaib's 154.7 kph timed during the second final at the MCG.

On the 29th of March 2000, Shoaib bowled the then fastest ball of modern times, recording 156 kph in Sharjah against South Africa. Just two weeks later on the 14th of April 2000 in South Africa, Lee wrested the title from Shoaib by default when he stopped the gun at the same speed of 156 kph, not once but twice.

These speeds were to stand until the 9th of June 2001 when Shoaib bowled a 157.2 kph (97.7 mph) howitzer to Adam Gilchrist in England to become the `World's Fastest' and subsequently broke down. Coincidently, this was Brett Lee's return match from a major elbow operation. He bowled sub 140 kph but has been getting faster ever since.

Lee's quickest ball of the Ashes series was 152.4 kph followed by 154.5 kph in the third Test verses New Zealand and his sharpest ball of the recent Australian summer was 154.6 kph.

Brett Lee's new mark of 157.4 kph stamps him as the new `Fastest Bowler In The World`. It is the fastest ball of modern times, just 3 kph less than Jeff Thomson's world record. Not since December 1975 has anybody recorded bowling so fast in match conditions. On that one day in Perth, Jeff Thomson had recorded release speeds on 200/400 frames per second photosonic cameras of 159.49 kph and 160.45 kph (99.7 mph).

The blonde Sydneysider has also emerged as the front runner in the race to break cricket's version of the four-minute mile, the 100 mph (160.9 kph) mark.

Over the past four months three new 150 kph+ contenders have emerged to join Lee and Shoaib. Nantie Hayward of South Africa has recorded 154.4 kph, Makaya Ntini of South Africa notched up 151.4 kph and New Zealand's Shane Bond was timed at 151.2 kph.

Peter Robinson adds:-

Brett Lee may have been clocked at 157.4 kph at Newlands on Friday, but Australian wicketkeeper and vice-captain Adam Gilchrist wasn't all that convinced that he had just taken the fastest delivery recorded since the introduction of speed-measuring devices.

"I didn't think it was all that quick, I've got to be honest" said Gilchrist at Newlands on Friday evening. "Those radars ...I hope I'm not stealing anyone's thunder by making this public, but sometimes take the ball and you think, Gee, that was really quick and you look around and it's 145. And other times you look up and there's a high figure up there and you don't think it was that quick.

"So with all due respect to the sponsors of the speedg un, I'm not 100 percent sure how accurate it is."

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