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Nine contenders for the fast-bowling slots. Which of these greats will make it to the team?
August 17, 2009
What, exactly, do you look for in a fast bowler? Do you judge him by his ability to jag the ball through the air or zip it off the pitch? Is it stamina and accuracy in long and sapping spells that you seek? Or does everything come down to his stomach-churning pace and hostility? Perhaps it's a man who can supply all three that you want, although such characters come along once in a lifetime. Catch them when you can.
Below are nine names that have made the shortlist for England's all-time XI, and it's a cast of characters that cuts across all eras, and innumerable disciplines. Some, like Frank Tyson, could bowl as fast as the wind when the mood caught them, yet lacked occasionally in other areas of the fast-bowling game; others, notably Alec Bedser and Brian Statham, traded express hostility for canny accuracy - with a hint of variation in Bedser's case, and unwavering discipline in Statham's.
And then there's the Yorkshire duo of Fred Trueman and Darren Gough - short in stature but stout in heart, with pace aplenty backed up by skiddy aggression. John Snow belongs in a similar category, lacking as he did the extreme splice-jamming height that men such as Bob Willis could bring to their bowling.
This is perhaps the hardest category of all to pinpoint. How does one begin to define the bag of tricks that was SF Barnes, the greatest bowler of his era bar none, and where does that most misunderstood of pacemen, Harold Larwood, belong in the pantheon? On two post-war tours of Australia, England's dressing room door was shut in his face when he went to greet the players, but he deserves to be judged more kindly by posterity. After all, not many players had the speed and skill to make Bradman look mortal.
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