Cricket is a game that features many different types of fast bowlers, and each individual will add their own unique style to that type of bowling. However, there are certain ways in which we group fast bowlers together in order to categorise them and make them easier to tell apart. Some of you who are new to the game, or even some of you who are just researching the game, may want to know what these categories are! So I’ve spent a bit of time putting this list together in order to make it all nice and easy to understand.
Fast bowlers in cricket aim to get the batsman out by using the speed of the ball, its movement off the pitch (commonly known as seam movement) or its movement in the air (commonly known as swing) as their primary weapons. They can be split into three main categories, which are as follows:
- Right/Left Arm Medium
- Right/Left Arm Fast Medium
- Right/Left Arm Fast
Each of the categories listed above are used to describe specific characteristics of fast bowlers, but they can often lead to a lot of confusion. What does each term mean? Are there other terms that mean the same thing as the ones listed above? Well…that’s what we’re going to go through in this post!
What Is A Right/Left Arm Medium Bowler?
A right arm (or left arm) medium bowler is the slowest out of all of the pace bowlers. They’re also commonly referred to as ‘medium pacers’ and their normal deliveries will often be between 100-120kph (60-75mph).
The effectiveness of these bowlers often comes down to their ability to use slower balls such as cutters or back of the hand deliveries to trick batsmen during the flight of the ball. They are also often rather good at getting the ball to swing, which is a useful weapon even at this lower pace! Batsmen who have gotten used to facing quicker bowlers during their innings may relax a bit when they see that a medium pacer is coming on to bowl. This may cause them to get too loose with their shots, which is very risky when the ball is swinging. The disadvantage to the type of swing that medium pacers get is that it usually occurs ‘straight from the hand’. If the ball begins swinging as soon as the bowler releases it, then this is a lot easier for the batsman to anticipate and react to.
In longer forms of cricket, this type of bowler is not usually a big part of the bowling attack as they’re not great wicket taking options. They will be used primarily when the other faster bowlers need a rest, or just as a change when wickets are hard to come by. They will also often be part-time bowlers. In limited overs matches they are more widely used because a large part of the game is about limiting the other team’s scoring rates. Medium pacers like Scott Styris, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Paul Collingwood and Chris Harris spring to mind as bowlers who were quite tricky for batsmen to play against in limited overs cricket!
What Is A Right/Left Arm Fast Medium Bowler?
The majority of pace bowlers in the professional game fall into the fast medium category. The average speed of their deliveries will usually be somewhere in the range of 120-145kph (75-90mph).
Fast medium bowlers are very dangerous, and have many methods they can use to dismiss batsmen. Some of them are able to swing the ball incredibly effectively, and can make the swing occur later than medium pacers. When the ball swings late, it gives the batsman a lot less time to adjust to the change in trajectory and can lead to more edges as well as play and misses. The added pace also leads to these types of bowlers being able to reverse swing the ball, which is one of the deadliest weapons a bowler can possess! (If you’re not sure what reverse swing is, click here to read my explanation post!) Slower balls are more effective when your standard delivery is bowled at higher speeds, and it also makes yorkers and bouncers harder to play! Put simply, they give the batsman a lot more to worry about!
All teams will have at least one, if not multiple bowlers of this type on their team, and they’re effective in all formats of cricket! In longer forms of the game, fast medium bowlers will look to mainly bowl line and length, and will generally be less willing to go to their variations such as yorkers and slower balls. In limited overs games, fast medium bowlers will use their pace as well as their variations to try to keep the scoring rate to a minimum whilst picking up wickets. Some of my favourite fast medium bowlers over recent years have been guys like Jimmy Anderson, Dale Steyn and Zaheer Khan. The more things a bowler can do, the more I’ll be interested in watching them!
It’s worth noting that sometimes you will see these bowlers being referred to as ‘fast medium’ and sometimes as ‘medium fast’. The difference between the two can be a source of a lot of confusion! Some people say that ‘medium fast’ bowlers are slightly slower than ‘fast medium’ bowlers and that that is the reason for the difference, but I personally don’t choose to make that distinction. Instead I combine the two and refer to the entire group as fast medium bowlers!
What Is A Right/Left Arm Fast Bowler?
A right/left arm fast bowler is the quickest of all of the pace bowlers, capable of consistently hitting speeds of over 145kph (90mph).
They are the most intimidating bowlers in cricket due to their extreme pace and hostility. The best right/left arm fast bowlers will possess a sharp and accurate bouncer that pushes batsmen back and threatens their bodies, as well as an ability to get the new ball to swing slightly, and the old ball to reverse swing! The increase in pace makes most of their deliveries more dangerous if they’re well directed, and as I mentioned previously, it usually means that the slower balls they bowl are more effective.
These kinds of bowlers are a lot rarer than fast medium bowlers, and it’s not uncommon for professional cricket teams to have zero players that are capable of bowling at these speeds! The teams that do have them will usually only have one! Longer forms of cricket, they are often most effective when they’re used in short 4-5 over spells where they can maintain their high speeds and effort throughout the spell. Bowling consistently over 145kph requires a lot of energy, so to keep this going throughout a 10 over spell is incredibly tough!
In limited overs matches, the best right/left arm fast bowlers are primarily used at the beginning and ends of innings, as these are the most crucial periods. They are also sometimes used in the middle overs if the bowling side desperately requires wickets to be taken! For this type of bowler to succeed in limited overs games they need to have impeccable line and length, variations such as the yorker, bouncer and slower ball, and they also need to be mentally strong. Good mental strength certainly helps if you’re getting hit for a lot of runs…which is very possible in the modern game! Some of the best right/left arm fast bowlers I’ve seen over the last decade or so have been guys like Brett Lee, Shoaib Akhtar and Mitchell Johnson! If you want to go even further back than that I’ve always tried to watch a lot of players like Dennis Lillee, Andy Roberts and Michael Holding!
Other Frequently Asked Questions
What Is A ‘Seam Bowler’?
The term ‘Seam bowler’ is another term that is used to categorise fast bowlers based on their style of bowling. This time, rather than using the speed of the bowlers to segregate them from each other, the term ‘seam bowler’ is used to refer to fast bowlers who do not aim to get the ball to swing. Instead, they prefer to try to get the ball to deviate when it hits the pitch by landing the ball on its seam! This means that theoretically seam bowlers can fall into any 3 of the categories we’ve already discussed in this post. It just depends how fast they are!
The seam is the most pronounced part of a cricket ball, so if the bowler can land the ball with the seam tilted slightly (as can be seen in the diagram below) it can cause the ball to shoot off at awkward angles.A ball that hits the pitch and changes direction slightly is almost impossible to react to due to the fact that batsmen have very little time to adjust! As a result, seaming deliveries can often lead to edges or batsmen being bowled our out LBW.
You will see and hear the term ‘seam bowler’ being used a lot to describe bowlers, whether that be on the internet or live TV broadcasts. Personally, my favourite seam bowler was Glenn McGrath. Known as ‘The Metronome’, he was famous for being ridiculously accurate, and being able to land the ball wherever he wanted. Because he bowled in such dangerous areas, any seam movement that he got from the pitch was often deadly! Click here and watch his spell against England at Lords from 2005 if you don’t believe me!
What Is A ‘Swing’ Bowler?
Like with seam bowlers, the term ‘Swing bowler’ is used to further define the characteristics of fast bowlers. Swing bowlers primarily aim to get the ball to move in the air in order to confuse the batsman. They force batsmen to be disciplined in their foot movement as well as their shot selection due to the fact that they can bowl the ball outside off stump and cause it to swing back into the pads, or bowl the ball on an off stump line and then swing it away. Again, a bowler from any of the three categories that I mentioned at the beginning of this post can be a swing bowler! It is just easier for batsmen to play against swing bowlers when they are bowl at a medium pace!
I know I mentioned these two guys before, but arguably the best two swing bowlers of this generation have been Jimmy Anderson and Dale Steyn. Steyn in particular was ferociously quick, more so than Anderson, and his late swing was deadly when the ball was moving at such speed. Anderson has the most wickets ever for a fast bowler, and he is a true master of the swinging ball. He can bowl accurate inswingers and outswingers at will! Swing bowling is a really hard art to master, but if you’d like somewhere to get started, then read my post here so you can learn how to swing a cricket ball!
What Are ‘Cutters’?
This is another question I see being asked a lot. A cutter is a type of slower ball that requires a change of grip position as you release the ball. There are two types of cutters: The off cutter & the leg cutter.
For a right arm bowler, an off cutter can be bowled by imparting spin on the ball in a clockwise direction as it is released from the hand. A leg cutter requires the right arm bowler to impart anti-clockwise spin on the ball (Spin is in the opposite direction for left arm bowlers). The change in grip position combined with the spin that is put on the ball results in the ball being bowled at a slower pace compared to the fast bowlers’ usual delivery. Click here if you want to learn everything you need to know about the different slower balls in cricket, including how to bowl them!
I hope this post has helped to clarify some of the terms that you’ll see being used with regards to fast bowlers! It’s important to note that other sources may have ever so slightly different definitions, especially when it comes to which speeds of bowlers fall into which category. There is no universal definition that everyone agrees on, but I think the ones I’ve given you in this post are incredibly concise and easy to follow! Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments below!
If you are a fast bowler or you’re wanting to learn how to bowl fast, I’d recommend checking out one of my other posts by clicking here. That post will give you 11 incredibly useful tips to make you a dangerous fast bowler!