Usually, when bowling in tandem, one does the groundwork, the other induces the mistake. There may be many strategies employed by bowling pairs to undo the opposition batsmen, but for them to be successful over a period of time, the pair’s quality has to stand out. In the subcontinent and nowadays in much of the Caribbean, spinners are generally expected to shoulder the burden of dismantling line-ups, and a top-quality spin duo such as R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja prove really valuable. In England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, a fast-bowling pair is the most potent weapon of attack.

Most sides these days attempt to possess battle-ready pacers as well as spinners for preparedness for all kinds of pitches. And that team with an always fit world-class pair consistently taking wickets has the edge. Much of England’s success since the turn of the millennium can be attributed to the lethal duo of James Anderson and Stuart Broad. There are good reasons for that — the two have taken 400 wickets together in the last five years, and much of their team’s consistent successes at home, and even away, is due to them.

As the two officially became the No. 1 and No. 2 for England — in terms of wickets taken — of all time, here is a look at where they stand among the five best fast bowling pairs in the last five years.

James Anderson and Stuart Broad: Unsurprisingly, the two are by far the most prolific pair in recent times, with 400 wickets in 51 matches together in the last five years. The two have turned in match-winning performances time and again to take their team across the line. In the 2013 Ashes, Anderson at Trent Bridge and Broad at Durham ensured victories for their team in tight Tests which could have gone either way. They helped in dismissing Australia for middling totals in the 2013-14 whitewash, and allowed their team to regain the urn a year and a half later.

As the scarred team underwent wholesale changes in the aftermath of the 5-0 defeat in 2013-14, Broad and Anderson, alongside then captain Alastair Cook, were the only players of experience to escape the axe. And it paid dividends, for the team was able to sustain its impenetrability at home, and the occasional success abroad, including a notable one in South Africa.

With 11 five-wicket hauls in this five-year period, Anderson has slightly better figures, taking more than 200 wickets at 24.02. Broad, with eight five-fors, averages 28.06.

Trent Boult and Tim Southee: The Kiwi duo are rarely operating in tandem nowadays and this says a lot about the longevity of Anderson and Broad. However, Boult, a left-hand seamer, and Southee, his right-hand ally, have taken 301 wickets together, in 37 matches, in the last five years.


The two starred with the ball in the famous period of New Zealand’s renaissance, when captain Brendon McCullum inspired his team to adopt a fresh approach to cricket. Boult and Southee worked batsmen out in awe-inspiring fashion, as like Broad and Anderson, they were masters at swinging the new ball and the old one both ways at lively pace. They were the facilitators of their team’s most successful year in Tests — 2014 — when it won five out of nine Tests.

The two have contributed equally. With five five-wicket hauls in the last five years, Boult averages 27.47, and Southee, with four five-fors in the same period, averages 28.39.

Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood: Another right and left-arm combination, the two have nicely shouldered the pace responsibilities of Australia’s Test side in the last couple of years. Starc brought his sizzling white-ball form into the bigger format, and his hot pace injected with reverse-swing mesmerised oppositions. On the other hand, Hazlewood, in the McGrath mould, operated as a tireless workhorse on a nagging line and length with subtle movements off the pitch.


Thanks to the pair, Australia defeated New Zealand, Pakistan and West Indies at home. However, as was expected, their expertise did not come in handy in spin-friendly conditions in Sri Lanka, where Australia fell flat for a 3-0 defeat.

Since the two started playing together in the Australian side in 2014, they have taken 202 wickets in 22 Tests. Starc has 105 wickets with the help of five five-wicket hauls, at an average of 24.94, while Hazlewood has 97 wickets at a better average of 22.58.

Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel: If any pair can rightly be compared to Broad and Anderson in effect, it would be this South African pace duo. The partnership was settled nicely for many years that marked South Africa’s all-round dominance in Tests. The team was nearly unbeatable at home or away, and such was the prowess of the two bowlers that no quality spinner was needed to churn out results on dead pitches. Steyn, especially, was a master at conjuring magic out of nowhere, in unfavourable conditions for fast bowlers.


The result? South Africa enjoyed one of its finest periods in history. It was undefeated in all Test series — barring the one in 2014 against Australia — between February 2009 and October 2015.

Of late, though, the two haven’t featured much together; their last Test together was in December 2015. Steyn has 114 wickets at 19.91 in the three-year period prior to that, with seven five-wicket hauls, and Morkel 73 wickets at 27.75. It makes them, despite their absence together in recent times, the fourth-most prolific pace duo in the last five years, with 187 wickets in 23 matches.

Remarkably, Steyn has, in the same period, a similar partnership with Vernon Philander. The two have taken 186 wickets together.

Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris: They played only 10 Tests together, but in that period lifted Australia to be arguably called the best Test team in the world. Coming together for the first time in the Ashes in Australia in the 2013-14 season, the two dismantled England clinically, one with raw pace and intimidation, and the other with pace as well as seam and swing. Moreover, Harris carried it off with industrious consistency that had him delivering the ball at a sweet spot in the good length area all day long.

Their partnership softened the English batsmen to such an extent that allowed Nathan Lyon to sneak in with wickets on his own. Overall, their presence took Australia to a series whitewash.

The momentum generated was put into use in the away series in South Africa in 2014. Johnson rattled the home team in the first Test, and Harris put paid to a stern South African resistance in the final Test of the series in what is remembered as a heroic final act.

In the short time together, the two collected 108 wickets between them. Johnson claimed 68 wickets at 17.91 with five five-fors; Harris accounted for 40 wickets at 23.67.


All figures till September 4, 2017