One of the key skills for a seamer in Test cricket is accuracy – hitting that right line and length making it difficult, challenging the batsman’s technique. In this list feature we take look at the top ten accurate bowlers in Test cricket who have been the most effective at hitting that good zone – both line and length – having bowled at least 1000+ balls in our extensive ball tracking data going back all the way to the 2006. We categorise a good line and length as being pitching between 6.25 and 8 metres from the stumps and in a 40cm channel from the edge of off stump.
10. Jasprit Bumrah
The first player we focus on is the mighty impressive Indian spearhead Jasprit Bumrah with 41.4% in the good zone. Bumrah made his debut in 2018 and since then has turned this present Indian seam attack into the best among all current teams and the best ever Indian attack by far. Bumrah’s got it all – accuracy, pace, seam movement – making him the potent bowler that he is. He bowls at an average speed 139.2 kph – the highest of all the bowlers in this list of accurate bowlers. 36% of his deliveries have a seam movement of more than 0.75 degrees – the fourth highest among all bowlers to have bowled 1000+ balls in our database.
9. Jackson Bird
Australia’s Jackson Bird, an unexpected inclusion, takes number nine with 42% deliveries in the good zone. Bird made his way into the Australian A and eventually into the Australia team after impressing in his very first Sheffield Shield season taking 53 wickets in eight matches for Tasmania at a staggering strike rate of 34.8. He was picked for his ability to swing the ball, but never really impressed on the international stage. He had a very lopsided record in his nine Tests for Australia. 69% of his deliveries in Test cricket were against right-handers – but he averaged 40.5 against them compared to a significantly lower 18.1 against left-handers. With 42% in the good zone, the Australian potentially had the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything – but unfortunately the Bird wasn’t the word.
8. Bhuvneshwar Kumar
India’s Swing King Bhuvneshwar Kumar is at number eight with 42.3% deliveries in the good zone. An average swing of 1.28 degrees with 49% of his deliveries swinging more than 1.0 degrees – Bhuvneshwar’s accuracy coupled with the swing brought his success. 43 of Bhuvneshwar’s 63 Test wickets have come when the bowler’s accuracy has brought the batsmen forward or rooted to the crease with no foot movement.
7. Angelo Mathews
Sri Lanka’s Angelo Mathews sneaks in at number seven with 42.5% deliveries in the good zone. An unexpected inclusion in the list considering he’s played more as a batsman than a bowler in recent times. Mathews bowled majority of his career overs when he was the captain for the Sri Lanka Test team. Bowling at an average speed of 123 kph, Mathews is fourth slowest bowler in our database. Lack of any pace and the nagging accuracy made Mathews the perfect relief bowler in the Sri Lankan team – not brilliant, but a very effective bowler.
6. Vernon Philander
South Africa’s Mr Reliable, Vernon Philander is unsurprisingly part of his list slotting in at number six with 43.2% deliveries in the good zone. Making his debut in November 2011 and recently retired after playing his last Test in January 2020 – Philander took 224 wickets in 64 Tests – the most by a Proteas bowler since his debut to retirement. 53% of his deliveries had a seam movement of more than 0.5 degrees – 30% from right to left, 23% from left to right. The ability to seam the ball both ways prodigiously and consistently made him such a tough prospect against both right & left handers. Across his career he averaged 21.2 against right handers and 24.5 against left handers.
5. Josh Hazlewood
The Australian new ball bowler makes his way to number five in the list with 43.7% deliveries in the good zone – a shade lower than McGrath’s accuracy. No surprises he isn’t far behind the Australian legend with an action almost similar to his idol. Hazlewood hardly gives easy runs, especially with the new ball, conceding at a miserly 2.37 runs per over in the first 30 overs – again very similar to McGrath’s 2.19 runs per over in the phase since 1999.
4. Mohammad Asif
A first seamer from Pakistan makes into the list – Mohammad Asif slot into fourth position with 45.1% deliveries in the good zone. A career spanning five years, 23 Tests with 106 wickets – cut short by his involvement in numerous scandals, Asif was touted to become of the modern greats with the extraordinary ability to swing the ball both ways with his simple lackadaisical action. Asif’s control on his length was extraordinary – 80.2% of his deliveries were on good length – of all seamers in our database only Praveen Kumar landed it between 5-8m more often.
3. Glenn McGrath
Australia legend and perhaps the greatest fast bowler of all-time, Glenn McGrath unsurprisingly slots third in the list with 45.3% deliveries in the good zone – looking only at the latter part of his career. McGrath is THE most famous line and length bowler in the history of the game, but what made him special was the ability to generate movement off the pitch along with extra bounce. Of the matches played by him in our tracking database he’s registered an average of 0.68 degrees seam movement – the highest of the ten accurate bowlers in this list and fifth of all seam bowlers in the database.
2. Kyle Abbott
With 46.6% deliveries in the good zone, South African seamer Kyle Abbott makes a surprise entry to the list in second position. The right arm seamer struggled to be a regular part of the pace attack with Steyn, Philander, Morkel & Rabada in the mix,featuring in only 11 Tests from 2013 to 2017 before signing a Kolpak deal with Hampshire. Abbott’s strength was in his ability to generate movement off the air with 36.7% of his deliveries swinging more than 1.0 degrees.
1. Mohammad Abbas
Pakistan’s metronomic seamer renowned for his accuracy slots on top of the list with 48.5% deliveries in the good zone. Abbas made his debut in April 2017 with 75 wickets at an extremely healthy average of 20.8. 81.5% of his deliveries have been dot balls. Of the 90 bowlers to have bowled 100+ overs in the timeline only fellow countryman Mohammad Amir (81.9%) has bowled dot balls more often. An average speed of 126.7 kph coupled with this dead shot accuracy makes him such an effective bowler.
After the visiting Windies side, England will now witness another exciting pace bowling with Abbas right at the fulcrum. When Pakistan toured England in 2018, the metronome Abbas took ten wickets in the two Tests, making him the leading wicket taker of the series. Abbas’ accuracy along with the plethora of exciting pace bowlers in Pakistan’s ranks will make this Test series all the more interesting.
Srinivas Vijaykumar is an analyst at CricViz. Follow him on Twitter @srini_vk