In Tandem – Cricket’s Great Pace Pairs
On 15 January 1921 in Adelaide a startling new development in Test cricket was observed. For the first time a side fielded two genuine fast bowlers and, what’s more, they were captained by a man who had the temerity to let them share the new ball. The impact wasn’t immediate but within 11 months Gregory and McDonald had been central to establishing their side’s position as unquestionably the best in the world.
It wasn’t until November 30 1946 at Brisbane before a comparable pair of fast bowlers were loosed on a Test arena. This time the effect was immediate and it didn’t take 25 years for other countries to find an equivalent strike force.
By 1980 all Test-playing nations had unearthed fast bowlers and most sought to unleash two in harness. Speed was now the must-have element with spin increasingly taking a supporting role. Although the subtler arts made a resurgence as the millennium approached it was pace that held sway, and still more sway when doubled.
Into the second decade of the 21st century the primacy of speed has been quelled by the restructuring of international cricket. The one-day formats require different skills and in 2017 though England still has a great and long-standing pair of new-ball bowlers there remains the possibility that they will be the last in a long tradition.
That great line of pace pairs includes some of the greatest bowlers to mark a long run. Lindwall, Ambrose, Lillee, Wasim, Imran, Trueman, Donald and Roberts are amongst them; Larwood, McGrath, Kapil Dev, Snow, Hadlee and Marshall are not. A great bowler does not always have that partner.