There are few more majestic sights in cricket then a fast bowler flummoxing the batsman with a slower ball.
We decided to put the following question to our followers on social media: who, in your opinion, is cricket’s best-ever exponent of the slower ball?
We received a number of responses – here are just some of the players that were pinpointed as change-up exhibitionists.
Arguably one of the greatest cricketers to have never played Test cricket, Stephenson developed a lethal slower ball by practising off-breaks while playing for Rawtenstall CC in the Lancashire League during the Eighties. That provided the inspiration for a slow off-cutter that bamboozled plenty of county batsmen. According to the 1989 Wisden Almanack, almost a quarter of Stephenson’s 125 first-class wickets in 1988 came thanks to his masterful variation.
Most will know Steve Waugh as one of Australia’s greatest batsmen, but he was a handy limited-overs bowler too and became known for being able to deliver a dangerous slower ball out of the back of his hand that extracted plenty of bounce from the surface.
Simon O’Donnell was another name that came up, and this probably explains why.
When answering our question, former Australia leg-spinner Stuart MacGill picked out Courtney Walsh, the West Indies great.
Greatest slower balls in history- Courtney Walsh. Rivalled only by Ken Lilly who I was lucky enough to play alongside at North Perth in the late 1980s. https://t.co/vTwmje2YQh
— stu macgill (@scgmacgill) May 31, 2020
Speaking to Wisden Cricket Monthly last year, Walsh explained how he developed the ability to vary his pace. “I tried different grips and tried not to change my action because then the batsman knows what you’re doing,” Walsh said. “Those variations were particularly effective on certain wickets. Not all pitches were bouncy and fast and I needed to make sure I had another way of outfoxing the batsman.”
It wasn’t so much Cairns but more his incredible ball to Chris Read at Lord’s in 1999 that found plenty of love from our followers.
Former India seamer Venkatesh Prasad received a number of mentions, and this final over against Australia is sound enough reasoning.
Known primarily as one of the great exponents of the slower ball, Harvey helped Gloucestershire to six one-day titles between 1999 and 2003 and won a World Cup with Australia too.
While able to go through batsmen with his pace, what has added to Malinga’s reputation as one of the great limited-overs bowlers is his affinity for slower balls, be it yorkers that dip viciously or bouncers that cut the surface.
A T20 titan, Bravo is another bowler with a variety of slower balls that have helped him to success across the world in various leagues.