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Last Updated:  Thursday, 13 March, 2003, 13:22 GMT
Speed with caution

By Martin Gough
BBC Sport

The quest for speed has become an obsession in international cricket.

It does not seem to matter how accurate a bowler is, as long as he leaves a vapour trail as he blazes into the crease.

With the world's finest and fastest all gathered in South Africa, there has been no better time to compare them.

FASTEST BOWLERS AT CWC 2003
Lee's pace helps McGrath take wickets
Shoaib Akhtar (Pak) 100.8mph
Brett Lee (Aus) 99.9mph
Shane Bond (NZ) 95.9mph
Jermaine Lawson (WI) 95.8mph
Ashish Nehra (Ind) 93.6mph
And, on the pace-friendly tracks of the Republic there is no better place for them to show off their skills.

Shoaib Akhtar became the first ever to be clocked over the 100mph mark in a World Cup during Pakistan's match against England, even though his nine overs were thrashed for 63 runs.

Captains now realise, though, they cannot make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.

Wickets come at a price in terms of runs conceded but that is more acceptable these days.

Of the top five performances in the tournament so far, three of the bowlers concerned feature among the 10 fastest recorded.

Australia's Andy Bichel was clocked at 91.3mph during his seven-wicket destruction of England in Port Elizabeth.

England were again the victims, claiming that floodlights made the conditions faster, when India's Ashish Nehra ripped through their order for figures of six for 23.

But it was in the broad daylight of Bulawayo, against Zimbabwe, that the left-armer was clocked at his tournament-best 93.6 mph.

New Zealand's Shane Bond blitzed Australia for six wickets, but his fastest performance came against lowly Kenya - a bat-bashing 95.9mph.

And Brett Lee got the credit for the finest bowling figures in World Cup history, even though it was Glenn McGrath who actually took the wickets.

BEST STRIKE-RATES
Vaas relies on swing rather than speed
Andy Bichel (Aus - RFM) 12.9
Vasbert Drakes (WI - RFM) 19.4
Glenn McGrath (Aus - RFM) 21.7
Ashish Nehra (Ind - LFM) 22.0
Chaminda Vaas (SL - LFM) 22.7
(10 wickets minimum)
"We were so caught up with Brett Lee's pace that we seemed to relax a bit against the better bowler," said Namibia captain Deon Koetze after his side had been bowled out for 45.

McGrath benefited to the tune of seven wickets for 15 runs.

But, while having a pace man in your arsenal may be a good way to ensure the occasional blitzkrieg, it seems to have little to do with consistency.

Bichel boasts the second-best strike rate in the tournament, taking on average a wicket every 12.9 deliveries.

But behind him are a collection of spinners and out-and-out seamers.

McGrath can be fiery when required but tends to turn his arm over in the low 80s, and it gains him a wicket every 21.7 balls.

And Chaminda Vaas is the tournament's leading wicket-taker so far, although he fails to figure in the Sri Lanka's top three speedsters.

The greatest exception to prove the rule? Holland's Tim de Leede.

With a highest recorded speed of just 78mph, the Dutchman's military medium-pace handed him a victim every 25 deliveries, including a five-wicket haul against India.

The message for World Cup skippers seems to be: utilise pace by all means, but it is more effective when backed up by some honest-to-goodness accuracy.




SEE ALSO
Shoaib breaks 100mph mark
22 Feb 03 |  Pakistan
Facing England's tormentor
28 Feb 03 |  World Cup
Bichel grabs chance to shine
02 Mar 03 |  Australia
Lee rises to challenge
11 Mar 03 |  World Cup


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