By Peter Simunovich
When Australia had the great fast bowling pair Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson sharing the new ball in Test matches in the 1970s the wearers of the baggy green cap in those days walked tall and felt relatively confident of winning each contest.
Lillee was known as “Dennis the Menace” and with Thomson they were billed as the “Terrible Twins.” The fans would sometimes taunt the batsmen saying: “If Lillee doesn’t get you, Thommo will.”
Thomson was genuinely quick with an action resembling that of a javelin thrower, but Lillee, who made a remarkable comeback to the Test arena following a career-threatening back injury, was more measured. In his second stint, he moved the ball more and had a vicious cutter.
Imran Awan - USA fast bowler
During the West Indies golden era of cricket, the team boasted a lethal four pronged pace attack with Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Joel Garner and Colin Croft. They were a nightmare and opposing captains had limited room for strategy --- try to wear them down and not get hit, was a popular one.
Fast bowlers have an air of authority about them. They can stifle a free stroking batsman and can intimidate with bouncers and some chin music.
In the United States there are some who have been timed around the 90 mph mark.
Imran Awan, 31, who plays with Kensington Cricket Club in the Washington DC Cricket League, was clocked at 95-96 mph in 1996 in a district match when he lived in Pakistan before he moved here in 1997.
He is the longest serving US senior player with 10 years under his belt. Last year he was timed at 90 mph on the Island of Jersey (a British Crown dependency) while playing in a World Cricket League Division 5 tournament. Awan can be deceiving because he has a short 18-step run before delivery.
Aditya Thyagarajan, a US senior side member, described Awan as: “A complete team player. He started off as one of the fastest bowlers in the associate world. Now he bowls at a quick pace, but focuses on line, length and swing. He can be very aggressive and confident and never short of a word for the batsman.” Aditya named Rose as the fastest bowler in the country ahead of Andre Rowe, Imran Awan, Bilal Khan and TimRoy Allen.
"Awan has taken over as the premier fast bowler in the US", US captain Steve Massiah said. “Imran has made an impact in the last 12 months and has a very good yorker," he added. Massiah also has a lot of respect for Franklyn Rose, the former West Indies Test paceman who at 37 can still bowl in the 80 mph range. “He can be pretty sharp. He looks after himself and doesn’t look his age,” he added.
At the domestic level, Rose bowls mostly on the turf wickets of Los Angeles. Massiah said sometimes it was hard to judge the quickest bowler because of the different pitches. “It is a difficult question. The pace can be different because of turf and matting pitches,” he said. “Matting can be a lot faster and in Texas the Astroturf can also be quick, but a turf wicket may not be as fast. It is night and day.”
Imran Khan, who managed the US team last year, said Awan was “the bowling heart of the US. He can move the ball, has fantastic control and possesses a natural aggression that I think God only reserved for the fast men. He is a fighter and has matured into a complete all round bowler.”
Franklyn Rose - Former West Indies bowler. Now lives in USA.
He said Awan was “a captain’s dream who will bowl until he is physically stopped. The best thing I can say about Imran is that I would rather play with him than against him. He is 100 percent a fighter. He is a man who rises to the challenge and that's why he was the highest wicket taker at the Americas Cup. His spells of bowling against World Cup participants Canada and Bermuda were match winning efforts that have not received the recognition and plaudits they deserve.”
Khan said the US will struggle to replace Awan after he retires. He added: “If he played in any Test playing nation he would have made cricket a career.”
Asked who was the most intimidating, Thyagarajan named Rose, saying: “ In addition to pace and bounce, he can seam and cut the ball both ways. He is always intimidating the batsman with chatter backed up with quality!”
He was timed at 95 mph in 2000 in a match against England at Lord’s and says he can still bowl up to 90 mph. “Sadly, the game is not as competitive here,” said Rose, a 19 Test veteran with the West Indies.
“I have been waiting to play for the US for the past three years. I’ve been disappointed. Hopefully, I will be picked. I am still good enough to play at top level.“
Rose himself says Awan is the fastest bowler in the US. Rose said Bilal Khan, Allen and Lee Williams, who plays with Orange County in the Southern California Cricket Association, were players with potential.
Allen, 22, took five wickets for just seven runs against Suriname in an Americas Cup match in December last year.
Khan said Allen was “probably the best young prospect the US has at the moment. He is approaching an age where his mental and physical skills are developing to a level where he can be a cricketer of some caliber. He is not only a fast bowler but is an extremely talented batsman.”
He added that Allen “possesses poster boy qualities and is an exuberant character that lights up any dressing room.”
Khan first noticed Allen at the US trials last October. “Initially very little was known about TimRoy and he actually bowled off spin in the trial matches,” he said.
“Clayton Lambert (a US coach) and I observed at that time his action and approach resembled more of a seamer than of a spinner. The next day we asked him to bowl some seam and he generated some pace, bounce and movement of a decent length and troubled all the top players,” said Khan.
TimRoy Allen took 5 for 7 in USA's match against Suriname
“TimRoy is a tall lad and has a fluid action that helps him get good bounce, movement predominantly away at a decent pace. On debut against Barbados on a flat deck in Georgetown he bowled 10 respectable overs for not many. However, in the next match against Trinidad and Tobago he pulled his groin and was out of it until we geared up for the ICC Americas. In the first game against Suriname he took a phenomenal 5 for7.”
Lambert, a long time student of the game, said Awan was not as quick as he used to be, but said he had developed into a better bowler. “Before he liked to bowl short, now he uses the seam,” he said.
For sheer pace Lambert picks Awan on a lively track and on a flat deck he chose Allen. Asked about Bilal Khan, he said: “He is pure pace,” and Allen “is very quick and can make the batsmen rush their shots.”
Imran Khan said Bilal Khan attended the US trials last year, but missed selection because of his fitness.
“Bilal is as quick as any bowler in the US. On his day I would say there is no quicker bowler playing in the US. It is a shame his fitness has not been to up to the mark. He cleaned up all the top US batsmen at the trials and in the Western Conference Championship last year --- just ask Sushil Nadkarni (ICC Division Five World Player of the Year), Orlando Baker (US team) or Aditya Thygarajan,” said Imran Khan.
“I hope Bilal gets his fitness to the required level because he is one bowler who in tandem with TimRoy and Imran Awan could potentially destroy associate attacks across the world.”
Part 2: Andre Rowe and the ones to keep an eye on.Andre Rowe is a strong looking 6ft. 3in. fast bowler who, according to those who know him, is fairly quiet and reserved. To borrow a well worn cricketing cliché, he lets the leather do the talking and sometimes the willow too.
He has a fluid action and can bowl in the high 80 mph region from a 22-yard run when he represents the Houston West Indies Cricket Club in the Houston Central Cricket League.
Errol Eccles, the captain of the team, says there are no speed guns in the league to accurately time Rowe, but Sean Chapman, the secretary of the league and a player with the Memorial team, said in his broad Australian accent: “He’s pretty bloody lethal.
“He has a good yorker and I know that from personal experience.” Asked if a batsman needed a helmet to face Rowe, Chapman jokingly said: “You need two.”
Chapman, originally from Melbourne, Australia, said Rowe, who moved here from Jamaica in 2003, reminded him of West Indies pacemen Ian Bishop and Patrick Patterson.
“He’s very athletic, fit and quick. He’s a great player for us and a fast track suits him,” said Chapman, adding that the wickets in Houston were synthetic. “Conditions need to suit him --- he needs a fast track.”
Rowe, 25, in his second season in Houston after spending several years in New York, is a typical fast bowler, said Chapman.
“Without a doubt he will do anything to try to take your wicket,” said Chapman. Asked if he tried to intimidate batsmen, he said: “I would say 60 percent of the balls you faced from him are between the neck and throat area.”
Rowe’s strongest weapon is pure pace and the synthetic tracks and hot, humid conditions in Houston suit his style.
Chapman said Rowe had the ability to win selection to represent the United States senior team. He will play for the Central West Region in the Western Conference Championship tournament in Minneapolis, Minnesota, from August 1 to August 3. “We are hopeful he will be selected after the tournament,” he said.
Eccles said Rowe and Franklyn Rose were the fastest in the Central West and Western Regions.
But, said Eccles, the most under estimated part of Rowe’s game was his ability to score runs. Last year he joined the team after the halfway mark of the season and still scored more than 400 runs.
In one 40-over game last year, recalled Eccles, Rowe came to the wicket after 25 overs with the score at five wickets for 90.
Rowe took to the bowling and hammered 12 sixes and 10 fours. He scored an unbeaten 128. “There were sixes and fours all over the place. He didn’t do much running. He can destroy an attack,” said Eccles.
He said that so far this season Rowe had taken 22 wickets in five games, including 6 for 24 last weekend in the match against TCC Spartans Cricket Club. Last year he took 5 for 17 in one game and bagged a bunch of four wickets in others.
Imran Khan, who managed the US senior team last year, is optimistic about the future of fast bowling in the country with the up and coming youngsters.
He named Imran Khan (no relation) with Cougars Cricket Club in the Northern California Cricket Association as one of them. He is a newcomer to US cricket after moving here with his family from Australia.
Khan said he had the potential to play for the US. “He is a left arm fast bowler who swings the ball in and seams it away. He is every bit an Australian in his approach to the game. He is aggressive and has a strong action with a short Wasim Akram style run up,” he said.
“He is as fast as any bowler in the US and the fact that he has played a good level of cricket must make him a contender for a future national spot. His left arm angle is unique and at his pace and with the movement he gets there will not be too many who will survive his initial onslaught with the new ball.”
Another to keep an eye on is Nasir Jamaali, who was recently named in the US Under 19 team to compete in the World Cup qualifiers. A left arm bowler, said Khan, “he is tall with a classical action that generates pace and bounce of a decent length. Still a teenager, he has already shown a lot of promise and his inclusion in the Under 19 team is a sure sign that there are grand things to come.”
Finally, there is 16-year-old Hammad Shaid, who attended selection for the senior side last October. This year he was picked in the national Under 19 squad. Khan said: “His 6ft. 3in. frame is most definitely an aid when it comes to hitting the deck hard.
“Raised on the turf wickets of Woodley Cricket Field in Los Angeles, Hammad may be one of only a handful of bowlers in the US who have played a majority of their cricket on turf wickets. He is young, has a smooth action and is fit. If he continues to mature, learn and concentrate on his game then US cricket has a very sound resource coming up for the future.”
Khan said that with the 20/20 format becoming popular and this years ICC T20 dominated by bowlers, the US youngsters may become the first generation of professional cricketers.