The Cricket World Cup is an opportunity for the best white-ball bowlers in the world to shine.
Some of cricket’s biggest names have produced the most memorable moments in the tournament's history, from unplayable fast-bowling to impossible-to-read spin. This article highlights seven of the best bowlers in Cricket World Cup history.
Lasith Malinga (Sri Lanka)
Lasith Malinga is unique, his slingy action bringing the ball out of the non-striker’s stumps. He mixes that with exceptional deception, leaving batsmen bewildered as they struggle to pick up length and pace.
He holds the record for most consecutive wicket-taking deliveries (4) and ranks fifth all-time in Cricket World Cup wickets. He boasts the best strike rate in competition history, too.
While he’s not the bowler he once was, his action makes him a challenging prospect for any batsman. In 888sport’s sports betting, he’s 6/4 to be Sri Lanka’s top wicket-taker in the 2019 Cricket World Cup.
Wasim Akram (Pakistan)
Wasim Akram was the star of one of the most famous Cricket World Cup moments as Pakistan beat England in the 1992 final in Melbourne.
Akram smashed 33 off 18 balls at the end of the Pakistan innings and took three wickets, including Ian Botham for a duck, as Pakistan skittled England for 227.
Only Glenn McGrath and Muttiah Muralitharan have taken more World Cup wickets than the Pakistani left-armer.
Allan Donald (South Africa)
Despite the 90mph-plus bowling and devastating spells, Allan Donald’s World Cup career is often associated with that peculiar run out against Australia in the 1999 World Cup.
It is a shame, really, for a bowler as brilliant as Donald, that a batting mishap is remembered.
At his best, Donald was not just capable of taking your wicket, he was downright scary, with that unpleasant combination of rapid bowling and an unwelcoming snarl.
Often preferring to bowl first change rather than take the new ball, Donald was a nightmare in the middle overs. He bowled several special spells, but the 4/17 against England might in 1999 might be his best of all.
Glenn McGrath (Australia)
The leading Cricket World Cup wicket-taker, it was impossible to leave Glenn McGrath off this list.
Unlike Malinga, Akram or Donald, McGrath wasn’t electrically quick (at least for most of his career), but his metronomic accuracy that brought such Test success translated into the shorter form of the game with great success.
McGrath has the lowest bowling average in World Cup history and played a major part in three World Cup winning campaigns.
Muttiah Muralitharan (Sri Lanka)
The first spinner on this list, the unorthodox Muttiah Muralitharan has a claim as the greatest spinner to play the game.
He’s taken 92 Test match wickets more than anyone else, only McGrath has more World Cup scalps and no bowler has taken more four-wicket hauls in cricket’s premier international competition.
Admittedly playing in a different era, Muralitharan’s economy stands out at a mere 3.88, a remarkable number for a spinner even with all his variations and sharp turn.
His strike rate of just over 30 is better than Akram, Donald and his long-time teammate Chaminda Vaas.
The one disappointment for Muralitharan was his failure to take any wickets in the consecutive World Cup finals Sri Lanka lost in 2007 and 2011, though he bowled a superb 10 overs one for 31 in 1996 as Sri Lanka stunned the cricketing world against Australia.
Mitchell Starc (Australia)
Mitchell Starc is only part way through his World Cup career, but he’s already enjoyed great success. The Australian left-armer has taken two four-wicket hauls and two five-fers in just 13 World Cup matches, contributing to a hilarious strike rate of just 18.8(!).
Australia and Starc featured in our Cricket World Cup 2019 preview, and remain one of the favourites to lift the trophy. Starc is 11/20 to be Australia’s top wicket-taker.
While winning this summer would consolidate Starc among the World Cup greats, he’s already on the right trajectory regardless of team success.
The threat of a bumper with the left-arm angle and his ability to nail those toe-crushing, swinging yorkers make the 29-year-old a threat to any batsman in the world.
Shane Warne (Australia)
Playing in just two World Cups, Warne did not amass the same number of wickets as his spin-bowling rival Muralitharan or his accomplice McGrath, but his numbers were similarly extraordinary.
Warne bowled 16 maidens in 17 matches, helping him to a 3.83 economy rate (marginally better than Muralitharan).
His 19.50 World Cup average is a smidgen lower than Muralitharan’s too, and he took an incredible four four-wicket hauls in those 17 matches.
His infamous ban for taking Moduretic just before the 2003 World Cup cut his one-day international career short – who knows how good his numbers would have been if he’d played in 2003 and 2007.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*