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Dennis Lillee – An Artist Of Whirlwind Bowling

Dennis Lillee made his test debut in Ashes series in 1970-71 season. With an average of 23.92 he took 355 wickets in 70 test matches. A look at the career of Dennis Lillee, An artist of whirlwind bowling.

Last updated: 16.02.2021
Dennis Lillee Career and Stats | Sports Social Blog

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Way back, when the game of cricket was played with an ideal brand of cricket among the greats of the game or the ones who have featured in test cricket at first while later in the limited overs cricket. In the long history of cricket, there are very selective players who have the art of genuine fast bowling.


But if there was someone who has started the trend or idea of genuine fast bowling it was none other than Dennis Lillee. After great Graham McKenzie who had played his last test match in 1971 against England. It was Dennis Lillee who had unleashed the fear into the minds of batsmen like no other.


Ian Chappell once said Dennis Lillee "a captain's dream and a batsman's nightmare". Dennis Lillee was one of the best fast bowlers of his era and widely famous for his never-say-die-attitude and aggressive nature of temperament. Lillee made his first-class debut at the age of 20 for western Australia in 1969-70 and was the leading wicket-taker in his debut season with 32 wickets.


While Lillee made his test debut in Ashes series in 1970-71 season. But it was 1972, Australia tour of England when Dennis Lillee was in the full flow of his fast bowling and picked up 31 wickets at an average of 17.67. For his brilliant performance in Ashes series in 1972, he was honoured with five Wisden cricketer of the year in 1973.


In the early 70s to 80s, Dennis Lillee alongside Jeff Thomson was the most fearsome bowling pair who have dominated cricket. Like other fast bowlers, Dennis Lillee's career was around the injuries with stress fractures which has affected his career. While he had returned to test cricket before the Ashes series season of 1974-75 and the Sunday Telegraph (Sydney newspaper) ran a the image of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson to depict the impact about t pair “Ashes to Ashes, dust to dust, if Thomson don't get ya, Lillee must. While in the series, Lillee took 21 wickets and helped Australia to win the series by 1-0. In the following  series against West Indies in the 1975-76 season, Lillee took 27 wickets at an average of 26.37 and was the crowd favourite.


With the return to cricket after injury, Lillee reduced his run-up and pace which was reckoned by Australian journalist Gideon Haigh, “In the second half of Lillee's career, he did more than any other to expand the grammar of fast bowling. Having started his career simply with an outswinger, Lillee developed a change of pace, a yorker, leg and off cutters, a fast bouncer and slower bouncer. He perfected a shorter run. He experimented with different angles at the crease. Perhaps the definitive essay in Lillee's transformation was a Test in February 1980 on a low and pebbly Melbourne pitch, on which he would not have known how to bowl five years earlier, but on which he now obtained 11 English wickets for 138 bowling impossibly accurate cutters. Geoff Boycott, in prime form, shouldered arms to a ball two feet wide off stump, only to see the width of Lillee's angle and the wickedness of his cut drag it back to kiss the timber", said Haigh.


Apart from his test career, Dennis Lillee's limited overs cricket career was average. Lillee career numbers easily depicts him as one of the greats of the game but he was more than the numbers. The struggle of returning from the serious injuries and dominating the cricket is definitely one of the most inspiring stories in cricket history. The way to get the answers of the uncertain questions, forced by his body, conditions and best of their business while setting the benchmark of genuine fast bowling is the sight to behold.







70 (Test)





63 (ODI)





198 (FC)





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