Cricket is an unpredictable game and one small mistake can cost any team the entire match, be it a wrong delivery, a wrong shot selection, or a no-ball. In the past, we have seen that no-ball is another major reason why teams lose in a cricket match.
In modern cricket, every time a bowler crosses the line, the other team is awarded one extra run as well as a free hit, and since the introduction of the ‘free hit’, stepping out of the line has become an even more serious offense.
However, there are some bowlers who have played many countries in international cricket but have never sent a no-ball to their countries. They are the legends that every bowler should look out for as they have emerged as the ultimate perfectionist in bowling.
01. Imran Khan
Former Pakistan captain Imran Khan is another great all-rounder who features on this list. The legendary right-arm fast bowler played 88 Tests and 175 ODIs. He took 362 wickets with an average of 22.81 in Test matches and 182 scalps with a 26.61 average in the ODI format.
Across formats, Imran bowled third-most balls for Pakistan after another two greats Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram which is 26, 919. In 263 matches and 295 innings, he never delivered a no-ball in either of the formats. He made his debut in the year 1971 and last appeared in international cricket in the final of the 1992 World Cup where he led his team to the title.
In his 21-year-long career, Imran never crossed the line. Like Kapil Dev, Imran too won the World Cup for his country as both all-rounders also wrote their names in the history books for not throwing a no-ball. Like the above-mentioned four names, Imran also achieved the milestone after being a pacer which is quite a difficult task.
02. Kapil Dev
One of the finest all-rounders India has ever produced, Kapil Dev never overstepped the popping crease in his 16-year-long International career. He bowled the third-most balls for India across formats after Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh which is 38, 942. In 356 matches and 448 innings, Kapil took 687 wickets with an average of 28.83.
The first captain for India to win the World Cup, Kapil, bowled 27740 balls in 227 Test innings. He took 434 wickets, third-most for India, with an average of 29.64 and best bowling figures of 9/83. In 221 ODI innings, the right-arm fast bowler snared 253 wickets with a 27.45 average and best bowling of 5/43.
Kapil bowled 6490.2 overs in his International career and never bowled an extra of a no-ball. The world remembers his heroics of leading the Indian team to the first World Cup title in the year 1983 but he has also achieved this rare feat in his career which began way back in the year 1978 and ended in 1994.
03. Dennis Lillee
The fourth-highest wicket-taker for Australia in Test history, Dennis Lillee played 70 Tests and 63 ODIs for his country. In 70 Test matches, Lillee took 355 wickets at an average of 23.92 and best bowling of 7/83. The right-arm pacer snared 103 scalps in ODI format with an average of 20.82 and best bowling figures of 5/34.
He bowled 18, 467 deliveries in 132 Test innings while the former Aussie bowled 3593 balls in 63 innings of ODIs without bowling a solitary no-ball. He is regarded as one of the greatest fast bowlers of all time. He was known was setting the speedgun on fire and was the spearhead of the Australian attack along with Jeff Thomson.
Lillee bowled fourth-most balls for Australia in Tests after Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, and Nathan Lyon. In both the formats combined, the former Aussie quick bowled 22060 deliveries and didn’t overstep even once. His career spanned from 1971 to 1984 and in a 13-year-long career, he was able to achieve the special feat of not bowling a single no-ball.
04. Ian Botham
Legendary England all-rounder Ian Botham played 102 Test matches and 116 ODIs. He took 383 wickets in the longest format of the game and has 145 scalps in the ODIs. Notably, Botham has bowled the third-most balls for England after James Anderson and Stuart Broad across formats which are 28,086.
In 218 matches in International cricket, the right-arm fast-medium bowler took 528 wickets. In Tests, he bowled 21, 815 deliveries and snared 383 scalps with an average of 28.40 and best bowling figures of 8/34. 27 times Botham took five-wicket hauls and four times ten wickets in the match.
In ODIs, he achieved 145 wickets with a 28.54 average and best bowling of 4/31. He bowled 6271 deliveries in 115 innings in the ODI format. Having made his international debut in an ODI in the year 1976, his career spanned 16 years but all this while, he didn’t deliver a single no-ball.
05. Lance Gibbs
Finally, we have a spinner on this list. Former West Indies spinner Lance Gibbs appeared in 79 Test matches and three ODIs. He took 309 Test wickets, the fourth-most by a West Indies bowler, in 148 innings. In three ODI played, Gibbs bagged just two wickets. He made his International debut in Tests in the year 1958 and last appeared in a Test match in 1976.
Gibbs delivered 27, 271 balls, the third-most for a West Indies bowler after Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose across formats. The right-arm off-break bowler is the first spinner to reach the milestone of 300 wickets in the longest and oldest format of the game. Also, he has taken the most Test wickets by a West Indian spinner which is 309.
One of the most successful bowlers in West Indies cricket history, Gibbs threw those 27, 271 deliveries in 151 innings including both formats. In 79 Test matches, Gibbs had an average of 29.09 with 18 five-wicket hauls to his name. His best bowling figures were 8/38 and had a staggering economy rate of just 1.99. (Some data is extracted from Crictracker.)