Tuesday, August 3, 2010
The art of playing swing bowling
First of all, congrats to Anderson for getting his first ten wicket haul. His overall average has now come down to below 33 and in the last two years, Anderson has got 114 wickets at 28.29 which is pretty good.
The first test would also be known for the debacle of Pakistan's young and inexperienced batsmen in alien conditions against a bowler, who can swing it late and both ways with no discernible change in action. It is never going to be easy to play a bowler like Anderson, but with hard work, Pakistan's young batsmen can make a better fist of it in the second test.
In this article, I thought of looking at ways the Pakistan's batsmen, or for the matter, any player can play high quality swing bowling in helpful conditions. I don't think there is any set way to play swing bowling, but the below mentioned key points can come in handy, when facing high quality swing bowling.
Playing late- Every cricket fan would have heard commentators saying that batsmen should play late in swinging conditions. So, what is actually playing late? In my humble opinion, batting is instinctive. If a batsman has the ability to see the ball out of a bowler's hand, one can instinctively make a decision of whether to go forward or not. If a batsman sees it early, he has more time to play the ball otherwise, he would play it early, as he is searching for the ball and won't be decisive in his footwork. It is a skill that can only be learnt through experience.
A batsman also looks at subtle changes in action, wrist position, or say use of the crease like Anderson did at Trent Bridge by coming a touch wide of the crease, though Farhat couldn't notice it and paid the price by losing his wicket. Playing swing also requires a bit of guess work as how can anyone precisely predict where a quality bowler like Anderson is going to pitch the next ball?
I have watched cricket only for the last two decades, but among the players I have seen, Dravid has shown the best technique in England. Michael Clarke of Australia struggled in England in 05, but has learnt from his mistakes and showed exemplary technique in Ashes 09 and even this year against Pakistan.
Dravid at Leeds against England in 2002, Kirsten at Leeds against England in 2003, Mark Butcher at Trent Bridge against South Africa in 2003, Tendulkar at Edgbaston against England in 96, Mark Waugh at Port Elizabeth against South Africa in 96/97 (the pitch at PE usually doesn't help the quicker bowlers but in that match every ball was swinging or seaming) and Atherton at Trent Bridge against South Africa in 98 all showed exemplary technique.
In the first test at Trent Bridge, Morgan showed good technique. Among Pakistan's batsmen, Butt has the ability to play it late, but showed poor shot selection at Trent Bridge. Actually, Butt seems to raise his game only against Australia lol.
Negate the swing- If a batsman is finding it hard to play swing bowling, he can at least look to negate the swing by trying to bat out of the crease as that may help him to get to the pitch of the ball though, the bowler can always slip in the bouncer!.
Soft hands- Playing with soft hands always helps. If a batsman plays with soft hands, he can escape from getting out as the edge may fall just short of the slip fielder. Another key point is, it helps the batsmen to rotate the strike by gently tapping the ball into gaps. Rotating the strike, frustrates any bowler as he would like to bowl at one particular batsman.
When it comes to soft hands, I haven't seen many better than Afghan. Among Pakistan's batsmen, Umar Akmal goes hard at the ball, but I feel Salman Butt can play with soft hands.
Match conditions- It is very tough to replicate what happens in the middle in the nets, but maybe Pakistan's batsmen can look to play with a red tape ball as it does move a lot.
Discipline- Any batsmen has to show discipline, when he has to play in swinging conditions like at Trent Bridge. Shot selection becomes very important in such conditions and most batsmen would be better off, if they play as straight as possible.
All the above mentioned points would be usually discussed in any team meeting, but following it in a match, in swinging conditions and against a bowler like Anderson, who can swing it late and at good pace is one helleva task!!!