England bowlers get into reverse swing of things

Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, the legendary Pakistan pace duo, perfected the art in the Nineties, and it produced devastating results. On several occasions during Pakistan's 1992 tour of England, Graham Gooch's side looked to be heading towards a decent total - at Headingley they were reduced from 270 for 1 to 350 all out and at the Oval 182 for 3 suddenly became 207 all out - but time and time again they were blown away by a series of virtually unplayable inswinging yorkers.

Wasim and Waqar shared 43 wickets on the tour, and 60 per cent of their victims were either bowled or lbw. The pair completely changed the face of cricket because their bowling took the pitch out of the equation and toe-guards became as important an accessory as helmets. Facing fresh fast bowlers armed with a new ball was considered to be one of the most challenging jobs in cricket, but such was their ability to swing the old ball that batsmen started queuing up to open the innings. All they needed was a surface that scuffed the ball up sufficiently so that it would start misbehaving after 40 to 50 overs and they were in business.

But how views have changed in the last 13 years. When Pakistan were using reverse swing to win matches in England their methods were questioned, and allegations of ball-tampering were rife. Yet now, when England's bowlers are using the same skills to unsettle the Australians, it is looked upon as a wonderful concept being expertly used by our brave young warriors.

There is no reason at all to suspect Michael Vaughan's side are doing anything illegal to a cricket ball, but I have one thing to say about ball-tampering - it works. This is why the laws of cricket allow the fielding side to maintain the condition of a ball, but they do not permit them to increase its rate of deterioration.

The theory behind conventional swing bowling is relatively simple, even though it requires greater precision and is therefore rarer. The seam acts as a rudder and the shiny side of the ball moves through the air quicker than the side that has not been polished. Therefore if you let go of the ball with the seam pointing at first slip and with the shiny side on the right of the ball it should swing away from a right-handed batsman.

With reverse swing, however, the opposite is true. Once the shine and the hardness has disappeared from the new ball the fielding side will start working on the ball in an attempt to get it to reverse. They will keep one side of the ball as dry as they can whilst adding sweat and spit to the other.

Old Trafford provided bowlers with the ideal pitch on which to achieve this. It was hard, dry and abrasive, the type of surface that quickly scuffs up a ball. In circumstances like this fielders are told to keep their sweaty palms off the ball because it can flatten down and dampen the side you are attempting to keep rough.

The theory of reverse swing is that the flow of the air over the ball is disrupted by the disparity between the two surfaces and causes it to swing into the batsmen, in the opposite fashion to a newer ball. The ball will swing from left to right if released from the hand with the rough side on the left and the smooth side on the right.

Flintoff and Jones have been England's best exponents of the art. The pair have shared 29 wickets in the opening three Test matches of the series, and have caused the Australians countless problems.

"It's a great feeling when you hear some of the best batsmen in the world talking about you like they have," said Jones. "I first started trying it at the National Academy in Australia. I haven't mastered it yet. You never master anything, but I am working hard on it and beginning to get to grips with it."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living