Seamers fail to swing into action

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The Independent Online

Six years before the "miracle match" against Australia here in 1981 a young seamer named Gary Gilmour left the cricket world dumbstruck by taking 6 for 14 against England in a World Cup semi-final. He did it by curving the ball wickedly at and around the stumps, a display of left-arm swing bowling that is remembered with awe. He did it on a morning of excessive humidity, not unlike yesterday morning before the thunderstorm arrived.

England did not see Gilmour again in a career shortened by injury. For years afterwards bowlers would arrive here, sniff the air, find no wind and talk of ''Gilmour weather''. Batsmen would sweat, blaming the close atmosphere, knowing inwardly it was nervous tension.

This ground, under cloud, is renowned for the effect it can have on the movement of the ball. Why then yesterday did Andrew Caddick and Darren Gough fail so conspicuously to restrain Ricky Ponting and Matthew Hayden as they added 104 off 122 balls? The ball was 17 overs old and only Alan Mullally, in his first spell at less than normal speed, hinted that he was using the conditions. Were England bowling too fast?

Jon Agnew (Leicestershire and England, now BBC cricket correspondent), thought it was a possible factor. My Independent colleague Derek Pringle (Essex and England) agreed, but added: "But how does that explain Malcolm Marshall? He bowled fast enough and still swung it.'' Jack Bannister, now of TalkSport and the Birmingham Post and a Warwickshire spearhead for 20 years, spoke for the Fast Bowlers Union: ''There is no simple explanation as to why some bowlers make the ball swing more than others in certain conditions.

''Swing can come from the shine on one side of the ball, reverse swing and different weight on one side of the ball but how the atmosphere affects it is something the scientists are always arguing about. No one knows.'' Perhaps we should be grateful, if disappointed, that one of cricket's subtler mysteries remains.

* One ball, bowled in dismal light under thunder clouds, cost spectators here a 50 per cent refund on their admission charges, saving the ECB £200,000. Had there been no play because the Test had finished, or less than 10 overs bowled, tickets bought in advance would have had a complete refund. Had 10.1 to 24.5 overs been bowled there would have been a 50 per cent refund. But in three spells of play 25 overs were bowled, the last ball, coming after the umpires had already consulted, after the previous delivery, about the light.