India's bowlers flunk geometry test

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The Independent Online
Mohammad Azharuddin, India's captain, was let down by his opening bowlers when he had quite justifiably asked England to bat first after light rain had fallen on a cloudy morning.

They both bowled wide of the off stump, allowing the batsmen to leave far too many balls alone on a pitch which was ideal for them both - and they bowled short when they should have been trying to bring the batsman on to the front foot.

Of all the Test grounds, Lord's is perhaps the trickiest for bowlers to find the right line to bowl. The natural slope of the ground (there is a nine-foot drop from the Grandstand side down to the Tavern) distorts normal calculations made for level surfaces.

It is not the simple matter, therefore, of pitching the ball on or just outside the off stump. If the bowler operating from the Nursery End does that the slope takes the ball much further away from the right-hander, who does not then have to play a stroke.

The bowler at the Nursery End must start the ball on the line of the middle or middle and leg stumps to ensure that the batsman plays a stroke. If he swings the ball away from the right-hander he will need to aim even further to leg to compensate for the slope.

Conversely, the bowler at the Pavilion End -where the slope will take the ball down the leg side - must aim further outside the off stump than he would normally want to do. The ball pitching on the middle stump or the middle and off will be taken down the leg side by this slope.

It is a straightforward geometrical problem but one which many bowlers do not appear to understand. Venkatesh Prasad, playing in his first Test series and bowling from the Nursery End, can be forgiven for not knowing the form, but one of the senior players should have put him right.

On the other hand, Javagal Srinath seemed well aware of the problem and over-compensated and bowled too wide of the off stump. In fact, he made his job the more difficult by bowling round the wicket at the two left- handers, Graham Thorpe and Jack Russell, and deliberately angling the ball to the offside -and even this severe slope could not compensate for that.

It may seem unfair criticism of a bowler who in his first spell had figures of 7-4-5-1 but if Srinath had been able to get his line right England could have lost four wickets in the 90 minutes before lunch.

As it was, some dreadful strokes in the afternoon left India better placed than they had any right to be after the wasteful early bowling.