England unearth their Murali

One of English cricket’s many failures in the 1990s was to find an English Shane Warne. It was understandable, given Warne’s total domination throughout two thirds of the decade – but that English cricket, then nearing crisis, could drum up a legspinner was shortsighted and completely ignorant. Worse still, our Warne-less attack simply provided the authorities (and captains?) an excuse for the run of defeats. We haven’t got a Warne, we haven’t got a hope. Luckily, Duncan Fletcher arrived to shake things up a bit and we gradually grew less sycophantic and needy.

As recently as this summer, Mike Atherton – himself a former legspinner – wrote of England’s blasé attitude to spin bowling, in particular legspin. Only when he first toured Australia did he realise how seriously it was considered, and how utterly ignorant English schools cricket was towards the art. Even I experienced this at school. This is changing, albeit slowly, and England now have their very own spin coach – David Parsons. The emergence of people like Adil Rashid from Yorkshire is only the start, but it’s a start the 1990s administrators could only have dreamed of.

Hot on the footsteps of Rashid comes England’s answer to Rubber Man himself, Muttiah Muralitharan. Come on down Sachin Vaja, a mystically named offspinner with an equally deceptive doosra. Matthew Pryor, son (or grandson?) of the spin machine Merlyn’s inventor, has the full story at tomorrow’s Times.

The swing (dip’n’curve) of spinning balls

This year, I want to get back to playing cricket. I haven’t played in anger for 9 years (when I was 13), and was [if I do say so myself] a decent leggie and was being pushed for trials with Middlesex Colts. My new school didn’t take sport seriously, and as such I got lazy and turned into a spotty and rebelious teenager.

Anyway – all that baffle and waffle was a precursor to my main point; how does a spinning ball dip and curve? We all know, or pretend to understand, how a conventional seam-up swinging ball works. Shiny-side nearest the batsman for an outswinger, and opposite for the indipper. This all makes sense – the rough side (the left side for an outswinger) prevents the ideal aerodynamics, and the air-flow is more obstructed on that side of the ball than the other (shiny) side.

But spinners hold the seam across the palm/knuckles – the seam is horizontal instead of vertical, if you like – so how can the ball dip in towards the pads (for a leggie) and curvee away from the bat (for an offie)? One thought I’ve just had is quite often, decent leggies like Warne tend to slant the seam towards the slips at a diagonal (meaning it’ll turn and kick on – on flat wickets it’s likely to bounce a lot)…so this would give the ball more chance, through the air, of swinging. It’s a phenomenon I encountered when I bowled (luckily! I’d aim for middle-n-off, the ball would dip towards leg and would often end up bowling them middle stump, so long as it turned enough), but I’ve never had it explained

Sorry to go all technical and anorakish, but let’s face it – if you’re reading this, you’re bound to be a real cricket nut like me :)