For cricketers, the important thing is not so much to know why the ball swings, but how to make it swing. But if they know what causes it, surely they will be better fitted to try to bring the necessary state of affairs.
Despite the scientific nature of Dr Lyttleton's treatment, I think it is most absorbing, and his explanations should, once and for all, answer the sceptics who say that a cricket ball will not swing.
One of the most interesting parts of the matter is the knowledge that a cricket ball will not change direction in the air if not travelling too fast.
I have long held the view that a bowler of Tyson's pace could not produce the degree of swing which was achievable by a bowler of Bedser's pace.
Scientifically it proves to be true because there is a pace at which maximum swing is procured, and it is well below the pace at which Tyson bowled.
Of course, that doesn't mean Tyson was any easier to play. A deviation of 8 cm off line at 130 or 140 kilometres per hour may be much harder to combat than a deviation of 30 cm at 60 kilometres per hour, because the time factor comes to the batsman's aid at the lower speed.
Certain conditions are shown to be desirable in order that maximum swing may be obtained. They are :-
1. A new ball with a shiny surface.
2. A humid atmosphere, with cloud.
3. A wind blowing from the right quarter.
As these factors disappear, so will swing.
Although a new ball may swing at first under the unfavourable conditions of heat, dryness and calm, only a few overs may be sufficient to take away the shine and all semblance of swing.
An interesting factor concerning a new ball is that a glossy surface, as distinct from polish, is no good.
There was a period in Australia when some cricket ball manufacturers, probably for reasons of economy, resorted to lacquering the surface of balls instead of shining them. The lacquer gives a beautiful bright, glossy finish. But that ball will not swing to anything like the same extent as one with the leather itself polished. Moreover, the lacquer surface gets broken as soon as the ball hits the ground and subsequently can be peeled off in strips. It might suit the manufacturers but from the bowler's viewpoint lacquering is a curse.
In England, on a dull day with a green pitch, the ball may move about to a considerable degree all day, even though as the ball the seam normally tends to get battered down and become less prominent, thereby militating against swing.
The preponderance of seam bowling brought in its train a mania for polishing the ball, not only by the bowler but often by fieldsmen who handled it. The prevalence of this habit finally caused legislation to keep the practice within reasonable bounds and it is perhaps too early to say what the final outcome of such experimental legislation will be.
An interesting point about polishing the ball which may not be appreciated is that the bowler likes to have one side only shined up. A ball with one shiny side can be made to swing even though it has virtually no seam at all, but with no seam and two rough sides it probably couldn't.
Putting things in their simplest form so that bowlers will know what to do one may say the seam of a ball acts like a rudder. Point the seam towards slips and the ball will veer that way to become an out-swinger. Point the seam towards fine-leg, the reverse will happen and you will get an in-swinger.
The illustration of finger grips show the position quite plainly.
In delivering the out-swinger, a right-hand bowler may occasionally obtain better results by allowing his arm to stray slightly to the right. This would in effect minutely lower the height of delivery and give the smallest suggestion of round-arm. Moreover, as the ball leaves the hand, the wrist is turned ever so slightly so that the palm of the hand moves toward the direction in which swing is required. For an out-swinger this of course would be in the direction of, say, third slip.
When delivering the in-swinger, a bowler needs to keep his action as high as possible. There is, in fact, a common term in cricket that a bowler flicks his right ear at delivery. This is to indicate how close the arm goes to the head as it comes over the top. Again there is the suggestion of wrist movement, this time to turn the palm of the hand towards the leg side as the ball is delivered.
There should be no attempt whatever to spin the ball.
The fingers should merely go forward and down in the direction of flight so that the only rotation of the ball will be very slightly backwards parallel to the pitch.
The only effect of this backward movement will be to assist in maintaining the seam of the ball in the same plane during its flight.
The object of swing bowling is naturally to beat the bat by making the ball change its course through the air as compared with a ball breaking with spin after making contact with the ground. Providing this can be done, the batsman has to be exceptionally wary of being caught off the edge.
I cannot stress too much that lateness of swing is a batsman's real worry. What we term a cartwheel, that is one which uniformly swings all the way from the moment of delivery, is not troublesome unless it is very fast and moves a considerable distance.
In the latter case, it will quite often be well clear of the stumps and easily left alone.
But the swinger which dips late, the ball which apparently is dead straight three quarters of the length of the pitch and then suddenly dips one way or the other, is the very devil. A late out-swinger which cuts away still further off the pitch will defeat anyone.
There are certain things which swing bowlers should aim to do.
(a) They should try to deliver the ball so that it will finish on the stumps after allowing for the swing, or
(b) They should make sure that if condition (a) does not apply, the batsman will at least be forced to make a shot at the ball.
One of the great sins of some new ball bowlers is that they will continue to bowl cartwheeled outswingers at the stumps so that the ball finishes well outside the off stump and the batsman can safely watch it go by whilst another bit of shine has gone off the ball.
I know of nothing more exasperating to a captain than to see a new ball bowler sending down ball after ball at which the batsmen are rarely compelled to offer strokes of any kind.
Another important thing is to keep the ball up. A long-hop with a new ball is mostly a bad ball and nullifies whatever swing may have been there. It considerably reduced the opportunity of the ball to swing by lessening the time it stays in the air.
A half-volley has a far better chance to achieve maximum swing, and a slip catch off a half-volley is usually going up to the fieldsman or at least it will have a better chance of carrying to him.
When the pitch is green and grassy the ball will not only retain its sheen much longer, it will also "move" off the pitch itself.
The swing in the air may take effect but in addition there will be a further noticeable change in direction after the ball lands.
Those who have bothered to look closely at a green-top pitch at the conclusion of a day's play (especially in England) will have noticed that every ball has made a distinct mark where it landed and the pitch is dotted with minute indentations. It appears that the weight of the ball in contact with the earth is sufficient to crush some of the tender green grass shoots. This contact with grass or earth sometimes produces a trace of moisture to aid the pace of the ball and, according to the direction or angle of the seam of the ball when it lands, so may the direction of its flight be very slightly changed.
Seamers do not move off the pitch very much, but under very favourable conditions they may do enough to at least clip the edge of the blade and provide a catch in the slips.
The grip for swing bowling must always be in the fingers - never in the palm - and the bowler should be conscious of the ball going out of his finger tips on release.
Tim Wall claimed that when he bowled particularly well and swung the ball late it was his fingers which tired first.
With regard to wind direction, it is generally agreed that a mild zephyr coming towards the bowler from the direction of third slip will help the in-swinger whilst a breeze coming up between square-leg and the wicket-keeper will assist the out-swinger. The breeze seems to provide just the amount of "resistance" which a bowler likes to feel he can "push" the ball into. Too much breeze is no good because it retards his pace.
The wind factor is not unimportant when speaking about great fast bowling combinations. Take Larwood and Tate. The former wanted the wind behind him to assist his express speed. The latter would often be more effective bowling into a slight wind because of the aid to his swing.
Rain is one of the bugbears of a swing bowler. Once the grass gets wet it becomes impossible to retain the gloss on the ball for long. Any ball which travels out towards the boundary is sure to gather moisture and, though a towel or sawdust may be used to dry the surface, no amount of rubbing will restore shine to damp leather.
Should a bowler wish to sandwich a perfectly straight ball in between some swingers, he can easily do so by gripping the ball with the fingers across the seam which will then be at right angles to the line of flight.
Occasionally, a genuine seam out-swinger will come back from the off after it pitches. Nothing adequately explains why, but I liken it to the cutter, which is referred elsewhere. I believe that the angle of the seam relative to the ground sometimes causes this change of direction after contact with the ground.
Though bowlers make it happen occasionally, I have yet to find one who could bowl a genuine out-swinger with the break back except by accident. He might try a hundred times and not get one. Then suddenly it will happen.
The diagrams outlining the direction of the ball will help clarify my explanations regarding swing in general.
I quote hereunder part of a talk given on the B.B.C. by Raymond A. Lyttleton, F.R.S., of St John's College, Cambridge.
He refers to the fact that a ball will "swerve in the air" and says that this is what we mean by "swing bowling".
In the section entitled "swerve and swing" I have tried to explain the difference between swerve cause by spin, and swing caused by other factors.
A ball will swerve even if it has no shine and seam (example - a golf ball which is hooked or sliced) but a ball will not swing without these factors.
Therefore the article should be read, bearing in mind the cricket usage of the terms.
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