"WillowBlue"... it's Australian for "English Willow" 

Doggy's Blog

Pace Bowling at its Best

Posted on 21 June, 2017 at 0:05

India and Pakistan are obviously great rivals politically but when it comes to “Cricket” that rivalry escalates to stratospheric levels… especially in India.

Since March 1st 2009, the last time Pakistan played a home Test Match, their supporters have not had much to celebrate… so disappointment is something they’ve learned to deal with. However in India, it is a totally different story, especially when the two sides are about to play against each other as they did last Sunday, in the prestigious ICC Champions Trophy final at the Oval.

I got the impression Pakistan supporters were just happy to have made the final and were praying their team would be able to make a game of it, but India on the other hand... a loss against Pakistan is totally unacceptable.

So as I was going to be one of the billion plus viewers watching on television I hoped for a good game, not only for the occasion but because it also involved Mickey Arthur the former coach of the Australian Cricket Team.

If you’ve already forgotten, Arthur was replaced by Darren Lehmann who’s team, ironically had failed to make the semis. I am not saying I think Arthur a better coach; it is that the fortunes of the game can change and turn a full circle in a short period of time as we saw Sunday!.

Another reason I was looking forward to the game was the disappointment I felt when Pakistan's was last in Australia, knowing full well they were much better than they'd shown us.

I had also followed them during the tour of the West Indies and despite the loss of Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-haq, talent is plentiful in a country of 190 million... so I was interested to see if they could be competitive and if Arthur could make the difference.

From a bowling perspective, I also thought the form of Hasan Ali and the 18 year old leg spinner Shadab Khan would compliment their Left Arm pace attach to such an extent that I would be prepared to argue the Pakistan attack is now the most exciting in the game… if not the best in world cricket!

So the day began with India winning the toss and sending Pakistan into bat and my immediate thoughts were… This is good for Pakistan, they’ve nothing to lose, let’s hope they can post a competitive score to bring their highly spirited bowling attack into play.

And this is exactly how it turned out... the "unpredictable" batting of Pakistan began nervously with both opening batsman hit in the helmet from well directed bouncers. The Indian quicks were hitting the deck at good pace and then the first ball of Bumrah's second over he was able to take the outside edge of Fakhar's bat with a beauty... but hang on "lady luck" appears and heads Pakistans way. Bumrah had over stepped and Fakhar, who's nearly off the field by now has retrace his steps to take strike.

As we all know Fakhar went onto score a fine century and helped set up two century plus partnership to help Pakistan to a total of 338... a total never before chased down in an ICC final.

Bumrah who'd reached speeds of 146k lost confidence and was going for more than 6 an over. At the other end Kumar was consistantly reaching speeds of 138k, always on line and with late movement off the track. He bowled superbly only to be let down by the Indian spinners... the last thing any of us expected.

Ashwin and Jadeja were nothing like the bowlers we saw in India and it was lucky for India they had Pandya, not only can he bat but he's a very attacking bowler... not express, but with a good action able to bowl well directed lines. He also has the ability to get excellent seam position on the ball to take the ball away from the right handers. He, like Kumar worried all batsman with good shot balls that would test anyone.

However the pressure was easily released at the other end and if it hadn't been for Kumar and Pandya working so well together at the death, the Pakistan would have posted a much higher total.

I’ve always enjoyed watching great bowling partnerships especially when immense pressure is applied. And one of the best batting strips in world cricket with a reasonable amount of grass the pitch was hard and dry with no cloud cover… it as just a wonderful "good seeing", English summer day and so finding excuses for batting failures would not be easy.

When India arrived at the crease, Mohammad Amir took the new ball and from that moment it seemed like a tornado had hit the ground... he struck 3rd ball, a delivery that pitched in line, jagged off the seam just enough to trap Sharma. Then in his next over, he drew Kohli into the shot; the ball did enough off the seam to take the edge but unfortunately for Amir, Azhar Ali spilled the chance.

As a spectator we'd hardly had time to digest the severity of what had actually happened... when he very next delivery, Kohli chancing his luck, went even harder at the ball. This time a thick outside edge flew to backward point where the athletic teenager Shadab Khan leaped high and to his left clasped the ball and Kohli was on his way.

Pakistan’s were out of the blocks with intensity levels that were through the roof and so much so, that the Indian fans were already looking for the exit signs.

But whilst Amir had taken the scalps, he was being well supported at the other end by another left arm quick Junaid Khan. Who was attacking the batsmen, giving nothing away and so quickly were things happening... commentators seemed dumbfounded.

Then last ball of Amir’s 5 over… the the prize scalp of Dhawin, who tickled one that bit just enough from a good length off a scrambled seam and the catch was safely taken by Captain Sarfraz Ahmed behind the stumps.

If the game wasn’t over at this point.. it wasn't long after India had posted their 50, in fact 9 balls later when, Shadab Khan caught Yuraj with a well flighted leg break that turned just enough. It sounded like a bat pad, the umpire had thought so, I surely couldn’t be certain. But so confident beyond his eighteen years was Shadab he forced his Captain to review the decision and the Indian supporters were off… long legging it down Harleyford Rd.

The two attacks, to be honest, were impressive and it may have been a total different story had it not been for a bowler trying to exert just that little bit more from the pitch.

You have to hand it the Television coverage, so good these days, you get to see things that you wouldn’t pick up, as a spectator on the ground or as a player on the field.

For example, how the fingers grip the ball, whether there is any wrist action at delivery, seam position created or the reaction of the ball hitting the pitch in relation to that seam. So what is it that sets a bowler apart from another... is it the pace of the delivery or the consistency of the line... I’ve always believed the later, the most important and watching the fast bowlers in action, working in partnership was a joy. Something I'll always find interesting until my dying day... I reckon!.

As the game progressed I recalled something "Darren Lehmann" had told me (not that I agree with him). He believes a pace bowler could not be considered for selection if he could not sustain 140k plus. Perhaps this is a reason the South Australian quick Sayers cannot get a game. Anyway, his reasoning is that it is far too easy for batsman to adjust their shot selection... and yet we were witnessing the opposite at the Oval.

I think Darren needs to reconsider his opinion... we were watching the best batman in the world being intimidated by aggressive bowling between 130k and 142k and as I have mentioned... no need to look further than "Pandya" who showed the world, you don't have to be express to be intimidating as long as you're action is reasonably side on and you are working the lines. A good action, yes, it's oh so very important, because it allows a bowler to achieve the most deadly of deliveries... I am referring to late movement off the wicket.

A result of being able to hit the deck hard with your lines right and whether short or full you will worry batsmen. So never mind worrying about spots on the pitch... concentrate on line and good seam position. This means the batsman is always in two minds even If short, it will be into the chest or over off stump or straight at the head. If it is full of length it will draw the batsman into a shot.

Therefore it is so important for a pace bowler to hit the seam with regularity and all the better if rotating over the front foot enabling the technique required to take the ball away off the wicket.

Think about the off spinner who requires a side on position at a minimum to get the body rotation he needs to release his back leg through the crease. The follow through (bowling arm, front arm and weight transfer (Nathan Lyon is a perfect example)) required to generate spin, drift or bounce; its same for a leg spinner (Shane Warne a wonderful side on action with rotation over the front leg with follow through... perfect example).

It is no different for any bowler who is wanting to execute a leg cutter or away swinger, except you'll need a complete understanding of the bowling nexus made up of many interconnecting components; a synchronised action involving weight transfer, back leg release facilitating rotation over the front leg, into the follow through down the pitch so that you can look deep into the eyes of the batsman.

Well I hope you got as mush as I did from the perfectly demonstrated performance put on by the Pakistani attack on Sunday night.

What concerns me though... I don't see our bowlers in Australia being able to execute such a technique with regularity and that is surely a worry because Ryan Harris was a perfect exponent of this type of bowling... so hopefully some of his skill will be passed on soon.

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