Today the talk was all about reverse swing, even though we were “moving forward” towards Cape Town for the Third Test which starts on Saturday. There are but a few days to get the batsmen’s minds clear again after Sunday’s debacle, but there’s fair bit of resilience there built up through winning six tests in a row.
Reverse swing is a bit of a mythical art, but there’s plenty of science behind how to “manage the ball” towards a condition that is conducive to it going reverse later in the innings. Everyone knows about bouncing the ball into the keeper from the outfield via the roughest surface available. The Umpires are wise to this and are often heard to say “Keep it up off the ground, boys” when they think it’s getting too blatant.
Of course, there is a fine line between “managing the ball” and “tampering with the ball”, and this has been crossed lately with things like bottle tops, coating the ball with saliva (legal) spiked with other substances (peppermints, for example – illegal) and rubbing the ball on the trousers in the area of a zipper. Rumours that teams had zippers with abrasive tags installed in the trousers of designated “ball handlers” have never been proven, although on of the current South African players has a blot on his record for bringing the ball and his zipper into close contact.
The English team are rumoured to have tried having abrasive panels fabricated into their creams. Various versions were modeled in the Business Class section during their flight to Australia [Ed. When they still held The Ashes!] but after these resulted in nasty chaffing on their delicate thighs, the plan was abandoned.
The latest controversy is about the SA keeper (allegedly) giving the ball a little rub on one side with his gloves whenever he handled the ball, thus accelerating the effective scuffing of that side, the main aim of the reverse swinger. There is certainly no evidence that he had some keeping gloves specially made with an abrasive section built in for the purpose. [Ed. But what a good idea! I’ll get onto Kookaburra later tonight and see what hey can do.] I guess the members of the team doing interviews have just mentioned it to put a bit of pressure on the Umpires to be on the lookout for new ways of “managing the ball” and keep a lid on it. All we need to stop Steyn going through us like a bad case of Dheli Belly again any time soon.
We could just bat better, of course. No doubt there will be some searching net sessions tomorrow, hopefully with a chance to look around Cape Town – it looks pretty good to me!
Get the print edition, and you can get the ebook for free!