Ireland’s maiden Test against England saw 20 wickets fall down on the first day at Lord’s. England’s old problems against the moving ball were once again on display as the World Cup winners were skittled out for 85.
The England and Wales Cricket Board opted to use the 2018 version of Dukes ball this summer to balance out the contest between bat and ball.
The 2018 version of the Dukes ball has a more pronounced seam which will offer much more lateral movement, making batting tough.
So what exactly can the batsmen do to cope with the swing and seam?
As a batsman, knowing where your off-stump is extremely crucial to your success in these conditions. Batsmen are taught to play at every ball, which isn’t wrong because the role of a batsman is to score runs. But when the ball starts to move around, you cannot play at every ball outside off-stump as the risk of getting caught behind the stumps increases.
In England, you need to be playing very close to your body and leave anything that is outside your eye-line. The best players of a moving ball leave the ball exceptionally well.
Best players in the world have higher levels of anticipation which gives them more time to execute the skill. In case of batting, some batsmen might watch the seam of the ball from a greater distance which gives them a head start of what the bowler is trying to do.
Some batsmen might not be able to see such fine details, and instead, they would have a softer focus on the ball. In a nutshell, it is important for batters to have their visual preferences worked out which would give them better levels of anticipation.
Quality swing bowlers move the ball late. The problem starts when batsmen commit early on the first line they see, and if the ball deviates late, either their front leg gets in the way (for an in-swinger) or they end up catching the away-swinger with their hands.
Every individual has to find a way to tackle this but this is where Duncan Fletcher’s ‘forward press’ came into play. He believed that as a batsman, the more movements you make, the chances of error go up.
Fletcher preferred that batsmen pressed half-forward just before the ball was bowled so that the final movement into the ball was a small one. He believed that by doing this, batsmen got rid of most of their movements and delayed their decision by a split second which in turn gave them a better chance to adjust to lateral movement.
When the ball starts to move around, it becomes important for the batsmen to hit the ball right under their eyes. If your point of contact is in front of your eyes, then there is a danger of getting beaten on both edges of the bat.
Batsmen get in trouble when they go hard at the ball and with the sideways movement, hard hands wouldn’t suck out much pace on the ball, leading to either caught behind or creating a gap between bat and pad.
So in order to have a tight defence, you have to let the ball come to you and not chase the ball if it moves away late.
Bowlers like Mohammad Abbas, Vernon Philander and Tim Murtagh would hammer away on a good length all day long. All of them have that incredible ability to move the ball off the seam which is harder to deal with as compared to swing.
So if the keeper is standing back, something which batsmen can do to negate the threat is to stand out of their crease and move slightly across the stumps to take the leg-before decision out of the equation (by getting outside the line).
By doing this, you’re taking the nip-backer out of the equation and if the ball holds its line from a decent length, try and hold your shot and not follow the ball with your hands!