Monthly Archives: March 2010

A Swann in Flight

One of Third Man’s older memories is of lying in bed with his Christmas present of a new and, then, miraculously small transistor radio.  It is very early in the morning and he is listening to a live broadcast of the 1962/63 Australian tour from the Sydney Test.  Fred Titmus is exploiting the breeze across the SCG to make the ball drift away from the right hand bat.  He takes 7 -79.   

Jim Laker, no less, described Titmus as a master of away drift but reserved the accolade of strongest spinner to (the other) David Allen.

It is the Magnus Effect that couldexplain why Titmus got less turn but more drift than Allen and why Graeme Swann is number two in the ICC bowling table.

The Magnus Effect  is what causes the tennis ball struck with top spin to dip steeply.  It is what causes the sliced golf ball to swerve right and Beckham’s free kicks to bend left when struck with the inside of the right foot. 

It and not the breeze is what accounted for the apparent ability of Titmus’ off-spin to drift or fade away from the right hand bat and it explains a lot of what is happening to Graeme Swann’s fiendish deliveries.

There is a trade-off between the amount of turn you can expect and the amount of Magnus Effect.  To maximize turn the bowler would try to send the ball down with the access of rotation aimed at the batsman and the seam rotating either clockwise or anticlockwise.  But this would produce no drift or dip.

By propelling the ball seam towards the batsman with the axis of rotation going across the wicket would produce top spin and dip or back spin and keep the ball in the air longer than expected.

When the right arm off-spinner sends the ball down with the seam rotating towards leg slip there will be varying and unpredictable combinations of drift, dip and turn.

Dip allows the ball to be bowled higher so that it spends as much time as possible above the eyeline of the batsman, a less natural and therefore less accomplished point of view.

There is also a differential reaction to the surface of the wicket depending on how much of the seam strikes the ground.

Angling the seam with the bottom of the ball slightly forwards towards the wicket will then increase the randomness of the grip that the ball takes. Sometimes the ball will land fully on the seam, sometimes fully on leather and all combinations between producing differences in turn and the chance of the ball which lands on leather skidding on along the direction set by the forward momentum and the drift.

This thus maximises variation.

Swann puts something like 1,800 rotations on the ball.  The greater the revs the stronger the resulting motion perpendicular to the relative velocity vector, as well as the greater the change in pace and direction on impact.

Added to this he can vary his pace by as little as a couple of miles per hour.

Doing all this almost at will, he can put together subtle combinations and series of balls like a boxer setting up an opponent for a particular punch.

He aims generally at the right hander’s off stump (the attacking line) so that not only are both edges of the bat in play but also a missed ball is likely to hit the stumps.

The dip, drift and spin variations disturb the batsman’s timing and bring the catch from a mistimed shot into the equation.

Bowling round the wicket to left handers there is a tendency for the seam to tilt more towards the wicket and so an increase in both the extent of the drift and the chances of the ball landing on the leather and skidding through like an old fashioned arm ball.

Finally, Swann is confident and aggressive and communicates the intensity of the moment to batters and fielders.

How wonderful it would be to have the camera images that are possible today for the flight of bowlers such as Laker, Allen, Mortimore, Titmus and even further back to Verity and Rhodes.  (The wrist spinners can speak for themselves.)

AN UPDATE: Over in the Corridor of Uncertainty Jonathan Calder asks sagely, “is off-spin the new leg spin?’   In that revs are back in fashion and that English finger spinners are learning to use the javalin approach, they are indeed catching up with the innovations of the leg spinners and perhaps surpassing them.

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Gatting digs trench. Swann sings live. Bird paints. Anderson works. Official.

NatWest CricketForce Action Report.

Dave Leighton who featured a few days ago,  has very kindly sent Third Man a report of last week’s high profile activities.

He writes, “The NatWest CricketForce weekend was stunning with the most remarkable results achieved. I have been to Harrow St Mary’s CC, Middlesex, Gedling Colliery CC, Notts and Scarborough CC, Yorks over the past 3 days and seen Gus Fraser and the Middlesex team painting a pavilion all day, Andrew Strauss and Charlotte Edwards signing autographs and giving interviews, Mike Gatting digging trenches and painting all day, Graeme Swann singing live with his band at Gedling, ‘Dickie’ Bird with a paint brush in hand, Jimmy Anderson working at Scarborough and Vernon Coaker MP in his scruffy clothes filling a skip.

“If you add in new roof, new kitchen, a new umpires’ changing room, new womens’ changing room, a new disabled ramp, electricity cables being laid, new scoreboards, hedge planting, wall and fence painting and the biggest volunteer community workforce you could imagine, at these 3 clubs alone we had over 750 people attend.  These included  volunteers from Construction Colleges in Derby and the Yorkshire coast providing real expertise and the probation service chipping in too.

“When I started this job I would never have dreamed of all this happening in a weekend. Club cricket has really received a significant boost. Have a look at for the full stories.”

Thanks Dave.

Messers Brown, Cameron and Clegg note well;  if it’s broken, the united cricketing community fixes it.

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They called tails

Yesterday, Third Man was able to change every clock in the cottage except the one that really matters, his own body clock.  So he is wide awake at 5 am.

The thought with which he woke was the realisation that many of the favourite cricketers of the late 1950s and early 1960s all had one thing in common.

On the list are Butch White, Colin Milburn and Fred Trueman.  As TM mulls the theme others coming to mind include Brian Close.  Can you guess?

Yes, they all had trouble with the tails of their shirts.

Butch would leave the pavilion spruce and well groomed.  Within six balls his hair would be out of control, his shirt drenched in sweat and at least one his shirt tails would be refusing to stay tucked in.

Trueman, despite a heavy smearing of Brylcream and a very tight trouser waistband had the same problem. Colin Milburn’s shirt tails were on the move after walking one single down to third man.

I seem to remember that when Brian Close was playing the fastest West Indian bowling ever seen, stopping each ball in the middle of his unprotected chest, he was between overs spending his free time tucking his shirt tails back in and chatting idly to Edrich.

Third Man once had one of Tom Graveney’s cricket shirts.  A very large white Clydella.  For many years it was his favourite possession and first choice batting shirt.  Sorry Tom, but it was a tent with tails like the genoa jibs on a tea clipper.

Third Man’s mother was an excellent judge of a cricketer, but the highest marks in her ratings were reserved for those with a neat appearance rather than a good average.  She insisted that TM wore Vyella perhaps having rapped him in Dayella swaddling clothes at birth.  [Note for the young: these had a high woollen content, would shrink to half their size in the laundry and so had to be carefully hand washed and required a process known as ironing.]

The arrival of the elasticated waist band may have eliminated the problem.  (Were these first sported by that great innovator Tony Gregg?)  Fittness, dietry care and overall weight loss may also have contributed.  The arrival of today’s nylon cricket, shirt perhaps modelled on the old Surrey Smock favoured by shepherds, brings its own difficulties but when dishevelled still lacks Truemanesque character.

What did Dexter wear, boys?  Turnball and Asser of course.


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The Best Day of the Year – Probably

Third Man is about his cottage early this morning moving the clocks forward.  There is a spring in his feet.  After all these years this day in March remains the best day of the year. Young people everywhere will have an extra hour of daylight to finish their games of cricket tonight.

To the Green beneath Beacon Hill we would go, the Danes, that is Mark left arm slow and Peter the acrobatic ‘keeper, Sam Eddings right hand bat, Bunny Burnell off-spin, Rob Barnard right hand bat, Richard McIlwaine,  right arm rapid and Third Man jack of all trades, to chalk fresh stumps against a wall and start their new season.

But Backwatersman has reminded him  that this is an inaccurate recollection. 

This should have read: To the Green that afternoon strode Sainsbury, Harrison, Marshall, Burden, cousin Barnard, Shackleton, and Livingston.  Hampshire claimed the extra hour to beat Kent despite a fine and inevitable century by Cowdrey.

In Yorkshire and Lancashire streets free of traffic became Headingleys and Old Traffords.  In Guildford, Taunton and Market Harborough odd sets of stumps were pitched or jerseys piled high in parks where matches with sides that fluctuated in numbers from three to thirty three were played until darkness finally settled the score.

Yes, in the year Twenty10 in Nottingham, Chewton Magna and Hartlepool, Tendulkas will play with Pietersens, Lees with Gibbs, Sangakkaras with Gayles.  The shots will be outrageously daring, the actions suspect, but the game will be the game.

IPL administrators, umpires, players and commentators carry huge responsibilities.  Like it or not the fate of our game is in their hands and it will be the spirit expressed by these wonderful players, facilitated by the administrators and guarded by the umpires; the comradeship, the enjoyment, the mutual respect that they all display over these six long weeks; that will matter.

The signs are good not bad.  The signs would be better were sides to include good players from Pakistan.  

As Yeats commanded, so all lovers of cricket command of them; ‘Tread softly because you tread on our dreams’.


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Could this be Silas Malinga?

Third Man is most grateful to the Secretary of the Mary le Bone Cricket Club for sending him this picture which he believes may be none other than Silas Malinga who played for the Squire’s XI against Fifteen Men of Kent some years ago at the Home Park Oval. 

At full speed, accuracy was a problem and volunteers were required to stand in the slips.  Bowling to a field of four slips, two leg slips and three long stops he struck terror into the hearts of batsmen and fieldsmen alike.

 As they say, “What goes round, comes round.”

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If you go down to the club today …

If you go down to your club today you’ll be sure of a big surprise.  Bats have been swapped for brooms, balls for paint pots and flannels* for overalls … well you get the idea.

Third Man will be there as his local organiser has done a deal with the nearby chippy, who has bravely agreed to provide a fish supper** for anyone volunteering to join the NatWest Cricket Force action weekend.

Over 130 under 11s attend cricket practice there on Thursday evenings. Sang Lee (for it is he and his wife) may need some biblical techniques if he is to keep up supplies.

Nat West is now almost (80%) entirely owned by ‘us’.  It’s OUR bank and its doing its bit for OUR clubs and over 1,5o0 clubs have already signed up to take part in the event.

As ECB Club Programmes Manager, David Leighton, said: “We want every sports-lover nationwide to show support for their local cricket club this year by getting involved in NatWest CricketForce. Whether it’s by painting a bench, repairing the score-box or mending nets, there are many ways in which volunteers can make a difference and bring a real sense of community spirit to the event.”

If any one else higher up at the ECB had asked Third Man to get down to the ground he might just have shrugged, but Dave is a special person.  He typifies everything that’s good about Lancastrian cricket.  He expects the highest standards but leads by example.  He sells his wicket dear but knows the value of the game. ‘Nough said.

*Flannels are to creams, whites, trackies as wireless sets are to radios, walkmen and MP3 players.  As you see from the above banner, in the ‘70s – that’s the 1770s – we favoured a more relaxed dress code on the field.

**Diet is an increasingly important part of the modern game, in recognition of which,  ECB has appointed blogger Mike Gatting as Managing Director Cricket Partnerships.

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Britain, India and the game of C21 … Or why Flintoff should be next Ambassador to China

Is cricket to be our most important cultural asset in this relatively new century?  Are cricketers already our most important diplomats? 

While in Rome … do as the Greeks?

The Greeks gave the early Italian tribes who would later become the Romans their alphabet, weights and measures, coinage, many of their gods and cults. The Romans saw in Hellenistic cities a comfortable, enjoyable lifestyle. Their houses acquired columns, statues, mosaics, tapestries and paintings on the walls. Even the eating of dinner while reclining came from the Greeks.Roman trade, banking, administration, art, literature, philosophy, earth science and sport bore the marks of Greek influence.   For rich young Romans it was a must to have studied in Athens and to be able to speak Greek.

John Wayne, Walt Disney and Blue Jeans

America used Hollywood to colonize the world.  They didn’t need to invade both to succeed economically and to dominate culturally.  They sold the American dream first in the cinemas and then through the TV sets of the world.

And then, despite spending billions of dollars on nuclear armament, the fall of the Soviet Union came about when the people there rose up against their masters in pursuit of the freedom to be able to buy a thousand minutely differing variations of blue jeans.  (Third Man exaggerates to make a point but only slightly.)


TM wishes the Chinese played cricket, but they don’t … yet.  In fact they are busy trying to topple America by selling jeans to them and keeping the exchange rate low enough to destroy Western economies.  Well, if it worked for the Americans against the Soviet Block it could well work again.

Thankfully India Adores Cricket

Now as India stands on the verge of a bright future it is accepting the culture of Hollywood and transforming it into Bollywood; and the culture cricket and transforming it into Cricetainment.

For this they need players – the best players from all over the globe including those from the UK.  Our culture as expressed through the cricket and lifestyles of Flintoff, the English dimension to the Peiterson brand, Morgan, Bopara, and others will have their influence on how India progresses, what it values, how it acts, where it trades, what it buys and who it supports on the international stage as the century moves on.

A couple of runs off the bat

ONE: We need to properly value these relatively young men and for them to know and carry comfortably the responsibilities they hold and the opportunities they have to safeguard and develop the UK’s future.

TWO: We need Government to recognize that for every pound they spend on diplomacy, embassies and foreign affairs initiatives another pound might be more effectively spent on promoting the enjoyment of the game and the emerging talent in this country.

And Our Next Ambassador to China

When Preston born Andrew Flintoff hangs up his three stripes, he could be our best choice for our next Ambassador to China.

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