Yesterday we left our mystery bowler waiting to see if he’d be given the chance to bowl at his hero.
Did you get the nod?
I was called to bowl sooner than I expected. I think the captain decided to put me out of my misery early in the piece.
What was your first ball like?
Did I ever bowl that first ball? I don’t remember. My head was in a whirl. I really think I fainted and the secret of the mythical first ball has been kept over all these years to save me embarrassment. If the ball WAS sent down it must have been hit for six, or at least a four, because I was woken from my trance by the thunderous booming Yabba who roared: ‘O for a strong arm and a walking stick!’
And the next ball?
I do remember the next ball. It was, I imagined, a perfect leg-break. When it left my hand it was singing sweetly like a humming top. The trajectory couldn’t have been more graceful if designed by a professor of ballistics. The tremendous leg spin caused the ball to swing and curve from the off and move in line with the middle and leg stump. Had I bowled this particular ball at any other batsman I would have turned my back early in its flight and listened for the death rattle.
But you didn’t?
I watched his every movement.
He stood poised like a panther ready to spring. Down came his left foot to within a foot of the ball. The bat, swung from well over his shoulders, met the ball just as it fizzed off the pitch, and the next sound I heard was a rapping on the off-side fence.
It was the most beautiful shot I have ever seen.
Yabba made some attempt to say something but his voice faded to the soft gurgle one hears at the end of the kookaburra’s song.
The only person who didn’t watch what happened to the ball was the batsman. The moment he played it he turned his back, smacked down a few tufts of grass and prodded his way back to the batting crease. He knew where the ball was going.
How did you react?
Well, I never expected that ball or any other ball I could produce to get his wicket. But that being the best ball a bowler of my type could bowl I thought that at least he might have been forced to play a defensive shot, particularly as he didn’t know me and it might have been to his advantage to use discretion rather than valour.
What d’you do next?
After I’d bowled one or two other reasonably good balls without success I remembered he found the ‘wrong ‘un’ rather puzzling.
So did you try a ‘bosie’ as a last resort? How did it go?
I bowled the ball I had often dreamed of bowling. Like the leg-break it had enough spin on it to curve in the air and break considerably. If anything it might have had a little more top spin, which would cause it to drop rather suddenly. The sensitivity of a spinning ball against a breeze is governed by the amount of spin imparted, and if a ball bowled at a certain pace drops on a certain spot, one bowled with identical pace but with more top-spin should drop eighteen inches or two feet shorter.
Yes, we know that. We’ve looked at the Magnus Effect here in some detail. We know how it makes the top spin dip precipitously and bounce more.
I thought it might create some uncertainty in his mind.
Whilst the ball was in flight I appeared to be vindicated by his initial movement. He sprang in to attack but didn’t realize the ball, being an off-break, was floating away from him and dropping a little quicker. Instead of his left foot being close to the ball it was a foot out of line.
In a split second he grasped this and tried to compensate with a wider swing of the bat. It was then I could see a passage-way to the stumps with our ‘keeper ready to claim his victim. His bat came through like a flash but the ball passed between his bat and leg, missed the stump by a fraction, and the bails were whipped off with the great batsman at least two yards out of his ground.
Didn’t he make an attempt to scramble back?
He knew the ball had beaten him and was prepared to pay the penalty, and although he had little chance of regaining his crease on this occasion I think he’d have acted the same if his back foot had been only an inch from safety.
Did he say anything to you?
As he walked past me he smiled, patted the back of his bat and said, ‘It was too good for me.’
There was no triumph in me as I watched the receding figure. I felt like a boy who had killed a dove.