Cricket, more than anything else, is a battle for control of the perception of time. Yet again on day one of a Brisbane Test Australia proved themselves the Masters of Time.
Third Man’s Theory of Time is not complex but, as droppers-by might expect, it uses imaginary numbers to explain reality.
The standard minute has 60 seconds which are experienced as a variable quantity of perceived instances. Time can be slowed by increasing the number of perceived instances in a standard minute. Time speeds up when the number is reduced.
When time is slowed you can get more and better thinking done. When time is speeded up you get less and poorer thinking.
As regular callers to this site might anticipate, Third Man believes that will power can slow time. It is their exceptional Wills that help successful sportspeople dominate both the opposition (for example in cricket and tennis) and the conditions (in golf and skiing).
Mastery of Time is generally a more immediate problem for batsmen than for bowlers but that immediacy is experienced along a continuum and is a function of an individual’s ability to control or will his or her perception of time. Bowlers and Captains battle for it too, but in marginally less pressurized situations.
In general circumstances, from the perspective of batsmen, scoring runs slows time, allowing for a greater quantity of instances to be perceived in a ‘standard minute’ which is experienced like having more seconds in a minute.
Wickets (and all that adds pressure such as good balls, close escapes, nicks that don’t quite carry) increase the speed of time, which is experienced or perceived as having fewer seconds in a minute. It’s the ‘hurry up’.
Fielding captains and good teams in the field can ‘hustle’ and reduce the number of perceivable instances or ‘seconds’ experienced in a minute. Bowlers can walk back and turn quicker. Fielding sides can increase the over rate. (Sometimes, as Australia were soon to do, you can slow things down paradoxically to speed things up – like going one step back to advance two paces.)
Sportspeople need self mastery to will a reduction in the speed of time to counter these tactics to win more time to think well. But the domination of time is a zero sum game. There can be only one winner.
Here’s a rough and ready graph of perceived speed of time against standard time for the first day’s play. UP is fewer ‘seconds’ in a minute and the origin is the infinite minute, which can be perplexing. So think UP is time passing in a flash and less and less time to think effectively and adapt :
The early wicket of Strauss kicked on time. A short second wicket partnership resisted further increases but the fall of Trott saw it mount again.
Peter Siddle is a hustler (a proficient manipulator of time). But in the morning on a slowish wicket, where Trott’s long scrapped guard revealed the moisture beneath the surface and the bowlers kept resorting to the sawdust, Siddle bowled a ‘good’ length but did not have a discernable effect on the battle.
Between lunch and tea the England batsman steadily won back control of the perception of time and gradually brought down its speed. But Siddle had managed to control his personal internal clock to slow things down too and therefore to increase the quality of thinking.
Perhaps it is how you can feel on your birthday, a ‘my day’ effect. His plan was to bowl an even fuller length along a straight line to tempt the frustrated batsmen. It did for Pietersen and then Collingwood.
The Australians used the pressure shelter of the tea interval to work out a plan based on reducing scoring opportunities. They had to. One destiny from that time was a close of play score of 270 for 4. They needed to wrest back the domination of time.
This was the tactic: When they came out for the final session they’d use Watson and others to bowl a negative line to frustrate the England batsmen. Frustration also affects the perception of time. Impatience is experienced as an increase in the Speed of Time.
Then Ponting carefully chose the moment to switch tactics. He brought back his best hustler, Siddle. England did not respond quickly to this change. At the crease they continued to play late and square, falling to slip catches or, playing across the line and missing straight deliveries, to be bowled or given out LBW.
This was the time to play in the “V”, but the fall of wickets increased England’s perception of the speed of time and paralyzed their ability to think ‘now’. They continued to play ‘then’ shots, appropriate to the length and direction Australia had been bowling and not those that Siddle was ‘now’ using to great effect.
Cook, Prior, Broad, Swann stuck in the sticky thinking mire of ‘ago’ played across the line and perished in quick succession.
197 for 4 became 260 all out and, during the minutes of that collapse, Australia established themselves as The Masters of Time.
England could have done with Doctor Who in their dressing room, if not at the wicket. As it was, the hatrick-taking, sixfer-Siddle was today’s Time Lord.