For a batsman there is nothing more exciting and, yes, more enjoyable on a cricket field than facing a quick bowler on a decent track. Batting at the United Services Ground, Portsmouth was what the great game – that is The Bat, The Ball and The Very Quick – was all about.
Somewhere in the multiverse Roy Marshall is facing John Snow every day of the week. At the other end Barry Richards or Gordon Greenidge are waiting their turn. No helmets.
It is what all those hours of development were for – a great challenge and the most electrifying release of the best adrenalin that you will ever experience outside of a battle field.
That is why the hook is so addictive. The intensity of that last picture of the ball in front of the nose and the gloves coming across the field of vision and the unique feeling of a timed hook, the fleeting, collaborating glance as the ball sails 45 degrees towards the boundary. The sense of rotation. More! Gimme more!
Some people say that ‘no one likes facing a really quick bowler. That’s only half right. Try facing John Snow on a feather bed at Lord’s … then pop down to Hove to meet his elephantine memory on something ‘tidal’.
What batsmen dread is bounce they can’t ‘read’. It is always disconcerting. For some, the control freaks, it can be more than can be borne, like a good young mathematician going into an exam and finding for the first time a problem they can’t immediately solve.
And that is what facing Mitchell Johnson appears to be like. Every element of a batsman’s experience says that this ball headed this way in these conditions will bounce to this height. And they’re six or seven inches out and it’s too late to bail out. Or worse … the next ball maybe so.
That is why Johnson’s recent accuracy is part of it. When one in fifty can hit you the human psyche can blank out that possibility, not when ‘it’s’ going to happen sometime in this over.
Andy Robert’s surprise bouncer. Recollections of those who faced S.F. Barnes. Third Man can still recall facing David Harris as if it were yesterday. Illegibility. Mystery. Threat. The Proximity of the Knowable Unknown.
It must take a bit of getting used to when facing Lasith Malinga but his lift and bounce, like that of Alfred Mynn is nothing near as anomalous and mentally disintegrating as that of the supremely strong Johnson, with the slightly higher action.
Is there also an element of swing (not out or in swing) but because of the low action and the seam position this provides, might not the swing be down into the pitch steepening the angle of incidence, increasing the steepness of the bounce? That would explain a great deal.
Changing a well grooved physical routine is difficult but changing a well grooved mental reaction to a stimulus is a hundred times harder.
Maybe you could find a five foot bowler able to fling it down at 100mph onto a fielding ramp positioned 8 meters short of the batter.
Someone soon will re-programme their batting reactions and there shall be a contest. Or you could stay indoors and play Shadowrun