Good swing bowling can literally be unplayable. If a ball swings late enough nobody, not Sachin, not Lara, not Bradman, has ever had good enough reactions to counter the movement. It's a physical impossibility.
Yet somehow great players manage to build epic innings when the ball swings. How do they do it?
While science has no answers yet, there are some interesting theories to explore.
1. Watch the ball
A reaction time limitation means that it's impossible to watch the ball right onto the bat. What distinguishes the good players from the average ones is their ability to correctly predict where the ball will be and move into the correct position. That is according to Bob Woolmer and Tim Noakes coaching book.
In practical terms what does this mean?
Greg Chappell says that it's all about watching the point of release from the bowler. If you see the ball released late it will be short, if you see it released early it will be full. Additionally, the bowler can give you subtle clues in their grip, run up and delivery stride that can help you. If you see an angles seam you know the bowler is at least trying to swing the ball.
Those blessed without a great talent for this can improve their ability by practice. This is one reason why facing a bowling machine is less beneficial than facing real bowling: You don't get the clues from the bowler.
2. Get to the pitch of the ball
Swing bowlers are usually going to pitch the ball up to you. Without doing that they will not get the swing they need. This means you will usually be playing forward to them.
If the ball swings later than you ability to react you will be more likely to miss it or edge it. To reduce this risk, it's important to get as close to the pitch of the ball as possible. This will reduce the amount of time the ball has to deviate. It might be enough to stop you catching the edge.
The idea is not to over step. You still need to lead with your head and shoulder while having your weight over your front foot. You should be trying to get in as big a stride as possible though. The closer you are to the pitch, the safer you are.
3. Play with soft hands
If you are facing a good swing bowler there will be times you will be beaten. You can reduce the chances of getting out either nicking off to the slips or bowled through the gate by playing defensively with soft hands.
In modern limited over cricket it is often beneficial to push the hands and bat towards the ball so you can hit the ball into a gap and steal a single. While this is an excellent tactic, against a late swinging ball edges will carry comfortably to the slips or gulley.
Instead of trying to 'punch' the ball, play the defensive shot as intended: A way of killing the pace of the ball. If you do this correctly it is much harder for an edge to carry to the slips.
How do you do it?
Are you a swing bowler? What frustrates you most about the batters who play you well? Perhaps you are a good player of the swinging ball. What are your secrets? Leave a comment.
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