Away swing, spotted again

Most of cricket's bowling strategies and fielding templates are based on an age-old premise batsmen don't fancy the away going ball. Which is why international captains prefer off-spinners against teams loaded with left-handers. Even club skippers throw the ball to their left-arm spinner with an unknown right-hander taking guard. It's true for pacers too.

The speedster with that lethal away going ball has historically dominated wicket-taking charts. Hadlee, Kapil, Walsh would repeatedly get batsmen to edge behind the wickets with the ball that moved away late. It was a trick that never failed.

The other day at Johannesburg, a couple of South African pacers turned back the clock. The last couple of decades have seen changes in the bowling Hall of Fame hierarchy. Warne, Muralitharan and Kumble reached the kind of heights pacers could only dream of. Besides, there was the bad press: The romance of the Sultans of Swing era was replaced by the disillusionment spread by the Doctors of Deceit. Obsession with reverse swing had seen players bend rules at times, forgetting a simpler way of getting batsmen out.

Steyn and Philander showed the time-tested effectiveness of a new ball that swings in the air towards the batsmen but teasingly kisses goodbye to the bat, and the batsmen subsequently, after pitching. Steyn had six scalps as Pakistan were all out 49. Five right-handers and the left-handed Nasir Jamshed fell to similar balls. Jamshed was lbw and the rest were caught behind the stumps. Both Steyn and Philander bank on the away going ball but are sightly different. They get the length perfectly right but Steyn's ball races to the slips after pitching while the slower Philander's ball climbs while moving from leg to off. These deliveries are aimed at the stumps and leaving them alone isn't an option. Playing late is what the coaches suggest, but it is easier said than done.

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