Saturday, September 16, 2006

The bowler's 'knuckleball'

There are many similarities between bowling and baseball pitching, including the right-hander's curveball (off-spinner) and screwball (leg-break); but so-far there is no cricketing equivalent of the mysterious 'knuckleball'.

Knuckleballs are thrown off the fingertips with no spin, at the pace of a slow or slow-medium paced bowler. Air turbulence makes the ball flutter and wobble unpredictably in its trajectory. A slow bowler might replicate the effect by holding the ball lightly across the seam with fingers spread, cocking the wrist and bowling a very full length.

A bowled-knuckler could be ideal for the 'death' stage of a one-day match. Indeed, the nearest thing yet may have been Adam Hollioake's highly-effective floated-up slower delivery; which had zero-spin, a transverse seam and was maddeningly difficult to hit.


Blogger Bruce G Charlton said...

I'm reading Ed Smith's cricketing diary of 2003 - On and Off the Field. On 18 May he describes batting against Adam Hollioake: "Later he tried a knuckle-ball, a baseball-inspired slower ball that dips at the end of its flight, dropping towards your toes...'.

So I was correct in suggesting Hollioake as a possible model for the bowler's knuckleball.

However, Smith hit the next knuckler for 6, suggesting that this may not be a lethal delivery for cricket unless it is unexpected - perhaps because in cricket the batter is able to move forward out of the crease, and also has a wider bat than in baseball.

10:51 PM  
Blogger Robthrobble said...

Also, a cricket ball is very very different from a baseball. McGrath and Fernando (SL) both bowl the split-finger slower ball which has a similar effect - although it's a bit quicker. Deception in cricket is different from that of baseball and the ball certainly behaves differently (other than the magnus-effect on them).

Your point about moving your feet though is the key. If this wasn't allowed then it would be a different game. It's nothing to do with the width of the bat though - if he's hit it for 6 then no doubt he's middled it. Ed Smith has boy-arms.


6:41 PM  
Blogger Michael Wolf said...

@Bruce: "However, Smith hit the next knuckler for 6, suggesting that this may not be a lethal delivery for cricket unless it is unexpected"

Tim Wakefield, a knuckler for the Boston Red Sox, has been known to give up a lot of home runs. But when he is on, he's pretty much unhittable.

The differences between cricket and baseball are such that it's hard to infer much from Wakefield's success, but I do suspect that a bowler who managed to incorporate a knuckleball-like slower ball into his repertoire and used it not too often and not too infrequently would take a lot of wickets.

9:10 AM  
Blogger Dave Thompson said...

I know this is some years later, but fast bowlers at club level, my son included bowl a knuckle ball as a variation, the effort put into it gives the impression that it's just another delivery, but it does come out slower and has potential when used sparingly.

3:34 PM  

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