Skidding they come

Against bowlers of pace you can play with controlled Aggression, for their sheer pace means you don't have to go hard at the ball.


When watching Brett Lee and Shoaib Akhtar bowl in recent weeks I have been struck by how similar in style they are to Allan Donald of South Africa and Charlie Griffith, the West Indian tearaway of the 60s.

Both Lee and Akhtar are very, very quick and deliver the ball with a long final stride which causes the front leg to bend and the front foot to point more towards second slip. This often opens their bodies and shoulders and they fall away to the off. In addition, the long stride makes them deliver the ball from a much lower height than say a McGrath or Pollock.

Donald and Griffith were likewise. In Griffith's case, he fell away so much his natural ball was directed into the right-handed batsmen. Donald normally slid the ball into the right-handers. However, both Akhtar and Lee, when they get it right, can move the ball away from the right-handers.

What all four bowlers have in common, apart from great pace, is that they tend to skid the ball rather than bounce it. They can bounce, too, but because of their low action they have to drop the ball very short to get it up. The other thing that they and similar bowlers have in common is the ability to bowl a good yorker.

This can be explained by the fact that they do not allow the ball to stay in the air for as long as, say, McGrath, who continually causes the batsmen trouble in picking up the length of the ball.

The deliveries of bowlers like Lee go straight into the pitch from the hand, whether they are pitched up or dropped short and bowlers of this type are generally easier to pick when it comes to the length of the ball. The yorker is their speciality and Akhtar has an amazingly large number of bowled and LBW scalps to his credit. The others, percentage-wise, are not far behind. During the Australian tour of the West Indies in 1964-65, Charlie Griffith was proving to be quite a handful. So lethal was he that we all preferred to face Wes Hall rather than the newcomer with the amazing action and blistering pace. I was having as much trouble as any batsman until I devised a plan to counter him.

Griffith bowled from very wide of the crease and to hit the stumps with his well pitched up deliveries he had to pitch well outside the off stump. I decided to counter him by taking off stump guard and getting forward to anything that wasn't a bouncer.

I was confident of my ability to play or rather let go the bouncer, for I was always quick on my feet and if it was misdirected outside the off stump I could play my favourite square cut.

By taking off stump guard and getting forward as much as possible I reasoned that I could despatch any ball that pitched on my pads with safety, for the angle of Griffith's deliveries dictated that they would easily miss the leg stump. I tried it in the match against Barbados, Charlie's home, and scored a century. In the fourth Test, also in Barbados, Bill Lawry and I put on 382 for the opening partnership and Charlie was never the same problem again. He was still quick, but battling to come to terms with the new tactics.

The new tactics also meant I was much more mentally aggressive and looking always for the drive, turn to leg or square cut. All good batting tactics require aggression, which causes your adrenalin to flow and quickens your reflexes and confidence.

As I watch so many batsmen being out LBW or bowled to Akhtar and Lee I can't help but wonder whether they wouldn't be better off trying to get forward more rather than just straddling the crease and waiting and expecting the inevitable.

Against bowlers of pace you can play with controlled aggression, for their sheer pace means you don't have to go hard at the ball. You just have to meet it squarely and the bowler's pace will work in your favour.