The seam was upright but slightly tilted towards the third slip; the shiny surface was towards the on side, while the ball moved appreciably in the air towards its rough side.
The batsman stretched his front foot out, got to the pitch of the ball, covered the movement in the air by playing outside the line of the ball and middle it.
For the scorer, the outcome of this delivery was just a dot on the sheet but it meant a great deal for the spectator in me. That was a sight to behold, a purist's delight.Swing made it look interesting
That's what made the first Test match at Lord's ever so interesting and that's what will keep the entire series pulsating. The good old swing is back and with it the charm to watch Test cricket.
Playing the swinging ball is an art that requires years of hard work. You must start looking for clues even before the ball has left the bowler's hand, for you might be caught napping if you don't.
Hence, it's advisable to look for the shiny side of the ball, as that would give you a fair idea of the eventual direction of the swing.
For example, if the ball is swinging conventionally, it would swing towards the rough side and towards the shiny surface, if it's reverse swinging. The second clue is the positioning of the bowler with regards to the stumps.
Most bowlers prefer to come close to the stumps for an out-swinger and go away from the stumps for bowling an in-swinger. While the shine is pretty foolproof, the positioning is subject to bowler's shrewdness.
After the first two signs, you must watch out for the positioning of the seam as soon as the ball leaves the bowler's hand.
For example, if the seam is tilted towards slips, it would be an out-swinger and if it's tilted towards fine-leg, you must prepare for an incoming
Play as late as possible
Now, the focus should be to allow the ball to come to you and play as late as possible.
You must also try to play in the second line, which means either inside the line of the ball or outside it. The swinging ball would never finish on the same line at which it was delivered and hence you must play the imaginary line where the ball would end up.
The same principle was manifested manifolds at Lord's, for the slope was also to be taken into account while offering the shot. Pietersen and Trott played the shots on the leg-side to balls that would finish on the middle stump on other surfaces.
And Dravid planted his foot a couple of inches outside the off-stump to take care of the slope.
Since most surfaces around the world are tailor-made to plant the front-foot only a few inches outside the popping crease and play through the line on the up, the art of playing the swinging ball with aplomb is diminishing fast.
Perhaps it's time to leave a bit more grass on the surface and play cricket with the Dukes or SG Test ball, which swings appreciably the entire day.
It will not only make the youngsters better equipped to play the swinging ball but also make the contest more absorbing to watch.