The current Test series v South Africa has been fascinating for many reasons. One of the real eye opening moments for me has been the amount of no balls that have been bowled – and worse - that have managed to get a wicket.
In battles such as these where the differences between the two sides are miniscule, these can be the difference between a victory and loss. Or draw. Morne Morkel’s size 15 boot just snuck over the line on the delivery he caught Ed Cowan’s glove late on day two in Brisbane. The wicket would have firmly given South Africa the momentum and a huge advantage going into day three. Instead ‘Teddy’ was able to go on the next day and score a well deserved maiden test ton, building a partnership with his skipper that saw Australia regain the ascendancy.
James Pattinson’s blemish in the second innings when he thought he had dismissed Hashim Amla would have given Australia a huge boost in its quest to knock the South Africans over for an unlikely victory. Instead, Hashim was able to take another 45 minutes out of the game.
These are not the only times its occurred during the series but just examples that highlight how much impact they can in terms of impact, momentum and, I am sure in their Captain’s heads, frustration.
If the best bowlers in the world are overstepping the mark so often you can bet your life that its happening at First Class and grade cricket level on regular occasions.
It serves to give the bowlers a false sense of both how fast they are – but more importantly it gives them a false reading of the correct length they need to be hitting come match day. Bowlers who regularly bowl no balls in the nets are more often than not the same ones who you find struggling to work out why they are just a touch to short in a game. Or why their fuller deliveries are ‘floating’ towards the batsman rather than hitting the wicket.
Adam Griffith, the former Tasmanian quick and current fast bowling coach for Western Australia, used to overstep by such a margin that the batsman could smell his breath! To the point that one day Dan Marsh stopped Griffo mid run up and moved the stumps back another metre in the net to try and even out the contest.
And don’t get me started on spinners bowling no balls…
I have heard a few people arguing that the penalty is too harsh for miniscule infringements and that the bowlers should be given the whole line instead of having to have some part of the foot land behind it. Without getting into the pros and cons of such a change all I can say to that is – if the rule is behind the line at present, then that’s exactly what bowlers need to be practicing. So we can be celebrating with them when they take these wickets instead of berating them.
The other point to make here is that cricket IS a batsman’s game and really…bowlers are just here to service us. Bats are getting bigger, grounds smaller. Fielding restrictions in the domestic one-day competition have been altered to significantly make it harder for all bowlers, but especially spinners.
My old mate Xavier Doherty came up with an idea I think should be looked at for First Class cricket in Australia.
He thinks umpires should relax the danger zone area that bowlers are prohibited from encroaching into after delivering the ball. This would give spinners a bigger rough patch to work into – more like you encounter in the subcontinent, West Indies and UK. This would bring spinners into the game more in Australian cricket – allowing them to grow their capacity to be an attacking or match winner bowler, as opposed to the defensive roles they are often forced into on many First Class wickets around the country. It would also teach our batsman how to play spin better and force them to use their feet, both forward and back, to learn how to counter the spinning conditions.
This may encourage curators to produce better batting wickets, knowing that spinners will be able to play a big hand in games come days three and four. As long as they keep their foot behind the line.
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia