While most of us are paying attention to the MLB season, across the pond England is in the grips of its cricket season. Normally we need a cricket highlight to be pretty damn special to warrant covering, and I promise this one is.
This ball, courtesy of Jonah Handy of the Mildenhall Cricket Club, is being marveled at for being one of the best deliveries of the year, maybe even the last decade. Cricket bowling shares a lot of similarities with baseball when it comes to finger placement, spin, and delivery all having an impact on movement — and this is a pure example you can appreciate without even knowing the sport.
What Handy is bowling here is an in-swinger, meaning the ball is seeing movement through the air, and swinging in towards the stumps. Swing is typically a technique used to cause a batsman to chase a ball or catch a bat edge, and isn’t normally used as a way to try and bowl a wicket because of how unpredictable it can be.
If we look at Handy’s release point we can see the kind of movement he gets on this. Here is the moment the ball leaves his hand.
The ball is released roughly 27 inches outside of off stump to the batter’s right, and the bowler’s delivery is remarkable, because he actually directs it across his own body, further away from the batter — disguising the ball and making it look like it’s going wide. After it’s traveled a third of the way down the pitch here’s how it looked.
It’s now a solid 3-4 feet away from the batter, and all signs indicate that he’s going to leave it and not attempt a shot. Here’s the moment it hit the ground, and at this point the ball has swung in 18-24 inches, but it’s still no threat to the wicket.
It then turns in, colliding with off stump and resulting in the wicket. What I think Handy has done is combined the release of an in-swing, with the ball spin of a leg-cutter. Think of it this way: Swing = movement in the air, spin = movement after the bounce. This is tremendously difficult to do, but also adds huge variables to this delivery. Wind, pitch conditions, humidity, and even how new the ball is all play a role in both swing and spin, and the bowler mastered it all in one magical ball.
Was this a bit of a fluke? Probably. Is it still impressive as hell? Absolutely.