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An overview of cricket ball swing

Abstract

The aerodynamic properties of a cricket ball have intrigued cricket players and spectators for years, arguably since the advent of the game itself. The main interest is in the fact that the ball can follow a curved flight path that may not always be under the control of the bowler. The basic aerodynamic principles responsible for the nonlinear flight or ‘swing’ of a cricket ball were identified decades ago and many papers have been published on the subject. Over the last 25 years or so, several empirical investigations have also been conducted on cricket ball swing, which revealed the amount of attainable swing and identified the parameters that affect it. Those findings are reviewed here with emphasis on phenomena such as late swing and the effects of humidity on swing. The relatively new concept of ‘reverse swing’, how it can be achieved in practice, and the role in it of ‘ball tampering’, are also discussed in detail. In particular, the ability of some bowlers to effectively swing an old ball in the conventional, reverse and the newly termed ‘contrast’ swing mode is addressed. A discussion of the ‘white” cricket ball used in the 1999 and 2003 World Cup tournaments, which supposedly possesses different swing properties compared to a conventional red ball, is also included. This is a current overview of cricket ball swing rather than a detailed review of all research work performed on the topic. The emphasis is on presenting scientific explanations for the various aerodynamic phenomena that affect cricket ball swing on a cricket ground.

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Correspondence to Rabindra D. Mehta.

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Mehta, R.D. An overview of cricket ball swing. Sports Eng 8, 181–192 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02844161

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02844161

Keywords

  • cricket ball
  • swing
  • reverse swing
  • aerodynamics
  • boundary layer