Footmarks for the spinner

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Graeme Swann about to play a delightful backhand slice

It’s a strange and wonderful sport where two members of the opposition who aren’t even on the pitch can aid your cause, but Graeme Swann can thank Trent Boult and Neil Wagner for three of his four wickets.

The two left-armers created some beautifully scruffy turf for him to aim at and the added purchase meant the ball did plenty more than you would ordinarily expect. People talk like it’s surprising when the ball turns so early in the match, but pitches don’t wear uniformly. Even after just one innings, the footmarks from two left-armers probably provide Swann with more rough than on the fifth day of any other Test match.

Unless you’re Sri Lanka in the Murali era (“Hey, you’re left handed and have quite big feet. I don’t suppose you’re free for a bit of seam bowling between Thursday and Monday, are you?”) you don’t pick your bowlers for the by-products of their endeavours. Yet footmarks can lead to crucial wickets and can therefore decide a match.

What a wonderfully complex sport. Imagine explaining this to someone new to cricket. Imagine having to explain spin bowling and the impact of the rough. Now imagine the person saying in a loud, booming, almost certainly American voice: “You know what they should do. They should bowl from the other side of the stumps so the rough patches aren’t in the right place for him.”

Actually, don’t imagine that. It’s too irritating.


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  1. I let out a loud celebratory exclamation each time Swann got one to turn through the gate and hit the stumps. It’s one of the best sights in cricket, that. I was at Edgbaston in 2009 when he bowled Ponting in the same manner. I may have let out a similar exclamation back then. It may or may not have contained the phrase “Flipping get in there.” Or something similar.

  2. Irritated as you’ll no doubt be by this, why not bowl the lefties from different ends?

    1. …or wear plimsolls rather than those rough-creating bowling boots.

      There’s a solution to every problem, if only you think a little laterally.

  3. All the rough patches in the world won’t help if you don’t land the ball in the window of opportunity. Wait no, I mean the cleavage of chaos. Or is it the promised patch of perturbation?

    I need to talk to Dan Brown or L. Siva.

    1. The patch of snatch…

      …I guess I cannot get that Dandy Dan costume out of my mind…

    2. We are all regulars around here, Deep Cower.

      Only a Yoni-cum-lately would make a terrible pun along those lines.

  4. Is there a limit to how wide you can bowl from? Delivering the ball from 22 yards wide of the stump would create an interesting angle for batsmen to deal with. Plus your footmarks will be no use to anyone.

    1. You would be amazed at how often the back foot rule is not enforced in grade cricket here. Bit disconcerting when a left armer is aiming at the back of your head from 2m outside the leg stump.

  5. seriously though (…), there’s no law mandating spikes, is there? you can wear spikeless shoes and not create a rough, and you can run on the “danger area” too.

  6. The American would have said “other side of the wooden poles”, and then he’d have changed the subject as if his words were so correct there could be no reply. I met an American once, so I know what I’m talking about.

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