Explained: How did James Anderson knock out Rohit Sharma?

India vs England 2nd Test: The illusion of an away-curler, the lateness of the inward movement, and the ideal pace to beat any last-minute adjustments sealed Sharma’s fate.

It was a reverse-swinging beauty that was set-up with the crafty wobble-ball and it knocked out the well-set Indian opener Rohit Sharma’s stumps. It was the 44th over of the innings and Sharma was cruising on 83. Anderson first unleashed the wobble ball; it was pushed in and even as Sharma set up to cover the angle, it shaped away to threaten the edge. But it was nothing in comparison to what followed. The seam was pointing towards the slips, the shiny side was inside, to the leg side, and he pushed this one away from the batsman. For all purposes, it seemed like shaping away but it jagged back in sharply right at the end to comprehensively beat Sharma. The illusion of an away-curler, the lateness of the inward movement, and the ideal pace to beat any last-minute adjustments sealed Sharma’s fate. As standalone deliveries, both were special but as a combo, you couldn’t have found a deadlier cocktail.

What’s special about Anderson’s reverse?

Often, in modern-day cricket, bowlers take the easier route to reverse. If they want to reverse it in, they place the shiny side inside, on the leg side, and then actively strive to push the ball in. It tails in from the hand and then further in with the shiny side. Since they get enough pointers, good batsmen tackle this ball by taking care not to bring the front foot across.

Anderson does the old-school way. To reverse the ball in, he will grip and release it like an outswinger. The seam points towards the slip, the grip too is the same as he uses for the outswinger – the index finger on the seam and the middle finger on the leathery surface of the ball, and he will try to push it out.

“It will be an outswinger with the new ball but with the old ball, it would be an inswinger. …Basically, I reverse my grip. For the inswinger [when reversing with the old ball], the shiny side will be inside. The seam will point to slips. The same index finger does the work (of pushing the ball out),” he told Sky Sports a few years ago. If the ball doesn’t reverse in with that ‘outswing’ grip, Anderson then changes the seam. “If it’s not working and if its reversing for the other guy, then I change the seam position and hold it straighter.” He didn’t have to do this to knock out Sharma.

What does Michael Holding say about reverse?

A couple of years ago, former West Indies legendary fast bowler Michael Holding had told this newspaper his pet peeve about modern-day reverse swing bowling. “At first reverse swing was someone like Waqar Younis with his slightly low arm action getting the ball to be pushed with his action away from the right hander and then the bias of the shine on the older ball swinging it back in. That’s why he was so devastating.” So basically, push it away like an outswinger and then let the shiny side of the ball drag the ball back in late.

Holding added, “But these days, once the ball swings opposite to the conventional, that is merely swinging towards the shine, it’s called reverse. I suppose technically that’s correct but the most devastating exponent of reverse swing will always be those that can force it slightly in one direction with their action and then getting the bias on the ball to swing it in the opposite direction — and of course the later the better,” Holding had told this paper. He would have purred at this delivery from Anderson.

What’s Anderson’s set-up approach with the reverse?

He starts off by taking the ball out before using the inswinger as the surprise delivery. Just like how he did in Sharma. “Generally, I look to get it out and the big inswinger is the surprise ball; lbw or bowled.” Or both, as it was in Sharma’s case. Had he not been bowled, he might well have been given out lbw as it first hit him on the back leg. When he wants to reverse the ball away with the old ball, Anderson uses the grip that he generally uses for inswinger with the new ball. “If I am pushing the ball in at the stumps, then it’s creating an angle and it swings away. The batsmen think it’s coming (in) and that’s when you are getting the edge. Basically, I reverse my grip. So, I am holding it like an inswinger; it will be an inswinger with the new ball.”

Was the good length important as he didn’t go too full like some do?

Unlike some who go fuller, James Anderson hurled his reverse swinging curlers from a good length. Javagal Srinath, former India pacer, had once detailed the reasons why good length is ideal for some bowlers.

“Unless you are really natural with a full length, and can get it to reverse really late, it’s tough to be effective with that length. The batsmen can just take care that his front foot doesn’t come across and play the really full ones well,” he once told this newspaper.

“Good length allows that much time for the ball to almost cut in late. Like reverse seam than reverse swing, if you know what I mean. That extra time to travel the distance from landing to the stumps means the ball starts tailing in for that bit longer after pitching. The batsman now has to make precise adjustments after he has made his initial trigger movement. For someone who isn’t Akram or Waqar, this (good length) is a better way to do it,” Srinath said.

It’s a philosophy that Anderson also shares. “Fuller you go, the easier it is for the batsmen. I hold it back. You got to try not being pulled into bowling too full.”

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