Cricket swing theory does not hold water: study

May 30, 2012
Photo illustration. The widely-held belief that moisture in the air during humid conditions helps make a cricket ball swing has been clean bowled in a scientific study.

The widely-held belief that moisture in the air during humid conditions helps make a cricket ball swing has been clean bowled in a scientific study.

Swing bowling -- when a delivery curves sideways in mid-air -- has long been regarded as one of the game's dark arts, not only deceiving hapless batsmen but also puzzling cricket-loving scientists.

Researchers from Britain's Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Auckland in New Zealand reviewed scientific literature on the subject and conducted their own tests to try to get to the bottom of the mystery.

From the earliest studies of the phenomenon in the 1950s to the "seminal review of sports ball dynamics" by NASA scientist Rabindra Mehta in 1985, they found was consistently cited as a crucial factor in achieving swing.

The researchers tested the theory using 3D laser scanners in an atmospheric chamber to measure the effect different humidity levels had on deliveries using balls which had been "aged" to simulate match conditions.

While altitude and the age of the ball both increased swing, the scientists did not discover any link between moisture levels in the air and sideways movement of the ball.

Photo illustration. While altitude and the age of the ball both increased swing during bowling, the scientists did not discover any link between moisture levels in the air and sideways movement of the cricket ball.

"This study shows that there is no direct or indirect manner in which humidity can significantly affect the ability of the bowler to make the ball swing," they concluded in research published in the online journal Procedia Engineering this week.

"It is therefore logical to conclude that humidity may not have the significant influence on swing bowling that is widely assumed."

Instead, the researchers put forward their own theory that cloud cover provided the ideal environment for swing bowling because it reduced in the air caused by heating from sunlight.

They said such still conditions meant the air surrounding the during the delivery was less likely to be disturbed, making it easier to produce the "asymmetrical" flight needed for swing bowling.

"What is clear is that the scientific community should turn their attention away from the question of humidity and focus their efforts to test the cloud cover hypothesis," they said.

Explore further: A new generation of storage—ring

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The Physics of a golf swing

Nov 06, 2007

Ever wondered about the science behind your golf swing? Or what the perfect swing 'sounds' like? Last week an expert in the physics of golf has visited the home of golf to talk about technology aimed at developing 'the perfect ...

Rosetta right on track for Earth swing-by

Nov 13, 2007

Preparations for Rosetta’s Earth swing-by scheduled for tonight, 21:57 CET, are well underway. The manoeuvre executed on 18 October 2007 has been accurate enough to not require any additional trajectory ...

Ray Charles really did have that swing

Dec 04, 2006

Ray Charles was really good at snapping, said musical acoustician Kenneth Lindsay of Southern Oregon University in Ashland. Charles's snaps that open "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" are timed so well ...

Cricket ball quality hit for six

Nov 26, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- A study by a University of Adelaide sports engineer shows that not all cricket balls are consistently manufactured, causing quality issues and potentially having major implications for cricket ...

Recommended for you

A new generation of storage—ring

12 hours ago

A bright synchrotron source that emits over a wide part of the electromagnetic spectrum from the infrared to hard X-rays is currently being built in Lund, Sweden. The MAX IV facility presents a range of technical ...

Universe may face a darker future

16 hours ago

New research offers a novel insight into the nature of dark matter and dark energy and what the future of our Universe might be.

High-intensity sound waves may aid regenerative medicine

Oct 30, 2014

Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a way to use sound to create cellular scaffolding for tissue engineering, a unique approach that could help overcome one of regenerative medicine's ...

Formula could shed light on global climate change

Oct 30, 2014

Wright State University researchers have discovered a formula that accurately predicts the rate at which soil develops from the surface to the underlying rock, a breakthrough that could answer questions about ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

desai_nirav_12
not rated yet May 30, 2012
The cricket ball swings after extensive use in a match when one side of the ball loses its shine and other does not. This creates a difference in air speeds on two sides of the ball causing it to swing. It does not involve tampering with the seam of the ball as that is illegal. The ball is held by the 2 index fingers over the seam and as the ball glides through the air the difference in air pressures ( due to differential roughness and air friction ) causes the ball to swing.
gwrede
not rated yet May 30, 2012
Some tennis courts and TV-stations have equipment that track the 3D trajectory of a tennis ball. To exactly know the rotation of the ball, we need felt tip markings on the ball and a high-speed camera next to the thrower.

All we then need, is an expert thrower and a few tries in different kinds of weather. Or, to get really scientific, we could construct a mechanical arm (a la Mythbusters) with precise and repeatable throws, with and without screw.

Personally I think, if humidity made any difference, then soccer players would always have known about it.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.