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Head Theory

Written By: - Date published: 7:25 am, September 4th, 2019 - 24 comments
Categories: sport - Tags:

The English team have reintroduced the infamous  bodyline approach to their cricket. The 20th century euphemism for it was “leg theory,” in the 21st century it is better described as “head theory.” “It isn’t cricket” used to be the Englishman’s definer for noble values. Not any more.

In the second test Australian batsman Steve Smith was felled by a bouncer and ruled out of the following test with concussion. He was easily the outstanding batsman in the first two tests, increasingly compared to Bradman. And it was to neutralise Bradman that the English tourists introduced bodyline in 1932, with fast bowler Harold Larwood instructed to bowl at the body to a close-in leg field of catchers. No helmets in those days either.

Smith will be back for the fourth test. Stuart Broad, England’s senior bowler, has promised him a ‘brutal” return, having to face the speed of England’s latest import, Jofra Archer. Cricket is still important here and it is as though the whole country is delighting in yet another aim to maim expression of their sportsmanship along with the “of course we don’t mean to hit them” hypocrisy.

24 comments on “Head Theory ”

  1. Hanswurst 1

    A bit of an overreaction, surely? There's been nothing terribly unusual about England's short-pitched bowling this series. There was a concussion sub in the second test between India and the West Indies, too, and Broad is just mouthing off in the standard way that fast bowlers do.

  2. aj 2

    The Australians would do exactly the same if the situation was reversed. Winning is everything.

    • Phil 2.1

      The Australians would do exactly the same

      Mitchell Johnson's entire career was based on his ability to bowl yorkers and bouncers and not much else.

  3. Ad 3

    This must be some obscure Brexit analogy, otherwise WTF?

    • Andre 3.1

      The words appear to be the same as the words used in English, but they don't appear to be put together in a sequence that has meaning. Was the OP poorly translated from Vogon, or something?

  4. Herodotus 4

    And NZ has a particular successful and skilled bowler who implements the same tactic.

    if I was as skilled as this new MCC bowler and there would be many others that would implement the same tactic, problem there is currently less than a handful who have the pace and skills.

  5. The English attack is nothing compared to the classic windies of old, or the Aussies own pacers. Stokes got smacked on the helmet in his mega innings too. It happens.

  6. bwaghorn 6

    Smith should have been wearing a helmet with the neck guard. Just being a staunch dummy.not to.

  7. Adrian 7

    Archer is 150 km/hr fast but not as fast as those before him or even those to come. Within a short time he will be studied and countered. We have had quite a few 150+ bowlers and several 160k ones as well so he is not as unique as the English would like to believe.

    • mauī 7.1

      Could well be his combination of long arms, pace, a very straight point of delivery and propensity to hit the seam that surprises batsmen.

      • Hanswurst 7.1.1

        That, and the pressure built up since, with his short run-up and action, he can sustain high pace over long periods.

  8. Gabby 8

    The ockies would never stoop to low behaviour in cricket mikey, thank goodness.

  9. Exkiwiforces 9

    I was always told when batting never take your eyes of ball weather is short, at a length or over pitched regardless of the bowler speed or type of action. I have no sympathy for any batsman who takes their eye of the ball and gets stuck in the head/ body. As a batsman I’ve had a couple of close calls, because I didn’t get into position quickly a enough or most read the pace of the pitch, but I never made the same mistake twice and made the bowler pay for a short shit deliveries which was either the cut, pull or hook shots with a bit of sledging just to piss bowler off even more.

    I never wore a helmet while batting and never will, unless I’m fielding at silly point, silly leg or silly mid on or mid off.

    Archer has most efficient bowling action I’ve seen since the great Michael Holding and both are from the West Indies.

    Most fast bowlers like to gob off at the best of times on or off the field and there has been some great contests of the years/ decades between batsmen and bowler.

    One last thing and this coming from my dad, a very one eyed Australian who has been living in NZ since December 74 and also a former fast pace bowler at rep level in country NSW and in Christchurch (if he had joined a CCA club in the 70’s not a SCA club he and another Aussie from the same club/ team would’ve made the Canterbury first XI or if we had stayed in Nelson he would’ve been selected for CD first XI the following season. “It’s about bloody time the Aussie cricketers got a taste of their own medicine after dishing it out to everyone else over the last couple of years/ decades” and dad is enjoying seeing Archer bowl during this Ashes.

  10. Marcus Morris 10

    Who is Mike Smith – not a former captain of England I'll be bound. Whoever he is he must have forgotten all about Mitchell Johnston (aided and abetted by appalling Aussie sledging and Gabba crowd abuse) who terrified Jonathan Trott to the point that he returned to England mid tour and has not played test cricket since. I wonder if any one else has seen a brilliant cricket documentary where Clive Lloyd describes the humiliation (mainly racially based) the WI received from the Aussies in the early seventies and out of which he rebuilt the WI team with devastating effect. A team base around the best quartet of hostile fast bowlers the cricket world has ever seen and some great batsmen, including Lloyd himself. It would be great to see a resurgence in WI cricket. They have produced some of the most exciting players in the games history.

    [lprent: Amongst many other things in a long active life ]

    • Herodotus 10.1

      The documentary you refer to is Fire of Babylon and is deeper than just cricket as it delves into the West Indies gaining an identity ( at the same time as the music of the area was gaining traction) of its own and how that dove tailed into the success of the cricket team. For those unaware of WI cricket it is a composite team are selected from a chain of fifteen Caribbean territories, which are parts of several different countries and dependencies.

      It may mean nothing but have watched this many times and have taken something new out of it each time.


      • Marcus Morris 10.1.1

        Thanks for that Herodotus. I watched it several years ago as part of an inflight programme and found it absorbing viewing as well as deeply moving. I have been a cricket lover all my life and happened to be living in England (although a kiwi) in 1950 when the three "W"s were in their prime and Valentine and Rhamadin mesmerised the English batsmen. Also was at Eden Park when we won our first Test against a team that contained Weekes and an eighteen year old named Garfield Sobers.

        • Herodotus

          You have seen some greats, just missed out by 2 years of seeing Sir Don bat angel

          IMO with 20/20 and the need for batsman to take on the short ball they are placing themselves in a position of being hit,

          Many years ago we were taught (no helmets) to play the bouncer differently; watching ducking or swaying. But in todays world I can understand how with bowling machines and dog throwers it has become so much more instinctive. Would be interested how many time s these guys have been hit in practice ?

          Note for NZ subscribers Death of a Gentleman is not available 🙁

  11. Monty 11

    There is another great Cricket documentary called death of a gentleman which is on netflix.

  12. logie97 12

    When Packer launched his World Series Cricket in 1977, it was centred around two teams Australia and The West Indies. Lilley and Thompson were in their prime as well as Roberts, Holding and Co. Two magnificent teams. Part of the billing were statements like "These men are dangerous …" Helmets were being introduced but nowhere near as comprehensive as today's. I understand that the great Sir Vivian Richards preferred not to wear one.

  13. Descendant Of Smith 13

    Not sure which is more humorous – suggesting that England have reintroduced short pitched bowling or whether it's trying to turn cricket into the new whipping boy on this site a la rugby.

    Ironic ain't it.


    "Steve Smith has dismissed a plea for umpires to protect England's tailenders from an ongoing bouncer barrage, saying Australia's Ashes rivals would do exactly the same – if they had faster bowlers."

    "Australia have made no secret of their plan to pepper the tourists' tail with short stuff throughout this summer.

    The ploy has been successful. The hosts hold an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-test series, with England's tailenders having looking uncomfortable while hardly troubling the scorers.

    "It's a bit over the top," Smith said, when asked about Atherton's column.

    "No doubt, if they had the kind of pace that our bowlers can generate, they'd probably do the same thing.

    "We were (always) going to bowl a lot of short stuff to those guys, much like we did back in 2013."

  14. Descendant Of Smith 14

    "But Cummins, the fastest of Australia's Test pace attack that is also expected to include Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, has revealed he subscribes to the Johnson theory that any rival with bat in hand is fair game for a bouncer barrage."


    Like many people the only time I ever support England is in the ashes.

    I remember too the days of the West Indies bowling six bouncers an over. This resulted in rules that limited the number of bouncers per over and also gave he ability for umpires to stop purely intimidatory short bowling where there is a clear mis-match between bowler and batsman.

    Batsman are much more protected now by rules and by gear and by actually by better skill. Cricket and test cricket in particular without bouncers would be cricket without hook shots, a game where the batsman could move forward without fear or risk – basically it would ruin the game. Enough rules have already skewed the game towards the batsmen 20/20 being the most horrible example of this.

    These rules while making the game safer have the unintended consequence of making players more confident to have a go at the short ball – at times when they should not. Getting out of the way is still the best method of negating its effect.

  15. newsense 15


  16. Obtrectator 16

    Fred Trueman took the view that no competent pace bowler should need to resort to bouncers to dismiss the "nine-ten-jack".

  17. george.com 17

    bowling some short pitched stuff to batsmen, or a co-ordinated and detailed plan of short pitched bouncers with a carefully set leg side field which forces the batsman to play the ball and very possibly get an edge or avoid playing the ball and risk being hit.

    The first is nothing new, Heine and Adcock from South Africa, Griffiths and Hall West Indies in the 196os, John Snow against the Aussies in the early 1970s, Holding-Roberts-Garner-Croft-Marshall-Ambrose-Walsh-Patterson-Bishop etc 1970s/80s, Lilley, Thompson, Hogg, Pascoe, Lawson from Aussie 1970/80s. Cricket history is peppered with fast bowlers who bowled short and fast on regular occasions

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