What makes a cricket ball swing in the air?

The phenomenon of swing in cricket, where the cricket ball deviates laterally in its trajectory while in flight, is a result of aerodynamics and the interaction between the ball's surface and the surrounding air. Swing can be broadly classified into two types: conventional swing and reverse swing.

Conventional Swing: Conventional swing occurs when the ball swings in the direction of its polished side. The polished side is smoother and allows air to flow more easily, creating lower air pressure compared to the rough side. According to Bernoulli's principle, the side with lower air pressure experiences higher lift, causing the ball to move towards the rough side.

Reverse Swing: Reverse swing is a more complex phenomenon that occurs when the ball swings opposite to its conventional direction. It typically happens after the ball has become rough on one side due to wear and tear. The rough side disrupts the airflow, causing turbulent wake behind the ball. This turbulent air reduces the air pressure on the rough side, leading to the ball swinging towards the rough side.

Factors influencing swing include:

Bowling Speed: Swing is more pronounced at moderate speeds (around 70-85 mph) because the ball has more time to interact with the air.

What makes a cricket ball swing in the air?
Condition of the Ball: A new ball swings less due to its smoother surface. As the ball gets older and rougher, the potential for swing increases.

Environmental Conditions: Atmospheric conditions, such as humidity and air density, can affect how air flows around the ball, influencing swing.

Bowling Technique: The angle of seam position and seam orientation play a role. Seam orientation perpendicular to the ground can enhance swing.

Ball Polishing: Fielders often shine one side of the ball to make it smoother. However, excessive shining can disrupt airflow and negate swing.

Swing bowling is a skill mastered by skilled bowlers who understand the interplay between seam position, airflow, and ball condition. It remains one of the most intriguing and effective aspects of cricket, capable of outfoxing even the best batsmen.

Photo: Pixabay (free)

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