No delivery, arguably, has been as dreaded in the history of the game as the late swinging yorker who crushes his toes, and no one, arguably, has played this delivery better than Waqar Younis.
There have been faster bowlers, there have been more aggressive bowlers, there have been bowlers with better control. But give Younis a reverse ball and the terror has reached unmatched proportions.
The sight of Younis charging up, his cheeks swaying up and down with each step left little doubt about his intentions. He wanted the drummer to go away and he was going to attack the stumps. And rightly so, no less than 212 of those 373 career test wickets have come either bowling or leg before the wicket.
Of course, he owes a lot to the discovery of the reverse swing by Pakistans Sarfraz Khan.
Sarfraz discovered reverse swing while bowling with all condition balls, new, semi-new and old, wrote Peter Oborne in his 2014 book Wounded Tiger.
He started on mat wickets, where he could cut the ball. One day I shined one side of a very old balloon and it tipped over. It was rough on both sides, but I glowed on one side and it switched to shine. He shouldn’t have done that. In this Eureka moment, the reverse swing was born.
Imran Khan perfected the art before passing the skill on to Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. The duo, in turn, became two of the first greats to master this skill.
A team of scientists from Imperial College London decided in 1982 in an article titled An Experimental Study of the Cricket Ball Swing that the optimum swing was achieved at around 60 mph with the seam 20 degrees from the flight line.
And it all seemed perfectly logical until the English summer of 1992, when Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis managed to achieve a late swing at 80 mph despite ignoring three basic principles that had been mentioned in the study. from 1982.
In the 1992 series against England, Akram and Younis played 334.5 overs for 1,019 runs and knocked out 43 of 71 wickets. They took a wicket every 46.72 bullets. These are startling numbers that may have been highlighted by the Miandads’ refusal to take the second new ball.
England often hit 100 relatively easily but succumbed once the ball started to reverse. Akram could apparently do anything with a new ball and an old ball, but it was Younis who seemed to get the most out of the reverse swing with his rhythm and precision. His frank action allowed him to get closer to the stumps and always give a certain shape to the ball.
Jack Bannister wrote for Wisden Almanack in a feature film titled Pakistani Bowling – Right or Wrong ?:
Particularly in the case of Waqar, the ball is not held loosely by the first two fingers and a thumb, but often firmly squeezed in the palm of the hand, in the fashion of baseball pitchers. The loose grip has always been designed to give the bowler the best chance of keeping the ball in his own vertical axis. Richard Hadlee, with a classic right hand action, could hit the seam more often and had the chance to swing the ball, while Greg Thomas, for example, who had a tight grip, often found the ball spinning in the air sideways, which reduced the chance of getting the movement he wanted.
Simply put, the ball came out differently with Waqar Younis.
Waqar Younis Masterclass
Former Australian goalkeeper Ian Healy described what Younis did to the Sydney Morning Herald:
Waqar Younis had the big inswinger that you really had to keep your pad and your strains. And then not necessarily a swinger outside a right hander but one that he used to hang out widely and you really had to decide as late as you could, is this the one that could hit me or is this something that I can you play a shot? That split second is what can get you out, and Waqar has done it pretty regularly.
Injuries entered the scene and robbed Younis of his pace after 1995, but his career still produced some pretty surprising numbers.
Waqar Younis – career numbers Mat Wkts BBI BBM Ave Econ SR 4w 5w 10 tests 87373 7/76 13/135 23.56 3.25 43.4 28 22 5 ODI 262416 7/36 7/36 23.84 4.68 30.5 14 13 0 Statistics courtesy: ESPNCricinfo
But to really appreciate how deadly a Younis Yorker was, just look at them. Over and over again he got it right and sent either the drummers or the stumps out for a walk.
Here’s a (fairly detailed) look at Yorker Waqar Younis:
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