The renowned Lord’s slope is a part of the natural terrain at St John’s Wood in London. Over the years, it has tested the skills of batsmen and bowlers alike, and demanded adjustments to be successful.
How steep is the slope?
It’s eight feet from the top to the bottom, running downhill from the left of the Lord’s balcony and diagonally across the pitch to the left of the media box at the Nursery End.
What are the challenges for the bowlers?
The slope helps the seamers. Even when the pitch is flat, they can get some movement bowling up the hill or against the slope. For bowlers with natural inswing, or rather those who can make the ball jag back off the surface, the ball follows the natural path and goes across the right-handers. This is a reason why bowlers who mainly rely on outswing, prefer a channel a little wide of the off-stump while operating from the Pavilion End, for it tends to help the ball hold its line or come back slightly.
During an interview eight years ago, Australian great Glenn McGrath gave a masterclass on how to bowl at Lord’s. “This ground is tailor-made for my style of bowling. It’s got the slope going left to right and I bowled from the Pavilion End, and I think that I can hit the wicket just outside the off- stump. Some hold the line going up the slope and others hit the wicket and come back down the slope. Batsmen didn’t really know which one it’s going to be as long as I got the length right. The line and the length were the key here,” McGrath told Lord’s in-house media.
What are the challenges for the batsmen?
Dilip Vengsarkar, who has three Test centuries at the venue, spoke about how the slope could confuse batsmen, although he refused to read too much into the factor. “It’s not that the ball would come into the right-hander with the slope and would move away up the hill. You can’t play there with a preconceived notion. You have to play every ball on merit. In England, the ball swings also. So, the important thing is to not think about the slope much and score runs. Playing late is the key. I never felt like the slope was impacting my batting,” the former India captain told The Indian Express. Vengsarkar feels that it’s more in the mind and doesn’t make a big difference.
How the slope can bamboozle even the very best?
In the 1983 World Cup final against India, West Indies opener Gordon Greenidge shouldered arms to a Balwinder Singh Sandhu inswinger. It came back viciously with the slope to hit the stumps. That was where India’s victory march began.
“If you are batting at the Pavilion End, generally the ball would be going down the slope. If the bowler is good enough to nip it back to you, that makes it even harder to play,” former England batsman James Taylor analysed batting at Lord’s in an England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) video. According to him, it’s very important for a batsman to have the right balance, with the front foot and head going down straight and not across.
At the Nursery End, the inward movement is bigger, which Taylor described as the “danger ball”. Staying beside the line rather than behind it diminishes the threat of LBW.
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