“Despite numerous attempts to get rid of the slope over the years, the Marylebone Cricket Club has remained stern in their verdict of the slope being present and so the slope has stayed; intimidating batsmen and helping the bowlers all along”
Even the most nonchalant players feel it. Walking through the Long Room out onto the hallowed turf that was once graced by the legends who have been an inspiration, it is difficult to hide that whiff of fear and the tinge of nostalgia as the goosebumps-inducing moment has finally arrived. The Old Father Time overlooks the newly constructed media centre and as a cricketer walks out to face yet another encounter amid cheering crowds, he knows it is not just the history or the knowledgeable supporters that will need overhauling.
Once a duck pond on a hill in St. John’s Wood, the Lord’s stadium is witness to a massive 8-foot slope from the top to the bottom that has stood the test of time ever since George Finch, the ninth Earl of Winchilsea requested for a private ground where cricket could be played. Despite numerous attempts to get rid of the slope over the years, the Marylebone Cricket Club has remained stern in their verdict of the slope being present and so the slope has stayed; intimidating batsmen and helping the bowlers all along.
Due to the angle, seam bowlers from the Pavilion End and swing bowlers from the Nursery End gain a greater advantage with the slope affecting the bounce of the ball. With the slope being more towards the right of the pavilion, the ball will come back in generally from the Pavilion End. Hence, an outswing bowler will need to focus on bowling around the off-stump, preferably sticking to the fifth stump line. If the fourth stump is attacked, due to the slope, the cherry will not angle away from the batsman that much. However, if the fifth line is attacked, even the straighter balls swing away and batsmen have a tough time adjusting.
Bowlers need to alter their action just a wee bit too, as they will need to hold their action till the very end, keeping the arm or the head intact to ensure that the ball hits the right areas. If the shoulder drops too early or if the wrist gives way, the ball will most probably be wayward due to the slope. However, if the shoulder or the head can be held till the very last moment, the chances of batsmen out shouldering the ball will be higher, as they trust the line of the ball and often ignore the slope.
Hence, if a bowler gets swing up to one stump on other days, at Lord’s the ball will move away one-and-a-half stumps. From the Nursery End or the Media Centre End, the straight ball will deviate and the trick is adjusting and adapting, especially if you are a visiting batsman.
Around 10-15 balls are needed to adjust but as it has so happened, with a fiery James Anderson bowling with a full vengeance from one end, batsmen rarely survive even that many deliveries. On face value, the slope hardly will create an impression but once the first ball has been faced, the difference will be noticed. The ball that would have ideally pitched on the middle-stump will reach the pads if it is against the slope and the ball will go away from the right-hander and the batsman will try to play outside the line. A straight delivery will shape away after pitching from the Pavilion End while the ball will swing in from the Media Centre End.
As Stuart Broad swung a delivery 3.8 degrees into Cheteshwar Pujara in the Lord’s game, more than the average swing of 1.25 degrees in the Test match, one could get a sense of how tough the conditions could actually get. Especially against a menacing pacer at the other end, the task remains cut-out, but once it has been negated, the feeling of making a presence in the coveted Honors Board is unparalleled.