The Art & Myth of Sledging

Sunday, August 07, 2005 | 7:37 pm

In my continuing attempt to bring cricket to the 'ex-colony', and in order to forget Australia's nail-biting 2-run loss to England in the second Ashes test today, let's talk about some of the less sportsmanlike aspects of the game.

"Sledging" is a collaquial term for the practise of surreptitiously directing on-field comments at your opponent in order to undermine their confidence. Although applicable to any sport (e.g. a catcher to a batter in baseball, if Bull Durham is anything to go by), cricket is a game that suits itself especially well to this practise. Besides having hours and even days in the field to throw all manner of comments at your opponents, the unique formation of the fielders in cricket means there can be anywhere from 1 to 10 opposition players within talking distance of the batsman. The advent of on-field microphones behind the stumps(1) reduced the obviousness of sledging in televised matches, but their is still plenty of opportunity out of mike range, such as at the end of an over(2).

The Australian cricket team are acknowledged connoisseurs of the sledge. It is a dubious honour, but as the world #1 in both the Test (long) and one-day (short) form of the game, if you are going to act like cocky buggers, it's best that you be able to back it up.

[Waugh]The greatest ever sledge, as voted by Australians, is reported to have come from Australian captain Steve Waugh, a quietly spoken and statesmanlike cricketer with a deep love for the history of the game, but renowned as a ferocious competitor on the field. The venue was the hallowed (for Man U supporters like me) ground of Old Trafford, and the occasion was nothing less than the 1999 World Cup. It was the final group game for Australia versus South Africa, and the Aussies were in danger of the earliest of tournament exits.

Chasing 272 runs to win, the green & gold had started poorly. At 3 wickets(3) down for only 43 runs (the team total), Steve Waugh strode to the crease and began to claw the Aussies back into it. He had scored 56 (individual total) when a misjudged drive presented a regulation catch to Herschelle Gibbs. The joyous South African pockted the catch but threw the ball away too early. The umpire adjudged that he did not exhibit control of the ball for long enough, and it was not out. Legend says that Steve Waugh later passed Gibbs, and purportedly asked him "How does it feel to drop the World Cup, Herschelle?"

Just verbal head-games? Sure, but prophetic words nonetheless. Follow the dominoes in this trail: Waugh went on to make 120 not out and guide Australia to victory in that game. Both Australia and South Africa qualifed for the next stage of the tournament, but Australia finished first due to net run-rate. They met up again in the semi-final a few weeks later, in what is arguably the greatest one-day match ever. With the scores level, South Africa's last wicket fell to a run out(4) as they failed to complete the winning run (see the picture below), and the game miraculously finished in a tie.The tie breaker? Rankings at the end of the group stage.

South Africa were out of the tournament, and Australia took their momentum into the final against Pakistan who failed to bring their A-game, and were summarily demolished.

Many say this sledge is mere folklore, because who would really know other than the players out there. Even various books written by cricketers state that something else was said that day, but regardless, what a great blog story.

[Aus v SA Tied Match 1999]

Glossary:
(1) Stumps (also called "the wickets"): The three pieces of wood behind the batsman that the bowler is aiming at. The 'strike zone' if you like. If they are dislodged during a delivery, the batsmen is considered "out". It doesn't matter how they get dislodged either: for example, the ball can ricochet off the bat into them, or even hit the batsmen causing him to fall on them, and he is still out.
(2) Over: 6 consecutive deliveries by the same bowler. No bowler can bowl more than 1 over in a row, and so, at the end of an over, the next bowler attacks from the other end of the 'pitch'. The umpire tracks deliveries (or balls bowled), and tells everyone when the end of the over has arrived, such that the play can 'change ends' as it were.
(3) Wicket: In this context, a wicket refers to a batsmen that is out. Each teams get 10 outs per innings. A one-day match consists of each team trying to accrue as many runs as possible within only one innings or 50 overs, whichever comes first.
(4) Run Out: When a batsmen, in attempting a run, fails to make his ground before the ball is thrown back to the stumps (the ball, or a hand holding the ball, must touch the stumps). This is crickets version of being beaten by the throw heading to home plate (except, you have to touch the ball to the plate).

16 Comments:

At 8/8/05 1:01 am, Blogger Tom said...

So here is what I don't get (from your notes).

In a 1 day, if they only get 50 overs, why would I ever give them anything good to hit?

By the way, fox sports report only shows the catches, 4s and 6s, as far as I can tell...much like only showing web gems (good outs) and home runs when reporting baseball.

 
At 8/8/05 10:28 am, Blogger Aussie-Askew said...

A "wide" (our version of 'a ball') does not count as a ball bowled (i.e. the bowler must bowl it again), and adds 1 (or 2, depending on format) to the opposing teams total.

Thus, sooner or later, you are going to have to bowl something within striking distance...

Indeed, highlights are pretty short here, and only get any play at all if England is playing.i miss the hour highlight of the days polay we used to get each night at home...

(spookily... you are getting it!!)

 
At 8/8/05 11:07 am, Blogger Tom said...

Wides add to the score total? Or the total balls that still need to be bowled?

 
At 8/8/05 1:08 pm, Anonymous Trundling Grunt said...

Yes to both. A wide gives extra runs to the batting side (can be 4 IIRC under the right circumstances), but also doesn't count as a 'bowled ball' - so the bowler still has to complete the over as if that ball hadn't existed.

 
At 8/8/05 10:06 pm, Blogger Dave(id) said...

I understand less than before.

 
At 8/8/05 11:46 pm, Blogger Aussie-Askew said...

That's the NutraSweet Dave.

 
At 9/8/05 8:55 pm, Anonymous Trundling Grunt said...

So, possibly two bowlers down (any word on Lee?). Fancy your chances at Old Trafford???

 
At 10/8/05 4:34 pm, Blogger Aussie-Askew said...

No reason for panic, its the batsmen that need a boot, not the bowlers -- but definitely wary concern was called for!

As it is, Lee has been declared fit, and McGrath took part in today's warm-up training - a long shot, but as a Man U fan, I am hoping for an Old Trafford miracle. ;)

But predictions are it will be a spinner's track. Of course, why the curators would do such a thing to your quartet of quicks is a mystery?

 
At 10/8/05 8:38 pm, Anonymous Trundling Grunt said...

Lee has made a startling recovery but I don't know about McGrath - guess I'm not hoping for that miracle.

The pitch reports I have read say it's a flat rolled pitch and should retain a hard top - more a paceman's wicket I'd have thought.

England could do well here, especially if they win the toss. However I have learnt not to underestimate their ability to self-destruct.

Let battle commence, eh?????

 
At 11/8/05 1:18 pm, Blogger thisismarcus said...

FYI, Old Trafford for cricket is a different ground than for football though they're both in the Trafford area of Manchester, obviously.

David, try this for size: http://www.dangermouse.net/cricket/out.html.

"The batsman's Holding... the bowler's Willey..." Should be a good game!

 
At 11/8/05 2:46 pm, Blogger Aussie-Askew said...

Winning the toss was key. Good day for the bat, Lee proving to be fiery though. Probably another good sign for your bowlers as it cracks up.

 
At 12/8/05 3:53 pm, Anonymous Trundling Grunt said...

After day 1 I think 444 was a bit disappointing but they certainly seem to have you chaps on the back foot at close of play. Now we need to prevent another Edgbaston last wicket stand....

 
At 13/8/05 12:27 am, Blogger Aussie-Askew said...

All we hope for our last wicket is to avoid the follow-on. And I doubt that'll be enough to save this one. The odds of a fourth-innings win are small, even smaller at Old Trafford.

 
At 13/8/05 9:05 pm, Anonymous Trundling Grunt said...

Ah but the rain may save you - that and the English wicket keeping. No follow on this time though.

 
At 15/8/05 9:25 pm, Anonymous Trundling Grunt said...

1 fricking wicket. Man that was tight.

 
At 19/8/05 1:41 pm, Blogger Aussie-Askew said...

Heart stopping gut, wrenching cricket. Cricinfo's 90 sec refresh was like an eternity. Whew! By is it going to be all out for test #4 though. Australia wanting to secure the Ashes, England feeling like they deserve a win on form.

What a series....

 

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