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‘Play for the in-swingers’ – The secret to playing Wasim Akram’s reverse swing

by Wisden Staff 2-minute read

Pakistan great Wasim Akram revealed Martin Crowe was one batsman who played his reverse swing without breaking a sweat, while also pointing out the secret behind the former New Zealand batsman’s success against him.

Recalling New Zealand’s tour of Pakistan in 1990, Wasim, while commentating on Sky Sports, said the Pakistan pacers would start getting reverse swing “after five-six overs”, tormenting the Kiwi batsmen, which also reflected in the results as the hosts sealed a 3-0 series whitewash.

Waqar Younis was the series’ highest wicket-taker with 29 victims in three Tests at 10.86 and Wasim finished with 10 wickets in two Tests at 16.20, missing the last match due to an injury. Crowe, however, held his own against two of Pakistan’s greatest bowlers, finishing as his side’s highest run-getter with 244 runs in three matches at 61, almost double the next best Black Cap, including a century.

After the series, the then 24-year-old Wasim quizzed Crowe about his secret behind playing reverse swing effectively. He explained that playing for the in-swingers helped him see off the deliveries that swung away and avoid possible edges.

“I think the ball used to get reverse after five-six overs, don’t ask me why,” Wasim said. “It was against New Zealand and Waqar got 30 [29] wickets in three Test matches and I got 16 [10] in two and got injured. Martin Crowe got two hundreds [one hundred] and I asked him after the series, ‘What’s your secret?’ He said, ‘I just try to play you on the front foot and I play for the in-swingers every time and the out-swingers automatically miss the edge.’”

Wasim, along with Waqar, was one of the best exponents of reverse swing and his coach during his time at Lancashire, David Lloyd, had revealed how the former Pakistan pacer honed his reverse-swing bowling skill during his time with the county.

“Wasim Akram used to look in the ball bag and just come out with the worst ball he could find, a real scruffy ball so he could practise reverse swing,” Lloyd said during a Sky Sports Cricket Watchalong in June this year. “All the rest of the lads would say, ‘Look at these, we can’t bowl with these – we want some new balls,’ and Akram would look at the bag and bring one out and would just work on that skill of reverse swing.”

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