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The McDermott ‘baseball’ slower ball technique that McGrath picked up later

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

Craig McDermott took the help of Dave Nilsson, the former Australian baseball catcher, to develop a slower delivery that Glenn McGrath picked up later.

McDermott developed a “split-finger ball” where he would hold the seam horizontally, and the ball would take a devilish dip, leaving the batsmen confused. He revealed that it was Nilsson who helped him learn the technique, which he first used during a World Series encounter against Sri Lanka at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1996.

“We both had the same managers, that is how I met David Nilsson,” he recalled while in conversation with Shane Watson on Lessons Learnt with the Greats podcast. “So, he was in Melbourne for some baseball stuff and … he said, ‘I’ll come to the nets and take a few balls off you from behind the stumps.’ I thought he was taking the piss because he stood behind the stumps with a catcher’s mitt, inside the net.

“So he was probably one metre behind the stumps and I was bowling from my long run-up and he was taking them as if I was bowling off-spin. He was a catcher for the Milwaukee Brewers so he knew what he was doing.

“Couple of days before the Australia-Sri Lanka one-day finals at Melbourne and he just said we should try this slower ball, which is a bit like the knuckleball, the pitch is thrown at the batter’s hip and it will drop at the last moment. So, I got my head around that over the next two days, he came to training for those couple days to see how things were going.

“And I picked up two wickets in no time flat in that one-day final, where I bowled full-tosses that should have gone into Bay 13 but they just wobbled and dropped and it was an absolute cracker.”

McDermott went on to reveal that his slower-ball technique was later picked up by McGrath, and a few other bowlers as well. “I bowled that continually from there on, and I think Glenn McGrath sort of took a liking to it as well. There have been other few other people who have bowled it since then.”

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