India v South Africa, 2nd Test, Kolkata, 2nd day February 15, 2010

Harris' leg-side line punished

N Hunter

Paul Harris was a completely different bowler today. In Nagpur his sole aim, especially in the second innings, was to clamp down on India's batsmen. He went about doing so by pitching consistently on leg stump or outside and turning the ball into the right-handers from the rough. The Indian batsmen played him conservatively from the crease. They played into Harris's hands and he succeeded in stemming the run flow. His attempt today had drastically different results.

On a harder pitch, which didn't take much turn from the rough, Harris tried to apply the same leg-side suffocation but was punished by Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar, as well as umpire Ian Gould.

Umpires have taken flak for not taking a firmer stand on the indiscretions of the players but Gould exercised his power and penalised Harris each time he bowled a straighter delivery behind the batsman's legs. Harris, however, refused to change his line and forced Gould into calling the ball wide on 12 occasions.

Corrie van Zyl, the South African coach, accepted Gould's decision but said his spinner suffered only because the ball was not turning. "You can see it as a negative line and the umpire did think so, too, and obviously those were called wides," he said.

About five years ago, the standard playing regulations for Test matches were amended in an effort to prevent negative leg-side bowling. Law 25.1 - Judging a Wide - states: "For bowlers whom umpires consider to be bowling down the leg side as a negative tactic, the strict limited-over wide interpretation shall be applied."

An ICC spokesperson admitted that in order to prevent bowlers from easily adopting leg-theory to stem the run-flow, the law needed to be updated. "Some bowlers like Shane Warne used leg-side bowling as an attacking option, while some have used it negatively to frustrate batsmen and stem scoring-rates. It's usually pretty obvious when it is attacking because there is a short-leg in place and the ball is turning, so it becomes difficult for batsmen to survive, let alone score runs."

Another factor that thwarted Harris' plan was the way Sehwag and Tendulkar dealt with him. They were happy to deflect him to the on side whenever there was no fielder at short leg. Otherwise they let the straighter ones go, confident the ball would not turn. Sehwag even slog-swept for a six over deep midwicket and then reverse swept when Harris tried to cram him.

van Zyl said Harris could have been more diligent in his approach. "Some of them did turn out of the rough and some of them didn't. But Harry [Harris] did a good job for the team, but it was a lot tougher than it was in Nagpur, where there was some assistance."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mark on February 16, 2010, 6:15 GMT

    I agree with Sinxad. Negative batting is hailed where negative bowling is scorned. The game favours batsman, and there is no doubt about it. To be penalised for negative bowling, there need to be consistency. Umpires should all penalise negative bowling in the same way- it does not work when one allows it and another does not. And Sangwan-being the number one does not mean you are the best. I am taking nothing away from India, but I honestly think that the difference between the 3 tops, SA, Idian and Australia are very close. To all those pointing out that Harris is a limited bolwer, nobody has ever said he was gifted, even the bowler himself acknowledges this. May bowlers, including Indians, bowl negative lines. So let's not attack Harris as though he has just invented it. I think negative batting is just as bad for cricket as negative bowling- perhaps we need to tweak the laws surrounding both.

  • S on February 16, 2010, 6:02 GMT

    Fine ban -ve bowling but by the same token please then adjudge LBW to balls hitting outside leg but going on to hit the stumps. Allow for more than one bouncer per over, give bowlers something to operate with....

    The more the bowlers get strangled then more they will resort to stuff like tampering to make something happen. If it has to be a even contest then lets treat it as such....

  • Dummy4 on February 16, 2010, 5:50 GMT

    Well Done umpire Ian Gould..!! Keep up the good work.

  • gnana on February 16, 2010, 5:43 GMT

    what ever umpire did was absolutely correct, we may accept negative line but what ever harris bowled is not at all acceptable at this level of game. The negative line means atleast the ball should come close to batsman bad. Thease kind of bowling will kill the intrest of watching test cricket.

  • Dummy4 on February 16, 2010, 5:41 GMT

    Mr Botha let the game decide who is greater. India is # No 1 right now and the game is not over till its over RIGHT? On India winning a series abroad go and check why they are in no 1 slot right NOW and u will know better. No one is rightful owner of no 1 position it has to be snatched. Dont brag about it like a typical ..... before u get there. We are the best as of now and gracefully accept that.

  • Dummy4 on February 16, 2010, 5:27 GMT

    Its nice to hear that.. But every thing cannot happen accordingly as Indians are also one of the best sides in world....Indians are more matured to give up a gud lead....inorder to win this match.. Predictions are gud to make but should be done in a positive way....Did INDIA have never won a series across the oceans!!!!!!!!!! Check the past records???Its a question to u Sami?

  • Karthikeyan on February 16, 2010, 4:15 GMT

    Negative line or not, youngsters like harris should learn tat the same technique won't work always...tat too against legendary masters like dravid, sachin, laxman, ganguly, ponting, etc. These guys have seen scores of bowlers with thousands of tactics and they know how to counter them.. Its better harris learns some new fair way of bowling rather than bowl 3 feet away from the stumps. Even in the first match we saw tat sachin thrashed him whenever he bowled to the off stump or middle stump... So harris better learns something new...

  • Sakib on February 16, 2010, 2:27 GMT

    Well, if bowling down the leg side is wrong, so is bowling wide outside the off. Recently Stuart Broad used it against the Aussies in the Headingly test in the Ashes to grab a six for and the Pakistanis also used the same tactics against the same opponent. The "aggressive" Indians used the same tactic against Tamim Iqbal when he was going bizarre in the Dhaka test.

  • Chris on February 15, 2010, 22:24 GMT

    Excellent to see the umpires given the power to penalise leg-side negative bowling. Well done (for once!) the powers that be for revising Law 25.1 - Judging a Wide. Why did Harris persist?

  • Andre on February 15, 2010, 22:15 GMT

    Hey, its not his fault that not even pitches in India turn anymore. Harbhajan has variations and used them to help pick up his wickets, he wasn't getting much help from the track either. I think for a player not as naturally gifted as many others, Paul Harris has done well to play a role in a very good test side, that is actually better than maybe some of their results show.

  • No featured comments at the moment.