Fast bowlers on the clock as ECB trials radar guns to satisfy England's need for speed
Jamie Overton tops 90mph/145kph at The Oval, according to new speed-gun data
The leading fast bowlers on the county circuit are having their speeds tracked in the early stages of the Championship season as the ECB's scouting and talent identification department look to improve the quality of data available before players are selected for England.
While bowling coaches can use handheld guns that measure bowling speeds from a short distance away in training, it has historically been unusual for them to be recorded in county cricket outside of televised games.
But this summer, the ECB are using three 'radar' speed guns - similar to those used in baseball - to track the speeds of England-qualified fast bowlers around the country.
Last week, they were in use at The Oval - where Jamie Overton was clocked at a top speed above 90mph/145kph - as well as Wantage Road and Edgbaston. The ECB believes that there is a difference of around 3mph between bowlers' speeds as measured by the radar guns and those used in televised games, meaning Overton's true top speed may have been even higher.
As well as fast bowlers' average and top speeds, ECB scouts will take interest in the drop-off in pace during and between spells, which will help illustrate a player's ability to sustain their top speeds across a four-day game.
The data will also enable batters' ability against high-pace bowlers to be evaluated more accurately, rather than relying on first-hand scouting reports or speeds from televised white-ball games.
In the longer term, the ECB is working on a project to introduce ball-tracking technology in all county cricket, which it believes will be a major breakthrough for scouting and talent identification.
That would involve umpires wearing small, GoPro-style cameras on their coats or hats, with trials held in 'best vs best' age-group fixtures at the high-performance centre at Loughborough last year.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98