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The Heavy Ball

The key to momentum

How one well-padded Englishman has proved a huge positive for his team - in more ways than one

Alex Bowden
Luke Wright thumps through the off side, England v Netherlands, ICC World Twenty20, Lord's, June 5, 2009

What am I? Wright, right, write, rite?  •  Getty Images

England are always keen to take the positives from any match, and their ability to take "momentum" seems to be entirely unaffected by trivialities such as whether they actually win or not. This is more apparent than ever following their first two matches in the World Twenty20. You might think that they'd have taken the biggest positives and gained most momentum from the crucial victory over Pakistan last night, but you'd be wrong. In reality, the biggest positive came during the loss to Netherlands, when they also found a huge source of momentum that could potentially sustain them for years.
The huge positive that England took from that match was that Owais Shah and Luke Wright broke the world record for Most Nervous Energy Expended in a Single Over during the short period they were at the crease together. Wright jerks his head around so violently between balls he's like a particularly nervous chicken who's been hitting the espressos all morning. Owais Shah inflicts a vice-like grip on the handle of his bat and then beats it into the pitch with such force he must knock the turf unconscious. It doesn't seem too far-fetched to say that Shah owes his relatively lofty first-class batting average to playing the bulk of his cricket on dead pitches that he himself has murdered. Between the pair of them, they expended 16,000 tics (the unit of measurement for nervous energy) during Peter Borren's second over. In cricketing terms, this achievement was largely worthless, but breaking world records can't help but be a morale booster. England will feel they can build on this.
For momentum, England need look no further than Robert Key's majestic - nay, balletic - diving stop at the boundary edge, which saved a run midway through Netherlands' chase. He had given willing chase down to deep point and at the last moment launched himself into a spectacular, skittering belly slide, scooping the ball back to Broad as he roared past it. Whether Key actually prevented the ball crossing the boundary, or merely ploughed the boundary away from the ball is a moot point. What's more pertinent is that he undeniably had momentum. Plenty of it.
Physicists among you will know that momentum is the product of mass and velocity. When Rob propelled himself along the Lord's outfield, those two ingredients were present in abundance. If England can recreate that moment and harness the momentum, they'll win every match for at least the next 10 years.

Alex Bowden blogs at King Cricket