Steve Harmison’s Balls in The Times

Saturday, November 25, 2006 18:13 | Filed in Oddities, Sport

I bought a couple of newspapers on Friday morning to read about Newcastle’s stunning victory over Celta Vigo which means we’re guaranteed European football into the New Year — and unless Fenerbahçe manage to win both of their remaining games and we lose our final game we’ll also go through as group winners. And it’s all thanks to Steven Taylor or “Gump” as he’s now referred to after his Forrest Gump-like run of celebration after scoring the winner — incidentally his first goal for the club.

For some bizarre reason I decided to have a look at the cricket coverage in The Times. Normally, I wouldn’t see anything wrong with this but at the moment it doesn’t make for pleasant reading, because the Aussies are belting seven bells out of us.

Of course, in they did that in the first game of the last series too, as I recall, and we won that series in the end. Clutching at straws, anyone?

Now Steve Harmison isn’t having the best of times with his bowling at present, and no doubt in order to try and help relax him, settle him down and get him bowling with accuracy and real venom again, The Times decided to run a big piece lampooning one of his deliveries, which off target by 23 degrees. Not content with that, they then proceeded to run run vritually a whole page showing in depth graphical analysis.

The first image was perfectly reasonable, showing the direction of the delivery in relation to the batsman, the wicket-keeper and the other fielders. The second was a little more fantastical, showing the stadium as a whole and the direction it was heading in in comparison to that, and then there was this:

graphic showing that the cricket ball would have ended up in Portland, USA, if thrown across the entire Pacific Ocean

The caption above the image states:

The bowler’s aim was so askew that, had the ball continued on its way at a constant speed [82.6 mph] without interruption, it would not have troubled the stumps in Australia. The only stumps it would have hit were the giant redwoods of the American Pacific Northwest, because it was heading in the direction of Portland, Oregon, where it would have arrived a little more than 88 hours laterThe Times, Friday 24 November 2006

Well, maybe, but I’ve yet to hear of a cricketer being able to bowl a ball seven thousand miles. I’d suggest one capable of such a feat must be able to throw with such force as to be worth keeping in the team even if they are inaccurate at times. Also, I’m not sure where this completely straight line comes from — the ball has already deviated in flight when it bounced, so it wasn’t going straight or on a flat trajectory the whole time anyway. Nonetheless, let’s go with it and see where it takes us.

The ball travels absolutely straight as a die from when it bounces. Does it end up in the US?

No it doesn’t. The graphic used by The Times represented the Earth as a flat surface, when it is measurably curved. If the ball actually went in a straight line at a constant speed, the ground would gradually drop away from underneath it, and it would rise higher and higher in the atmosphere until…

Hmm. We’re moving away from planet Earth now, but we’ve encountered a problem. The escape velocity of the Earth is reckoned to be in the region of 11.2 kilometres per second, considerably speedier than the 82.6 miles per hour quoted as the speed of the cricket ball.

So, we have two choices: either the ball ends up in orbit around the earth, and The Times is wrong about it going in a straight line and it crashing into the redwoods, or we temporarily reduce the escape velocity of the Earth and the cricket ball travels on into space, in which case The Times is wrong about it crashing into the redwoods anyway.

Now I know I’m being fantastical here: but when The Times’ supposedly serious sports coverage has a graphic suggesting that Steve Harmison’s bowling was so far off the mark it could have ended up in the US, I think it’s fair to say that they started it.

I can’t wait to see The Sunday Times tomorrow — just think of all those graphics they will no doubt be printing representing all of the shots and headers off target in the Premiership — because I’ve seen plenty of them out by more than 23 degrees…

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1 Comment to Steve Harmison’s Balls in The Times

  1. says:

    August 31st, 2011 at 12:41 am

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