England can master Perth’s capricious Doctor

Climatoglogists amongst you will know that when the sun warms the ground, hot air rises and is replaced by cool air from the sea. Hence a sea breeze at a beach resort.

There is an extreme version of this in Perth. The land heats up quickly in the morning, and the cool air from the vast ocean rushes in. It is called the Fremantle Doctor because it brings blessed relief to the city, but it has a major influence on the play at the Waca.

So much so, in fact, that it can affect the make-up of a team. Spinners, for instance, have always struggled in Perth, not only because of the verdant pitch, but because of the disruptive influence of the wind. Their deliveries hold up in the breeze (and drift too) which can be good, but the batsmen can also then hit with the breeze.

It was one of the great own goals for Andrew Flintoff to bowl Monty Panesar from the Prindeville End to Adam Gilchrist four years ago when Australia were already about 300 ahead. Gilchrist swung with abandon, and wind assistance, planting poor Monty for a succession of sixes and registered a 58-ball century.

Seamers are of course affected too. The wind has both psychological and physical effects. It plays with the ambition of a swing bowler if he’s put on the wrong end with the cross breeze countering his swing, and can make him overambitious if the wind is helping.

Worse, it can be very destabilizing to a bowlers’ run-up. The wind buffets you in your approach, knocking you off balance, particularly in delivery. You end up accidentally leaning too far back in delivery and often over-pitch as a result.

It’s not always easy bowling with such a strong breeze either. It can get you to the crease too quickly, you are through your action too early and end up pitching short, fatal at the Waca. You need a very robust method as a bowler at the Waca (or get your overs in early before the wind arrives) which is why Tim Bresnan looks the obvious choice for England in the Third Test.

The Fremantle Doctor can also upset a batsman’s timing. Especially when batting with his back to the wind, it can cause him to overbalance and also drive at balls which hold up in the wind and are not as full as they originally look.

Watch out for some miscued drives against into-the-wind bowling. Pulling in the air can also be dangerous, because, against the wind, the ball can ‘hang’ in the air like a high nine iron and drop in range of the fielder.

Such is England’s meticulous preparation they will have looked at all these factors and will have hatched a plan for them. The beauty of extraneous elements however, is that their nature and extent is unpredictable. You have to think on your feet.

It will be intriguing to see which team plays the smarter cricket in the unusual Perth conditions. But my money will be on England. Again.

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