Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The big 6

Watching Shane Watson's mighty maximum to win the first ODI for Australia gave Fantasy Bob cause for thought.  FB is a great admirer of the work of the playwright Sir Tom Stoppard.  Stoppard has the great additional virtues of being a keen cricket fan and occasional player, wicketkeeping in various scratch literary XIs. 

Scene from The Real Thing
In his play The Real Thing there is the following speech.  It is spoken by a writer comparing a good script to a cricket bat.
This thing here, which looks like a wooden club, is actually several pieces of particular wood cunningly put together in a certain way so that the whole thing is sprung, like a dance floor. It’s for hitting cricket balls with. If you get it right, the cricket ball will travel two hundred yards in four seconds, and all you’ve done is give it a knock like knocking the top off a bottle of stout, and it makes a noise like a trout taking a fly….......
This speech is celebrated by many critics for its use of a sporting metaphor to explain a creative act.   Fantasy Bob fully approves of this and he greatly enjoyed the play and many of Stoppard's other works, whether benefitting from cricket metaphors or not.

But Stoppard is talking about a big hit - a truly exceptional hit.   Is it possible?

Afridi puts another one into the stands
According to the record books, the furthest a cricket ball has been hit is 160 metres by Shahid Afridi off Andrew Symonds in 2005 at MCG.  (It didn't do Symonds much good since he took to drink shortly after.)  160 meters is 174 yards - a bit shy of Stoppard's example.  But the hang time of the ball is 4 seconds dead on.   FB reckons this makes the average ball speed through the air about 89 mph.  200 yards in 4 seconds is 102mph.  (FB is just waiting for someone to correct his arithmetic, although he used the highest quality back of envelop he had available).

But Stoppard's cricketing experience might be more in line with Fantasy Bob's rather than Afridi's.  So FB thought of his own 6 hitting.  And before you say 'Oh come on', it has been verified that FB hits the occasional six.  On a totally unscientific basis his biggest hit might be just over 80 yards and the hang time not much shorter than Afridi's - a speed of around 70mph.   Carlton players should think how big a hit it is to put the ball over the wall at the bottom end - just under 100 yards.  Afridi hit it over the wall, over the houses and then some.  And Stoppard's batter puts it further yet.

Is it possible - have we reached the limits of human achievement?  Or should we put it down to artistic licence?


  1. FB seems to be correct that a ball travelling 200 yards in 4 seconds will have an average speed of 102 miles per hour along the ground. Indeed if there was no air resistance it would have a constant speed relative to the ground of this amount.

    But this is only the horizantal component: there is also a vertical one. If the ball is hit a 45 degrees (the optimum direction) with a speed of 102mph relative to the ground then, at the instant of delivery, it will have a speed of about 145mph in the direction it is travelling (102 times the square root of 2 - cosine rule and all that).

    From what I hazily remember of the maths of projectiles, ignoring the effect of wind resistance, assuming the acceleration due to gravity is 32 ft/sec2, and rounding to sensible numbers, then for a ball to be hit 200 yds, it would need to be struck with vertical and horizontal components of velocity each of 100ft/sec and would be in the air for 6 seconds. That means an initial velocity of 140 ish ft/sec (95mph) at an angle of 45 degrees.

    We all know, however, that air resistance is significant so that the Stoppard estimates seem plausible.

  2. Iain - FB surrenders - your Higher Maths Certificate is in the post. The hit at Carlton would of course be down wind in prevailing conditions which would necessitate another calculation. It's still a big hit.

  3. I think you could nurdle it for 6 downwind FB?