How many bouncers per over? Umpires can call no-ball’: Mark Taylor, legendary Australian captain, questions bodyline strategy

Around mid-noon, in London, when England started to copy Australia’s strategy of consistently bowling bouncers, Australia’s legendary captain Mark Taylor wondered if the umpires would start getting into act, no-balling the bouncers.

England had succumbed to the bumper-barrage, tamely swatting away to a packed on-side field. Australia had men at the boundary, and also close-by and England couldn’t find a way.

England then aped the tactic on Saturday afternoon. When Ollie Robinson started it, it didn’t seem to make much dent at his pace. Then came along Stuart Broad and Josh Tongue, and things started to change, as Australia lost Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith and Travis Head to bouncers.

“If a batsman doesn’t play a shot, how many bouncers you can bowl in an over. If both teams continue this bumper tactic – and they will.. The laws of the game were changed early 90’s: one bouncer a game, it became 2 bouncers in mid-90’s. Old intimidatory rules still exist. If the umpire feels it, he can still call it. It will be same when Australia bowl. If you keep bowling same length, even if its not about shoulder high, it’s still intimidation. It’s going to put a lot of pressure on the umpires, who can say, I am going to call it ‘no-ball’.

His co-commentator Kevin Pietersen wasn’t as sure. “This is not about intimidation. This is about taking wickets.”

Mark Taylor would talk about how it was in the 70’s during the hey-day of West Indian pacers. “You could battle through an hour and have 15 runs. The rules were then changed.”

England had a leg slip, a short leg, two men just behind square-leg, one to the right of the umpire and another to the left. Australia too had a similar sort of a field, occasionally having men right at the boundary. The rules state that you can’t have more than two men on the right side of square-leg umpire.

And to think it all might have started because of an injury to Nathan Lyon. As soon as he fell, Australia had to adapt. It was then Steve Smith had a brain wave. “We’re going to miss Nathan this game and could miss him for a little while. I said to Patty (Cummins), ‘Why don’t we go for it with the short stuff?’ … “It was interesting. You ask most of the fast bowlers, they probably wouldn’t want to keep charging in and bowling short stuff, but while it looked as likely as it did on a pretty benign surface, I think it was the right way to go.If you get under a few, then we might stop doing it – maybe, I’m not sure – but they kept taking it on and they kept presenting opportunities for us,” Smith explained.

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