When I was watching the fantastic T20 series between India and England in early 2021, I noticed that I was hearing a lot more than usual about the effects of dew on the cricket ball and the match as a whole. The commentators regularly pointed out that dew was more of a factor in certain areas of the world, and also at different times of the day. This got me thinking about how dew would affect the next T20 world cup that is being held in the sub-continent, and I thought it would be a good topic to write a post about! So, if you have been wondering what dew is and how it affects cricket matches, then sit tight because you’re about to get all of the answers you seek!
Here are the main ways that dew affects a cricket match:
- It makes the ball harder to catch & throw
- Becomes harder for batsmen to hit the ball for four
- Makes the ball less likely to swing
- Makes it harder for bowlers to bowl consistent line and length
- It causes the ball to skid on to the bat more than usual
- Makes it difficult for spinners to grip the ball and achieve their usual amount of spin
- Influences teams to bowl first rather than bat first
In the rest of this post I will cover each of the topics above in more detail, explaining exactly why the presence of dew causes these things to occur. But before we begin, we should probably briefly discuss what dew is and where it comes from for those of you who are unsure!
What Is Dew & Where Does It Come From?
Dew is small droplets of water that often appear on blades of grass or other surfaces during the night. If you’ve ever woken up in the morning and the grass is wet even though there was no overnight rain, then dew is probably the reason for it!
Dew appears because of the process of condensation. If you’re not sure what condensation is, it is basically a process that transforms a gas into a liquid! How does this happen? Well, when the temperature drops, the temperature of certain objects and surfaces like the grass drops as well. Once the grass cools down, this forces the air around the grass to cool down too! This colder air is less able to hold on to water vapour than warmer air, so this forces the water vapour within the air to condense on the grass – becoming a liquid in the process. This can make the grass incredibly moist!
Certain areas of the world are more prone to dew than others, especially ones that have higher levels of humidity! In terms of cricketing locations, India is one of the countries that exposes cricket grounds to the most dew.
Why Does Dew Make The Ball Harder To Catch & Throw?
I’m sure this one will be obvious to many of you, but if a ball becomes wet as a result of dew on the field, it can become a lot harder for fielders to grip. Think of it like a bar of soap. When a bar of soap is dry, it’s very easy to hold due to the slightly rough, hard surface. However, when a bar of soap gets significantly wet, the outer surface becomes slick and very slipper, and as a result it is much harder to grip and hold on to! Dew can affect a cricket ball in exactly the same way!
For fielders, the ball being wet could be disastrous. Sometimes, a dropped catch, or an inaccurate throw at a critical time can cost a team the game. Therefore, fielding teams will always prefer it if they don’t have to field while the ground is thick with dew. If a team has to field while there is dew on the pitch, a few fielders will be armed with towels so they can dry the ball prior to each delivery. Although this doesn’t completely solve the problem, it makes it slightly more bearable!
Why Does Dew Make It Harder For Batsmen To Hit The Ball For Four?
Yes, believe it or not dew can make it harder for a batsman to get the ball along the ground all the way to the boundary! This happens for a couple of reasons. Firstly, dew helps to make the ground soft. This means that when a batsman hits the ball aerially and it bounces on the turf, it is more likely to make a dent in the soft ground and ‘plug’. This means that a lot of the momentum of the ball will be stopped, making it harder to get to the boundary.
Secondly, the more the ball is exposed to the dew and the moisture on the pitch, the more of this moisture it will soak up. This makes the ball heavier, which means the batsmen will have to play slightly more forceful shots if they want the ball to run away to the boundary.
It is true that having wet grass because of dew can make the ball travel faster because there is less friction between the ball and the grass. But, the softness of the ground and the heavier weight of the ball as a result of the dew often means the ball will be harder to get to the boundary.
To try and get rid of some of the dew that is covering the grass, you may often see groundsmen dragging a large rope or a large sheet around the outfield in the hope that it will soak up some of the moisture. It may look something like the picture below!
Why Does Dew Make The Ball Less Likely To Swing?
For a ball to swing, the condition that it is kept in by the fielding team is the most important thing. Ideally, the fielding team need to manage the condition of the ball as it gets older so that one side remains nice and shiny and polished, and the other side of the ball gets very scuffed up and damaged. This is perfect for achieving swing. However, this is almost impossible to achieve when the ball becomes soaking wet because of dew on the field!
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried, but its hard to keep a good polish and shine on a cricket ball that is really wet. When a cricket ball is very wet, both sides of the ball will end up in a similar condition, and seeing as though achieving swing relies on the two sides of the ball being in dramatically different conditions, swing is much harder to achieve when the ball is covered in dew.
The ball getting wet also softens the seam on the cricket ball. The seam is incredibly important when it comes to getting the ball to swing, and having a harder, more pronounced seam can aid you in swinging the ball. If the seam is exposed to a lot of dew and moisture on the pitch it can go softer and flatter a lot quicker, which means the seam will not be as influential in helping you to get the ball to swing.
Why Does Dew Make It Hard To Bowl Consistent Line & Length?
To bowl a consistent line and length, a bowler needs to have a repeatable process for arriving at the crease and delivering the ball. By allowing the ball to leave their hand at roughly the same time during every delivery that they bowl, the bowler can ensure that the ball is going to land in roughly the same spot. If dew is present on the cricket pitch and the ball becomes wet, this complicates the process a little!
A wet ball means that there will not be as much friction between the ball and the bowler’s hand as there normally would when the ball was dry. This means that the ball may slip out of their hand slightly earlier than usual. Or alternatively, the bowler may hold on to the ball extra tightly because it is wet, causing them to hang on to it for slightly too long. Both of these things can seriously harm your ability to bowl good line and length. Even a slight difference in the release time of the ball can mean that a bowler will bowl wildly off target!
To avoid the impacts of dew, bowlers and the fielding team as a whole should always ensure that they have some towels or rags on hand that they can use to dry the ball in between deliveries. Although the ball will not become perfectly dry, the towels/rags help to clear a bit of the surface moisture off the ball.
For those of you who play in dewy conditions often, I’d also recommend practicing bowling with a wet ball now and again during your net sessions. Like with everything else in cricket, practice makes perfect! So, if you have a lot of experience bowling with wet cricket balls in practice, you are more likely to be able to handle that situation during a game. Someone who has zero experience bowling with a wet cricket ball is more likely to struggle. I’m a huge advocate of making your practice sessions as difficult as the game situations you will face, because if we only practice in perfect conditions then we will never prepare ourselves for when things are going badly!
Why Does Dew Cause The Ball To Skid On To The Bat?
When a cricket pitch gets covered in dew, it causes the ball to skid on to the bat much more than it usually would. Batsmen see this as a good thing because the ball ‘comes on to the bat’ a lot better. This means that the ball is less likely to get stuck in the pitch and mess with their timing.
So, why does the pitch being covered in dew cause the ball to skid on to the bat? Firstly, let’s imagine we have a normal, dry pitch that a bowler is bowling on. In this scenario, a decent amount of friction is generated once the ball makes contact with the cricket pitch. This friction slows the ball down, and in some cases can slow it down significantly! When a bowler is bowling on a pitch that is covered in dew, the friction between the ball and the pitch is a lot less. When there is less friction, the ball doesn’t slow down as much, and this leads to it ‘skidding’ on to the bat with more pace. Many batsmen love pace on the ball as it makes their shots easier to time, and this is one reason why dewy conditions can offer advantages to the batsmen.
Why Does Dew Make It Hard For Spinners To Grip & Spin The Ball?
As we’ve already discussed, dew on the cricket ball makes it harder for bowlers to grip the ball properly. A good grip is essential for spinners if they want to impart a lot of rotations on the ball as it leaves their hand, so dew definitely makes this more difficult to achieve!
When you watch cricket matches in hot and dry conditions, you’ll often see spinners rubbing their hands in the dirt/dust before they grip the ball. They do this to dry out the palm of their hand so that they can achieve a better grip. This increased level of grip aids them with their spin bowling. Dew on the ball does the opposite! The surface of the ball is moist, and the bowler will also find it difficult to dry their hands. Two moist surfaces make it hard to grip the ball properly and also make it harder to spin the ball as it leaves the hand.
Additionally, the ball is much more likely to spin if it is landing on a dry pitch. This is why the ball traditionally spins more in hot countries like India and Pakistan than it does in England or New Zealand, where conditions can be a lot cooler and there is often more moisture in the pitch. When the pitch is dry, there is a lot more friction between the ball and the pitch, which makes it more likely to spin. When a pitch is moistened by dew, the friction between the ball and the pitch is decreased substantially, which makes it more likely that a delivery bowled by a spinner will skid on to the bat rather than gripping the pitch and spinning wildly sideways!
Why Does Dew Make Teams More Likely To Bowl First?
Dew affects day-night cricket matches more than any other, and teams that win the toss in these types of games will more often than not choose to bowl first. Why does this happen? Well, I hope the rest of this post has already provided you with the answer to that question! But if not, let’s run through the headline reasons below..
Dew will begin to settle on the cricket field as night draws in, meaning that it will mainly be present during the second innings of a day-night match. So, a team that chooses to bat first will have to field later in the game, when the dew is at its worst! The dew will cause:
- Difficulties catching and throwing the ball
- Less swing to occur
- Difficulties bowling consistent line and length
- Difficulties gripping the ball and getting it to spin
All of these are things that make it much more difficult to execute a solid bowling/fielding performance. The team that bowls first will probably not have to deal with any of these things because the dew won’t have settled on the cricket field at that point in the match.
So, next time you see a day-night T20 match taking place somewhere like India, you should have a good idea of what the captain who wins the toss will be choosing to do!
I hope that this post has given you some appreciation of the types of problems that dew can cause for individual cricketers as well as cricket teams! Given that so many cricket matches take place in areas where dew appears frequently, it is something that coaches and players need to take into account when creating their game plans.
Dew is a huge factor in many high profile tournaments like the IPL, and it’ll have a role to play in any world cups that are held in the sub-continent in the future! Now you know what sort of effects it can have, you’ll be a lot better equipped to understand some of the decisions that captains are having to make before and during the game!