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Chris Lynn’s catch to dismiss AB de Villiers: Frame by frame scientific analysis

 What was commendable even before the catch was taken is the alacrity shown by Lynn in recovering, after he slipped trying to position himself for taking the catch.   Photo Courtesy: Screengrab from a video on YouTube
What was commendable even before the catch was taken is the alacrity shown by Lynn in recovering, after he slipped trying to position himself for taking the catch. Photo Courtesy: Screengrab from a video on YouTube

The Chris Lynn catch to dismiss AB de Villiers is still talked about after two days. H Natarajan does a frame-by-frame analysis of that blinder and feels that it could arguably be the most scientifically debated catch in cricketing history.

Days after Kolkata Knight Riders’ Chris Lynn took a match-turning catch to dismiss AB de Villiers, it’s still the most-talked about moment in Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014. The video of that catch has been shared and commented upon a zillion times, far more than any other video in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL). The sheer brilliance and the degree of difficult in completing the catch was so spectacularly rare that it is bound to give Lynn immortality, just like the run-out of Inzamam-ul-Haq in the 1992 World Cup gave Jonty Rhodes.

Let us examine Lynn’s catch under the microscope. With three balls to go in the final over of the match and six to win, De Villiers plonks his right leg wide outside the off stump to give himself room and pull Vinay Kumar. The ball gets the elevation, but not the desired perfection to clear the rope and win the game for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). Unlike catches that rockets behind the close-in cordon or blaze the turf wide of the fielder on either side in the deep, the catch that came Lynn’s way gave him time to position himself. What was commendable even before the catch was taken is the alacrity shown by Lynn in recovering, after he slipped trying to position himself for taking the catch.

Now let us appreciate the degree of difficulty in completing the catch. Lynn’s brain had just a couple of seconds to assimilate the trajectory of the missile, the speed at which it was travelling, the revolutions on the ball after being struck by the wood, deviation in the air and, most importantly, judging the blindside — the boundary ropes. All this was happening in a blur, unlike for those who are sitting in the comforts of air-conditioned room and watch multiple slow-motion replays. What the video does not convey is the pressure factor: just a few centimeters back and it would have given RCB the match. Howz that for a cocktail of difficulties!

If you freeze the slow-mos at the point Lynn took the catch, he was not only airborne, but his body was arched and his hands fully stretched behind his head to grab the ball with predatory instincts. It meant the ball had already done enough to challenge the elasticity of his body. The time elapsed between completing the catch and for the gravitational pull to see his body come crashing on the turf was microseconds. Yet, if you freeze the slow-mos again, you will notice that it was Lynn’s sharp mind which helped him to see where the fall was going to land him. And the same frozen frame will make it extremely clear that he would have LANDED on the ropes. His shadow is actually falling well over the boundary (see above photo), though one has to admit that shadows can be misleading.

How then did Lynn prevent his body from touching the ropes? Start the video again and the next few seconds is guaranteed to blow your mind. He knows that his catch is bound to end up in a six as the body was plummeting to land on the fence. But that quick glance at the danger while hurtling down saw him do a desperate contortion of his lower body. That, in all likelihood, got him to land on his right palm; at that point of impact, his left hand firmly clasped the ball, while both his legs were pointing skywards.

Prateek Bhiwapurkar provides an interesting dissection of the catch on Quora: “When Lynn jumped a little backwards, he put his center of mass (typically lower abdomen-buttocks region) in a parabolic trajectory, starting from about 2m from the boundary ending at almost 70-80 cms from it. Now here’s the smartest move. Lynn sees that he might hit the ropes, so he lifts his leg more towards the rope and his upper body away from the rope, because he cannot change the path of the center of mass. This minor adjustment had to be made and the stunning catch is complete as Lynn lands safely. “

Another interesting analysis came from Souradeep Purkayastha on the same thread. “Lynn jerked his legs upward as he was falling which made his neck clear the ground. His centre of gravity would ideally have followed a parabolic trajectory. Had he not swung his legs up, his neck would have landed over the rope. But he swung his legs up (whether accidentally, out of reflex, or deliberate thinking, one does not know), providing his legs with a definite linear momentum. His horizontal linear momentum would be practically constant, so his torso automatically ‘surged’ forward to maintain the constancy of total horizontal momentum. The result was that his body got compact instead of being spread-eagled and his centre of gravity followed basically the same path as it would have. Air resistance etc. complicate matters slightly, but they can be neglected I suppose.”

(H Natarajanformerly All India Deputy Sports Editor of the Indian Express and Senior Editor with Cricinfo/Wisden, is the Executive Editor of CricketCountry.com. A prolific writer, he has written for many of the biggest newspapers, magazines and websites all over the world. A great believer in the power of social media, he can be followed on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/H.Natarajan and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/hnatarajan)

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