The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Quick ball quickly forgotten
- Speed gun shows Sami at over 100 mph, but no one is talking

March 19: Shabbir Ahmed was making the waves this morning in Peshawar, but Mohammad Sami broke fast bowling’s most coveted record and yet no one was talking about it.

In the 11th over and again in the 17th, the ribbon at the bottom of the television screen showed Sami topping the 100 miles-per-hour mark — on one of those occasions the recorded speed went beyond 101 mph.

Some TV watchers who noticed couldn’t believe their eyes. Only Shoaib Akhtar has so far been recorded at over 100 mph — in a match against England in the last World Cup in South Africa — and in his first spell today the Rawalpindi Express was bowling at an average speed of a shade below 90.

Sami does cross 90, but he is not known to be a challenger to Shoaib’s crown as the world’s fastest. That honour belongs to Brett Lee of Australia.

Did Sami, who came on as first change, then outpace Shoaib'

The Telegraph asked Ten Sports, which is beaming the India-Pakistan matches, if what had been seen on TV was correct. Its production team in Peshawar could not confirm the readings for Sami’s deliveries as there was a possibility of an error occurring because of interference from signals in and around the stadium — exacerbated by electronic gadgets being used as part of the heavy security arrangements — with the speed-gun readings.

When asked after the match, Sami said: “I’m not aware of any records.”

Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul Haq also had no idea.

Strangest of all, no one in the commentary box was heard talking about it either on TV. And there were some true heavyweights around — Ian Chappell, Dean Jones, Ian Healy and Robin Jackman.

Rather, they were going on about Shoaib’s pace and the phenomenal purchase Shabbir was getting from the wicket.

Did they know something the poor viewer didn’t — that the speed gun has a slow brain'

The speed gun consists of two fully digital radars. The radars transmit waves that record the speed of the ball once it leaves the bowler’s hand.

One person controls the system through a match and records each delivery only after the radar readings match. If there is doubt about any delivery, a red light goes off and the readings are discarded.

BBG, the Australian company that installed the speed gun for the World Cup, had claimed the readings have 98 per cent accuracy.

Although for Shoaib’s 100.2 mph delivery in the World Cup game, the two radar readings were similar, it was not recognised by the International Cricket Council as a record.

The reason then cited by the ICC was that the delivery which followed — from Wasim Akram — was also recorded on the scoreboard at 100.2, implying a fault somewhere, possibly introduced by human intervention.

A senior technical expert with a leading software company that has developed software for ESPN and other major TV networks for tennis and cricket matches said: “The same doubt (whether Sami clocked over 100) can be raised about the speed record of Shoaib. At any given time, where the speed gun is used there are bound to be both electromagnetic and other sounds that may create interference in the reading.”

But the expert considers the chances of interference to be negligible.

Whatever the reason for Sami’s Peshawari sizzlers, beware of TV producers bearing speed guns.

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