What's it like to face a 90mph fast bowler?

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1. The ultimate test of nerve

There are few more thrilling sights in sport than a fast bowler in full flow - but spare a thought for the batsman at the other end.

Standing only 22 yards away, he or she has about half a second to decide how best to react to a missile travelling at 90mph that is equally likely to be heading for their stumps or shoulders. Swipe or scarper? Defend or duck, pull or pull out? So many decisions, so little time.

So, what is it like facing Mitchell Johnson or Dale Steyn? What attributes must a batsman have to succeed at the highest level? What drills can you practise to learn to face up to pace? And how, ultimately, do you overcome fear and fight fire with fire?

2. Facing pace

England’s batsmen have been using a high-tech bowling machine that re-creates the speeds and angles of Australia’s Ashes bowlers. Watch national batting coach Graham Thorpe help an aspiring young cricketer face up to a virtual Mitchell Johnson.

3. Speed and reactions

The best fast bowlers can serve up deliveries of different lengths with no obvious change to their run-up or action. Click then drag the circle to compare three different types of 90mph ball.

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The speeds and reaction times above are based on 90mph deliveries in typical English conditions. Speeds through the air and after bounce vary according to altitude and weather, the abrasiveness of the wicket and release height. Former Australia fast bowler Glenn McGrath, who took 563 Test wickets, advises: “The ideal length is hitting the top of off stump, but that length is different on every pitch so you need to adjust to subtle differences very quickly. Don’t overdo the bouncer or the yorker. Use them as surprise balls. If used well, they can be wicket-taking deliveries.”

4. Tips from the greats

In different eras, former England batsmen Geoffrey Boycott and Michael Vaughan faced some of the finest fast bowlers the game has seen.

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Discover and click the hotspots on the image of England batsman Joe Root to receive expert advice from the Test Match Special pundits on how your eyes, heart, hands and feet are all crucial when facing up to raw pace.

5. Vision and focus

So Geoffrey Boycott says you’ve got to “watch the ball”, but how easy is it for your eye to track something that’s hurtling towards you at 90mph? Expert cricket analyst Simon Hughes investigates.

A 'saccade', which Ollie Runswick mentions in this video, is a quick jump by the eyes from one viewing point to another. They are one of the fastest movements in the human body - and they need to be when facing a 90mph bowler!

6. The fastest balls ever

Many bowlers never get close to 90mph. Some go even faster. Find out more about the fastest deliveries ever recorded by a speed gun and the men who bowled them by clicking or tapping on the images below.

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7. Skills and drills

You know the scale of the task, you’ve soaked up advice from the best in the business, but how can you improve your chances of success against a truly fast bowler?

Watch Graham Thorpe run through some of the key training techniques for batsmen preparing for a pace barrage.