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ECB reveals 'Merlyn' expansion plans

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Andrew Flintoff & Merlyn

Andrew Flintoff bats against the original 'Merlyn', which simulates spin bowling, ahead of England's Ashes win in 2005

The ECB today announced it was funding a major expansion of the ‘Merlyn by BOLA’ project, which will see the spin-bowling machine made available to all 18 first-class counties as well as the National Cricket Performance Centre at Loughborough.

A new enhanced version of ‘Merlyn’ – famously used by England to counter the threat of Shane Warne in the 2005 npower Ashes series – has already been installed at 15 first-class counties under the new programme with the remaining three set to receive their machines early in the New Year.

Two other machines have been allocated to the NCPC at Loughborough and members of the England Performance Programme squad currently in South Africa have been using ‘Merlyn’ at their training base in Pretoria.

Somerset and Sussex also both used the machine as part of their preparations for the recent Champions League Twenty20 in India.

The fruit of a collaboration between inventor Henry Pryor, who devised the ‘Merlyn’ concept in a Welsh barn 20 years ago and Stuart & Williams, the world’s leading manufacturer of BOLA bowling machines, the new machine’s features include:

  • Electronic control of all machine functions that enables programmed changes of delivery.
  • Leg-spinning, off-spinning and top spinning deliveries in a programmed sequence.
  • Electronic speed control from 30 to 60 mph.
  • The ability to bowl real cricket balls.
  • A remote control with a 28-ball automatic feeder for solo practice.

Managing director of England Cricket Hugh Morris said: “A key part of the NCPC’s role is to be at the forefront of the latest developments in cricket research and innovation and I would like to thank all the staff at Loughborough who worked so hard together with Henry Pryor and BOLA to bring this project to fruition.”

ECB performance director David Parsons added: “The new ‘Merlyn’ has proved to be a valuable asset to our Performance Programme here in South Africa and the roll-out of the machine to all our counties will have a significant impact in helping batsmen improve their skills against top-class spin bowling.”

Somerset coach Andy Hurry said: “We found ‘Merlyn’ was extremely valuable in assisting our preparations ahead of the Champions League competition.

“It’s a useful tool not only for experienced players but also for those who have the potential to play international cricket and need to prepare for playing against the world’s best spin bowlers.”