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Graduate Admissions


Applications are invited for a PhD project funded by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) into the "Aerodynamics of Cricket Ball Swing". Cricket ball swing has been observed since the early days of the sport with players, including WG Grace, noting the "peculiar flight" of leather balls as far back as the 19th Century. Since then cricketers and aerodynamicists have identified the seam position, ball speed and surface condition of the ball as key factors determining the direction and magnitude of swing.

Fast bowlers propel cricket balls at between 80 and 95mph, corresponding with Reynolds Numbers of 1.4x10^5 to 1.7x10^5. The boundary layer behaviour therefore holds the key to the pressure distribution around the ball and hence the aerodynamic force it experiences. The seam can be positioned to "trip" the boundary layer from laminar to turbulent flow and a rough surface can have a similar effect. Today, published scientific papers offer explanations of conventional and reverse swing, however, the connection between these theories and real game conditions is lacking. Modern cricketers rely on experience, intuition and no little guess work to predict whether a cricket ball will swing for a certain bowler, at a particular ground and under particular conditions. Factors impacting swing such as ball type, ball condition, bowling action and weather conditions (e.g. temperature, humidity, cloud cover, etc) are difficult to account for and the aim of this PhD is to develop a fundamental physical understanding of cricket ball aerodynamics.

The PhD student will be based at the Whittle Laboratory, part of the Department of Engineering, and can expect to spend time using the lab's wind tunnel facilities to undertake aerodynamic measurements of cricket balls. The PhD will be supervised by a team led by Dr Sam Grimshaw, an experimental aerodynamicist and self-confessed cricket nut, Dr Nick Atkins, Dr Graham Pullan and Prof. Tony Purnell. The ECB will be closely involved with the project and will provide practical cricketing know-how as well as real world data to support the investigation.

Applicants should have (or expect to obtain by the start date) a good 2.1 or 1st class degree (and preferably a Masters Degree) in Engineering or a related subject. A strong understanding of aerodynamics as well as some practical experience of experimental work is essential.

This studentship will pay full University fees and a maintenance allowance of approximately £19,000 per year for UK and EU citizens.

Overseas students are not eligible for this Studentship and should not apply

For informal enquiries please contact Dr Sam Grimshaw (email:

Applications should be submitted via the University of Cambridge Graduate Admissions web pages, with Dr Nick Atkins identified as the potential supervisor

The University values diversity and is committed to equality of opportunity.

Key Information

Department of Engineering

Reference: NM14794

Dates and deadlines:

Tuesday, 13 February, 2018
Closing Date
Saturday, 30 June, 2018