Thanks to T20 cricket, the ‘reverse sweep’ and ‘switch hit’ are pretty common shot types to hear commentators mention, some with more excitement than others – we’re looking at you DK Morrison. But how long have they been a part of our game, and who was the first to innovate with a mirrored stance?


Several sources credit the Pakistani brothers, Mushtaq and Hanif Mohammad, as the inventors and most popular proponents of the reverse sweep shot during the 1950s, 60s & 70s. The switch hit is, almost unanimously, credited to Kevin Pietersen, with its origins as recent as 2006. While these players undoubtedly made these shots famous, it’s unlikely they were the first to experiment or the true inventors.

 

So, who was?

Otago Witness, February 15, 1894
Otago Witness, February 15, 1894
National Library of New Zealand

In this extract from the Otago Witness of February 15 1894, the actions of Otago captain, Fred Harper, during 1889’s inter-provincial match against Canterbury are detailed. Out for 69, the writer notes how Harper was dismissed having “changed hands with the bat” while facing a slow bowler.

 

The description isn’t full enough to figure out if Harper went down on one knee or just switched his stance, but he played this shot 45 years before Hanif Mohammad was born and 117 years before Pietersen was credited with the first switch hit. Was Fred Harper, Otago’s English-born captain, the first cricketer to reverse hit?