Accuracy gets wickets: Glenn McGrath, Zaheer Khan, Veron Philander and many others at the highest level have proven the method.
Alongside pace, there is nothing more important to the quick bowler.
But accuracy is difficult. You have to run up and hit a very small target area time and time again. Any weakness in your action is revealed by poor balls that take the pressure off the batsman. You end up frustrated by a good over that is ruined by a wide half volley then a leg stump long hop as you try and compensate.
Then you have to walk shamefully down to fine leg and fume about it for an over before you get another go.
You go to nets hoping to find some form and rhythm, but you are never quite sure if your action is becoming repetitive.
You know that with a repeatable action you will be the go-to bowler in the team. You just need to be able to trust yourself to bowl 6 accurate balls and over.
Here is how you get there:
1. Run up
Every time you run up you should have the same feeling; that you are in control and you are reaching a speed that feels correct. If you are constantly running up with a fear in the back of your mind that you are not comfortable then you will never get your action right.
Measure your run up by taking time in nets to run away from the bowling crease. When you feel ready to bowl, mark the jump off point. Repeat this enough times and you will find a consistent point. This is your start point for your run up.
Measure it (with a tape measure) and make sure it’s marked at both ends before play.
2. Load up
Accuracy begins in your bound to the crease. The aim is to keep your upper body as tight as possible. If your arms are flailing around you are adding needless movement to you action.
As you can see in the picture above, the bowler has lined up his bowling arm with his eyes and his non bowling arm with the line he wants to bowl.
There is much variation of this position between bowlers in the bound, but the really accurate bowlers are always tight in and keeping the both hands in view and both elbows and hands in line with the target.
If you get this wrong there is a high chance you will bowl off line. So video yourself or get someone to watch your elbow and hand position in your bound.
If it needs correcting, you can use the three knee drill from Ian Pont, focusing on getting your arm position lined up correctly. Walk through it first until you get the feel right before moving to a jog and finally running up as normal.
4. Line up
If your approach is good and you are aligned well in the bound you need to look at the actual action itself.
There are several alignment problems a bowler can have as she moves through the crease, but the most common is the front - or non-bowling - arm. Here the arm doesn’t come down straight towards the target, so you are far less able to bowl straight. You have a kink in your gun barrel.
Many bowlers find this simple to correct as soon as the fault is pointed out. However if you struggle to get this right, take your action back to a one-step drill.
Stand at the crease without a run up and bowl, working on bringing your front arm down straight. If you need assistance you can get a team-mate or coach to pull your front arm down straight until you get the feel:
Up until now we have mostly been talking about line because bowling a good line is all about body alignment. However, length is all about when you release the ball.
If you let the ball go too early in your action you bowl full. If you let go too late you bowl short. This is a very subtle feel different but makes for a huge variation in length at the other end.
Working on length becomes a lot easier when you have the alignment of your action grooved into place. Then you can focus in the point you let the ball go without worrying about the rest of your body.
The great news is that length practice is easy to get instant feedback. Lay down cones or use PitchVision to track length and then experiment with when you are releasing the ball. You can adjust in practice as much as you like.
This is also why you should bowl a couple of warm up overs before games to get that length release point feel back again. If you have practiced it hard enough it will be locked into your muscle memory and won’t take you long to lock back into place.
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