The hierarchy of playing spin

How many good players of spin are there in club cricket?

I would hazard a guess there are very few.

Playing spin is difficult and takes practice, but good spinners are rare in the non-professional game and so batsmen don't get to face them much in the nets or in matches.

The result is batsman who can defend or slog, with not much in-between.

So how do you improve your play against spin with limited time to practice and play?

I think the easiest way to develop a game-plan is to treat playing spin techniques as a hierarchy of risk vs. reward.

1. Play straight with the spin

The underlying principle of playing spin is always the same: first play with the spin using the full face of the bat.

That means driving with a high elbow on the front and back foot. The exact target area will vary depending on the way the ball is turning.

  • Ball turning in: Look to drive/flick the ball in an area between midwicket and mid off.
  • Ball turning away: Look to drive the ball in an area between cover and straight mid on.

At this level simply wait for the over pitched or slightly short ball then get in position and swing the bat through the line towards the target area.

Simply playing like this will get you plenty of runs without having to do anything else.

2. Use your feet

Now imagine the spinner is tying you down enough so you are behind the rate you would like to be scoring at.

The first tactic is to use your feet to move down the wicket and turn a good length ball into a half volley that you can drive straight.

This is slightly riskier than staying in your crease because if you miss it you can be stumped, but because you are still playing straight you can pick up runs in your chosen scoring area (which hasn't changed).

Pick the right line to move and do it with confidence. You can find out more about how to move down the pitch to spinners here.

3. Sweep

Sweeping is a riskier way to score against tight bowling because you are playing across the line, which is why it's third in your list of options.

If the mid on and mid off are back and the ring fielders are tying you down then the sweep is a handy option to manipulate the field.

It's best played against a bowler pitching the ball on or outside leg stump with the ball turning away (for example left arm over to a right hander) because LBW is out of the picture.

You can also sweep to the ball turning in if you hit it square.

If you are right handed the riskiest sweep is the off spinner bowling around the wicket (for left handers the risk is the left arm round bowler). This is because if the ball straightens and hits you in line you are likely to be out LBW.

If you want more tips on playing the sweep, look at this article.

4. Improvise

If you are looking to score quickly and off almost every ball (say at the death of a one day innings) you must take risks, however you can still look to score in safer areas, even when you are hitting sixes.

One way of doing this is the modern "forward press" of taking a small step onto your front foot just before the delivery. This means you have the option to move down the wicket and hit straight, or to go really deep in the crease on the back foot and drive or pull.

To the ball moving away you also have the option of cutting and late cutting safely if you are deep in the crease.

Other improvising options are:
 
  • Ball turning in: Move the front leg out to the leg side, opening yourself up to hit the ball over mid on or midwicket if it's full or square leg if it's on a length with a slog sweep.
  • Ball turning away: If the line is leg side you can sweep or slog sweep the ball over midwicket. A straighter line means you can move down the wicket and hit with the spin over extra cover, going 'inside out'.

The trick to playing spin well is to not try and move up the hierarchy unless you have to. If you can score at the required rate by sticking with number 1 then why take additional risks?

This is especially true if you have little practice time against decent spin. Focus on the basics of 1 and 2 then, if you have more time, start practicing 3 and 4.

For more on the techniques and tactics of playing spin; including videos on how to play, check out The Complete Guide To Effectively Playing Spin Bowling on PitchVision Academy.

image credit: Sarah Canterbury

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