Which action is best for pace bowling?

Front on? Side on? Mixed? Halfway? There are many different positions a bowler can get in when he or she hits the delivery stride. Which one works best for generating pace?

Before we can decide on that, let's look at the different actions.

Types of fast bowling action

The bowling action is a series of movements designed to get the cricket ball to the other end of the pitch as fast as possible.

In years gone by it was thought there was only one way to do it; the side on action as typified by Fred Trueman:

 

 

'Fiery' Fred was the first man to take 300 Test wickets at a time when most people thought it impossible. He was one of the fastest and most accurate bowlers of his time; possibly ever. You can see from the video his action has all the classic elements of the side on bowler:

  • Back foot lands pararrel to the crease
  • Shoulders square on to the batsman as the back foot lands
  • Head looking over the shoulder as the back foot lands

The other extreme of action is front on as typified by Malcolm Marshall:

 

 

As the video shows, Marshall could bowl very fast and swing the ball. His action was far removed from the one everyone had considered to be correct:

  • Back foot lands pointing down the wicket
  • Shoulders are open as the back foot lands
  • Head looking inside the front arm as the back foot lands

There are also several 'midway' points where the shoulders and feet are less open but not as side on as the classical action.

Which action is fastest?

Both examples: Trueman and Marshall were fast, accurate and could swing the ball. So which one is right for the budding fast bowler?

In fact, it's nothing to do with the position at all. As Ian Pont says, pace is about a series of movements, none of which depend on whether you are side or front on. You can see in detail what these movements are on Ian's coaching course for fast bowlers here.

In short, it's more important to have a smooth, flowing action that fires muscles in the perfect sequence than it is to worry about whether you are side or front on.

That said, an action can cause a bowler to slow to a complete stop.

Other considerations about the bowling action

The main point about your action is the one all coaches are taught on day one of bowling action school; never have a mixed action as it can cause injury that prevents you from bowling at all.

A mixed action is an unhealthy combination of front and side on; this cause twisting in the lumbar spine when it is dealing with a lot of force. Twisting that can lead to soreness and stress fractures. The spine needs to be as untwisted as possible so the shoulders and hips need to be lined up in front, side or midway positions. Take a look here for a video that shows you how you can check your action with a friend and some chalk.

It's also worth noting that a side on action tends to make it easier to bowl outswing. The position is just better to move the ball away. However, it is still possible to bowl both by mastering control of the ball through other methods, most notably wrist position.

 



Start scaring the batsmen. You can now get drills and techniques on how to bowl faster from a world class coach.Click here to view Ian Pont's fast bowling course on PitchVision Academy.


 

 

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Comments

I bowl with a midway action as it works best for me - it allows me to pull all my muscles together to get the tension to release into my delivery. I can still swing the ball both ways, but i get more natural inswing. As I come through I find that there is not much stress going through my back as I tend to go through my action naturally, without yanking my body through.

Has anyone heard of an action affecting your shoulder? My physiotherapist mentioned (just as a side) that front-on 'grinds' your shoulder more than a side on one. Shoulder injuries are not something i've heard much about with regards to the frequently full fast bowlers' hospital, maybe they are just good at managing that by now? I'm going to experiment going side on this weekend anyway, which is not something i've really ever done.
Cheers

Incidentally this new side-on action still feels a little unnatural but seems to be helping with accuracy quite a bit. It's easier to align my bowling arm with the line of the front arm as it comes down - I believe this is called 'the windmill' by those trying to teach bowling?

Why do I keep getting an email saying 'John1' has left a comment on this post?

Not sure, but you can stop getting those emails via the unsubscribe link.

I would like to know if there is any problem if teenagers use the bowling action as same as Munaf Patel's?

Should be no issue in copying Patel's action but why not create your own?

@Amir

I have one but I have some doubts over it.

I'm a front on bowler and sometimes struggle to bowl the ball on the off side or through the corridor of uncertainty. What can I do to help bowl on the off side?

I know a "Mixed Action" is dangerous, but I find it very comfortable to bowl with a mixed action.

Back foot lands parallel to the crease
Shoulders are open as the back foot lands
Head looking inside the front arm as the back foot lands

Shane Bond, Ambrose, Bishop, and Walsh, used this action very successfully.

The "Mixed Action" might not be as bad as they say.

The problem is, there is is lot of torque on your lower back meaning injuries are much more likely. You may get away with it but certainly if dealing with a young bowler it's far better just to correct the upper body and cut out a huge injury risk area.

That's true, Thanks David.

sir i read all the points carefully and watched the videos of both the actions (side- on and front- on) carefully. It could be a great help for those who lack coaching but aspire to be a good technically sound bowler. Thanks for it.

i like ravi rampul bowling action and i want to bowl like him but when i bowl like ravi then my action is mixed in many actions .... please tell how i bowl like ravi rampul

U DONT need such difficult action just have a simple action and to do inswing put your index finger on the left sideof the seam and middle on right side rough side should be on right side and the one with shine should be on the left

I want to bowl like steyn.but i bowl like him i do not get a more pace.what can i do for it?

am a fast bowler with a open chested action i got osteitis pubis and how can i rectify my action in order to avoid this injuiry

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