Ask the Readers: How do you play spin? | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

Ask the Readers: How do you play spin?

At Old Trafford in 1993 Mike Gatting faced Shane Warne's first ball in Ashes cricket. You probably know the rest already.

Despite this ball, Gatting is recognised as one of England's finest modern players of spin. In this article he gives some tips on how he used to do so well. They can be summarised like this:

  • Watch the ball onto the bat
  • Make sure you can deal with the pressure of close fielders
  • Learn ways to score by using your feet and sweeping

Now I want to open the floor to you. Do you play the spinners well? What are your tips on how to bat against a good spin bowler? Leave a comment.


If you want to learn everything there is to know about playing spin, check out Gary Palmer's interactive coaching course - The Complete Guide to Effectively Playing Spin Bowling. Gary is a coach with over 20 years experience teaching players to become first class cricketers. For the first time he has put his drills online, only at PitchVision Academy.



© Copyright miSport Holdings Ltd 2008


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run down the middle and smash it for six before it bounces.

Not as easy as running down the middle and smashing. The way I play it:
1. Watch the spinner closely - From the point the captain hands him the ball to the point were he actually lets go of the ball from his hands/fingers.
2. Get your front out as much as possible on to the line of the ball and watch the ball closely - wait for it to come to you. Be prepared for anything.
3. By now you would have observed and found out if its an off-spinner or a leg spinner by the way he lets go of the ball from his hands. Never assume and get over confident. Just keep the eye on the ball until you have played it right.
4. Lastly, take your time and play a few balls defensively to understand what type of a bowler he is and what line he is comfortable bowling. This will not only tell you about his style of bowling but will allow you to take the challenge to him when your team needs runs.

P.S: Make sure you dont fall into their mind games. Most spinners like to build a rapport with the batsman and sometimes even try to dare the batsmen to play out of their comfort zone.

Hopefully, I helped some of you guys because I'm pretty good at playing leggies but off spinners that bowl faster than most spinners always give me trouble...

sorry.. but I made a mistake.. What I meant to say was to get your "front foot out as much as possible" instead of "get your front out"

i would suggest to have a close look at the wrisr position of bowler to get to know where ball is going to turn.

perhaps Mike Gatting should also have cautioned against the reverse sweep shot - as I recall the shot that lost England the 1987 world cup ?

Fair enough Rob, but I was asking what YOU would do, not Gatt Eye-wink

Being a spinner myself, i am aware of what goes through a spinners mind. I know what upsets me when batsmen upsets my rhythm, but every spinner is different. It is really important to avoid them settling into a rythm. A personal favorite of mine is a contradiction to what 'Taha' above said. Rather than being entirely defensive when first facing a new spinner, i often back myself to charge them early on.
This is because, as a spinner, I know that we can get a good indication of how a batsman plays spin, early on. Show the bowler who is in control of the relationship between you and the bowler.
This method requires alot of confidence and you must really back yourself. I trust myself, that I know enough about spin, to be able to recognise a delivery early on.
I don't think it has let me down yet.

Give it a try in a net session. Most spinners still have plans and rhythms in a net session.

Great tips guys. I don't face many spinners so this is good for my game too. Any more stuff?

spinners are slow, therefore sixes are viable.

I try to play straight in the beginning and wait for the ball. I'm not very good at reading the bowler's hand but I do watch it carefully for any signs. Once I know the type of spin, I play a shot with the spin. For some reason I like to attack the spinners and never let them settle. It could be because I'm Pakistani Eye-wink

"For some reason I like to attack the spinners and never let them settle. It could be because I’m Pakistani"

must run in the blood, me too.

I sweep, drive and work off my pads for off spin - also slog over mid-wicket fairly often if the field is right for it. If it's left arm spin, I will cut too (depending on line) and look to play straighter generally.

I have had a couple of training sessions with Somerset Coach Ben Wellington and the second session we had we worked on batting against spin. It was quite concerning that the first statement he came out with was "spinner's are there to help a batsman average" but i have to say there was a smile on his face = )
anyway he suggested the following ways to face spin
1) stand with your chest as straight on as possible
2) Dont be afraid to hit over the top..this does not mean slogging or trying to smash the ball as hard as possible but dont be afraid to play to deep mid-on to mid wicket area...its generally an open area and if your facing offspin then your not playing against the spin. (obviously not if there are men out deep and the fielders will generally be moved out to stop the fours and sixes, then you work ones and twos)
3) this is questionable! stand further across your stumps (example: taking guard on middle or off) and get in good strides, good umpires should tell its turning and will go down leg side (off spin to right hander from a right handed bowler) or you will be outside the line and shouldn't be given out....i say its questionable because what about arm balls that will generally stay straight!
sorry if i wrote alot = )

sorry under number 1) i meant to put.... stand with your chest more square on to the bowler but try not to open your stance....
sorry again

Great tips Tristan. Why would you say that getting chest on is important?

I don't let the spin bowler dominate my mind.First thing you need is confidence in yourself.Watch the ball till the last moment when the ball touches the bat.Before playing any stroke you should know about the abilities of the bowler, such as what type of deliveries he can bowl.Till then play an over or two watchfuly.playing with the spin is a best option for crossing the ball easily over the boundary.

Don't fall over while pressing forward - balance your weight nicely and watch the ball onto the bat.
When in doubt, play back, without an extravagant backlift - Michael Vaughan (2002) and Damien Martyn (2004) are two examples of batsmen who played the Indian spinners beautifully this way.
Don't get your front foot in the way while playing forward - get your toe in line, not the entire foot.
Soft hands.
Try to spot the slightly short-of-good length balls quickly, and rock back to cut or pull. If a spinner is repeatedly cut or pulled, he usually loses his length.
Don't be too clever - Unless you can play the reverse sweep or the paddle with authority, don't try it.
Rotating the strike can upset spinners far more than the odd boundary. So always look to nudge the ball into gaps.
If you know how far the ball is turning, and where it's going to pitch, don't be afraid to play against the turn. Just don't cover-drive the off spinner too extravagantly.
If the bowler's flighting the ball well, don't reach for the ball. Wait for it to pitch, and watch it all the way.
If you're confident of using your feet - go for it. Otherwise, you'll get stuck in no man's land.

Great tips, I like the rotating the strike idea.

Im not too sure why been chest on would the sense its not an obvious improvement. Does anyone have any idea why this would help? I only stated the tips he gave, and i feel it does help me. Another tip (getting off subject though) is to bat slightly flat footed and not on the balls of your feet?!?!?! This might be to help with balance but i have always been taught to bat on the balls of my feet!

1.Timing is the key while playing spin bowling
2.Try to judge the loop of the ball in air
3.You can punch the ball in gaps or use loose bottom hand shots for 1 run
4.Try to see the ball at last moments so that you can develop a cut shot more effectively.
5.Try to rotate the strike continuously

I try to watch the bowlers hand, seeing how he releases the ball.
I also try to see the way the seam is spinning. I quite often get 7 an over against spinners

I try to play in the v but don't hesitate to cut or pull if he drops short. If an off spinner pitches full down leg I try to sweep him.

Gotta agree with David Roffey, I often bowl with a great spinner in the nets, and it is fairly obvious that if he gets hit around a bit early on he doesn't do to well but if he gets on top of you early you're not gonna get many runs.

Get to the pitch of the ball and smother the spin, always works.

I agree with david roffey too, this technique not only works for spin but for most bowlers, if you have the confindence get inside their head, this tends to put them off their stride and normally means they then get angry with themselves giving bags of runs in the process. Also the reason why you open you chest up is so that you with spin tend not to play in the v but across using the spin, opening the chest means that you can easily dab with the spin if coming from a bad leggie or glance of the pads if its a to straight off spinner.

please note this only works when playing on pitches which the ball is fairly true

when its uneven i tend to try and get as low as possible to make sure u are ready for the ball which skids through, you need to remeber to be ready for anythin as the pitch could hold or do nothing with the spin so my advice is to wait and try and play things back foot however you have to need to have a very good eye for the ball to do this to counter act the like i said before the ball which skids or alternatively pops

Faced with a crack spinner, as many posters have mentioned, you have to take them on. If you try to passively defend they will get you cheaply. To do this successfully I think you have to play as a team and accept that attacking him is dangerous before you are seeing the ball comfortably so he'll get some of you early, but the survivors can fill their boots.

Despite the fact that the best strategy statistically for saving penalties in football is to stay in the middle, goalies don't do this, most probably because it makes them look stupid if the ball is calmly side footed into the corner, whereas heroically diving in the wrong direction does not.

Similarly batsmen are frightened of advancing up the pitch to a spinner, missing it, and getting stumped miles out of their crease. You have to accept this risk. This is because if you get away with it and put a few over the ropes, he's going to retaliate by pitching one too short for you to get to and hope to spin it round you that way. You're waiting for this: step back and you are now faced with a rank long hop destined to give the crowd some catching practice. Now what does he do?

Our crack spinner not only has a serious technical problem of how to deal with you since he cannot settle into his regular rhythm, but he has also been made to look a fool and is hopefully consumed with Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt in the face of his captain's growing concern.

Indian batsmen in particular attack spinners like this. Comparative figures for Shane Warne's test averages (as at 2005-ish I believe) by country tell the story:

England 22.9
India 43.1
Pakistan 28.0
W. Indies 39.6

Obviously Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara have a lot to do with this. Here are some clips containing nice examples of the little master giving Warne the full treatment. As the second one says, "Shane Who?".

So my recipe is this:

1) Employ controlled aggression at the start. Select a couple of balls an over to advance towards, and use a straight bat drive on the resultant half volleys, not a sweep - it's safer - just go for it.
2) Technically, your ideal choice of attack ball should be based on a) I can hit it with the spin, and b) it isn't likely to hit the stumps if I miss. There will always be balls like this so wait for them.
3) Once you've middled a couple and you've got some confidence, start using kidology to make it difficult for the spinner to know whether you're thinking of coming forward or going back.
4) If you survive thus far, you should be able to engineer a rank long hop or two - aim to dispatch them as far as possible over the appropriate boundary for maximum psychological impact.
5) By now the dreaded spinner should be consumed with FUD: put him to the sword, no quarter.

Most importantly work as a team: don't expect to get away with this every innings yourself, only half the time. The point is that half your specialist batsmen will on average succeed, so there is almost a 100% certainty that at some point in the order a potentially match winning partnership will develop and the demon spinner will be both neutralized and demoralized.

PUSH and push and push around ur first 20 or so, then start playing shot, take ur time, uve got all da!

PUSH and push and push around ur first 20 or so, then start playing shot, take ur time, uve got all da!

be prepare to play his all variations because mostly spinners do not bowl their special delveries in their early overs

The key to facing spinners is patience and batting a long time.

Also a good tip is that if the ball is floated above ypur eye line then you should be able to use your feet and get to the pitch of the ball quite comfortably, but just remember to keep your head still and remain side on.

I see that the 'Bite Size Basics' box of tips today is "Only Charge if You Can Hit it On the Full" (no. 106). While i'm not especially experienced, i've never heard this before, and in watching cricket on TV it seems that plenty of times batsmen charge just enough to hit it on the half volley, which doesn't seem like much of a bad thing as while it does spin, the spin is minimal. I can't fault wanting to hit it on the full, but is this the only way to do it??

There are a few keys to playing spin.

1) Make sure you get a good view of the ball in the air so you can see which way it is spinning. This is far more foolproof than trying to pick the ball out of the hand. As a spinner myself, I can assure you that it is perfectly possible to bowl a legbreak that looks like an offbreak and vice versa. I can't control the fact that you can actually see the ball spinning in the air however.

2) Wait until the ball starts to drop before moving. Now go decisively forward or decisively back. The idea should be that you try and play as many balls as possible either on the half volley before it has a chance to turn or on the long hop after you have time to adjust if the ball turns.

3) If you do find yourself in no-mans land (ie you've committed forward but haven't managed to reach the pitch), you may have to play the percentages and simply play down the most dangerous line. For example, if the turning ball will hit the wicket, (think offspinner pitching outside off) then play for the turn. If a ball that doesn't turn will hit the wicket (think a legspinner pitching on offstump), then play for no turn.

Aulthough I'm only 13 I am already playing men's cricket and I see the ability to play spin as one of my best attributes.
I do not wish to waste anyone's time so I will skip straight to the point.
1) learn to pick the ball out of the hand and familiarise yourself with all variations of deliveries that you could possibly hope to encounter so that you know which way the ball is spinning early and so you don't end up having to play the ball off the pitch. Personally this is easier for me as I am a Leg Spinner myself.
2) Once you've achived this then you should spend time in the nets watching the bowlers hand to help you deduce how far the ball is going to spin on any surface i.e. work out how hard the ball is spun for it to spin a certain distance.
3) Take singles out in the middle. There's almost no worse feeling for a spinner than knowing as you run in that the ball is going to go for at least a run with the odd boundary thrown in.Sometimes I like to start to spread the field with paddle and reverse paddle sweeps but only do this if you feel completely comfortable with your technique playing these shots, but it does become even worse for bowler and captain if the ball isn't even coming close to the fielders
4) Know your release shot. For me that's either the cut or the reverse paddle sweep but for others the drive may be more effective. I would never advise coming down the pitch as a release shot as once a spinner is high on confidence then he is going to most likely be varying his pace, flight, degree of turn and type of delivery. Having this as a release shot could not only get you out but leave you looking rather embarrassed in the middle of the pitch in the process. This is why I will very rarely come down the pitch to a spinner, if ever.
5) Play the ball as late as possible but still get forward so that you can adjust to any turn off the pitch. This is particularly effective on slower pitches.
6) Anger him. If he bowls a few wides early or seems very intense as a player then tell him that what he's bowling belongs in a back garden. He may immediately try and bowl a miracle ball and 9 times out of ten the ball will end up going for a wide. If you put too much spin on the ball then you can lose controll of it and if he does this a few times then not only is his confidence crushed but he is also completely out of rythem.
7) look confident. Once you've brought up your hundred which will no doubt not be completely down to me (but I would settle for around 100%! Just kidding). You have to look like they couldn't get you out if you were blinefolded. It is sole destroying for a bowler when a wicket is a distant memory so you have to keep them thinking along these lines for as long as possible.

Hope this helped

Sources: Men's no.3 batsman and leg spinner