Classic bowling dismissals: Leg spin | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

Classic bowling dismissals: Leg spin

This article is part of the 'Classic bowling dismissals' series. To go to the start, click here.

Even after the great Shane Warne's legacy, leg spin has a mixed reputation.

Underappreciated by captains and disrespected by slogging batsmen, the wrist spinner has a mountain to climb to even get on. When he or she does get to the crease they are the most destructive of bowlers. With an arsenal of variations they can turn the ball in both directions on even unhelpful wickets.

But everything starts with the leg-break.
Leg break

Like the left arm spinner, the stock ball of the leggie drifts in the air towards the right handed batsman, pitches and turns away:

This delivery brings in bowled, LBW and caught behind. However, not all leg spinners turn the ball the same way. Some bowl flatter with more accuracy while others throw the ball up with more loop and spin.

This means that even the 'stock' leg break will vary a great deal between leg spinners. As a result they will get their wickets with the leg break in other ways. A loopier bowler might need more boundary protection but also will see more balls hit up square inside the ring. A flatter bowler will see more catches taken on the drive.

The line of this delivery is middle to middle and off, turning away to hit the off stump. The bigger spinners of the ball on turning wickets will need to adjust their line more leg side to still be hitting the off stump after it turns. However, it would be impossible for a club leggie to emulate Shane Warne's 'ball of the century' as it will just end up turning less and being worked away on the leg side for easy runs.

Googly or Wrong 'Un

Better club wrist spinners stand out because the can bowl the googly: The ball that goes the other way, turning in to the right handed batsman:

This ball causes great confusion in the batsman. The best method is to bowl a series of leg breaks, ideally dragging the batsman wider to the off side where he feels he can leave the ball outside off stump. The googly is then bowled, turning back and hitting the stumps or getting an edge.

The googly can also cause a problem to the bowler as he will require extra protection behind square on the leg side as the ball is more likely to go there. Filling that gap leaves another one elsewhere so the spinner's line has to be very good.

Top Spinner

Many club leg spinners use this ball as their stock delivery. It's similar to the leg break but has more loop and bounce while spinning less. It's much easier to control and if it turns even half a bat's width it can get the edge.

If it is used as a stock ball the key is to vary the flight, angle and pace on the ball in a similar way to a finger spinner.

It can also be used as a variation from the leg break, the less turn and greater bounce is designed to surprise the batsman and send them off caught behind or at slip.

Left handers

Bowling leg spin to left handers is trickier because the leg break becomes the equivalent of an inaccurate off spinner. The solution is to bowl mostly googlies and top spinners at the off stump. Combine this with a packed off side field.

The other option is to behave as an off spin bowler with more men on the leg side and attacking the stumps. This requires more accurate bowling than any other tactic. The dismissals will be the same as an off spinner to a right hander.

image credit: Chris KWM


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A very good article as always David. I'm a leg spinner myself and find that in club cricket it's seen as something as a novelty, although i've played against a couple very good young leggies this season which is good for the future!

I bowl with a good loop but find I get smashed a lot if my length is even slightly off as the batsmen's eyes light up, even though I can turn the ball a fair bit. When the captain sees me go for a few runs in the first couple overs i'm usually taken off before I can get into a good rhythm, even though the batsman is technically slogging and is going to give chances.

It's quite an annoying situation, and I rarely get the chance to put pressure on the batsman and i'm usually a last resort partnership breaker after all other attempts have failed.



You are certainly not alone. It's tough for a captain especially when he knows he only has so many runs to play with. The problem is to bowl well you need to bowl a lot so it's a catch 22.

Perhaps you should consider following the advice of Shane Warne. He always says the first job of a leggie is to stay on, so bowl a couple of maidens early on to build up the captains trust in you. Keep the big ripping leg break in the locker perhaps?

Good advice David. I'll concentrate on getting it in the right area before looking to beat them with turn and hopefully i'll get a good run.

It's quite difficult though as I bowl with a fair bit of flight and i'm reasonably quick so getting the two on the mark straight away could be trying! Eye-wink

Hi, I consider myself to be a very good legspinner, but finding a captain that is willing to stick with a leg spinner through bad spells is very tough. A good leg spinner will WANT the batsman to play attacking shots as it gives them alot more chance of getting them out, so while you are bowling to your plan, the captain's not happy as you are leaking runs.

This is why there are quite a few legspinners at youth level, but as soon as they get older playing men's cricket, they slowly turn to bowling something else as they cant find a captain that will persevere with them.

This is a subject that I am very passionate about as I believe leg spin is a fine art, and I will never get bored of watching leg spinners bowl.

hi,i am young leg spinner.just started to bowled leg spinner.sir,can you give me same tips like how to practice.i have problem in deciding my action.can you tell me how can i get comfortable action

You'll probably do best to practice on your own.
1. You will need to learn how to flick the ball and turn your wrist over the top of the ball in order to make it spin. Practice this with anything you can get your hands on that is ball size and do it all the time at every opportunity. Give the ball a big flick and flick it from your right hand across your body to your left hand getting your wrist supple and able to impart the flick.
2. Same flick action but now extend your right arm out in front of yourself and flick the ball in towards yourself (Your chest).
3. Get your self some stumps or a target to bowl at and practice, practice, practice and do so with real conviction and 100% concentration (Hence doing it on your own).
4. Forget all the variations till you can bowl your leg break well good line and length with good spin and deviation off the wicket.

Finally - congratulations on making the decision to be a wrist spinner, I hope you stick at it for the rest of your days in cricket. It's not easy - in fact it's the most difficult discipline in cricket, but if you stick at it you may well find yourself as the top wicket taker in your club/team. Good luck.

thank you sir for your nonvaluable tips.i will follow it evertime when i will bowl.

hi i am a young leg spinner who has alot of succes in the nets against my own team mates. but as soon as i get on the field it all changes and batsmen tend to take me apart. i think its cos i get to nervous and then i lose control over the batsman. what can i do to assert myself over the batsman and control my nerves
thanx mate

There's a few things that you can do and maybe capitalise on. Depending on how young you are you may have a psychological edge in that some batsmen will see you step up to bowl and think that it's their lucky day and that they'll be able to take you apart which seems to be the case at the minute. Others will be worried to death at the thought of being bowled by 'Just a kid' and that's in your favour. But, watching youngsters in our team - and I'm talking lads of 13 - 14 years old, their secret seems to be linked to a few key aspects.

1. They can bowl a good line top-spinner as well as their leg break and off-spinner.
2. They bowl with a big loopy flight and don't try to bowl fast.

This combination of bowling on the stumps, with a loopy flight with a ball that goes straight I've seen work with amazing results. The key to all of it though is constant practice and confidence in your ability to do those things. With loads of practice the nervousness will diminish and you'll gain the confidence you desire. So as a starting point maybe try bowling loopy, straight with with no turn in amongst your leg breaks.

Dave your comments are as good as my full blog posts. I love them.

"No ball bowled is as difficult as one which leaves the bat and goes towards the slips. The really good leg-break beats them all.” - Sir Donald Bradman

With the advent of Shane Warne, global media and the much touted "ball of the century" I think it's very easy to get carried away with the idea that the leg-spinners primary form of attack is the ball that pitches outside of leg and turns in towards the stumps. I think it's universally accepted that Bradman was a master of his art but I've come across the quote above which for me is a very good endorsement of the approach indicated by the article above.

In my opinion in order to bowl the 'Ball of the century' type ball, you really do have to be a master of your craft and be able to vary the amount of spin you put on the ball. Grimmett and later Philpott in their books describe the leg break in two distinct forms the basic leg break and the Big Leg Break - Warne was able to bowl both with immaculate accuracy. Bowling the Big Leg Break requires the wrist used in a manner combined with a big flick that creates the potential for inaccuracy and real frustration for both the bowler and his/her captain in game situations. As a wrist spinner, especially when you're learning your craft you do run the risk of being so expensive that you're excluded from the game through fear of conceding too many runs.

As a learner my advice would be to forget the outside leg stump approach and go for a line as indicated in the diagram above. Move your position on the wicket, bowling close to the stumps and then further away. Vary your flight and speed and bowl your leg break threatening middle and off. The key to your success in these situations is the length, you need to be able to bowl a length that is uncomfortable for each individual batsman and then keep it there for your overs. If you find that length you'll then find that he's then put in a position whereby he either opts to block and runs the chance of you finding the edge or he has to commit to taking a risk and playing the ball. Either way you've now won a part of the battle as both approaches are potentially going to lead to him making a mistake.

Accuracy is your greatest asset in these situations and there's no need to be able to turn the ball massive. A straight ball (Top-Spinner) gives you further options. Longer term it's important that you do spin the ball and that you work on being able to bowl a big turning leg break, but there's no point in bowling it if you can't get it to land on an accurate line and length. A small turning leg break used as in the digram above will win your numerous wickets and enable you to bowl out your spell keeping your avearges low and your strike rate high.

Hi Im a 12 year old leg spinner and take many wickets for my club and im at district level, but would love to have some summer coaching with a spin bowler do you know of any coaches or courses available. Many thanks Spencer

Hi, my son is 14 yrs old and played his first full season of adult cricket and took 28 wickets. He is a leg spinner. Please can you let me know where I can find details of any courses or 1:1 coaching for leg spinners. Thanks

Where are you located in the world JM?

hi Dave
i need your immediate help. im a leggie of 13 years i play for a 2nd grade senior cricket team as well as an under 15's team.
my problem is that i get a lot of extra bounce which is good thing but it rules out LBW and bold. As a result i can only get wickets
caught or stumped. i get more wickets in senior cricket than junior because the fielders are better (even then more than half my
chances are missed), i have to play juniors so i can play district cricket.
I think im a fairly good leggie i can bowl all the variations properly including the flipper and zooter. the problem is that the
fielders seldom catch the ball and the keeper gives away alot of byes and cant collect cleanly so i usually dont get stumpings. i
believe i can go as far play state under 15 if i had better fielders and keeper. I tried using signals to point out what variation im
going to bowl to the keeper before i bowl but that didn't work.

Your Advice Will Be Much Appreciated

Hi Dave,

I am located in Northants, England

I wholeheartedly endorse the information as posted here and I've got a feeling I know who may have posted it!

Put down your XBOX, turn off your phone, get yourself a bit of old rubber matting out of a car footwell and bowl leg breaks at every opportunity you get, trying to land the ball on the mat. Bowl on the off-stump line and then if it doesn't turn the batsman has no choice but to play it. As advised above bowl on the length that the batsman is undecided as to whether he plays forwards or back. The other thing is get it above his eye-line and be so adept at your leg break, that you can choose to bowl it with less side spin and more over-spin. All this takes time - lots of time and lots of practice.

i need some help when ever i try to play leg it's always googly no matter what i do even when i release it from the front of the hand. I read about some other cricketers who learned googly before leg break so i figure i'm not alone. I stand at a fork now, should i make my googly perfect and then work on my leg break or should i start learning leg break now? If i do learn leg break than should i learn a way to do leg break from the back of my hand or should i do it the regular way. My hand always want to release from the back of my hand so i guess i should release all of my deliveries from the back of my hand. Any ways thanks alot for your help.

PS Can you give me an idea on what my action should be.

hey i am a leg-break bowler,my age is 13,and i am practising leg spin from the age of 7,i had even learnt how to bowl the googly when i was 8,i play at my academy and though i am picking wickets,but my line and length has been sprayed all around,which causes me to bowl wides,give me some tips to make my line and length better,and i think i am capable of bowling better if i get some help

im 15 years old and i've just started to bowl leggies.
i' ve been bowling leggies for about three months and have some questions.
i came up against a big tall left hander and he stood in front of all 3 stumps and i just didnt know where to bowl it if i tried to bowl it wider than he was it would land off the pitch what should i have done ?
i bowl very flat and fast but get plenty of turn just wondering where i should be pitching the ball width and length from stumps.
any suggestions on how to practice on pithching it on the same spot.

I'm 13 yrs old and i've been bowling leg spin since i was about 10. When I First decided to bowl leg-spin, I realised that I could only bowl googlies no matter how hard I tried. A couple of years on, I learned how to bowl the leg-break and lost my googly for a bit. Eventually, I got my googly back and could bowl googlies and leg breaks but now i want to learn some more variations. How do i bowl the topspinner and flipper

it happens to me also....and the reason for extra bounce is .... ur sim rotating towards the batsman , it is a top spinning leggy....try to rotate the ball towards 2nd slip.....prob solved

Such a great article as always. This perfectly sums me up- I attack, flight the ball up and try to vary my deliveries, but bowling to left handers has always been my huge weakness. I tend to spin the ball either to far and they have the option to glance, pull or sweep so in order to try to dry runs and keep the captain at bay I go around the wicket, causing more problems for me because of the angle the spin is coming across at. As a young leg-spinner I am still learning variations and tactics of the game and will try to above the next time I am trying to keep a Left hander at bay.
Cheers Smiling

u r ryt bro.... but when u r bowling ur field set up must b good... u must b bowling with ur own plan and should set field according to that...... always remember not to leak runs, if u will not leak runs the batsman will automatically feel pressure., due to which he will play bad shots and the wicket will b urs. I m also a leggie...

I am a left handed batsman and I can tell all you leggies that the best line to bowl to us is over the wicket and into in area just fractionally shorter than a driveable length in a line where we would want to play the off- or cover drive. It is difficult to do this against the spin, and if the batsman becomes frustrated and resorts to slogging this line and length you could bowl the wrong 'un on the same line, you'll get a lot of stumpings this way.
hope this helps Smiling

hi .i am a young legspinner and have been bowling legspin for last two years.nowdays i am facing a big problem while bowling that where should i land the ball.when i ball it with a proper rip it goes too full and batsman smashes it and when i try to overcome the full lenght it becomes a bit short and batsman easily reads my spin and hit it.

hi .i am a young legspinner and have been bowling legspin for last two years.nowdays i am facing a big problem while bowling that where should i land the ball.when i ball it with a proper rip it goes too full and batsman smashes it and when i try to overcome the full lenght it becomes a bit short and batsman easily reads my spin and hit it.

Leg spin is a long term project. You won't be Shane Warne after only two years of bowling, so keep practicing and persevere. We all have accuracy problems as leg spin is the most difficult form of bowling to bowl accurately. The best is to keep spinning as hard as you possibly can (even if you bowl the ball into the wrong net, backwards, etc.) and do lots of target practice! Get yourself a copy of Peter Philpott's "The Art of Wrist Spin Bowling" , watch videos of Shane Warne bowling, sign up to the bigcricket community, buy Menno Gazendam's e-book, and study advanced physics and legspinology.

Leg spin is one of the finest arts in cricket, it can be mastered through hard work, can guarantee you 10 wickets for 2 runs, and also 0 wickets for 150 runs. Just stay positive and spin up!

thanks for your reply.please also tell me how should i dovelope an action that can give me proper energy and a good position to release the ball and what should i choose running or walking as a run up.

The stand start drill is a good place to start- as demonstrated by Beau Casson ( )
The best action for a leg spinner is side-on, with the back leg parallel to the crease, a braced front leg, and a good pivot. Push up on your left foot (if your right handed) as high as possible at release. Your follow through should take you several meters closer to the batsman. Proper energy is generated by either your run-up, or the action itself. But the idea should still be that your run-up gives momentum to achieve sufficient energy in the action. Shane Warne walked, but he was one of a kind. Others run in, like Macgill or Kumble, it's an individual thing. I always ran in very fast for a spinner and was quick through the crease, but then I wanted to decrease my stock pace and couldn't, so I had to slow down my run-up and now I'm ambling to the crease. But I use mostly my wrist, fingers, shoulder, elbow and release speed to put revolutions on the ball, a quick run-up doesn't affect any of that. The best is to try both, see what works the best and experiment. Just don't get so obsessed with your action that you forget to work on more important things. The action is just the way you prepare to make the air whistle around the ball, not the major factor in your success. Lots of bowlers benefit from unorthodox actions.

"No ball bowled is as difficult as one which leaves the bat and goes towards the slips. The really good leg-break beats them all.” - Sir Donald Bradman

Tell that to Muttiah Muralitharan Bradman!!!
I think that is a pretty serious generalization!

Hello Dave,

I am a 13 year old leg spinner and will be starting my first season in men's cricket. I have a re-occurring problem where my head goes backwards when i am side-on in my delivery stride. The coach and I are working on it, but progress is slow. Any tips and or drills to help me with keeping my head straight?

Thanks so much Smiling) Read this comment a couple of days ago, and it worked well in practice.