This article is part of the 'Classic bowling dismissals' series. To go to the start, click here.
It's ironic that that best English-style seamer of modern times has been an Australian: Glen McGrath. As a model to copy, there are few better examples of a classic seamer than 'Pigeon'.
How did he do it, and how can new seamers emulate his performances to take stacks of wickets?
Line and length
In a world of twenty20 bowling variations it's been forgotten that really good seamers trade in a different currency: accuracy.
At club and school level there is no need to have a huge number of variations. Most batsmen will get themselves out if the bowler puts the ball on a nagging length on or just outside the off stump:
The length, as you can see, can vary between 10-13m (33-46 ft) from the bowler's end. The fuller balls have the aim of hitting the stumps, the back-of-a-length balls are looking for the edge.
Either way, the seamer is relying on the ball and the pitch to help him as much as possible. With the seam upright at the point of release he is giving himself the best chance of the ball hitting the seam and deviating enough to catch the edge or bowl the batsman through the gate.
A "scrambled" seam also works well as a subtle variation here. Most bowler's do it by accident when trying to keep the seam up. When it happens he seam doesn't stay perfectly upright after release (it appears to be "wobbling" as the ball goes down). It might then hit the shiny part and skid on, or the seam and bite. This variation in bounce and movement is very hard for the batsman to read.
Good seamers are tall and they release the ball from as high as possible. If you imagine the arm position at release to be like a clock face, the ideal position is 12 o'clock but to get good bounce it should never drop earlier than 11:
This, combined with the ball hitting the pitch with the seam, creates an extra bounce that no batsman finds comfortable. The ball can hit the edge or splice and go to waiting slips or short legs. It also stops the batsman being able to get on the front foot and drive through the line meaning they could end up playing a rash shot after being tied down.
The seamer rarely has express pace on his side. It's also rare that he will get perfect seaming conditions to be able to fire out a team. That means he needs to keep going and bowling that nagging line and length until the batsman makes a mistake.
Sometimes that can take a while, so the seamer needs to be fit. Not just gym fit (which is a good place to start) but also bowling fit. Seamers need to be able to bowl with the same pace and accuracy in their 20th over as they do their first.
As you know, there is not much need for variety with a good seamer. They let natural variations in movement and bounce does all the work for them.
That said, there are times when on flat wickets or in very short games where some variety can upset the batsman's rhythm. Some options are:
- Bouncer aimed at the ribs
- Slower ball
You can read more about these variations in this article.
image credit: The Waterboy