Why angles are so important to bowling and batting tactics | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

Why angles are so important to bowling and batting tactics

Ex-England captain Nasser Hussain once said that Duncan Fletcher taught him cricket was all about angles.

Don't worry; you can put down your protractor. Both men are right but you don't need to be a maths whizz to be able to use angles to your advantage whether you are batting, bowling or captaining.

So what do I mean when I talk about different angles?

Even the straightest of bowling without a hint of swing, seam or spin needs to consider certain angles. If you were to bowl a ball on an imaginary pitch where there is a brick wall at the other end, you would never be able to get the ball to bounce straight back to you. Because the stumps at the other end get in the way, the ball would always bounce off at an angle.



This means that a ball that is of good line and length ends up in very different places depending on where it is released. Let's look at some examples:

Right arm over: no movement


Left arm over: no movement

The black line shows the line of the delivery, the dotted line shows the imaginary rebound.

As you can see, despite both ball being a good line and length, the angle the batsman is playing is completely different. This angle can become even greater if the bowler goes wider on the crease or can be lessened by the bowler getting closer to the stumps.

What difference does this make to you?

Batsmen tend to play straight to a good line and length. But now we know 'straight' is actually an angle. So now we know where the ball is more likely to go. It's easier to play a right arm over bowler with the angle into the leg side, even when playing with a straight bat.

Using movement to change the angle

Up until now we have assumed the ball has not moved in the air or off the pitch. However, most bowlers will be trying to get the ball to do something (admittedly with various degrees of success).

Right arm over bowlers who swing it away are reducing the angle to make the ball have a straighter rebound. The same is true for:

  • Right arm over away swing
  • Left arm over inswing

This bowling his hard to get away because once the ball has moved onto the straight it must be played straight. Trying to it across the angle is like hitting across the line: It reduces the amount or room for error and requires a lot more skill to pull off. Even the worlds greatest can't do it consistently.

The angle can be increased with movement too:

  • Left arm spin around
  • Leg spin over

Both these move the ball from off to leg to the right hander, increasing the angle making it harder to hit straight or on the leg side with the ball 'going with the spin' in an arc between wide mid off and backward point:

Although most technically correct batsmen will do this beware of the player who is happy to hit the spinner across the line. To combat this successfully the bowler will need to rethink both his packed cover area and the line he is bowling.

Taking the opposite view, an off spinner bowling over the wicket will increase the angle to the leg side making the hitting arc more likely to be to the leg.


All these notes so far have been about the classic angles to right handed batsman. There are some other angles to be aware of:

  • Going around the wicket will change the angle. For example, a right arm around bowler becomes similar to left arm over (although not quite as the left arm bowler can naturally get closer to the stumps).
  • Everything is in mirror image to the left handed batsman. For example the right arm outswing bowler becomes the same as a left arm inswing bowler.
Theory into practice

OK so that's enough theory. How can you apply it to get you more runs or wickets?

Let's look at some examples.

A left arm over bowler is swinging the ball back in to the right handed batsman. If he bowls a good length at the stumps the ball will be pitching on leg or middle and leg. This means the batsman is forced to play straight and hit only to mid on or mid off. To score runs without risk means trying to play the ball square onto the on side. The bowler can then place the field to prevent this.

However, if the if the bowler strays too wide, bowling an off stump line, the batsman knows he has a free hit at the ball through the less protected cover region.

Another example might be the leg spinner who bowls close to the stumps with an off stump line. Most hits will be on the off side and slightly squarer. Hits across the line will go between midwicket and mid on. The batsman will have to wait for a genuine bad ball to get away.

A good tactic for bowlers of any type is to go around the wicket. This instantly changes the angle and the batsman will need to be careful in judging his off stump again. It's not used as often as it should be in my experience and is especially good against left-handers used to free hits on anything pitching on off stump.

So next time you are thinking about line and length, also take some time to consider the angles. As a bowler and captain it will help you set a good field. As a batsman it will help you see what the bowler is trying to make you do.

Image credit: HNM_1977

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What happened to the bowling part of this article

As far as I know Trevor the article has never changed. What did the bowling part say roughly? Maybe I can track it down.

Actually, I disagree with this article. It is built on the premise that a batsman sets up with the exact same stance when facing both over and around the wicket, and to "play straight" means that that bat is pointing directly to the opposite set of stumps. I don't think this is the case: almost every good batsman I have watched changes the angle of his stance for different bowling angles, and plays "straight" with the bat facing directly towards the bowler, so that the natural rebound of the ball off the bat is straight back towards the bowler. Anything other than this is poor technique.

This actually has the opposite effect to the one described - against a left arm over bowler, a RH batsman with good technique will play the ball back towards mid-on, and the midwicket area will also be opened up. To try and play this bowler through the covers would mean playing straight balls inside out and would soon lead to disaster.

The basic rule when deciding whether to go over or around the wicket is to try and make your straight ball pass the batsman with the opposite angle to your moving delivery. In this way, it's almost as if you are making the ball go both ways. So a legspinner or away swing bowler should almost always bowl over the wicket, and an offspinner or inswing bowler should generally bowl around the wicket.

I take your point that good batsmen are adaptable. However, I don't see many left arm spinners/leg spinners with leg side stacked fields, which suggests to me that good players go with the angle, not against it. I do agree that right arm inswing/spin bowlers should bowl around the wicket more though. The key is to make the batsman play straight as it limits his scoring options and makes him play outside his comfort zone.

Are we talking about a leg spinner bowling around the wicket (or a left arm orthodox bowling over the wicket) and pitching the ball on or outside leg stump?

I find it very unlikely that the majority of shots will go through the offside in this case, the batsman would have to run round the ball and play inside out to cover drive leaving his stumps exposed. There is not enough room to square cut, and the late cut over the top of offstump is an extremely dangerous option.

I would be on the look out for the pull, the slog sweep and the fine sweep and set a 4-5 or probably even a 3-6 field for this line of attack.

I can't remember the exact positions, but when Ashley Giles used to bowl over the wicket into the rough for England for all those years, I'm sure they used to set a 4-5 field.

No I wasn't talking about any specific type of bowling. I did refer to left arm spin around/leg spin over pitching the ball on middle and off to off stump in one example. However, if we were talking about a leg stump line then you would be right. This article doesn't use that example though.