Holding the ball cross seam is horrifying to swing bowlers, but vital on good batting days.
How many times have you heard your bowlers say "the ball has stopped moving"? Yet how often do you persevere with the seam up, hoping the ball will somehow start to reverse or move off the seam?
In this moment, stop flogging that dead horse. It's time for a new plan. It's time to go cross seam.
Why cross seam bowling?
The down side of going cross seam - holding the cricket ball with the seam pointed at 90 degrees to normal - is that the ball will no long swing or move off the seam.
For fast bowlers who love to beat the bat and get catches behind, this feels bad. They have lost their main weapon of destruction. They feel like cannon fodder. Think 2017 Champions Trophy where the ball barely moved.
I would agree that the main plan should always be to get the ball moving sideways. It's a great skill and a proven way to take wickets. Look after the ball and experiment with getting it moving.
What if that plan fails?
What if the ball is poor and stops swinging early?
Most of us fall back on hope: If we shine it a bit more maybe it will come back. Maybe it will go the other way. Maybe it's time for spinners.
Deep down you know this is pointless.
You want some wickets, so it's time to try a bit of cross seam.
How to bowl cross seam
The beauty of cross seam bowling is that you don't need to change much.
Use the same action and same grip on the ball, you simply turn the seam in your hand so you are holing it like you would throw it. Across the seam.
The benefit is bigger variations in bounce. If the ball hits the seam it can jump and stop. If the ball hits anywhere else it can skid on. This makes it hard for the batsman to predict things and put off their timing. Your wickets come through catches in front of the wicket.
The bigger changes are in length and field settings.
Your length is better shorter than usual. I always advise bowlers they have two options:
- Back of a length, about 6-8m from the stumps for club and older school seamers
- Bouncers, if you have the pace.
Most seamers are shooting for the 5-7m range, especially if your pace is around the 100-110kph. With cross seam, you pull length back a bit because you want the ball to "hit the pitch" and do something strange, rather than get the batsman driving to catch an edge.
As a result, you can remove the slips more quickly and have fielders in front catching from the mistimed shot. Anything from one to four at short midwicket and short extra cover.
The other option - bouncers - is higher risk but also higher reward.
With cross seam bouncers that get up to the chest, you can see great variation in height and pace on the ball off the pitch. The outcome is always something: A swing and miss, a wide, a hook to a fielder or a six.
If you can bowl them, and you want to make something happen, an over of well-directed cross-seam short stuff is a superb option.
Give yourself options
In club and school cricket we work hard on mastering the basics.
Cross seam bowling is an option because it's different when you need it. Most of the time you won't need it (for example, in my team the average opposition innings lasts 35 overs). As a result we tend to forget about our options.
But there will be times when these options are needed. The ball is not swinging and the opposition are batting well. You could just sit back and hope for a mistake or you could try a canny cross seam over or two.
When you are in those moments, what have you got to lose?
(Just be sure and practice it now and again)