This article is part of "The complete guide to cricket field settings" series.
On good batting wickets, your off spinner is little more than a stock bowler. However, you are still trying to take wickets. With the right field (sometimes called 'in-out') and tactics you can run through a side by forcing errors, especially when bowling at the tail towards the end of an innings.
Bowling to this field
Patience and confidence in your tactics is the key, even when getting hit. The wicket is not on your side so you are trying to force an error from the batsman.
Pitch the ball up at a length of around 12-14 metres from the bowlers popping crease. Aim to get the batsman playing forward. Combine this with a line that allows the ball to hit the top or just miss off stump. If there is any turn this may be just outside the off.
The close fielders put pressure on, making it hard to score from defensive nudges. If the batsman decides to take you on to remove these fielders you improve your chances of a slip/keeper catch, stumping, bowled through the gate or caught in the deep.
Extra cover and mid off are key positions for you, stopping drives which will be most batsmen's escape route from the pressure. Place extra cover too square and he becomes redundant.
When conditions are not in your favour, the clever use of variations can help you take wickets. The key is to learn and practice these as much as you can as none are easy skills to master.
- Flight. The ability to vary place the ball in the same spot but with different heights on the ball is very deceptive. On good wickets you can vary the flight of almost every ball, or just throw in the odd flatter/loopy ball if you feel the batsman is in a rhythm.
- Arm ball. The ball that drifts away from the right hander is an excellent way to get players caught at slip. Pitch it further up and with a middle stump line.
- Doosra. If you can bowl the one that goes the other way (a rare skill), bowl it at middle stump on a length and hope it catches the edge or the top of off stump.
Like all fields, loose bowling can be punished, but you do have protection in key areas to try and restrict the easy flow of runs.
- Too fast and flat. The odd flatter ball is good as a variation, but if the batsman realises you are firing it in they can work the ball around for singles and twos using the pace of the ball and the gaps in the leg side ring.
- Long hops (especially wide of off stump). Just short of a length is hard to get away, but genuine short balls can be hit for boundaries, especially on the unprotected square off side.
- Half volley length. You are looking to encourage the batsman to drive but genuine half volley length can be hit for boundaries straight or through cover.
- Deep square leg can be set to save the single either square or just behind to stop the sweep shot.
- Deep midwicket can be moved into orthodox or short midwicket to attack further or encourage hitting over the top across the line.
- Short point can be moved to short third man to save the single.
- Leg slip can go squarer to backward square leg or deeper to short fine leg to prevent the sweep.
Batting against this field
This is a field that encourages you to play your shots and make an error. There are a lot of places to score runs, but unless you are well set and confident they all carry a certain risk.
Defend with soft hands. Avoid pushing at the ball early on and knocking it into a close fielders hands. Pounce on anything to cut or pull along the ground. If the bowler is too flat and pushing it through without much turn, you can go harder at the ball using the pace to get it into the large gaps.
As you gain confidence, look to drive with care. It's generally safer to drive off the back foot where you can work the ball into either side. At first drive straight, but be prepared to open out into cover drives when you have a feel for the pace and turn of the wicket. You can use your feet to upset the bowler's line but be watchful for variations in pace and flight to try and put you off your rhythm. When in doubt, play defensively.
Avoid hitting over the top unless you really have the bowlers number.
If you are a confident sweeper (or reverse sweeper) there are two large gaps behind square for scoring boundaries. This will quickly be plugged but usually a close fielder goes back taking a little pressure off you.
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