We might think of it as a bold and innovative IPL-style tactic, but spinners have been opening the effectively bowling for years. Yet it’s still under-used in club cricket.
In my mind there is a place for defying convention and opening with spin. You just have to know who, when and how.
So, as a spinner, when might you be called on to bowl the first over of the innings?
The obvious answer is on dusty wickets where the ball is likely to turn from the off. Conditions are in your favour. You can use the better condition of the seam to get the ball to bite off the pitch.
But that’s not the only time.
Limited over cricket is also great for a spinner to come on early. With field restrictions in place and openers looking to use the pace of the new ball, a spinner puts the emphasis back on the batsmen to hit the ball hard.
Openers just don’t like it and anything an opener doesn’t like is good for the fielding team.
Your spin might also be called upon in games where a new ball is not used. One big reason that a spinner doesn’t like opening is that the shiny new nut is harder to grip and so harder to bowl accurately. We have all played in club games where the ball is not new at the start of the innings, the faster bowlers are less likely to make an impact and the spinner steps in to make an early breakthrough.
As a good, confident spinner, you should be in the ear of the captain to get your early bowl.
Once you are on, how should you bowl?
Bowl like a strike bowler
If you are opening the bowling you are replacing a seamer who is convinced they should be on to take wickets in the early overs.
You need to show you are just as effective by bowling like a strike bowler and taking wickets. This means, even in Twenty20, looking to bowl:
Many spinners make the mistake of assuming they need to bowl flatter and quicker to keep the run rate down. That’s a waste because the opening overs are the best time to take wickets. The batsmen are new and the ball is harder with a prouder seam.
So attack and attack as hard as you dare.
At least 2 close catchers should be in place and ideally 3 if you feel you are accurate enough from ball one. Here is an example field for a leg spinner opening the bowling:
image via PitchVision - Coach Edition
It’s important to be accurate and confident with this field, but there is little point in making an aggressive move like opening with a spinner only to set a ring field.
Make it a surgical strike
As a spinner you take pride in building a spell over a number of overs; teasing the batsman out with skill and subtlety.
When you open you can forget that idea.
You need to get in, take wickets quickly through surprise and then get out. Bowl no more than 3 overs. Sometimes 1 is enough if you snag an opener.
This is not only because you are using the surprise factor. Opening tires your fingers out early and makes it difficult for you to come back later in the innings and do your “proper” job.
This makes it easy for you. You know you have 12, perhaps 18 balls. You don’t have time to bowl badly or throw in all your variations. You can run in with a free mind, look to get the ball through the batsman, cause maximum damage then retire to the outfield to recover and come back later.
But it’s all very well talking in theory. I want to know your experiences.
Have you opened the bowling as a spinner? As a captain have you ever made the move?
What happened and, importantly, what advice would you give to others?
Leave a comment and let us all know.