How to Open the Bowling with Spin | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

How to Open the Bowling with Spin

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

Broadcast Your Cricket Matches!

Ever wanted your skills to be shown to the world? PV/MATCH is the revolutionary product for cricket clubs and schools to stream matches, upload HD highlights instantly to Twitter and Facebook and make you a hero!

PV/MATCH let's you score the game, record video of each ball, share it and use the outcomes to take to training and improve you further.

Click here for details.


I'm a leg spinner and have opened the bowling on a number of occasions in our league games. It's generally after we have scored a particularly low or high score where we are looking for early wickets to put the opposition under pressure. It's also always been with an old ball, with a new one optional for when the pace bowelers are called upon, and with the idea to have 2 or 3 overs and see what happens

Results have been mixed but it's obvious opening batsmen do not like facing spin first up with an aggressive field and them being forced to put all the pace on the ball. Sometimes they will go defensive and other times I have picked up 2 or 3 wickets very quickly as they try to hit out.

Most recently we tried this a couple of weeks ago in a friendly against higher class oppo and I took the wicket of the teams club pro as he tried to blast me out of the attack and ended up hitting one straight to mid wicket

It's a very useful tactic and can work really well but the key, as pointed out in the article, is to be ultra aggressive in line and field settings & keep the spell short so just as the batsmen adjust to spin they then find themselves up against pace and the new ball.

What field do you have Dom?

Yeah, I've done the same, but the field was set for me and I don't think it was as aggressive as the one illustrated. I don't recall what happened exactly, It wasn't a disaster, the bats may have played defensively and I was brought off after a couple of overs and as you've said it didn't allow them to get off to a good start. I had a seam bowler at the other end. It's potentially a good tactic as they have to hit the ball and play in a way that's pretty unconventional for them as openers when they're not at all settled.

Hi David,

If opening I would start with a slip, a gully and a bat pad on the off side (I'm a leggie). I would also have a close midwicket and a man at the "45" leg side, almost a leg slip, for top edged sweeps. Cover and extra cover I find really useful for anything dropped short and a man at cow corner for the slog that is usually never far away! Mid on/ off would also start close up to encourage the hit over the top.

Funnily enough, last Saturday my league team opened with spin (I wasn't playing that day as I was away) as we have a newly developing off spinner who, whilst erratic - although perhaps that helps - is an exciting prospect. With him we had an older "pro" who can be relied upon to generally keep things tight from one end. We had scored 173 on a wicket that 220 would have been par and so opted for spin.

It didn't work out on Saturday as we took one early wicket but the spinners bowled the first 26 overs (of a possible 50) on a wicket not offering huge turn and the batsmen became too comfortable against our bowlers. Speaking with the skipper post-match he said he had actually planned before the game to open with spin if we bowled with the old ball anyway. With hindsight he admitted to sticking with his plan too rigidly and should have changed it sooner but was concerned the pace bowlers would leak too many runs too easily while defending such a low score. He also thought he should have been more agressive with the field as he had too many "boundary riders" as he got stuck in two minds between attack & defence. By the time he realised it was too late and we lost by 7 wickets

But given that this tactic does usually reap some rewards it is one we seem to be employing more regularly over the past couple of seasons. Personally I like it, especially as the level we play at (pretty competent league cricket) as it takes batsmen well out of their comfort zone, and it's enjoyable to open the bowling as a spinner!


Yes, bowling through 13 overs from the start suggests there is not much depth in the attack. It also means the spinner can't come back to do his proper job of bowling out the tail.

I've opened the bowling with leg spin for the past 2 games. The first time was just because I wanted to and it was a friendly. But it worked out well enough that my midweek captain is now using me in T20 games as well. I rip the ball hard and generally turn it fairly big, but I am inconsistent and will often land it a little wide/short/full, and this gives batsmen free runs on occasion. But opening means batsmen aren't set, and they struggle to score off the looser deliveries, whereas later in the innings those balls go for boundaries every time.

Most of my wickets and chances early doors come from LBW and bowled. Batsmen don't have their eye in so they struggle to get bat on ball when it is drifting and turning. If only club umpires would give all of the LBW's, I'd have taken more than double the wickets I have.

I usually set my field with a slip, backward point on the 1, cover on the 1, deep cover, mid-off on the 1, mid wicket on the 1, deep square leg, fine leg, and a man on the 1 hovering between square leg and mid wicket. That covers me against bad balls getting smashed, encourages batsmen to drive straight, and restricts the cheap singles off of edges or batsmen tucking the ball around trying to rotate strike. It works pretty well, and the deep square leg always gets catches off of full tosses!

I tend to get more wickets/chances than the seamers, can be more expensive at times (but not always, yesterday the seamer at the other end went for 29 vs my 18 off of 4 overs each), but am essentially a strike bowler wherever I bowl in the innings. I am always expensive, but I almost always get wickets, especially early in my spell. My strike rate is roughly 12-18, and my average about 20.

i am a legspinner. my main delivery is googly. i can bowl legspin too. but the problem is im not consistent. i think my bowling action is wrong. what should i do ?

When you say not consistent, do you mean line and length, or something else?

yeah line and length.

Ah well that comes with time in the nets - bowl at a target - start from 18 yards and work back a yard at a time.

i'm from india kerala.i'm an allrounder.left hand batsman.legspin bowler.i like to play county cricket in england.what should i do ?

Thanks Sir. I have done that so many time's in the net's. the problem is when i'm bowling an over 4ball's pitching correct line and length 2 ball's pitching short length. i'm playing cricket 4 year's now. the problem still existing. my club mates says that my bowling action is unorthodox. finally i found the problem my bowling action is not right. I watched so many coaching video's of Terry Jenner (THE SPIN DOCTOR). I changed my bowling action. now my bowling is good. but there is still mistakes in my bowling. Sir one more thing. I want to get better coaching for my spin bowling. I want to play county cricket in England. What should i do?

i m an off spinner nd the captain of my team...i sumtyms open the bowling and my field is as follows:
Slip(1 or 1.5 depending on pitch)
bat pad(forward or backward short leg...dont usually go for square unless the pitch provides unusually more)
deep b.point(halfway)
short extra(catching)
Straightish mid off(inviting gap bat bat-pad while looking for the gap)
straightish Mid on( encouraging to play across the line)
Short mid wicket
deep forward mid wicket
if u r confused about the halfway b.point , it is because players in chennai usually like to play the late cut a lot
and i sacrifice the fielder at square leg fielder as it forces me to maintain a stricter line around off
if i bowl around the stumps i bring in the deep sq leg taking out the point and bowl a middle-leg line

the above is for a right handed batsman
for lefties i like it a bit more attacking
2slips(or a slip and gully)
short mid off(encouraging big shots)
short extra
45 degree
silly point(bluff makin the batsmen think that the ball turns bringing slips into play)
short mid wicket
mid on wide (squarin up the batsmen)

Last year I was opening the bowling in nearly every game I played. The new hard ball really stung my fingers and sometimes I was bleeding more than bowling. But luckily it wore off. I tended to bowl to a field where I only had two fielders on the boundary. The rest were all either in catching positions or close to the bat stopping quick singles. It worked really well as it frustrated the batsman because I can keep a consistent line and length 6 out of 6 balls, but it didn't produce a lot of wickets. Usually 2 if was bowling very well. It did however keep the score down as I was bowling about 3 maidens in a T20. My best figures opening the bowling were: 2 wickets, 4 overs, 4 runs, 3 maidens, no wides, the two wickets were both bowled.
I think this can be a very good tactic if you don't overdo it, it can really damage your fingers if your'e not careful or if your'e grip isn't correct.