How to Plan a Spin Bowling Spell | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

How to Plan a Spin Bowling Spell

Good spinners are like chess grandmasters. You probe your opponent for weaknesses and plan ahead while staying focused on the next move.

Even in Twenty20 you need a plan. We've discussed before about what lines to bowl, how to introduce flight, and how to pick appropriate variations. Now let’s get out of the technical and into the tactical.

Get your chess head on.

The first question to ask is: what kind of bowler are you?

Do you have one great stock ball and a couple of dramatic "surprise" variations that you throw in every few overs?

Do you have a range of more subtle changes of pace, flight and turn that you change from ball to ball?

Both are valid strategies. In either case your best bet is to start by setting up your field with your stock ball in mind. There are three principles to consider.

  • Take your chances. Good attacking field placing will both hamper the batsman's shot selection and get you valuable wickets. All winter you should have been keeping your eye out in nets for where the nicks and slices off the bat went more than anywhere else: genuine edges to slip, gulley or leg slip? Did the ball pop off the shoulder to short leg or silly point? Or did the batsmen constantly spoon the ball to short midwicket or short extra?
  • Attack with gaps. Think about what risky shots you want the batsman playing and which shots are low-risk. Make sure to leave a tempting hole to entice him into playing a low percentage shot. Conversely, make it as difficult as possible for him to pick up easy singles by working the ball with the spin.
  • Protect yourself. In order to be the best bowler you can, you have to have the confidence to spin the ball as hard as you can. Sometimes this means the ball comes out wrong (hopefully not too often). You should know from painful experience where bad balls end up getting hit, so give yourself a boundary sweeper or two to turn those fours back into singles, and give yourself the confidence to spin the ball hard with a little boundary protection.

 These ideas (plus these basics) should give you some good guidelines to setting a good "starting field".

So put the fielders in position and use all your skill and cunning to try and dismiss the batsman.

About the author: AB has been bowling left arm spin in club cricket since 1995. He currently plays Saturday league cricket and several evening games a week. He is a qualified coach, and his experiences playing and coaching baseball often gives him a different insight into cricket.

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Good article this, I've asked this already - should have put it here.

I came over today to ask a question about field setting theory as I reckon David H what with being a Keeper and a 'Wannabe Wrist Spinner' will have some good advice on this. So the situation is I'm bowling over the wicket R/Arm picthing the ball on the off stump erring towards outside of the off-stump. I've identified that the batsman wants to get the ball on the Leg-Side and play his obviously preferred Leg-side shots. Would there be any merit in not having a Mid On or Mid off, trying to get him to come down the wicket to play straight bat shots or play front foot drives from a pretty static position, looking to get the edge or a stumping if he comes down the wicket. Any suggestions how I might set the field. One last thing I have a wrong un which often cramps them up and spins off vertical almost. Complex stuff this field setting lark, or is this complete tosh?

If you're pitching on off and spinning away you're obviously not going for bowled and lbws other than with your surprise googly. So I suppose a slip and gulley would be a starting point, just so you have one obvious way of taking a wicket.

Most batsmen would focus on the square cut and cover drive as attacking shots against this style and line of attack, so you will need three men in an offside ring, possibly with one of them sweeping.

Is this one particular batsman you feel tries to fetch you from outside off and hit you through the legside? Its a strange place to target, and a low percentage shot generally.

Trying to get the batsmen playing straight drives wouldn't be a bad idea, as its not an easy shot to play against a good leggie, and you might easily get an edge or a slice to cover. You might also give up a lot of runs if you get it wrong though.

Probably have a wide mid-on up and wide mid-off back, see if you get him to target the area in between. I'd bowl to a 6-3 field, with slip, gulley, point, sweeper, extra cover and wide mid off back. then wide mid-on, square midwicket and backward square leg all on the single.

Sound advice from AB. I would add a proviso that it's important to put fielders where the ball is going as a first priority.

So, if some blacksmith is trying to put you over cow every ball, forget the clever angle predictions and put out a deep mid on, deep midwicket and deep square leg, all hopefully with decent catching hands!

But to look at your specific situation Dave, assuming the batter is just favouring leg side rather than slogging, you have the upper hand totally, he will get himself out if there is anything in the pitch for you.

So, use the standard wicket-taking field here if you feel confident enough in your accuracy to have 3 close catchers. You can move silly midwicket to short fine leg if you are going to use the googly. Mid off and mid on can go all the way back.

It's tempting to leave a gap at midwicket rather than mid on/mid off as this area is harder to score and looks tempting. Push him back to cow corner if you fancy this tactic.

I wouldn't have anyone in the orthodox square leg position unless the batsman is somehow putting the ball there.