Are we looking at length bowling the wrong way? | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

Are we looking at length bowling the wrong way?

It's the classic mantra of coaches to their seam and swing bowlers: Bowl a good line and length for success.

Line is easy, aim for that 'corridor' on and just outside off stump.

As to length: Do we really know what good length is and are there exceptions to the rule?

Which end is best to understand bowling length?

A good length is a good length all over the world. It's the area on the wicket where the ball pitches and the batsman is in two minds whether to go forward or back.

While certain factors can vary this length, modern computer analysis of length has shown this area is somewhere between 4-7m (4.3-7.7 yards) from the batsman.

The question is: Why are we looking at it from the batters perspective?

It seems to make more sense to look at it from the bowler's point of delivery. That makes a good length 11-14m (12-15.3 yards) from the bowler's popping crease.

Here is a diagram so you can visualise things. It's the green area on the wicket:

This seems to me to be easier for bowlers because they can look at a length from their perspective and not have to worry about the batter's view.

The picture is from the PitchVision Coach Edition software that is part of the PitchVision system. For the first time it has allowed us at club level to quantify exactly what a good length is which is very exciting.

Why is the area so large?

The 'good length' area is quite large because a true good length can vary depending on:

  • The type of bowler. Spinners have the fullest good length. Swing bowlers aim slightly fuller than seam bowlers. The height and pace of a bowler effects the amount of bounce they get so taller quicker bowlers tend to have a less full length.
  • The pace and bounce of the pitch. The faster and bouncier the pitch the further back a good length tends to be. The slower and lower the pitch the more full a good length is. Although this only has a small influence on length and usually only at the extremes of pitch examples.
  • The type of batsman. Some batters will drive 'on the up' to a ball you consider to be a good length. These players see a good length as further back. Others with more back foot tendencies will play back to the same length ball; to counter this you will move your length to the fuller end of the scale.

A good bowler is able to find the right length quickly and pin it down. As a general rule you start somewhere in the middle of a good length (12-13m from your popping crease) and make small adjustments as you go along.

I think as we start getting data from around the world from PitchVision we will start to be able to refine this information even further. Something until now only the top internationals has done. If you are a bowler this is a coaching tool you can use to find your length more easily than trial and error.

When is a good length not a good length?

Generally speaking, a good length is your best strategy in most situations. The longer the format, the truer that is. However there are some exceptions:

  • The batting side is hitting out. Be it a T20 match or an attempt to set a target in longer games, a good length can be suicide. Batsman can swipe across a good length over extra cover or midwicket for easy slogged runs. In this situation you can try a bouncer if you are fast enough or yorkers if you are not (or both if you are good).
  • You need to try something new. Aside from quicker bowlers throwing in the odd bouncer, there is another situation you can try a variation away from a good length. You look at the scoreboard and its 156-0. You have tried slower balls, bouncers and asking the captain to take you off. One extra variation could be a wide half volley length ball. You never know the batsman might be over confident and nick off.

I'm interested in your opinion here. What is a good length to you, and would you benefit from being able to measure it over time like you can with PitchVision.

Leave a comment and let me know.

Image credit: pj_in_oz

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This is an interesting idea; and as soon as I thought about it a bit I decided that I completely agree. Bowling is a skill executed by the bowler - the length the ball bounces should be mearused from his point of view. It makes much more sense that way and as its more consistent with the other terms 'short,full,over' ie short = less distance from the bowler and the more 'full' you bowl the higher the number of meters being measured. Using the traditional method short = more and Full = less which to imho is stupid.

For a bowler to remember his stock "good ball" it makes much more sense to just think "how far down the pitch do I need to make it bounce" because thats a straight-line simple judgement/target - rather than have to think backwards from the batsman - "there he is , work backwards, now make the ball bounce somehwere there. All the other princaples regarding distance from the batsman still apply (ie 11.5m is 6m from the batsman): and you can still simply judge that for Batsman A (who uses his feet alot) - bowl 12.3m for Batsman B who gets stuck in the crease)- bowl 13.50.

As a coach who tries to convey these sometimes 'abstract' concepts to kids I really like it. well done Dave

as a bowling all-rounder who used to be a batsman, i try to put myself in the situation of the batter and predict what i think is coming next if that makes sense, i then try to do everything within reason to disrupt that, but sometimes when it doesnt work i seem to get constant criticism from the older members of the club who would say that they are more experienced whereas i would consider them negative at times,
(my economy at the death for last season was 4.23 with an average of 29) i constantly and publicly speak of wanting to bowl very very fast which then causes many members of the club to think that i'm trying to "bounce people out" and "scare people" for me the best length at the death is the one batsmen dont expect!

hi all,

can anyone share their knowledge pertain bowling lengths.?

i would like to have complete details about the different length balls.
like, what is the optimum distance from the wickets to bowl Good length, Yorker, Short Length, short of a good length and a bouncer.?

It varies depending on the wicket and the pace of the bowler.

Just a few questions on the desired action for a leg spin bowler. Would it be a positive thing if you bowl with a braced front leg as a wrist spinner? And how can you stop "catapulting" the ball when your bowling? I know a leg spinner that drags his bowling arm straight down to his thigh in his action and it loses any momentum and as a result he "catapults" the ball without any pace or spin, he would like to know how he can fix this (are there any drills that he can use or any other method)
Thanks Smiling