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