Pitchvision Academy


Two of the greatest pleasures in cricket are swing and spin bowling. This week I take a look at both: Spin from the view of having a good variation and swing from the view of the batter.

But before you get out in the middle, you know how important it is to warm up so to help you along I have produced a 2 minute video with some basic mobility and warm up drills you can do to get ready for play.

I also look at the dying art of declarations, something all cricketers need to understand but less and less are doing so. It's one of the few downsides of the growth of win/loss cricket like Twenty20. If you have an opinion, chat about it on the forum.

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

Variety and spice: How the arm ball can turn you from stock spinner to strike bowler

The arm ball, or floater, is probably the single best weapon an orthodox finger spinner can have. Ray Illingworth says he once took 41 wickets of 135 in a season just with the arm ball.

At first the ball seems counterproductive. Spinners should spin the ball hard, hoping to impart enough revolutions on the ball for it to dip late in its flight and move off the pitch. This is true for the stock delivery and is what you should do at least 80% of the time.

The arm ball gives you the perfect suprise variation from this.

The batsman is expecting the ball to spin as normal but you have bowled a ball that swings in the opposite direction with almost no change to your action: The off spinner's arm bowl swings away from the right hander, the left arm spinner's swings in.

This brings in the possibility of deceiving a player. Getting him bowed or caught at slip (in the off spinners case). In short, a true wicket taking delivery.

How to bowl an arm ball

The key difference between the arm ball and the stock ball for a finger spinner is the grip. The basic grip looks like this:

As you already know, this grip allows you to roll your fingers and wrist around as if turning a key in a lock. This imparts spin on the ball. The more you 'rip' it, the more spin is possible.

The arm ball is best bowled with no change of action, however your grip changes to one that looks like this

This allows you to swing or drift the ball using the seam as a rudder in the same way as a medium pace bowler. However you still look like you are bowling a stock spinning delivery. The shiny side of the ball should be on the leg side if you are an off spinner.

While you no longer use your fingers or wrist to impart turn, according to Ray Illingworth, it's still important to follow through in the same way. This is mainly to trick the batsman, but it also helps the ball swing.

Line and length for an arm ball

The arm ball is a shock wicket taking delivery. As a result you should be prepared to take more of a risk with it by pitching it further up. This makes the ball hard to sweep (bringing in bowled and LBW dismissals) and tempts the drive.

The line for off spinners to right handers is best on middle stump. If the batsman plays for spin he will edge it or be bowled.

The line for left arm spinners is outside off stump, swinging it back in to bowl the batsman through the gate.

Using the arm ball

It's important not to overuse this variation as it loses its element of surprise. Your main variations will come from the amount of flight and turn you impart on the ball.

However, used now and again you can have great success. It's especially effective early in a batsman's innings. You can use it on almost any kind of wicket, but if conditions do not suit swing think very carefully before trying it.

It certainly will not allow you to rip through an opposition order in itself, but when used in combination with excellent control can put doubt in a batting team and give you the chance to bowl a side out.

Photo credit: Alister667

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3 Ways to play swing bowling

Good swing bowling can literally be unplayable. If a ball swings late enough nobody, not Sachin, not Lara, not Bradman, has ever had good enough reactions to counter the movement. It's a physical impossibility.


Yet somehow great players manage to build epic innings when the ball swings. How do they do it?

While science has no answers yet, there are some interesting theories to explore.

1. Watch the ball

A reaction time limitation means that it's impossible to watch the ball right onto the bat. What distinguishes the good players from the average ones is their ability to correctly predict where the ball will be and move into the correct position. That is according to Bob Woolmer and Tim Noakes coaching book.

In practical terms what does this mean?

Greg Chappell says that it's all about watching the point of release from the bowler. If you see the ball released late it will be short, if you see it released early it will be full. Additionally, the bowler can give you subtle clues in their grip, run up and delivery stride that can help you. If you see an angles seam you know the bowler is at least trying to swing the ball.

Those blessed without a great talent for this can improve their ability by practice. This is one reason why facing a bowling machine is less beneficial than facing real bowling: You don't get the clues from the bowler.

2. Get to the pitch of the ball

Swing bowlers are usually going to pitch the ball up to you. Without doing that they will not get the swing they need. This means you will usually be playing forward to them.

If the ball swings later than you ability to react you will be more likely to miss it or edge it. To reduce this risk, it's important to get as close to the pitch of the ball as possible. This will reduce the amount of time the ball has to deviate. It might be enough to stop you catching the edge.

The idea is not to over step. You still need to lead with your head and shoulder while having your weight over your front foot. You should be trying to get in as big a stride as possible though. The closer you are to the pitch, the safer you are.

3. Play with soft hands

If you are facing a good swing bowler there will be times you will be beaten. You can reduce the chances of getting out either nicking off to the slips or bowled through the gate by playing defensively with soft hands.

In modern limited over cricket it is often beneficial to push the hands and bat towards the ball so you can hit the ball into a gap and steal a single. While this is an excellent tactic, against a late swinging ball edges will carry comfortably to the slips or gulley.

Instead of trying to 'punch' the ball, play the defensive shot as intended: A way of killing the pace of the ball. If you do this correctly it is much harder for an edge to carry to the slips.

How do you do it?

Are you a swing bowler? What frustrates you most about the batters who play you well? Perhaps you are a good player of the swinging ball. What are your secrets? Leave a comment.

Photo credit: ufopilot

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Fielding Drills: Square Catching

Purpose: To allow 5 fielders to practice throwing and flat catching (with a little ground fielding thrown in too). This drill seems a little complex at first but don't be put off. It is excellent and flexible practice especially for before games.

Description: Player 1 rolls the ball to player to who runs in, picks up and throws to player 3 to catch. He then follows the ball to where player 3 is standing (figures 1 and 2).

Player 3 now has the ball. He throws it to player 4 to catch and runs after the ball too. Meanwhile player 4 throws the ball to player 5 and runs to follow the ball. The square restarts with everyone back in position.

Variations: You can reverse the square so everyone runs anti clockwise. This means the ball roll will need to be from player 1 to player 4 (who throws to player 2).







If you want even more fielding techniques, tactics and animated drills from one of the best fielders in the world, check out Fielding: The Derek Randall Way on PitchVision Academy. Now with live video versions!


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How to warm up for cricket: The video

This 2 minute video has been created to help with your cricket warm ups. You can see more on warming up for cricket here and here.


Should club cricket still have declarations?

A recent article in Wisden looked at the format of club cricket, questioning whether the game should be played in a declaration or limited overs way.

In England at least I feel there is no choice in the matter. One day declaration cricket is more fun, more challenging and leads to better games.


About PitchVision Academy

Welcome to this week's guide to playing and coaching better cricket.

I'm David Hinchliffe and I'm Director of the PitchVision Academy team. With this newsletter you are benefitting directly from over 25 Academy coaches. Our skills include international runs and wickets, first-class coaching, cutting-edge research and real-life playing experience.


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Issue: 11
Date: 2008-09-05