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Spinners often get short shrift when it comes to coaching advice. This week we go beyond the usual advice of 'pitch it up and give it a rip' to look at the different types of spinner and how they can all get wickets with some simple tactics.

We also learn how to develop speed and power by adapting the techniques of the Olympians and catch up with case study subject Geraint as his season begins.

Have a great weekend,


David Hinchliffe

6 Ways spinners can get more wickets

Shane Warne once said that part of his job was to prove that spinners were attacking bowlers in all forms of the game. Even though he has retired, his legacy has been to give captain's more confidence in their spinners.

For Shane was right. Spinners exist to get wickets. What makes it interesting is that there are many different styles of spinner. Whether you captain spin or give the ball a tweak yourself, understanding your own style is crucial to success.

1. Spin

All spinners must have the aim of getting maximum revolutions on the ball. Not only does the ball turn more if you give it a rip, but it also drifts in the air and dips late in its flight more too: All essential elements in deceiving the batsman.

However, some spinners ignore this advice and tend to roll the ball gently. This makes it tougher to take wickets. These bowlers' tactics are to frustrate the batsman with a tight line and length. Close catchers are less important but well placed outfielders can be effective.

2. Line

To right handed batters, off spinners have 2 main lines of attack. Around the wicket bowling at off stump so the ball straightens:

Over the wicket outside off stump so the ball turns back to the stumps:

The former is harder to play, especially with a leg side biased field. It can bring lots of catches to short leg fielders. The latter brings in the classic 'through the gate' dismissal but can make it easier for the batter to play the ball with the turn into the leg side.

I tend to see very little around the wicket bowling by off spinners in my club games. Perhaps this is because better wickets at the top level have discouraged it and club spinners simply follow suit. However, it is an excellent attacking tactic if you can spin the ball enough to straighten it.

Orthodox left arm spinners usually bowl around the wicket at off stump so the ball straightens:

They bowl from a wider angle than the off spinner so off line balls can be hit more easily. This means they need to be more accurate. They also should be watchful of the amount of turn. Too little and the ball slides down the leg side, too much and it is a free hit through the off side.

Leg spinners bowl a similar line, usually getting the ball to turn more and bowling from a less acute angle. The variation a leg spinner has means there are more lines to account for. The googly may pitch wide of the off stump to turn back, the top spinner might pitch straighter.

In defence (or for a variation, especially if there is a lot of turn and bounce) both the leg spinner and the left armer can bowl the other side of the wicket (round for the leggie, over for the left armer) and at leg stump:

3. Length

The great left arm spinner Headley Verity once said that a spinner's length should be as short as possible to make the batsman play forward.  This is the essence of length and something all spinners on all wickets should be striving to do. It gives the ball time to turn and bounce but the batter has less time.

A common mistake, especially on turning wickets, is for the spinner to bowl short enough to watch the ball turn. However, the batsman has much more time on the back foot to watch the ball and account for unexpected movement. So when in doubt as to length, think back to Headley Verity and experiment with how far back you can pitch the ball while keep the batsman on the front foot.

One thing to be careful of when using this theory is when the ball is turning too much. The the batter plays forward he will miss it and be hit on the pad (turning in) or go past the outside edge (turning out) without ever being in danger. Here you may need to pitch it slightly further up than normal.

4. Flight

Most coaches agree that spinners are better if they give the ball flight. It gets the ball above the eye line making it harder for a batsman to judge line quickly.

Different spinners interpret this advice in different ways. Some will throw the ball up with plenty of spin, others will be more concerned with staying accurate and loop it less. This makes a big difference to your tactics. The loopier the bowler the more they tend to buy their wickets. They tend to be more effective against tail enders. Both styles can be equally as accurate or inaccurate though.

The really good spinners have control of flight and can make small variations to keep the batter guessing, even if the ball is landing in the same place all the time. Better batsman tend to prefer loopier bowling as they have time to pick it up, so a good spinner can learn to experiment and find the compromise between pace and loop that players find most uncomfortable.

5. Use of the crease

Jeremy Snape once pointed out that most spinners use the crease much less than they think. In a coaching session he asked a young offie to bowl really wide on the crease. On the video playback we found out that he had moved just a couple of inches to the left. He felt he was almost touching the return crease.

It shows that using the crease takes practice. Most spinners place their front foot somewhere in the middle and find it hard to go anywhere else. Others get naturally closer to, or further from the stumps. It's important to know where a spinner bowls from as it dramatically changes the angles of attack. The wider the angle the less likely you are to hit the stumps so generally it's better to bowl from as close to the stumps as possible.

However, if a spinner can master moving around (both sideways and backwards) you can upset a batsman's rhythm and timing which could lead to a mistake. Just bear in mind that bowling from the return crease will make the ball end up in different areas than bowling from next to the stumps. Always look to match the field to the style of bowling.

When bowling around the wicket it can be difficult to get close to the stumps as you are moving away from them in the delivery stride. To counter this you can bowl from further back (landing the front foot on the bowling crease) and get much closer to the stumps like in this picture:

6. Sets

So far we have only discussed tactics and methods for individual balls. However, spinners have to tease batsmen out more than any other style of bowling. This is sometimes called bowling in sets.

The classic set for an off spinner is to bowl a couple of balls with less spin followed by one with a big rip to catch the batsman through the gate or get a bat-pad chance. However sets can be even more subtle than that. A good spinner will test a batsman at a range of different lengths, angles and flights until he finds a weak spot and gets the wicket through guile.

The key message is rather than try and bowl the perfect ball every time, the spinner can take time to set the batsman up for a fall. He and his captain must know what this plan is so the right fields can be set in advance.

Images supplied by PitchVision Coach Edition


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What a cricketer can learn from a small Chinese girl (or 4 reasons you should Olympic Lift)

This is part 1 of a 2 part series. To go to part 2 click here.

Chen Yanqing weighs 57kg (9 stone) and is 5ft 2 inches tall. She is also a double gold winner in Olympic weightlifting.  Despite her size she has developed incredible power.

Imagine how you could use that kind of instant access to strength, speed and power on the cricket field.

Most people take a look at the weightlifting during the Olympics and think they could never copy the highly technical lifts: Cleans, Jerks and Snatches. They may even worry about getting injured. However, it's easier than you think to learn the lifts and their variations. Plus weightlifting is has one of the lowest injury rates of all sports: Far lower than cricket.

The benefits of this type of exercise certainly outweigh the costs.

1. Improved speed and power

Moving a weight quickly requires you to produce a great deal of upwards, moving your ankles, knees, hips and back in a chain. This is the exact same chain that you use when running and jumping. This means Olympic Lifts (OLs) will improve your running between the wickets as you can see here:

If you are a fast bowling it can also improve your 'hang time' or jump to the wicket. A critical element in the production of pace into the ball:

2. Improved endurance

It may seem counter intuitive but OLs also improve the heart and lungs. Research by Dr. Michael Stone discovered large increases in cardiovascular fitness after starting a program of lifting. This is due to almost every muscle in the body being recruited to get the weight into position. The body burns more calories both during and after a session. It's also a more specific type of endurance as you are producing power quickly then resting, as you would do when batting or bowling.

3. Improved coordination

OLs use the entire body in one movement. It takes coordination of the body to move a weight effectively. The better coordinated you are the more likely you are to be able to learn good cricket skill techniques and generate more timing and rhythm on the pitch.

4. Reduced risk of injury

When you use OLs you are learning to stabilise your core during movement.

This is an essential skill for injury prevention. Traditional core exercises like crunches and bridges isolate the trunk muscles outside of movement. However when you bat, bowl or throw you need to keep your core stable while your limbs move. OLs target that overlooked area.

Additionally, the techniques themselves can be learned in a very safe way. Many argue that OLs present less of a risk than training with machines as they are more natural whole body movements compared to isolated machine exercises.

In part 2 we discuss how you can add OLs to your training without having to spend weeks learning techniques. Click here to go there now.

Image credit: Steven Lui

If you want a more comprehensive guide to reducing injury risk and increasing cricket specific fitness, check out county strength coach Rob Ahmun's guide on PitchVision Academy.


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5 exercises that will improve your explosive power for cricket

This is part 2 of a 2 part series. To go to part 1 click here.

In part one of this series we learned how explosive exercises are perfect for cricket. Yet proper weightlifters spend years honing their technique. Can you get the benefits without the steep learning curve?

The key is to use variations.

Variations are easy to learn techniques that can be picked up by even a beginner right away. Yet they don't compromise on the important elements that make up a functional, explosive exercise:

  • They are all performed standing and unsupported (no machine work)
  • They all require you to move resistance quickly and explosively
  • They all train multiple joints and once
  • They can all be progressively overloaded

You can start with the beginner exercises and stick with them as long as you like. They are all effective for your needs as a cricketer. You can progress to the more advanced methods if you wish. However the way to progress effectively is not to use a more complex lift, but to keep adding weight to the bar. Every 1.25kg plate you add makes you a stronger, faster and less injury prone player.

You can use dumbbells, kettlebells or a barbell for resistance.

With explosive power it's best to work in the low rep ranges. 3-4 sets of 3-5 reps are usual. The aim is not to grind out lots of reps but to learn to explode quickly and efficiently. To enable full recovery your rest time between sets needs to be quite high. 2-3 minutes is usual (you can always do some stretching while you wait). Start low with the weight and get technique right before adding more.

A small word of warning, it is safe to do these lifts at almost any age or fitness level if you are healthy and do them correctly. Your doctor will be able to tell you if you are healthy enough to perform exercise and a qualified fitness trainer will be able to help with technique. This is especially important if you are under 18.

Here are the lifts.
Squat Jump

This exercise is a great place to start with power training as it teaches hip drive, an important element. You can perform it with bodyweight or add resistance with dumbbells or a barbell across your back. Always start with no weight and progress slowly. Technique is all important.

Jump Shrug

The jump shrug is one portion of a full Olympic lift like the clean or snatch so it's easy to learn. You are now involving the whole body. The important thing to remember is to keep your back in a 'neutral' position and avoid bending down or arching your back. Use your hips to drive you upwards.

Hang Pull

The hang pull takes another portion of a full lift, this time moving the weight a further distance up to the chin so it requires more power to move the same weight. The key is to move the weight with your hips, keeping your arms straight for as long as possible.

Push Press

A lot of people mistake this as a shoulder exercise. The shoulders are involved but the weight is driven up by the explosive power of your hips. Players with shoulder issues will be better off using a single kettlebell or dumbbell with a neutral grip (palms inwards).

One Arm Snatch

This is a more advanced exercise but as it uses a dumbbell or kettlebell can be experimented with safely. The hard part is getting 'under' the weight as you power it up to your chin. You should catch the weight above your head rather than simply using your arm to push it to the top.

It's worth teaching yourself this exercise as it is one of the best 'core' exercises as well as a power exercise that should improve your throwing distance. Just start with a very low weight to get the technique right before going for glory.

Integrate one of these exercises into you the beginning of your gym workouts (after warming up) and slow add weight as you progress. It will lead to big benefits on the pitch.

Image credit: Cronfeld


If you want a more comprehensive guide to reducing injury risk and increasing cricket specific fitness, check out county strength coach Rob Ahmun's guide on PitchVision Academy.


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Cricket Show 25: Case study special (Live!)

This week the show travelled to Newport in South Wales to meet up with Geraint, one of the Case Study subjects.

Geraint is an all-rounder with ambitions to play first class cricket. He spent the English winter playing as a professional in Australia and has now returned in time for the start of the UK season. Recorded live at a busy Wetherspoons pub at lunchtime, Geraint and David discussed:


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: 42
Date: 2009-04-17