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It's finally cricket season here in the UK and Europe. Club players all over are dusting off their whites, praying for sunshine and venturing to outdoor nets while most everywhere else is jealously packing up for the long winter.

Whether you are playing or not, we have another information-packed newsletter for you this week. We start with a monster article for captains and bowlers who play any form of limited over cricket. Whether it's 50 over, Twenty20 or anything else there is a tactic you can use to take more wickets and keep the run rate to a minimum.

New to the game leg spinner Dave Thompson teaches what he has learned about the leg break so far, we discuss the IPL idea of using multiple captains and there is another downloadable cricket show where we answer your coaching questions.

As always we would love to hear from you whether you coach, play or just have a passion for cricket.

Have a great weekend,


David Hinchliffe

Putting on the squeeze: How to take wickets in limited overs games

Is it pointless taking wickets in limited over games?

Victory simply requires you to score more runs than the opposition in the allotted time (usually 50 or 20 overs). Whether you are in the field first or second you job is to keep the score as low as possible. That means defensive tactics.

Should you be resigned to not taking any wickets as captain or bowler then?

Taking wickets in this situation does have its advantages. New batsmen need time to increase their scoring rate. It's just the conventional strategies and field placings of declaration games carry a risk. The more you attack, the more likely you are to get hit into the gaps.

Do you, as the gamblers say, stick or twist?

Taking wickets in the opening overs

The first few overs present a problem. On one hand, with the ball fresh in your hand and the batsman at their most nervous you have a golden chance to take wickets. On the other hand, attacking too much can see the opposition gets off to a flyer.

Most teams take the route of cautious attack. With the ball pitched up, hitting the top of off stump the field looks something like this:

The bowler who gets some movement in the air or off the pitch could bowl a great opening spell and end up with 2 or 3 wickets. Inswing/seam bowlers may prefer a short midwicket or square leg instead of second slip. Away swing bowlers could move point to gulley.

Consider any wickets as a bonus and look to defend the scoring areas as quickly as possible.

If fielding restrictions allow, a good tactic is get spin on early. Unlike the professional game, a club or school level player will be reluctant to go for all out attack against them. This gives the spinner more confidence and you can frustrate the batsman into an error.

That thought brings us nicely onto the key to taking wickets in limited overs games.

Born of frustration: Taking wickets in the middle overs

Eventually your early advantage will run out and we enter the middle portion of the game. If cautious attack was the plan initially, defence is the first and last consideration from now on.

Remember your aim is to restrict the opposition to a low score, not bowl them out. That means three methods of taking wickets:

  1. Luck. You are playing in conditions that are so friendly to your team you will easily outscore the opposition.
  2. Skill. You bowl a series of 'magic' balls that blow the opposition away.
  3. Frustration. You stop the opposition from scoring through defensive tactics and frustrate them into mistakes.

Most teams rarely are in a position to exploit the first two methods. However, almost all sides can use the third tactic.

This starts with what the professionals call the 'squeeze' field. It is so called because you are trying to squeeze the batsman's scoring rate by cutting off all their shots. There are no singles to be had and they have to be very precise to thread the ball through the small gaps in the field. There are several variations, depending on the type of bowling.

Seam/Swing tactics

Using this field, the bowler pitches the ball on or around off stump consistently. Accuracy is the key. Length can vary slightly from back of a length to fullish, but line must be impeccable:

The fielders are set close enough to save a single. One mistake with this tactic was highlighted in an English county game recently: Essex against Northamptonshire in the 50 over competition. Northants had set an excellent target of 281 and Essex were going about knocking the score off with a well paced chase. The Steelbacks needed to put on the squeeze if they were to have any hope of success. Captain Nicky Boje kept fielders up in the 30 yard field restriction circle but made the mistake of placing them on the edge to try and stop the four. This gave easy singles and the odd boundary when Essex needed less than 6 an over to win. It just goes to show even professionals can make mistakes.

The squeeze field only works when you are stopping singles so get close enough to do it. Extra cover and midwicket need to be alert to tip-and-run tactics too. If you are leaking runs you can't frustrate the batter. Slower medium pace bowlers can bring fine leg and third man up to save the single too.

Apart from that you can experiment with what works best for your bowling against different styles of batter. You may find outswingers have no need for square leg for example.

You will find good batsmen will try and hit over the top to get out of trouble. This carries a risk and could get you wickets. If someone is having success hitting over the top you can place a boundary fielder in their scoring area. Most club players are limited to where they can hit over the top so you should not need many players out.

Spin tactics

Spinners are excellent in limited over conditions because they have to be hit that much harder to go for runs. The batsman is forced to play more attacking shots and more likely to make a mistake. That said, if a player does get hold of spin bowling you can be hit to all parts.

This means the squeeze field for spinners has more men on the boundary but the tactic is the same: cut off the runs.

The key to this is to bowl on one side of the wicket and protect that area. Club batsmen are not good enough in most cases to hit both sides of the wicket effectively.

The off spinner who is getting turn to the right handed batsman will be hit into the leg side more often with the turn and has to defend the leg side boundary as shown here:

Again, extra cover and midwicket should be alert for tip-and-run tactics. If needed, deep gulley can be moved to short fine leg. This is especially effective with the off spinner bowling around the wicket.

The orthodox left arm spinner will be hit more with the turn into the off side. The standard tactic is to bowl around the wicket on or outside off stump and the double ring of fielders should cut off most shots:

It is especially hard to work the ball behind square on the leg side so this area can be left open unless you come across a very skilled (or unorthodox) player.

Dealing with the long handle: Taking wickets at the death

Bowling at the end of an innings is the least difficult time to take wickets. It's also the most likely time to get hit; so many bowlers don't like it.

The tradition at the top level is to use the faster bowlers at the end. This is fine at lower levels as long as the bowler is accurate. Spinners can also be used if they are doing a good job.

Tactics will remain similar with bowlers pitching the ball up, aiming for the stumps and not giving the batsman room to swing their arms. The field will depend a great deal on the style of bowling and batting. A good framework to work from looks like this:

Deep midwicket may perhaps be better at deep extra cover but it's unlikely you will need sweepers on both sides of the wicket. Square leg could be moved almost anywhere the ball is going.

Images Credit: PitchVision - Coach Edition, chrisjohnbeckett


Want to be a better captain? Learn from the best with the interactive online course Cricket Captaincy by Mike Brearley.



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The enthusiasts guide to the leg break

Today's guest article is by Dave Thompson, a club leg spin bowler who took up the game recently. He has approached this most difficult of skills with a fresh pair of eyes. Dave is the first to admit he is an enthusiast rather than an expert and still has much to learn, but his enthusiasm and passion is addictive.

You can catch up with Dave on his blog and at BigCricket, where he talks leg spin with other players.

Of the several deliveries that the wrist spin bowler uses this is the primary weapon. Attributed to right arm bowlers the ball is bowled relatively slowly in comparison to the medium pacers and fast bowlers. The ball is pitched up towards the batsman at different and varying lengths and then spins away towards the slip fielders. So from your point of view as the bowler the ball lands and spins away to the left. From the batsman's perspective it lands and spins away to the right.


From your point of view as the bowler it's necessary to be able to make the ball spin away from the point it lands. The levels of accuracy required for both the length and the line are exceptionally important and as a leg spinner the ability to bowl different, speeds, lengths and line all combine to make this a tricky ball to play. The Leg break has a number of other attributes - Dip, Bounce and drift.

  • Dip; Is a description relating to the flight of the ball. The ball is usually delivered in such a way that it is bowled above the eye-line of the batsman; this has the effect of making it more difficult to judge with regards to its speed and its likely point as to where it's going to land. The leg break spins anti clockwise with the seam of the ball pointing in the direct of cover/point so it combines some of the attributes of a Top Spinner ball. It's this top spinning characteristic that causes the ball to be affected by the Magnus effect. The ball flies through the air and from the side it would initially give the impression that it would land beyond or on the stumps, but because of it spinning and the Magnus effect coming into play it suddenly falls out of the sky rapidly far sooner than a ball thrown without spin. Which as you can imagine as a batsman is problematic.
  • Bounce; This is an obvious consequence of the ball suddenly dipping. If the ball was to have been thrown a similar distance without spin, the entry angle into the impact with the surface would be marginally lesser than the mirrored exit angle. So seeing the ball pitched up above the eye level the brain would then calculate expected entry angle and exit angle out of the bounce and quickly put into action a strategy with the bat to deal with the ball. But then the Magnus affect causes the rapid dip and surprising high bounce that is designed by the wrist spinner to be either struck on the glove or the top edge of the bat forcing an error whereby the batsman will be caught.
  • Drift; This is another attribute caused by the fact that the ball is spinning and is a consequence of the Magnus affect. As well as potentially dipping at the last moment because the ball is spun with the seam at 45 degrees it cuts through the air and reacts in a way that causes it to swerve off its initial line, swerving in the opposite way to the spin direction, so it swerves towards the leg side.
The grip for the leg break

The grip is described as a 2 fingers up, 2 fingers down with the 2 up fingers across the seam as opposed to along the seam in the case of medium pace and fast bowlers. The most important finger is the 3rd finger as it's this that imparts the spin on the ball. It's easy to get really hung up on the grip as there are loads of opinions as to how you do it. Some people have a loose grip, others have a tight grip I had success when I was learning with a solid grip but making sure that the gap between the two up fingers and the 3rd finger was quite wide. I find in my bowling that now the up fingers and the thumb have very little to do with the bowling action and that the position on the seam is absolutely essential. I have to make sure that I place the 3rd finger very purposefully on the seam and concentrate as I bowl on ensuring that the 3rd finger stays on the ball till last micro second. It's this 3rd finger dragging across the seam as the ball comes out of the hand that puts the spin on the ball.

Other people I've observed have very different grips, kids I've noticed including my 7 year old have evenly spread fingers which make their grip look like a conventional 'Holding the ball' grip, but their fingers are all across the seam and they get it to spin. I remember when I first picked up a ball I did something similar and just used a flick of the wrist and got it to turn.

Round the Loop

There aren't that many resources available to the wrist spinner but the most important is possibly the book The Art of Wrist Spin Bowlingby Peter Philpott. Philpott writes about the subject in great depth and anyone learning Wrist Spin bowling needs to get a copy and read it not once but several times.

In the book as Philpott describes how to bowl wrist spin he uses the analogy of going 'Round the loop' to describes the position of the wrist in conjunction with each of the variations. It was through reading this book and realising the relevance of the wrists position that I was eventually able to bowl the leg break. So look at the diagram and consider the wrist in relation to the batsman.

The Loop aspect describes the rotation (Twisting) of the wrist with regards to each of the deliveries. The Leg break has the under-side of the wrist as it comes over the top of the head in the delivery facing the batsman with the back of the hand facing you as it passes beyond the position of 12 o'clock.

Another piece of advice that I was given through BigCricket was that when the arm came over instead of the action being that of a fling it needs to be something that is more akin to a push, this for me gives me the sense that the wrist remains in that forward facing position in the delivery and as the hand comes over and down and the ball leaves the hand the fingers unfurl with the 3rd finger staying on the ball for as long as physically possible so that it then spins the ball.

On the subject of arm action here's some wisdom from the great Clarrie Grimmett.

I'm currently reading Grimmett's "On Cricket". He mentions a point regarding round arm verses a more vertical arm. The comparison he makes is that of skimming stones across a pond. Suggesting quite rightly that if you throw a flat stone using a vertical arm action it's simply going to disappear into the water, whereas the sideways arm action means that the flat stone doesn't break the surface and instead skims bouncing several times before disappearing. The inference is that the round arm action facilitates a faster movement off the pitch. The vertical action would mean some of the kinetic energy would be absorbed into the pitch and thus slow the ball down.


I think with regards tactics it's easy to get carried away with watching video clips of Shane Warne, as you kind of get drawn into the idea that as a Wrist Spinner you're supposed to be bowling Leg Breaks down the leg side with the intention that they turn round the back of the bats legs.

As a novice wrist spinner you're more than likely going to be better off sticking to a more basic approach. I found as I learned most balls down the leg side get put away quite easily by the batsman. A potentially better approach would be to bowl with an emphasis towards the off-stump. My own approach is to bowl at middle and off so that each ball is threatening to hit the stumps and therefore needs to be dealt with and not left. I've seen this approach used by a bloke who was playing on a wicket that offered very little assistance in the way of turn, but he bowled a very accurate line but varied his length using his ability to use dip and keeping the ball up above the eye-line. This bloke was in his 60's and bowled about 10 maiden overs out of 13!

I vary my line slightly but always keep the ball down the offside looking for opportunities of a catch at point, gully, cover etc. But the line I bowl worries batsmen who are not that confident and with the ball spinning away to slips there's always the potential to force an error.


The key to all aspects of Wrist Spin bowling is practice. Almost without exception anyone that knows anything of cricket all says that Wrist Spin Bowling is the most difficult of all of cricket's skills. Therefore it follows that to bowl wrist spin and do it well you need to practice constantly and practice seriously. Philpott writes chapters in his book on this subject emphasising that if you're not obsessed with the idea of being a wrist spin bowler and don't view the prospects of spending virtually every waking hour of your life practicing it you'll never become an accomplished wrist spin bowler.

You can read more of Dave's ideas, including about the flipper, slider, top spinner, googly and big leg break on his dedicated wrist spin blog.


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Do cricket teams need multiple captains?

John Buchanan caused a huge stir in the IPL when he said "I see there is scope to challenge the way teams have been run in the past".

The former Australian coach went on to outline that his Kolkata Knight Riders side could announce a formal captain on a game-by-game basis and they would be used in a vastly diminished role:

  • The batting coach picks the batting order and changes it in the dugout where needed.
  • Bowlers are advised of their fields and tactics by a bowling coach and analyst before they cross the white line can set their own fields.
  • On field 'strategists' would report to the captain (who could be any one of the strategists on any given day).
  • Although not suggested by Buchanan, Jonty Rhodes highlighted how a 'fielding captain' can be responsible for ensuring players are in the right place and making the right tactical fielding decisions.

The question is, does this approach work better than the traditional method of having one captain for everything?

Much has been written and spoken about the idea. Those pro the idea say that it makes sense to separate players from tactical decisions as much as possible so they can concentrate on making runs or taking wickets. Others argue that there are problems of accountability and consistency without someone at the top.

In fact, this is not a particularly new idea. Good sides often say they have "a team of captains". Senior players take great responsibility. Bowlers know what fields work best for them, batsmen make decisions out in the middle without communication from the captain and fielders decide for themselves where to move to be in the optimal position.

Wicketkeepers have been the 'sergeant majors' of fielding sides for years.

This doesn't mean the captain has less of a job to do, it's just he or she can trust players to get on with certain things. That frees up the captain to keep overall control. Someone needs to think ahead of the game, change the bowlers to stop them getting tired, manipulate the field to specific batters and keep the game under control.

A good captain with good senior players can do all that without giving up the traditional role. It doesn't need to be a formalised dropping of the captain, just a captain who can has enough trust in his or her players to give them that extra responsibility.

image credit: SJ Jagadeesh


Want to be a better captain? Learn from the best with the interactive online course Cricket Captaincy by Mike Brearley.


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Case study update: Preseason matches

This article is part of the miCricketCoach 2009 Case Study. To stay up to date with their progress get the free newsletter.

Both Naz and Geraint have begun their pre-season matches. Now is the time all that extra planning, training and organising starts to come to fruition.

Cricket Show 26: How to pick length better

David starts his cricket season in the sunshine and Kevin is fast becoming an IPL fan. We also have former first class wicketkeeper turned coach Mark Atkinson answering our quickfire "5 questions".

This week the show also includes:


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: 43
Date: 2009-04-24