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So many batsmen struggle against spin, so in this newsletter we examine some of the range of ways you can build skill and confidence against the sneaky spinners.

For coaches, there is advice on advice this week too. Firstly, making sure you help when you want to, rather than hinder. Secondly, when to be honest in your feedback, even if it might hurt someone's feelings.

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

How to Play Spin with Skill and Confidence

Do you struggle with an effective way to bat against spin?

There’s hope because - despite it’s difficulty - there have never been more options. Once you find an approach that works for you, your fear of spin vanishes forever.


Having a good method against spin also stands you out in a world where most batsmen prefer the ball coming onto the bat. Far fewer run makers are confident against the spinning ball. So, if you want to be a cricketer, your spin game better be A+.

Here’s how to get there.

The basics of playing spin

Aside from long hops, most coaches will advise you to play spin with a straight bat: A basic tip but one that takes more mastery that you first think.

You see, despite “playing straight” being low risk, high reward against spin there is more than one way to do it.

Start with the aim to hit the ball hard on the downswing, not the follow through. There are many different ways to do this. Different batsmen make contact at different moments, with different strides and with a different dominant hand. However, as long as the ball is hit on the downswing, it doesn’t matter how you do it.

The other key point is to hit it hard. This can be done through bat speed, brute force or subtle timing - depending on your skill set - but whatever your method you need to generate pace on the ball and get it through the gaps along the ground.

For many, this means losing “shape” and not hitting on the downswing. As long as you can keep the ball on the ground when you middle it, you are making the right shapes.

Let’s assume you can do this well (and if you can’t, you can stop reading now to go and work on it until it’s reliable).

The next step is the angle you hit the ball.

Hitting with the spin and into the spin

You have two options:

  1. With the spin
  2. Into the spin

What’s the difference?

When you play with the spin, you use the movement of the ball. For the ball turning in, you look to score between midwicket and mid off. For the ball turning away, your target area is between cover and straight mid on.

This is the traditional advice.

However, many players have also had great success playing into the spin.

When you hit into the spin, you let the ball turn on to the face of the bat and hit the ball with the full face back where it spun from.

The ball turning in spins towards you from the off side, so look to drive back into the off side. The more it turns, the wider you can drive with low risk. The ball turning away from you can be easily hit through midwicket if it pitches on leg stump and turns onto your bat. Sachin played this latter shot pretty well, so I reckon it’s not very high risk!

You might decide you prefer one option over the other, and that’s fine if it works for you.

That said, I would urge you to experiment with both methods as they can both be pretty handy tools and the risk is low both ways.

At club and school level, this approach may be enough by itself to get you plenty of runs. A non-professional spinner will give you plenty of bad balls to put away through drives, cuts and pulls.

But what happens when you are looking to push on more quickly than the spinner allows you?

Here, your options open up further. Let’s take a look.

Change the line and length

If you are good at timing the ball with drives, but the bowler is not giving you enough to drive, you can force a ball to drive yourself.

Use your feet.

The magic here is to get right to the pitch of the ball going forward, or as far as possible from the pitch when going back.

Coming down the wicket is slightly riskier than staying in your crease because if you miss it you can be stumped, but because you are still playing straight you can pick up runs in your chosen scoring area.

As long as you move with confidence, and still aim to hit on the downswing, you can be effective.

Some batters like to go early and slower, other prefer to go later and move more quickly. Both methods have pros and cons so try them out in nets to see what works for you. Remember, the objective is to get right to the pitch of the ball.

Either way, moving your feet is not licence to swing from the laces. Your first job is to hit the ball into a gap along the ground. If you can’t do that, be condfident in defence.

The classic image of a batsman using their feet to a spinner is coming down the pitch to turn a length ball into a half volley. This is great, but you can also change the length by going right back in your crease.

Dravid was a master of springing back to leg stump and hitting with the spin into the off side for easy runs. Work on getting right back to length balls as well. It’s the safest way to attack from the back foot.

In part two, we will examine manipulating the ball into gaps and going over the top. Get the newsletter to stay up to date.

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Bat Against Spin with Confidence: Sweeping and Hitting Over the Top

Unless you plan to only face bad spinners, there will come a time when you need to get fancy with your spin game.

This second part of the guide to playing spin gives you more options to use to both rotate the strike and score more boundaries against spinners.


It’s important to remember something here: You don’t have to use any of these options. Focus on nailing the basics, especially driving on the downswing. This will stand you in good stead.

That said, you might find one of these options come naturally to you. Or you might find one of these options more useful in specific conditions. So, try them out in practice, even if your driving game is not perfect yet. If you discover a natural affinity for sweeping you’ll be thankful you did!

Let’s look at the options.

The sweep: friend or foe

Sweeping is controversial.

It’s not universally applauded like the drive. When you get out sweeping - or reverse sweeping - a lot of your team mates will look at you with disgust at your perceived lack of discipline.

On the other hand, it’s incredibly useful, especially for batsmen who are more naturally set up to play cross bat shots (often referred to by movement boffins as rotational). Some even find sweeping comes more naturally than driving and so is the safer shot.

So, your first job is to work out how easy you find the sweep.

Try it at nets and see what happens. If you middle more than 40% on your first go, you have something to work with. If it’s less than four in ten you need to either drop it or work much harder to get it right.

Your next thought is towards the culture of the team. Does your club or school support sweeping or do they think of it as terrible cross-bat nonsense? Most teams will have players in both camps, usually depending on how well they sweep themselves. You need to know both what the generally accepted team idea is on sweep shots, and what everyone find acceptable for you to do.

If your role is accepted as including sweeping, then you can have it in your game.

If the team culture is agains sweeping apart from the lowest risk times, like sweeping a ball that has pitched outside leg only, then you need to reign in any ambitions for the shot.

With all this in mind, you can build up a system for sweeping that works for you.

Now, let’s play the shot!

Playing the sweep variations

You can sweep almost any ball, although it’s most commonly used to a good length ball. It’s riskier to play to balls hitting the stumps because bowled and LBW are in play. However, that should not put you off if you are confident and skilled.

There are a few variations. You will find you are better at some and worse than others,

  1. Hard: Hit firmly along the ground out in front of the eyes. Aimed through midwicket or square leg.
  2. Paddle: Played finer, and letting the ball hit the bat to run away.
  3. Reverse: Swapping around and hitting the ball hard through point.
  4. Slog: Aimed over the top of midwicket or square leg.

Look to sweep to rotate the strike or even score a boundary when the spinner is bowling a good length. It’s a controlled way to get up the other end when it’s hard to get the ball away.

It upsets the bowler and shows him no respect. It shows everyone who is in control of the game.

Remember to use it as a tool to get a job done, and never as a last resort panic shot. The latter is far more likely to get you out, and garner criticism from the coach.

Speaking of tools, the sweep is also a great shot to use paired up with others to keep control of the game.

For example, reverse sweep a spinner into a gap behind square on the off side and you will see square leg or midwicket move to fill the gap. You can then tap it through the new gap. You are in control of the game.

You can also do one of my favourite things in cricket: five from two. Here you sweep a ball for a boundary and the fielder gets put out. Then you sweep again and take the single. It shows total control from the batsman and drives the bowler insane, especially if it happens in the first two balls of the over.

No fielders in the air

Former England off-spinner Robert Croft once told me he loved to see his team’s batsmen hitting spin over the top because “there are no fielders in the air”.

It’s a great line, but it also rings true. Think about all that space behind fielders and you quickly realise that going over the top is not about clean hitting sixes, but about dinking it into a gap and making runs.

And you can do that any stage of the game.

Like the sweep it takes confidence, skill and practice, especially if you are going to try it on slower pitches where the ball doesn’t come on and you need to do all the work.

Yet, it also allows you to control the game.

You can hit a boundary over the top with a straight bat and watch the fielder go back. Then you pick up your “five in two” single and giggle to yourself from the non-striker’s end.

Also like sweeping, it’s not a shot of desperation or anger. It’s a shot of cool, calculated control. Pick your infielder to go over, rather than trying to clear the man on the rope. You are still entitled to change your mind if you feel something isn’t right before you start your downswing.

So, once you have committed to the shot - usually to a length ball where you dance down the wicket - aim to hit the ball hard, like an orthodox drive, and only just in the follow-through. Aim to go as flat as possible while still getting it over the fielder.

If you get the timing of this wrong and it’s too much into the follow-through you will hit it more upwards and less flat. This is not ideal as it increases your chance of both a poor contact and getting it into the reach of a fielder.

There are several ways you can attempt the shot. More orthodox driving is one option but is often difficult for less strong guys to get enough power to clear the infield. You can, drop kick and line drive.

Practice away from a net. Set up target zones on the outfield and work on ways to make the ball get into them from slower bowling. You’ll be surprised how quickly you learn to do it, and build your confidence in playing over the top in any match situation.


Playing spin can be difficult and confusing. It has many options so requires you to know your game inside out and be confident of the way you will play in any situation.

Using this guide, you can get practicing different ways to play that work for you from orthodox driving to sweeping and going over the top. Then you can walk out to bat with the spinner on, safe on the knowledge you have a method that will get you on top an keep you there.

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Cricket Show S7 Episode 35: Sacrifices and Choices

Cricket coaches Mark Garaway, Sam Lavery and David Hinchliffe get round the table to discuss the latest questions in playing and coaching cricket. The discussion kicks of as the lads get into the important but dull planning process. We all prefer to throw, catch, hit and bowl but planning stuff out is crucial too, and that means sitting in front of a computer and talking now and again!


Fortunately, discussions move on to more active topics quickly. There is a chat about how sacrifice is important in cricket, as are the choices everyone makes to be a good team player. Then, there are listener's questions about a leg spinner who chucks and how you practice to score a century.

How to Send in Your Questions

If you want to win a cricket coaching prize, you need to send in your burning questions to the show. If your question is the best one we give you a free online cricket coaching course!

Send in your questions via:

Or you can call and leave your question on the Academy voice mail:

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How to Listen to the Show

Just click the "play" button at the top of the show notes.

Or, the show comes out every Friday and you can listen to it on your phone or tablet every week automatically. Simply choose your favourite podcast player and do a search for the show:

Or subscribe manually with the RSS feed. Right click here, copy the link and paste it into the appropriate place for adding new feeds in your podcast subscription software or RSS reader.

You can also download this show onto your computer by clicking the play button at the top of the article, or clicking on the mp3 to download.


Discuss this article with other subscribers

Honest Feedback Is a Gift so Make Sure You Are Great at Giving It

How good are you at providing feedback?

Follow This Golden Rule When You Give Cricket Advice

One of the golden rules of cricket advice is to only comment on what you see. Never comment on what you imagine to be happening.

It’s a simple rule, but easy to forget.


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: 430
Date: 2016-09-23