Avoid the "Moeen Ali Pickle" and Learn How to Play Spin | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

Avoid the "Moeen Ali Pickle" and Learn How to Play Spin

The ball spinning into the stumps at pace has always picked up wickets at a faster rate than the ball spinning away from the bat at pace. Wickets fall quickly unless batting methods are developed and honed.

In the England-West Indies Barbados Test, the bowlers foot holes developed quickly and the contest between spin and bat ultimately proved to be the defining factor in the contest.

Moeen Ali was batting against Permaul, the West Indies Left arm spinner, in England's 2nd innings. And as I watched I remembered something my first coach at school had told me.


“You got yourself in a pickle there young Garaway”.

It was said to me when I was trying to work out how on earth I was going to play against spin bowling. As I watched, Moeen was also "in a pickle": The distraction of the rough was causing Ali all sorts of problems.

The world’s best left handers - player like Sangakkara, Lara and Gilchrist - all developed effective back foot movement patterns to cope with the ball missing the rough on the short side yet still spinning into the stumps. They scored safely and freely to this ball. In turn, the bowler was put under pressure on a surface on which they should be the dominant player.

So what could Ali have done differently?

The Indian/Fletcher method for playing spin

I learnt this method from two sources.

Many Indian batters spring back into leg stump, opening their stumps up yet providing themselves with space to hit a back foot drive to a ball coming back into the stumps.

They maximise the distance between ball bounce and ball contact which helps to open up scoring areas and can take the bat-pad fielders out of the equation. Rahul Dravid was incredible at this and would punch Muralitharan through extra cover and cover every time he missed the footmarks of Chaminda Vaas. The risk was minimal and the score board ticked over even on the most difficult of surfaces.

Duncan Fletcher taught a similar method to Andrew Strauss following his embarrassing bowled dismissal in the Edgbaston Test of 2005. Fletcher explained the principle of going back into leg stump as being able to hit,

“back into the spin rather than across it”.

That way, more surface area of the ball was lined up with more surface area of the bat before and at ball contact,

“It’s Geometry, hey!”

This statement was usually followed up with a clip on the top of my head or a jab to my ribs: Fletcher’s way of showing affection! Effectively, this is the same method explained in a different way.

Conventional coaching/Vaughan method for playing spin

Michael Vaughan used a more "conventional" (back and across to off stump) method to play against Muralitharan. His aim would be to get his pads outside of off stump so if it hit him whilst he was playing a shot then he would not be adjudged LBW. Bowled was also difficult to achieve.

He could then clip the ball away on the leg side for runs.

This is easier to set a field to, so it’s important that the batter develops the ability to clip the ball both in front and behind square when using this movement pattern as their method of preference.

Vaughan did this well as a right-hander. Sangakkara does this excellently as a left-hander to leg spin and slow left arm.

Give each method a go to see which one works for you.

Whatever happens, avoid mixing the footwork of Vaughan with the shot intention of Dravid or you will get in a "Moeen Ali Pickle".

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