Getting line and length right is a magical thing that gets you wickets, but spin bowling is an art, not a science.
That means there is no perfect line and length that you can bowl time and time again on the same spot in every game and you know the batsman will be in trouble.
Every batsman and every pitch is different. And you need to adapt your line and length to suit the situation.
There are a million and one situations you can look at (in my Spin Bowling Project guide we discuss various situations) but let’s break it into two main topics for the purpose of the lesson.
We will look at what to bowl when you want to attack and what to bowl when you want to defend.
An attacking line
An attacking line is when you want to get wickets (even if you go for a few runs).
This should be your default mode of thinking as most of the times you should be looking at getting wickets.
So, where is an attacking line?
An attacking line is where you are looking to get the batsman to drive the ball (this applies if you are a leggie or an offie).
So, just outside of off stump is where you want to be aiming (even if the batsman is left handed or right).
When you bowl just outside of the off-stump you are tempting the batsman to have a drive at the ball. It’s an opportunity for him to makes runs, yes, but an opportunity for you to take a wicket.
Just one mistake and he is gone. If he drives then he can get bowled, stumped, caught at cover or slip.
You want to draw the batsman out to make play a risky shot. So, slot in just outside off stump and let him have a go.
A defensive line
A defensive line is when you want to stop the batsman from scoring runs.
Some commentators will talk about a negative line when you just bowl it down leg side so that the batsman can’t even get bat on it. That is not good cricket and it is not what we are talking about.
You will adopt a defensive line when you want to dry up the runs. Yes, you can try this in a 20/20 match as well, but do not think you always have to do this in a 20/20 match. Wickets dry up runs quicker than anything else and you can still take an attacking line approach in 20/20.
A defensive line will be off stump for an off spin bowler and leg stump (or just outside) for a leg spin bowler.
The reason this is negative is because the batsman will not take as many chances with this line (you are cramping him for space have limited his scoring opportunities). And if the batsman takes fewer chances then he is also not giving you that many opportunities for him to make a mistake.
And the length?
We won’t get into all the different length options you have on different pitches, but you will do good to bowl just short of a length. Do not adopt a driving line and then feed the batsman half-volleys. If you do that you can go collect the ball at the boundary yourself.
You want to give the ball a chance to turn: if the batsman drives you want to him to do so by driving 'on the up'.
Place a target on driving length in the nets (without a batsman) and then bowl at the target.
Remember to only look at the target. Do not look at the wickets. If you are in a match you should also just look at the target and not the batsman.
Look at where you want to bowl.
Once you are hitting the target regularly, move the target to the defensive line and length and do the same. Master that, and then place targets in the nets on both the attacking and defensive line, and take turns bowling at the separate targets.
This will help you if you bowl in a match and need to adopt different lines for different batsmen.
For the next session we will look at the stock ball and all your variations (your little bag of tricks).
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