Bowling around the pole: Wrist position and swing bowling | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

Bowling around the pole: Wrist position and swing bowling

In the art of swing bowling, subtle and minor adjustments can make major differences to the amount and type of swing you get.

It's easy to see what the grip looks like for inswing and outswing. It's also easy to see if you are making chances of swing improve by having an upright seam position as the ball travels towards the batsman.

The difficult, almost imperceptible, difference is your wrist position at the point of delivery. It's one of those 'feel' things you get as a bowler that can be hard for a coach to demonstrate.

Where does the wrist go?

In seam up bowling (rather than swing), the idea is to hit the pitch with the seam. The way to do that is to release the ball with a vertical seam and your wrist following right behind, facing the batsman. This makes sense because if your wrist does not follow your fingers the seam will wobble and be less effective.

Swing bowling takes this principle and allows you to encourage late swing through both wrist and angled seam position (as long as you don't scramble the seam in the process).

So the seam stays upright, what do you do with your wrist?

This is where things start to get hard to explain.

In fact, I thought long and hard before writing this article. Is it worth trying to explain when wrist position is so reliant on the bowler getting the right feel? I thought on balance I would at least try. Here is my attempt.

If you want to bowl outswing, you soften the wrist a little so the wrist almost leads the fingers. If you want to bowl inswing you keep the wrist firmer.

Use the seam position as a rudder.

Another way of looking at it is from Bob Woolmer:


"The best way of visualizing the correct arm and wrist action for the outswinger is to imagine putting a pole into the pitch on the bowling crease. Now try bowling around the pole, your arm coming round it on the right hand side... go 'round the pole' with your wrist only"


For inswing, Bob advised going round the other side of the pole.

Clearly this very small change takes some practice to get the exact feel of release and seam position you need. This can be difficult of you are practicing in conditions where the ball is not swinging.

That may be the reason swing bowling is such a mystery. Conditions have to be right and even your pace on the day makes a difference to how much it swings.

But with practice, you can get the feel you are after and start swinging the ball more regularly.

Image credit: cyberdees


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a good though tedious practice is to lie on your back on a bed and flick a cricket ball up in the air, practicing for either in/outswing: finger position and wrist action (backspin) to get the ball flying up with a non-scrambled seam, with the seam rotating either on a line to slip (outswing) on fine leg (inswing).

If you can get the ball flying out with lots of rotation, and angled seam consistently then you will have cracked it.

Some people don't angle the seam, but instead have a orthodox seam bowling grip, and everything comes from the wrist position.

I can bowl inswing no problem, but have problems with the outie, and have experimented with seam position, cocked wrist and slight side sling (soft wrist). I find most of the time even with the seam pointing to 2nd slip it still moves in, often getting a massive cut off the pitch from off to leg. So now i can bowl a massive cutter, but i still can't get a variation the other way.

I have found with this, and the whole wrist thing, and bob woolmers pole analogy (his book is great btw) that another way to think about it is to have an orthodox straight seam grip, look to gets lots of backspin, but 'push' or 'press' the seam forward more with the top joints of one finger as you snap the wrist down on release.

Push with the middle finger against the right side of the seam for inswing (pushing the seam from straight to angled towards leg). Push the index finger against the left side of the seam for outswing. It's important to note here, you are not rolling your finger down the side of the ball or anything like that, you are simply putting slightly more pressure against one side of an upright seam, causing it to point either to the left or right as you impart backspin. You get maximum back spin, giving a stable ball, but end up with the seam canting one way or the other. The finger pressure will trigger the appropriate wrist rotation.

If you try this even sitting down with a ball, push with the one finger and let this trigger the rotation of the wrist from straight to leg (inswing) or slip (outswing).

It has the exact same effect as angling the wrist, the thing being it's eaiser to think about and trigger a movement with your fingers than your wrist.

Superb tip Vicky. I think Darren Gough used to do exactly that. Thanks for the contribution!

see this video. It explains this concept beautifully.

Great link!

Link is Broken Sad

Works Ok for me, broken for anyone else?

copy and paste it. its missing last few letters in the link.

One think I notice is that most people also tilt the seam slightly - but in the wrong direction! A right hander bowling away swing will aim the seam towards first slip - but he should also tilt the seam towards leg by about 5 degree - this will give the ball the opportunity to swing as it is going down as well as when it is moving horizontally.

Maybe this is the key to "late" rather than "early" swing!

There are some interesting facts mentioned in this article that I was searching for such a long time. I am very blissful that I stumbled throughout this in my endeavor to find a relevant content on this topic.
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Great tip mate. In fact I've been practising this for the last 10 days and it's improved the control of how the ball comes out of the wrist a lot. The finger pressure you mention later is more a natural thing i felt, because without this varied pressure, it's not very easy to get the ball to spin AND hold the seam in a particular direction. Jimmy Anderson spoke about it a while back in Sky.

but getting out of the bed, what do you think about/ watch for when you're actually bowling. I mean at that rate of delivery how do you feel for a cocked wrist? how can you improve wrist control while bowling. Any drills mate?

Bob Woolmer also talks about how for outswinger you cock the wrist and for in you let is follow through (rhb).


i want to improve my bowling styles . I want to bowl swing ball . so please give some tips and picture and sent to my email

Is it possible for a spin bowler to get swing? Sometimes when I bowl with a reverse swing polished ball and I bowl a very good top spinner with the seam perfectly upright it swings to the shiny side. It isn't drift because if I turn the ball around it goes the other way and scrambled seam there isn't any of this movement. I have managed doing this a few times and it is a very dangerous weapon, especially against left handers if you get the ball to swing into them with the top spinner and they expect turn= absolute mayhem. But I'm not entirely sure that this is swing yet...
Just going to try and achieve this again and I'll let you know Smiling

Hi All,
Great website! Thank you for all the tips and advice.

I do have a problem that I would like your thoughts on. I seem to have lost the right length for my in-swinger. I have worked on my out-swing delivery (Thank you very much and now this has become my stock ball, but the in-swinger seems to have suffered.

I try to bowl the in-swinger towards the 4-5 delivery of an over, but the batsmen always seem to pick it and I lose the pressure I had built up. I suppose it's also a psychological block, this seems to have happened a bit now, and I have lost confidence in bowling the in-swinger. So I tend to change my mind at the last second and that never goes well.

So any thoughts or tips you guys can offer would be greatly appreciated.



i believe that is called drift.

Please say which finger used for outswing