What spin bowler hasn't heard these clichés in his cricketing career?
"Toss it up" the young spin bowler is so often told. "You've got to flight the ball, give it some air, and get it above the batsman's eye line".
The problem is that experience soon teaches that simply lobbing the ball up in the air does not suddenly make a competent batsman turn into a tail end bunny. Whilst the advice may be well meaning, it completely misses the point. Flight is about deception. There is nothing deceptive about simply bowling the same ball but slower and with a higher trajectory.
So what is flight then?
The art of spin bowling is the art of deceiving the batsman as to what the ball will do. This comes in two parts: we are able to confuse him when the ball pitches by making it turn. It might turn a small amount, it might turn a large amount or it might turn the other direction entirely.
We are also able to use the same set of techniques to deceive him as to where the ball will pitch in the first place.
This is flight: the art of deceiving the batsman as to the exact location where the ball will pitch.
How do we do this?
Well, first and foremost we use the same technique we use to make the ball turn: by spinning it hard. In the case of flighting the ball, this primarily means using topspin and backspin.
These make use of the Magnus effect to change the trajectory of the ball as it travels towards the batsman.
- Top spin will make the ball drop more quickly and land further away from the batsman than expected. Imagine a tennis player playing a top spin shot with his racquet, hitting over the top of the ball. You can apply this same spin on a cricket ball. How you do it will depend on whether you are a finger spinner or wrist spinner but the effect of spinning “over the top” is the same.
- Back spin will make the ball carry further and land closer to the batsman. Our tennis player would slice underneath the ball to make the shot. Again your method for doing this will vary but think ‘slicing under the ball’ to create the effect.
Using the two in combination makes batsman completely clueless as to whether to play forward or back to any given delivery.
Work on these effects in the nets, and in the next part I’ll show you how to combine them with changes of pace and variations to maximise batsman confusion. Get the free email newsletter to stay up to date.
About the author: AB has been bowling left arm spin in club cricket since 1995. He currently play Saturday league cricket and several evening games a week. He is a qualified coach, and his experiences playing and coaching baseball often gives him a different insight into cricket.