This is a guest article by Laurie Ward from The Complete Cricketer Academy in Cape Town, South Africa.
Different conditions and match situations require different lengths of bowling.
To be a good bowler you need to know when to make a change to your length, and how to make it.
This comes from knowing your bowling style, strengths and role through proper practice and match experience.
For example, it's no good being a military medium pace bowler who swings or seams the ball to bang it in half-way if the wicket is fast and bouncy. You are negating your strengths and giving the batsman all the time he needs to see the ball.
So what are the keys to reading the right lengths to bowl?
- Reading the pitch: Is it a damp, slow track, a dry crumbling wicket or a hard bouncy track? Who is going to get most out of the conditions and what areas on the wicket are offering the most to each bowling style?
- Reading the overhead conditions: Is the ball likely to swing or is it a day where orthodox swing is unlikely? Will your bowlers have to get the ball full and allow swing or hit the pitch back of a length?
- Reading the game situation: Are you attacking or defending? What is each bowler’s role? At the end of a T20 game you may be looking for yorkers but in the longer version of the game you may be looking to slow the run rate and build pressure on an established partnership.
- Reading the batsman: Observe his grip, stance and set-up; this often gives away if he is a predominantly front or back-foot player. Pressure a batsman early on by using the conditions and your strengths whilst trying to work on his weaknesses.
- Use the man with gloves on: Your wicketkeeper should immediately judge the pace and bounce, especially if it differs from your initial analysis. He can then advise good areas to hit and what the wicket has to offer.
How to adjust your bowling length
To hit good areas a bowler should be able to deliver the ball with a repeatable action but aim at different lengths within this. The use of drills with simple cone targets is common. You can add points to make drills competitive.
I often talk to young bowlers about aligning their 'lasers' at a target on the pitch.
These are imaginary beams from their front arm elbow and both eyes, lining up towards a cone target on the length they are aiming for.
It's essential for the eyes to be focused on the area that they are looking to hit throughout the run-up, during delivery and even in the follow through (if possible) to keep the body and head aligned correctly.
The same overall process applies to spinners, but the young spinner needs to develop the “feel” for how and when he needs to release the ball according to variations in his flight and pace.
Here we work with the pace and drive through the crease and variations in release point and arm speed and how to disguise these or even give false cues to the batsman.
As with most things in cricket, the better that you practice and learn the better you are at developing the skills and knowledge to take into the game and various match situations.
image credit: SarahCanterbury