Where Do High Class Spinners Pitch the Ball? | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

Where Do High Class Spinners Pitch the Ball?

In another guest article, club left arm spinner AB talks us through exactly where to land the ball to cause maximum damage to batsmen’s averages.

We all know the key to top quality spin bowling is to bowl a consistent line and length. But what does that actually mean?

First we need to figure out where is the best length to bowl.

We want a length that is full enough that the batsman is forced to come forward, but not so full that he is able to reach the ball on the half volley without mis-hitting it.

Consider that the average spin bowler delivers the ball at approximately 50mph, and that after bouncing the speed of the ball is reduced by about 50%. This translates to a speed of about 10metres a second. The average reaction time of a human is 0.2s. If we pitch the ball within 2 metres of the batsman, then he will be unable to play back as he would simply not have time to react to any movement off the pitch.

Therefore the maximum distance away from the batsman's stumps that we should land the ball, given that he will move back one foot when playing back, is approximately 11 foot. Anything shorter than 11 foot and the batsman will be able to play comfortably off the back foot.

 How about minimum distance?

A batsman playing on the front foot normally plays the ball about 3 feet in front of his crease. The ideal location to pitch the ball is the one at which the ball has just turned enough to hit or just miss the edge of the bat. On a normal pitch, we will find the ball turning something in the order of 5 degrees, which translates to about 1 inch sideways for each foot after bouncing.

Therefore we need to pitch the ball between 2 and 4 foot in front of the bat (8 to 10 foot from the stumps)in order to take the edge.

On a turning track, a ball pitching only a foot in front of the bat would be sufficient to threaten the edge.

The best length on this pitch would therefore be between 7 and 9 foot from the batsman's stumps. So the spin bowler has an area of about 4 feet, or just over a metre, in which to aim: anything inside this will pose the batsman problems.

Spinner’s line

No matter the pitch, the ball will not always turn a consistent amount. This variability of turn is major positive factor for the spinner. If he can't predict what will happen, how can the batsman be expected to?

A competent batsman will most likely play the percentages and play for a small amount of turn when defending off the front foot, reducing the likelihood of a ball that turns just 1 or 2 inches catching the edge. However, the inadvertent result of this is that now both the big turning delivery and the straight ball are the potential wicket taking deliveries. The spinner must always take advantage of this by ensuring that every time the ball beats the bat, whether the inside edge or outside edge, then there is a decent probability that the batsman will be dismissed.

Batsmen are able to play more assertively when they feel comfortable that they are able to use their pad as a second line of defence without the risk of being dismissed lbw. This is why it’s important for a spin bowler to constantly attack the stumps with either the big spinning delivery, the straight ball, or both.

We therefore want to keep as many deliveries as possible ending up in the danger zone: either on the stumps for a chance of bowled or lbw or within 6 inches of off stump for a likely caught behind chance.

On a spinning pitch, then 10 degrees of turn will translate to a difference of about 15 inches between the straight ball and the big turning delivery. So we need to take this into consideration when planning our line of attack.

 If the ball is turning away from the batsman, the ideal stock line is to pitch the ball on middle and leg, with the straight delivery angled in towards leg stump. Spin the ball hard enough for the spinning delivery to hit or go past the top of off stump.

The batsman will then be forced to play down a middle stump line to defend against the spin, and this will mean that both the straight delivery and the big spinner will have a good chance of dismissing him.

The off spinner should ensure that his big spinning delivery is not wasted by constantly turning down the leg side. This means that he needs to pitch the ball just outside off stump. A sensible batsman will then play down the line of off stump to defend against the spin, leaving both the big spinner and the straight ball as wicket-taking options.


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Great article Dave, great points here for the youngesters!

It's a rare day that I'm up at 6:05am...

The early bird catches the worm AB

Agree with this 100%.

Was told by Robert Croft that the ideal length to pitch a ball on was 9ft, so bang in the middle of what you're suggesting. Left arm and leggies need to pitch it a little shorter.

Matthew Maynard suggested that one of the main reasons this length is difficult to batsman to play is that it negates the forward press (which in this case means extreme forward defence with soft hands and angled bat rather than the trigger movement).

Interested to hear why you'd think lefties and leggies would need to pitch shorter than offies? Is that also dependent upon which hand the batsman is?

From memory it is something to do with angle of delivery for lefties and pace of ball for leggies but don't quote me on that. For lefties I also believe that if they're bowling to left hand batsman then the 9ft length applies but it shortens to right handers.

We're only talking a foot or so difference so not anything massive and in any case a decent spinner should be able to drop a ball on a length to suit the pitch as much as anything else.

To some extent this is all theoretical anyway. It's not like anyone can hit exactly the same length every ball, there will be some natural variation. Plus conditions vary to mean that things can shift back or forwards here and there.

It's handy to know roughly where you are aiming so you can set a target down for practice in nets, but to me that's it.

Agree with it being theoretical but I think it helps to have something to aim for, especially for those who learn/understand visually. Still think the key is to have players who can put the ball roughly where they want to and therefore play to the pitch/bat.

I think the key point is that if the batsman need only be worried about the delivery if it either spins along way or not at all, then he should be sensible enough to simply play for the danger delivery either with his bat or his pads, meaning he is able to neutralise the threat of the good balls whilst waiting for a bad ball to hit every now and then.

A good example of this is the batsman who plays the offspinner simply by pushing his bat and pad together forward and outside off everytime he gets a good ball, safe in the knowledge that if the ball doesn't spin it will hit the middle of the bat, and if it spins sharply he can't be out lbw because he's safely outside the line of off stump.

However, the times when batsmen get themselves in trouble is when the ball pitches on an awkward line where they're not sure whether to try and cover the spin or simply play down the initial line of the ball, and can't rely on using the front pad to help them out. If an offspinner switches to round the wicket and starts pitching the ball on offstump angled across the batsman, he is forced to play for the spin in fear of being bowled, which now opens up the chance of a nick to the slips.

I agree, off spinners bowling around the wicket to right handers is a great tactic and an underused one in my experience.

In the longer format, the batsmen migth wait for the odd loose delivery and score of it. But in the shorter formats, especially the Twenty20 stuff, being predictable with the lengths is a recipe for disaster. There was a recent interview in Cricinfo with Harbhajan Singh where he was talking about the need for variety.
The condition of the pitch is also very important. In a pitch where there is no turn at all, maintaining a consistant line and length is often an invitation for the set batsman to use his feat and hit the ball out of the park.

Mascam - were you once Mascambios on another forum by any chance?

What if you bowl a bit slower for example 50 kilometers per hour (not sure how many miles that is) where would the best place to pitch the ball be then?

The person who has written this article is surely a top class spin bowler. Thank you so much for this article.