Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Flight and Length

Another extract from one of the other specific blogs

This is an essential aspect of your bowling and one that is difficult to get the hang of. Bowling the ball short in most instances isn’t going to work as it gives the batsman time to see how much turn you’ve managed to put on the ball, track the ball and then play the appropriate shot. Better batsmen are going to be able to hit the ball easily and score runs and it’s generally seen as poor bowling. If in doubt, or if you’re bowling poorly try and bowl fuller, but not so far that the ball becomes a full toss and arrives at the batsman still in the air having not bounced.

The optimum length is a variable distance (3.8 Metres see below) that subtly changes with each batsman, dependent on his position in the crease, his height, reach and the strokes that he plays. I was shown a basic method of judging where to bowl, when explaining to a bloke that I try and bowl around 4.5 yards from the stumps. He said that this was flawed because of the characteristics of each batsman as listed above. His advice was stand where the batsman takes his guard and reach forward with the bat and to draw an arc with the toe of the bat. His advice was the length to bowl was on or around this arc. The theory is that this length is the most difficult to play and generally no matter what approach the batsman takes this length of bowling will cause him far more problems (if the ball is turning) than any other. There are solutions, skip down the wicket and smash the ball back over the bowlers head. Stride forward with a big positive front foot defensive block, angling the bat down killing the spin at the point of contact that ball makes with the ground. Step back and play a back-foot defensive block or play the ball on its merits having watched it turn off the wicket. All of which as far as we’re concerned are still risky, simply because of the length you’ve bowled. This approach can then be further enhanced………..

This is an aspect that is often over-looked by learners of the art as it seems to be a high risk strategy. At the early stages of your development it may be the case that you do not recognize or indeed simply have the skill to bowl the ball with differing degrees of over-spin. Your, Leg Break, dependent on the direction you get the seam to spin in and how much spin you put on it will dip rapidly towards the end of its trajectory. Explanations of this, involve complex physics but an analogy that is often used that people seemingly are familiar with are those using Tennis. A tennis ball hit across the top of the ball with a slice action spins with top-spin and dips ferociously towards the end of it flight path. You may also recognize the action in table tennis as well. The same physics applies to a cricket ball and if the ball is ripped from the fingers and wrist with over-spin (Top-Spin) the ball will suddenly dip from its expected flight path and fall short of its predicted trajectory causing the batsman problems. Additionally, because the ball has suddenly dipped, its angle of entry is nearing the same exit angle once it bounces. This sudden increase in bounce can be unexpected and cause yet more problems, coming off the gloves being a typical dismissal from a ball with more over-spin. The Top-Spinner one of the Wrist Spinners variations is the delivery that exemplifies this affect most dramatically, but a Small Leg Break e.g. one that has very little seam angle will have many of the attributes of a Top-Spinner. Again, this is only conjecture, but even a ball that is spinning at right angles to it’s direction of flight is still over-spinning albeit side-ways and to my way of thinking must include the attributes of dip caused by the over-spinning ball?

The conclusion thus far is that once again we return to the mantra of making the ball spin viciously in order to extract every advantage we can in our pursuit of slow bowling. Now, we come to another attribute, the trajectory or flight of the ball. Key to this next section is this from Bob Woolmer……

The brain is unable to predict the exact landing position of a delivery that, for a significant portion of its flight, moves above the horizontal direction of the gaze. So instead of telling spinners to get the ball above the batsman’s’ eyes, coaches should be telling them to get it above his eyes for as long as possible.

Bob Woolmers Art & Science of Cricket; 2008; New Holland Publishers; London.

This, therefore reinforces the necessity, to put revs on the ball. One of the things I find amazing about Warne’s bowling is the fact that he bowls his deliveries up in the region of 50mph and yet he bowls with a loopy action. The only way I could bowl at 50mph would be in a straight line and no way (At this stage) get it to go above the batsman’s eye level and come down before his feet, I simply do not have the skill to impart that amount of spin on the ball. But all is not lost, fortunately we’re not usually facing Sachin Tendulkar and simply getting the ball above the eye level of a club batsman is going to help our bowling a great deal. Additionally the small Leg Break with its Top-Spin attributes shares a wicket taking feature with the pure Top-Spinner, Woolmer again quoting research conducted by Renshaw & Fairweather (2000)…………

Expert batters were better able to distinguish the different types of deliveries than less good players. They also found that for all groups, detection rates (percentage of deliveries correctly identified) were best for Leg Breaks (90%) and Googly (52%) deliveries, but were considerably less good for Flippers (32%), Orthodox Back-Spinners (23%) and Top-Spin (12%) deliveries. Surprisingly, viewing the full flight of the delivery did not add any further predictive value in the case of these deliveries.

This study shows that essentially all the relevant information that the batter requires is provided in the spin bowlers action. Thus the batter makes his prediction of what the ball will do in the basis of advanced cues in the delivery action. In addition, it seems that if the ball lands 3.8 metres or closer to the batsman, he is unable to play it ‘Off the pitch’. Rather he is playing it on the basis of his predictions made at the time of ball release.

Bob Woolmers Art & Science of Cricket; 2008; New Holland Publishers; London.

The conclusion is for the spinner that you should endeavor to make your deliveries as identical to one another as you possibly can, as the skilled batsman’s key cue as to what the ball will do when it lands is taken from your release. Again as club players this would only be the forte of the 1st XI teams I would imagine.

The interesting aspect of the Woolmer information is the fact that the Top-Spinner and therefore the smaller Leg Break with the over-spin dip attributes and the potential to really give it some air and keep it up above the eye-level makes this delivery combined with that loopy flight a killer ball. This goes a long way to explain some of the innings of good batsmen that I’ve witnessed coming to very abrupt endings at the hands of small boys and old blokes that are barely able to walk let alone run! The characteristics of their bowling has been very good line and length, combined with loopy flight and perhaps a touch of Top-Spin.

Check out my other blog here - this is all about Leg-spin bowling and nothing else. Double click on the image below.