Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wrist Spin Bowling - Top-Spinner

The Top-Spinner.(updated 1st April 2015)

The Top-Spinner or 'Over-Spinner' is one of the variations bowled by Wrist Spinners. The ball is flicked out of the hand using a combination of wrist and fingers to impart the spin, the seam of the ball is released so that it's upright, as per the diagram below seen from above.

The grip is the exactly the *same as the Leg Break ...2 fingers up, 2 fingers down as described by both Jenner and Warne the view that the batsman would see would be as in the image below (fig 1). This I would describe as an orthodox wrist spinners grip with the ball cupped in the hand and the 3rd finger (ring finger) rested on the seam.
The thumb plays little or no part in the release generally, the 3rd finger is rested on the seam highlighted here below in fig 4. This finger on the seam is the means by which the spin is imparted, combined with the flick of the wrist.

Delivered as nears as possible in the same way as your stock ball, the wrist position is changed so that the side spin on the ball is negated, the seam rotates over itself aimed directly down the wicket. The harder the ball is spun, the more the ball will be effected by the Magnus Force making the ball dip as it reaches the batsman. The impression from the batsman's perspective would be that the ball is going to be a lot fuller, landing a lot close to his position in the crease. With the top-spin, the ball would then dip late in its trajectory dropping short, the result is that often the batsman would play the shot timing it incorrectly resulting in the ball spooning up in the air.

The flight of the ball would appear based on its release height and speed to be a much fuller ball (Indicated by the white line), but with the top-spin the ball would suddenly drop short as indicated by the red line. One of the better descriptions of the Top-Spinner can be found on Pencil Crickets blog, he writes...

Wrist-spin Applications #1: The Top-spinnerI've started with the top-spinner rather than the stock legbreak as this is by far the easier delivery to describe, so it's a good starting point. I'm assuming it's a "pure" top-spinner, i.e. that the seam is vertically upright and pointing down the wicket.

Essentially, all you have to do to work out what the Magnus effect will do with this ball is take the golf ball and turn it upside down, so that instead of pushing the ball up it pulls it down instead.

Now here, for once, I have to take issue with Peter Philpott. In his otherwise flawless book "The Art of Wrist-Spin Bowling" he describes the effect of top-spin (he calls it overspin) saying that "overspin increases the effect of gravity", a bit of sloppy science that will have all the physics teachers rolling their eyes. The effect of gravity is unchanged throughout - what top-spin does is add an additional effect which accelerates the ball in the same direction. So the ball has the downward acceleration due to gravity AND some more downward acceleration due to the Magnus effect on top of that.

So as the batsman sees the ball come out of the bowler's hand, he will judge the speed and angle and intuitively estimate where the ball will pitch based on downward acceleration due to gravity alone. Thereafter the Magnus effect will make the ball dip faster in the air, and bounce further away from the batsman than he originally thought it would. That's not all, however. Because the ball has dipped it will now hit the ground at a steeper angle, and therefore it will bounce higher.

Now anyone who has ever spun a ball onto the floor in front of them will find this last part counter-intuitive. If you gently chuck a top-spinning ball onto the floor in front of you the traction as it lands will accelerate it away from you, making the angle it bounces up at shallower. Likewise a back-spun ball will seem to sit up, and if you give it a really good rip you can even get it to bounce right back towards you despite its original momentum. However - and spinners need to get their heads round this - at any significant speed the Magnus effect's ability to make the ball hit the ground at a steeper angle and thus bounce harder and higher far outweighs this effect. It's not that the effect doesn't exist, after all it's the same force that makes a leg-break turn, it's just that it is dwarfed by a counter-acting force in this situation.

So the Magnus effect will make a top-spun ball dip more during flight, meaning it will pitch shorter than anticipated, and hit the ground at a steeper angle, making it bounce higher.

Relatively easy to bowl if you have a high arm action as opposed to a low action. A lower 'Round Arm' action requires a potentially more difficult wrist position if you're looking to bowl the delivery making it indistinguishable from your stock Leg Break.

How to use it? I've seen it used in a variety of ways, especially effectively by older bowlers who've got very good control over their line, length and speed. If you've got that kind of accuracy and you're bowling against tail-enders or someone who's desperate to stay in for whatever reason, this ball can tie an end down, dry up runs and put pressure on the other batsman.

But generally you can vary it with the afore-mentioned aspects - line, length, flight/speed, more or less spin. Mixed in with your Leg-Breaks - to suddenly bowl one, when the batsman is looking to play the break off the wicket, the fact that it's straight will potentially cause problems and with the extra bounce the ball may come off the gloves, bat handle or the shoulder of the bat to be caught behind.

New Batsman in.  On SKY during a break in a test match in 2012/13 Warne did a piece where he discussed his initial approach to bowling to a new batsman using the crease. (See the link above). This is kind of reliant on your ability to bowl a decent line and length, but he advised to bowl from different positions on the crease, either side of the stumps for the most part attacking the stumps. There are further thing you have to consider, field placement for one. Because it's a new batsman you have to consider when you've been brought on and how you faired in the previous over if you've already been bowling. But if you've done okay in the previous overs, this'll be your licence to go on the attack. Bring the field up and right from the outset give the impression something is going to happen.

Warne's exact order or approach I've not revisited or replicated here, but I've adapted it for my own use, but it was pretty simple, something along the lines of...

1. Over the wicket, Stock Ball, off-stump line coming off of a normal position on the popping crease, close to the stumps. The ball is delivered attacking an off-stump line (C), with the expectation that the ball will break off the wicket (B). In the first over your tactic could be to hold back the Top-Spinner which would take the red dotted line route (D) hitting middle and off.

2. Over the wicket, Stock Ball, off-stump line, but go wider on the wicket further from the stumps. Again your targeting the stumps forcing the batsman to play a shot, all the time creating chances with your leg break turning it away from the edge of the bat.

3. Over the wicket, Stock Ball, but wide of the stumps on the off-side, going back to the close to the stumps delivery approach. This is useful to see how much the batsman moves his feet, giving some indication as to how confident they are. Again all of these balls are reliant on the consistency of your stock ball, if your moving around on the crease, but bowling a regular pace and flight, there'll be a growing confidence in some aspect of the batsman own perception of what is happening. He maybe thinking at this stage "Right... this bloke is moving his position on the crease, but the flight and pace are pretty much consistent"... Which is pretty much what you want him to be doing?
If he's not that good, he may not move his feet at all and may swing at the ball, or lean out to hit it, again all potentially clues to how well he's going to play the ball once you get going.

4. Over the stumps, Stock Ball, wide on the crease, but a leg stump line. This is where you'll start to see if the batsman is strong off his legs. I find this a riskier line along with the final two approaches which see me go around the wicket attacking the leg-stump.

5. Around the stumps, Stock Ball, close to the stumps, leg-stump line. Now really mess with his head and your team mates if you don't rearrange your field! Go around the stumps attacking the leg-stump, again don't forget you're still bowling your stock ball leg break, so you're turning it into the batsman, but forcing them to play the ball because you're attacking the stumps. I find this the riskier of all the tactics so far, as often the batsman will come after you if they've got any real confidence with the bat, but alternatively, you might find that bowling around is a loophole that you can definitely look to exploit? But set your field accordingly - again how you do this either supports your own sense of confidence or indicates some concern, so again I go with giving the impression that something is going to happen for me, rather than giving the impression that the batsman is going to smack you over the boundary. Maybe bring blokes over from the off-side and have close in fielders, I have a bloke in my team who loves fielding at silly midwicket, so he'd be brought in to that position and be right under the batsman's nose.

6. Around the stumps, Stock Ball, wide of the stumps, wide of leg stump. Again change your line go wide on the crease away from the stumps, if you have just been hit over the boundary, take this line but do something additional - you've already bowled 5 stock deliveries - maybe change the pace as well as the angle? Or stick with what you've been doing ready to deliver the sucker punch in the next over?

Having now bowled a whole over of Stock Ball leg breaks and seen the response, go back to the approach that looked the most promising, chuck a couple up and see what happens and then bring in the Top-Spinner. Hopefully the delivery will be so different with extra dip and bounce, added to the fact that you've discovered the best line of attack, the Top-Spinner might be the ball that gets you the wicket?

The amount of variations that can be bowled, simply by moving around on the crease and bowling different lines, lengths, pace gives the batsman something to think about. I think Warne also suggests supporting this probing approach with also tweaking the field settings, moving a bloke a few paces here and there, again to give the impression that you know what you're up to and you're putting a plan together. Again with the field settings added to the fact that you're attacking from different positions on the crease, this all adds up to adding potential pressure to the batsman.

This idea of moving around so much on the crease is that (1). It has the potential to not allow the batsman to feel as though he's in control. (2). You're exploring real options, one of these approaches might give some indication early on that there's a weakness that you can exploit in the batsman's technique. Once you've had a look and there does seem to be a particular approach that looks as to be an attacking option that might bring a wicket, in your next over explore that option and vary your stock ball and then bung in the Top-Spinner as a variation?

The ball is generally used sparingly amongst the stock leg-break with the intention that the characteristics of the delivery catch the batsman out.

Other Factors None of this is easy, but one thing you do need to have in place before you're able to put these plans into place is a good degree of control over your leg break. First and foremost almost everyone will tell you, you have to master the leg break before moving on with any conviction with the variations. If you can try and get your coach or club to lend you a copy of the ECB's video 'Wings to Fly' and have a listen to Warne's coach Terry Jenner. Similarly check out all of the videos on-line that feature Jenner talking about wrist/leg spin bowling.

Pitch Conditions - These have to be considered in relation to how and what you bowl, but this comes with experience. If the wicket is bouncy or has irregular bounce your away and this should produce successful outcomes. If the wicket is a batting wicket and there's no variation in it and the bounce is true and consistent, you might have to look to another plan.

Stage of the game - I tend to come on after about 20 - 25 overs, if the openers are still there, they're generally well set and seeing the ball well. In which case a different approach might be needed? The ideal situation is to bowl to the new batsman and you need to work with your team to get the new bloke on strike, set the field and bowl your stock delivery to allow the 'Set' batsman to run a single, getting the new bloke on strike. But, there is the caveat that if your 'Set' batsman looks to be struggling, then implement your bowling plan against him as well as the new bloke.

Sub Variations - Having posted this blog entry and discussing variations on-line here, one of the forum contributors posted this Youtube video of Warne's releases/deliveries recorded in slow motion. Included amongst the deliveries is one that is particularly interesting in that it features a Top-Spinner that is released with a slightly scrambled seam. Watch the video, it's in two sections, the latter footage is slower than the initial footage. At 1.39 seconds the Top-Spinner is released and you can see that the seam doesn't rotate perfectly and there's an element of the seam being scrambled. In the latter stage of the drop at about 1.49 seconds the ball 'Drifts' dramatically towards the leg-side and then hits the ground and goes on as a Top-Spinner should.

As a diagram it would look something like this.
For me as someone that doesn't get the ball to drift that much, I've been led to believe that in order that the ball drifts there has to be a combination of over-spin (Top-spin) and side spin. I've always assumed that the side spin needs to be 'Clean' as opposed to scrambled, so this video footage is a bit of a revelation, meaning that this coming season I'll be looking at trying out Top-Spinners with a scrambled seam looking for the Holy Grail that is 'Drift'.

*Grip Variations - One of the things that Philpott warns against in his book The Art of Wrist Spin Bowling Is the notion that the grip has to be one way or another. I've introduced the idea that the images above represent an orthodox approach to gripping the ball to produce the Top-Spinner, it maybe the case that for most of us this works fine? I've found that, no matter how hard I try and get my wrist so that it produces a perfect top - spinner, the 'Orthodox' approach as described above still breaks a little towards the off-side.
Recently looking to get the ball to bounce straight with no break and increased dip, I experimented with a slightly different grip. I've developed a release that looks pretty much the same as the grip in the image (Figure 1) when bowled.


But when looked at more closely (Image A) you'll see that the ball doesn't sit so deep and cupped in the hand as in the case of the orthodox grip. This approach feels a lot more "fingery" and uses the middle finger as opposed to the 3rd (ring) finger to impart the spin (see below)...
The flick of the wrist is imparted in a slightly different way to the leg break because the wrist has to maintain the 'straightness' aspect to get the ball to over-spin. Instead of the wrist being cocked down and inwards, I cock my wrist backwards and the wrist flick as in the diagram here below is as indicated by the arrow, and this combined with the finger action helps to put the spin on the ball. It does require a certain level of dexterity and suppleness of the wrist.
The finger action is also very different to the orthodox method and uses all of the fingers to put the spin on the ball.
You can see the thumb has a big role to play in this method, the thumb and fingers combined with the flick of the wrist twists the ball; the thumb rolls under the ball and all four fingers roll around the ball over the top imparting the top spin. It'll probably feel ridiculously hard to do this initially but with practice it'll come. This is a classic case of requiring the approach that Philpott advocates - spin anything, any where at any time... Sitting watching the television? Pick up an apple and rip the apple from hand to hand using this method and bit by bit you'll feel it coming together and you'll soon see that you're able to impart a fair bit of spin on the ball using this technique.
I'm writing this pre-season and I've used this method in its early stages of development against a number of different batsmen in the nets with very promising results. I'm hoping that going forwards with more practice this is going to be a very useful ball, I've also noticed that with a little angling of the wrist, I can also get it to come in to the right handed batsman for a little Googly, which is potentially very useful too.


The Art of Wrist Spin Bowling - Peter Philpott, The Crowood Press, 2006
Check out my other blog here - this is all about Leg-spin bowling and nothing else. Double click on the image below.