Thursday, 6 August 2009

Leg Break bowling

Blimey this is blog page that I wrote years ago and I've just seen how many page view it gets so I think I'm going to start writing some new content! 23rd Sept 2015.

Update - Been working on my rotation and action through the delivery to make it a little more energetic looking for some more turn off the wicket and it seems to have worked. You'll read that I don't advocate bowling a Leg-Stump line, but this new improved bowling action has seemingly produced better turn with no real loss of accuracy. Have a look at this bowling drill that I'm currently using which tests you for turn and accuracy

This particular blog is dedicated solely to The Leg Break as this is the primary weapon in the Wrist Spinners armoury as such. This is the ball that gets me 90% of my wickets and is the ball that I bowl 90% of the time if not more. Of all the different variations that you can bowl as a Wrist Spinner this is the one that you need to be best at and as such is known as your Stock Ball this simply means it's the ball you use the most and it's the one you rely on to take your wickets.

Before you read any further let's just establish who I am. I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination but, I'm an enthusiast who plays club cricket who specialises in Wrist Spinning. I'm quite obesessive about the subject and as such feel the need to pass on what I know and have learned in order that this particular specialism continues to survive in the game at club level. My own experience over the last few years has made me realise that there is very little information on this subject that is easily accessed via the internet. There are a handful of excellent books that people either can't get hold of or find too dry/detailed/technical to read. Other than that there's a handful of video clips on youtube featuring Shane Warne and Terry Jenner which rush through the subject in a way that could be detrimental to anyone trying to get to grips with the subject. Hopefully this blog and it's associated blogs in conjunction with the forum at Big Cricket might go some way in helping anyone that is trying to learn the Art of Wrist Spin Bowling.

The Leg-Break

When the Leg Break is described we're talking about a ball that is being bowled by a right-armed bowler. As you bowl the ball towards the batsman it spins in such a way that when it hits the surface of the wicket you see it deviate off it's line of direction (trajectory) away to the left as you look down the wicket. Again for standardisation I'll always write in terms of bowling to a Right Handed (RH) batsman. This is described as spinning away towards the Off-side. From the batsmans point of view he sees the bowl coming towards him and as it bounces it spins off it's trajectory to his right making it difficult to play. This is the Leg-Break described in it's most basic form.

Spinning the Ball

At the start of his book 'The Art of Wrist Spin Bowling" Peter Philpott makes the point that the key issue with bowling the Leg Break and all of the other Wrist Spin actions is to get the ball to spin.

What makes spin bowling different from other forms of bowling is, so obviously the spin. And spin and the spinning ball are the core of the matter. But apparently, it is not. For too often, discussion of spin bowling focuses on the grip, accuracy, delivery, field placement, tactics, but says very little about spin itself. Peter Philpott. The Art of Wrist Spin Bowling; Crowood Press, England, 2006; Page 16.

Philpotts book then goes through 8 stages where he gradually lays out what you'll need to do in order to become the complete Wrist Spinner. The book is essential reading if you're aiming to be wrist spinner and I'd advise anyone with this as a goal to buy the book. Some people report that it's a bit heavy going, but then this is a difficult subject and it's dealt with in depth.

Philpott advocates that when you're learning to bowl wrist spin you should do so as often as possible to the point where what ever you pick up you spin it - oranges, apples, golf balls, tennis balls, if it fits in your hand give it a big flick and get it to spin. Do this all the time every day and this will become an action you end up doing with ease. You muscles will develop and your wrist joints will become more and more flexible and supple and the flick that you develop will be produce the spin that you need to get the ball to spin off the wicket.

One final comment on spinning the ball. Again on in the wrist spin thread there's been much discussion on the grip and spinning the ball. In response to this in my main blog I've written a piece questioning how much spin does Philpott mean, when he says to spin it hard? I've kind of concluded that one mans Spinning it hard is possibly very different to anothers and that potentially the interpretation of Philpotts instructions (As with all instructions) are open to misinterpretation. Needless to say, the more you are able to spin the ball the better, but it seems that there are many different ways to impart the spin and experimentation/trial and error are the way forward.

Here's a good link that looks at the dynamics of the spinning ball -

The Grip

Being the primary action of the Wrist Spin style of bowling the position of the wrist and how you use the wrist is essential with regards the direction the ball rotates/spins when released. The grip used on the ball has a basic configuration described as two fingers up, two fingers down with the thumb playing very little part in the grip other than perhaps steadying the ball. At this point in order that you can start spinning the ball you need to start to use the standard grip.

As you can see in Diagram A the index finger and the middle finger (Up Fingers) go across the seam. The ring finger which is the finger which produces the spin sits along the seam and the little finger tucks in behind it. It has to be pointed out that this is a starting point and you should look around at other resources and the way other people grip the ball, but the basic idea is the two fingers up go across the seam and the 3rd finger rests along the seam and produces the spin. At the time of writing I was experimenting with my own grip and as a result it looks as though I'll probably use a slightly different grip to the image above. The new grip which still gives me good accuracy with regards to line and length has been described by Paulinho on the Bigcricket wrist spin forum as - holding the ball like you would eating an apple. Which I think is an excellent description. With this grip the 3rd finger is place purposefully along the seam, but the rest of the hand almost gently holds the ball in the palm. For me it's producing masses of spin with seamingly very little effort. What it goes to show is that you have to play around with your grip and modify it and experiment with it until you find something that suits you or the specific delivery you're trying to produce.
With regards the wrist, the image here (A) shows the view that the batsman would see of your wrist/hand as it comes over in a vertical position during the delivery action. As you release the ball, the ball from this view would leave the hand rotating clockwise.
The next bit relies partly on seeing this action (See video below) in order that I can explain the wrist/flick action that I wrote about earlier. But basically you stand with hands out in front of you. In your right hand using the grip or something similar that suits you, hold the ball so that the back of your hand faces you and spin the ball from your right hand to your left giving it a big flick spinning it hard. Philpott again. Not only observe the flick here - but listen to the sound of the ball being ripped off my fingers
If there is one factor in spin bowling which all spinners should accept if they wish to perform to their optimum, it is the concept that the ball should be spun hard. Not rolled, not gently turned, but flicked, ripped, fizzed. If young bowlers learn to spin hard from the start, then bowl enough spinning it hard, they can acheive accuracy. Give the ball a flick is never an excuse for inaccuracy. Peter Philpott. The Art of Wrist Spin Bowling; Crowood Press, England, 2006; Page 19.

Flick it from your right hand to your left spinning the ball by rolling your fingers and wrist over the top of the ball, propelling it across the body. This is the basis of developing the Leg Break. You'll need to do it for a while (Hours) and you'll get a feel for it gradually increasing the speed of the rotation. You'll need to use your fingers, your wrist and eventually your elbow and shoulders as a series of levers to impart the leverage you'll need to give the ball a really big flick. In time you'll begin to get a feel for the role that the 3rd finger plays in creating purchase on the ball to make it rotate.

As you get used to this sensation of flicking the ball you'll probably develop your own grip. The grip differs from one person to another due to technique, feel and the size of your hand, but as long as you're more or less using the 2 up - 2 down approach you wont be going too far wrong.
Then just keep flicking using anything that you can get you hands round, at school, at home, at work even, in your breaks, while you're watching the tele, walking from the car to the shops at any moment that you can have a ball and flick it. You might feel like an idiot doing this, but it might be the difference between choosing to be an average dibbly dobbly bowler to being a Wrist Spinner that takes wickets.
To be continued.............

The Big Leg Break
This is the Leg Break that most wrist spinners wish to have in their armoury. All the way through this blog I've been advocating bowling on an Off-Stump line looking to beat the edge of the bat "No ball bowled is as difficult as one which leaves the bat and goes towards the slips. The really good leg-break beats them all.” - Sir Donald Bradman which coming fron Don Bradman seems a sound approach. But probably like the rest of you I would love to be able to pitch the ball wide of Leg Stump getting the ball to turn in across the face of the bat or round the back of the legs in the manner that Shane Warne does. This ball bowled in amongst a sequence of attacking off-stump balls is a dream delivery that I've yet to master.
In order to bowl the Biggun you need to be able to release the ball with the seam spinning at right angles to the pitch almost, most of the deliveries I bowl have the seam of the ball somewhere in the 45 degrees region as it's released, the seam spinning pointing towards point. The Biggun needs a different approach using Philpotts 'Round the Loop'. The wrist is rotated further clockwise so that the sensation is that you're spinning the ball back in towards yourself. Philpott clearly describes this and uses and image to support the description. The same technique is used for the Slider - a back-spinning variation that is released out of the back of the hand. The Biggun isn't one of the balls that I bowl and it's something I'm still working on, using this technique of spinning the ball back into my body using this technique I've got as far as being able to bowl a Slider and on the odd ocassion it'll go slightly wrong and it will produce a Biggun, but it's not something I'm good at. Have a look and give it a go - this might be the little input of advice/information you need to get your own Big Leg Break going - good luck!

Updated 6th April

Today I think I've had a break through, I've been getting the synchronisation of the upper body elements together over a distance of about 12 yards using hockey balls on concrete/tarmac bowling at a thin bit of brick-work between two garages outside my house (About 45cms wide) and I've been able to land the ball very wide of the bricks getting the ball to turn back in and hit the bricks. With the improvement in weather of late, today I was able to get out into the paddock where I practice during the season and try this delivery over a longer length 15-16 yards. It worked and furthermore my accuracy was good enough to use in a match situation! But in addition to the accuracy was the consistency, the ball was coming out of the hand after a few dodgy ones at the start, perfectly 95% of the time, so 2 key elements seemed to come together today over a much longer distance - line and length and the ability to repeat the action again and again. I'm just hoping now that when I try it again - I'll be able to repeat the action and continue with the Line and length success. If that happens - I'll work on extending the distance. It now looks promising and as though if the weather holds out I may get this sussed before the season?

Approaches to Leg Break Bowling

My own experience of watching, playing and speaking to Wrist Spinners at club level is that they're not very well versed in the more complex attributes of Wrist Spinning and for most part ignorant of it's history and the legacy of the likes of Clarrie Grimmett. So it therefore follows that whenever you speak to Leg Spinners they're not conversant with the array of variations that are at the disposal of the Wrist Spinner. This doesn't surprise me when you think that when Lasith Malinga bowled his four consecutive wickets in the world cup in 2007 he was oblivious of the fact that he was the only bloke ever to do so in first class cricket. If he'd have known that he was about to go into the record books for the achievement this may have had a massive bearing on his psychological state at the time?
In club cricket you'll more often not find that the Leg Spinner in the club has at best two variations, the Leg Break and possibly a Top Spinner. I've yet to come across another Wrist Spinner who bowls the Wrong Un and the Leg Break with equal skill. A lot of this is partly down to the fact that Wrist Spinning is indeed an obscure and secretive art that has over the last 50 years gone through phases where it has almost disappeared into the abyss of by-gone history. It still even now hangs in there by a thin thread despite the Warne Years. In fact Warne is responsible for it's re-emergence to some extent (Including me) but also on an international level may be responsible to some extent to it's possible demise. Currently the world including Australia is looking for the next Shane Warne and we know that this is not likely because the bloke was a freak of nature never to be repeated again ever? Bob Woolmer in his book The Art & Science of Cricket points out that in recent surveys in both the UK and South Africa school kids of today when compared like for like with school kids 10 years ago cannot perform 10 pull-ups on a parrallel bar because of the sedentary life-styles and the lack of Physical Education in schools. 10 years ago kids from both countries could for the most part perform the 10 pull ups whereas these days you'd be lucky to find one kid that could from a class of 20. Woolmer then goes on to speculate that this situation is so prevalent in todays society that the game will have to adapt to accomodate the new lifestyles of young people that take up the game. Therefore the possibilty of there ever being another Shane Warne becomes increasingly unlikely.
One of the key aspects to Warnes bowling was his ability to really Rip the ball. Philpott in his book The Art of Wrist Spin Bowling mentions this in his book saying that very few Wrist Spinners turn the hand over the ball in their action to impart the spin. Warnes bowling was notorious for the amount of revolutions he could impart on the ball, this not only gave him his ability to get the ball to break off it's trajectory massively (See ball of the century) but rotation of the ball through the air created Drift meaning that the ball moves off it's initial trajectory whilst in the air spinning from Off to Leg.
My own experience demonstrates whilst this may be a goal that you may want to achieve one day you shouldn't get too hung up on the fact that you can't get your ball to Drift when bowling the Leg-Break. The other feature of some of the great Wrist Spinners is the fact that the ball fizzes audibly as it flies through the air because of the amount of spin imparted on the ball. Again I would suggest to not get hung up on the fact that you can't make the ball Fizz as it moves through the air. Be realistic and look to a point in your mid 20's to mid 30's when you're at your physical best that on the odd occasion that this may be an attribute of your bowling. If you do get it to fizz and Drift good luck to you - you should be taking wickets and making my figures look mediocre!
So, what do mere mortals like you and me do if we can spin the ball but cant make it drift at will and fizz through the air? Well, there's a bunch of things we can do as far as I'm concerned........
Wrist Spinning isn't easy by any stretch of the imagination and the whole thing is made worse by the fact that the whole game has a bias centred around the batsman. It seems that anyone writing about cricket does so via a batting bias. Bowlers in general are viewed as second rate citizens and it's only the freaks like Grimmett and Warne that rise to any level of fame that befits their effort. People do not understand the amount of effort that is required to bowl long spells in first class cricket and the psychology that is involved in playing the game at 1st class level. At club level in 40 over matches some of this can be adopted and put into practice.
Practice seriously all of the time;
The obvious thing to me if you are serious about your Wrist Spinning is to adopt a serious approach to your bowling. Philpott throughout his book which is aimed primarily at youths brings this up several times and the same advice is echoed by the likes of Richie Benaud in Woolmers book and several places on line. To be good at this requires a lot of effort, focus and practice. Philpott says that if you're not going to practice with 100% conviction, with no distractions you're almost certainly wasting your time. Say for instance if you're kid in the school holidays I'd kind of imagine that like me you'd be doing about 2 or 3 hours a day almost every day (In 1 hour stints) on your own. Yes, it's that hard! But this kind of practice and focus brings rewards.

Have a couple of variations

Have a couple of variations. The variations are covered in depth in the other associated blogs. But one of the other key aspects of this game is to have confidence in your abilities to dominate the batsman and not let him get the upper-hand in the psychological war. One of the ways in which you can do this and gain control over a batsman is to show him that you are the real thing. You're not a Leg-Spinner that just bowls a nice Leg-Break, you're a Wrist Spinner with the ability to flick your wrist just slightly differently and the ball will go the other way or spin over the top of itself (Wrong Un & Top-Spinner). With just the 3 basic Wrist Spin variations played around your stock ball you can regain control over a situation that is threatening to go away from you.
Leg Break variations; Your stock ball itself is your key weapon and through practice you should aim to be able to bowl it not only accurately at the Off-Stump for instance, but with varying speed, flight, length, bounce and spin. Generally I don't have to resort to Wrong Uns and Top-Spinners I simply bowl my Leg Break attacking the Off-Stump and using the different approaches to unsettle and control the batsman. But if they do get cocky I then bowl a ball that then turns into them or bounces high and goes straight. I then find that they'll look back at you with a bit of respect thinking 'Strewth - this bloke knows what he's doing'. They've usually read about and seen Wrong Un's but it's rare that they'll ever have one bowled at them with accuracy amidst a series of accurate 'On the off-stump' Leg Breaks.
Psychology The emotional and behavioral characteristics of an individual, group, or activity: the psychology of cricket.
Confidence and temprament. This is definitely the key to your success and hinged around the practice aspect of your training. In your practice you will get to the point where you'll be able to bowl the ball at a specified point on the wicket or a specific stump. You then just transfer that skill and control to the pitch and the game. You have to have the self belief that you can do it in a game situation and when you're thrown the ball by your captain he too must believe that you're going to come up with the goods along with all your team mates. It gets to a point where if you are successful the confidence builds and becomes a self fulfilling prophecy, when you're thrown the ball there's an atmosphere of expectancy, your team mates know it's going to happen, you know it's going to happen and the pressure is transferred to the batsman. I make them aware that something is going to happen, I talk to the bloke off strike waiting at my end. I ask him 'What way does he like his spin - this bloke. Left, Right, backwards or forwards'? Whilst all the time I'm flicking the ball showing how much I can and will be spinning it right under his nose. Then I come up with the goods all based around hours and hours of practice using a target and 6 balls.
On the flip side there's going to be days when it doesn't come together or you simply face a batsman that has the experience and skill to deal with you. It's then that your temprament is tested and you have the tools to deal with the situation. If you find that you are in this situation and you feel that you don't have any solutions one of the things that you can do is to talk to your captain and cease your spell in a damage limitation exercise. If do fancy the challenge though, you need to control your emotions and adopt a poker face strategy irrespective of whether you're being hit for 4's and 6's. Don't show any emotions that hint that you're under the cosh, try and give the impression that being hit for 4 or 6 is all a part of your plan. Fortunately because of our shorter run up we're able to turn and walk back to our starting point with our backs to the batsman as he watches the ball sailing over the boundary. Stay calm and think through what's just happened analyse it and adapt your plan and execute it. Don't get flustered and panicked keep things simple and bowl your next ball in accordance to your plan.
This kind of approach and the ability to keep the lid on things comes with age and maturity. It's very difficult to keep this clam when you're younger, you'll hear people on your side saying things and you'll at least be imagining that they're at least thinking negative things. With age you'll learn how to be thick skinned and with age people will be more respectful of you too and be less inclined to be vocal about how bad they think your bowling is. But another key area here is your own self belief and your own self evaluation. To walk back to your run-in position knowing that you are a good bowler and that you have put the hours in despite what has happened will then allow you to bowl the next ball that will reverse the situation.

Analyse the Batsman

Analyse the batsman. This is something I am learning myself and currently I'm finding that I'm doing it primarily during my spell which I think leads to a degrading of my figures. Ideally I'd have some sense of when I'll be bowling, so I could probably ask my captain to give me as much fore-warning prior to the start of my spell so I could then have a look at the bloke I'll be bowling at. In an ideal world if you were given some kind of idea that your spell was coming up you'd watch the batsman and try and figure out what his strengths and weaknesses are. To some extent this is a seperate skill in itself that requires a great deal of cricket knowledge - for instance there are players (Like myself) who bat leaving a gaping great hole between their bat and pads giving you options to bowl a straight ball or a wrong un between that gap and it's this ability to recognise these nuances of the batsmans game that give you an extra edge. At the stage of my own game, the thing I look for is whether the batsman is strong or weak off his legs. At club level it strikes me that batsmen are often deficient in one of these areas or conversely - good off the legs in which case I bowl to the off-side.


Attack! It's a 40 overs match and unlike Shane Warne or any other Test bowler you haven't got too much time to spin a web of cunning and guile. You've probably got 5 or 6 overs or, if you're lucky maybe more? Remember the rest of the world has been brain-washed into believing that the key means to attack the batsmen are the fast bowlers. Personally I completely disagree with that but I'll address that eslewhere. You've got six overs and you've been put on to do your stuff. The thing you want to do more than anything else is 'Send the B******s back to the sheds'. A lot of people stress over their figures and statistics and can get overly concerned at how they're doing and how many they're being hit for, but as my mate Macca suggests the sooner you can get them back in the sheds the less runs they'll be able to make. So the key is to attack, make every ball count, ensure that every ball is heading for the stumps - preferably the off-stump.

Why the Off-Stump?

Again I have to reiterate that I'm not an expert and to some degree I rely on working with my captain on things like field placings. Recently the field placings that have been allocated to me when I bowl have had an Off-side bias. As previously mentioned I target the Off-Stump and advocate this as a strategy if you can turn the ball towards the off-side with a little spin. This then demands that the majority of your fielders be placed in off-side fielding positions waiting for catching opportunities. A Slips, Gully and Point being the fielders clustered fairly close to the bat with Cover and Mid Off looking to take the ball on more adventurous attempts at playing strokes. The Deep mid comes up with a result quite frequently for me as too the Deep Square Leg, but these normally are only required if my bowling gets a bit wayward and ends up on the legs or wide of the legs.

Given more confidence next year possibly I may be in a position to modify the field placements myself. I've noted in recent games a high proportion of the runs that I've conceded have been as a result of byes down the Leg-Side when I've attempted to bowl the batsman round his legs when trying to figure out whether he's weak on his leg-side. Given the confidence I might remove the Deep Mid on fielder and put him behind the keeper in a Long Stop position near the boundary. This may have the additional benefit of the batsman then trying to drive the spinning ball straight down the wicket and give him encouragement to start coming out of his crease leaving him extremely vulnerable to a stumping out of his ground.
So with this fielding set up in place I bowl the ball at the Off-stump tempting the batsman to hit the ball to the off-side when it's loaded with fielders looking to take the catch. I pitch the ball well and truly up the wicket flighting it in above the eyes in order that they have difficulty in establishing the point at which it's going to bounce. The flight trajectory is changed, the speed is changed with very small differences in the length, the ball landing typically 1-2 meters in front of the bat right under his nose. With the flight and speed variation, very quickly within the first over most batsman that I've encountered go from a psychological state of 'Whoa - a Leg-spinner, I'm going to fill my boots here'! To, someone that suddenly finds themself looking like a rabbit in the headlights of a car trying to play defensive shots fending the ball away from the stumps and in doing so chancing every single time the ball finding the edge of the bat and it glancing away to one of the fielders adjacent to or behind the bat.

This approach is wholly reliant on you being able to put the ball on the same line again and again at the same length and this is where the hours and hours of practice come in to ensure this is what you do with great ease. Needless to say, with the match being 40 overs and there being a necessity for the batsman to make runs and also this stupid belief that Wrist Spinners are easy to play. The batsman falls for the easiest of traps and lets his pride and misguided belief that he can dominate clutter his mind and all too soon he starts trying to play shots. But this isn't a ball that is going in straight lines, at predictable speeds with regular bounce it's spin bowling, so within a matter of balls he's on his way back to the proverbial Sheds. It's not rocket science, everyone knows that the most successful bowlers ever are Spinners.
So my advice is ignore all the videos of Shane Warne bowling people round the back of their legs and his 'Ball of the century'. Stick to keeping it simple when you're starting off. Just get really accurate and make the ball spin a bit.
Here's some good advice via David Hinchcliffes Micoach website. This is a radio style broadcast (Podcast) and about 6 or 7 minutes in they start discussing Spin bowling and strategies. it's well worth a listen with some good advice.

All said and done though I would say that if you can get a proper Leg Break bowling coach to teach you this stuff in the nets or on a wicket that is the way to go.

Drift and the Leg Break
Drift, this is a magical and complex aero-dynamic characteristic of Leg-Break bowling. Where the ball, when released spinning from the hand, on what initially looks like a trajectory heading for your off-stump, changes direction late in its flight path as it approaches the batsman. Drift when executed well, will see the ball veer from heading for the off-stump to heading suddenly at a very late stage in the flight to the Leg Stump. Furthermore, this trajectory takes the ball into a right-handed batsman’s blind spot, (See ) further compounding the devastating position the batsman now finds himself facing. The ball then pitches on a difficult length to play, with the batsman not knowing whether to play forward or back and then it does what all good Leg-Breaks should do – it breaks towards the top of off-stump.

If you look for articles on drift on the internet, there’s not a great many available. The same is true of books on spinning - it gets mentioned, but no-one seems to tackle it with the kind of detail and enthusiasm that you’d expect.

If you are a Wrist Spinner, and you’ve got the kind of inquisitive mind that Peter Philpott would appreciate in pursuit of your goals, you soon discover that you are a part of a very small band of brothers. So small that Danish Kaneria once said in an interview in Aug 2007 for ‘Spin’ magazine “Leg-Spin is an art. Not everybody has that art. Only two or three people in the world can do what I do.”

But, yes, there are few of us and we’re the outsiders of cricket, the blokes without a coach or mentor. Yeah we might be lucky and there might be one bloke who bowls a Leg Break and Top-Spinner if he’s really ‘Good’, but whether that one bloke is interested enough to give us the time to pass on his knowledge is another matter. With Off-Spinners it’s different, they’re two a penny. Every club has two, three or more ‘Offies’, but Wrist Spinners, they’re as rare as Rocking Horse Pooh.

So where do we turn for our in-depth analysis of Wrist Spin and more specifically – Drift? What with the Art of Wrist Spin being so obscure and shrouded in mystery, you’re probably not going to be surprised to hear that in all the years of cricket history, there may only be 3 or 4 books that focus on the subject of Wrist Spin and therefore have specific and well informed sections on drift? Two of the books were written by the man that can be virtually credited with writing the book of wrist spin back in the 1930’s - Clarrie Grimmetts wrist spin bible ‘Getting Wickets’. There’s another book that is so obscure that I’m not going to even mention its name because I still haven’t got a copy of it and again that was written back in the 1930’s. Jump forward to the 1990’s and Peter Philpott publishes ‘The Art of Wrist Spin Bowling’ using Grimmetts work as the back-bone of his own book. Jump forward again to 2009 and we see the next serious attempt to look at wrist-spinning and Drift this time a large section within Bob Woolmers cricket bible – “The Art & Science of Cricket”.

But the question remains – do any of these books examine drift in real depth? As soon as you start looking at the spinning ball seriously, you have to start to delve into physics in order to comprehend what’s happening to the ball to make it swerve/swing/drift. You soon realise that if you’re looking at smooth balls the physics is relatively simple, but then when you start to factor in rough and smooth sides of the ball it complicates the physics further. Then if you factor in the seam of a cricket ball, it gets potentially more complex and finally if you start talking in terms of horizontal axis versus tilted forward or backward axis, it’s moving into the realms of PHD Physics.

So, I went looking to see if I could find the answer and come up with something that the layman like me could get his teeth into and start to spin the ball in a way that might allow me to…………

1. Drift the ball at will
2. Drift the ball with differing degrees of drift

Just two objectives, and this is what I found……….

Grimmet on Drift

The ball or sphere which is perfectly round, and has no seam, swerves because it is affected by the pressure of the atmosphere. This is dependent on the way that the ball is spinning. Take, for instance, a ball spinning in a horizontal plane from right to left. That is, if you were to put a chalk mark round a sphere, similar to the seam on a cricket ball it would be spinning round at right angles to the line of flight, parallel with the ground. The ball would then be traveling much faster on the right side than on the left, because it is spinning forward. On the left side, the ball is spinning back, and, consequently, not going so fast as on the other side. Hence, the different sides of the ball are differentially affected by the air pressure.

It is therefore, easy to see that the ball must tend to travel or swerve to the side on which there is the most resistance. In this case, the most resistance is on the left because the ball has a spinning motion backwards, and is traveling forward. Consequently, it swerves to the left; and, if the spin is reversed, it will swerve to the right. Similarly, top and backspin operate the same way in their respective directions.

A cricket ball introduces something different again by reason of the fact that it has a seam raised above the main surface of the ball. Through the fact that the seam is in such contrast to the smooth, shiny surface – this varying as the ball becomes worn – it necessarily follows it offers more resistance to the atmosphere than the shiny part. Consequently, it swerves according to the way in which the seam is spinning.

Bowl a ball spinning over towards the slips as for the leg break, the seam being gripped so that it touches the first two fingers and thumb. The seam would be then pointing in the direction of the slips, and, with the atmosphere striking it in this position it would act as a rudder, steering the ball towards the slips – an out-swerve. Now grip the ball with the seam exactly opposite, spin it the same way, and it will swerve towards fine leg – an in-swinger.

It is possible, however, for the seam to spin in such a way that, in the prevailing conditions it does not act as a rudder, and the ball swerves simply because it is traveling faster in one place than in the other, as for instance, the ball spinning on a horizontal plane.

In the case of a ball bowled as for a leg break, a previously described, with the seam spinning like a hoop towards the slips, the top part of the ball is traveling faster than the lower part, and causes the ball to drop quickly. Hence the curving, deceptive flight of a ball from a slow bowler.

In baseball, they use for practice purposes a ball with the seam raised about an eighth of an inch, the idea being to enable learners to get the impression of swerve more easily by means of the contrast between the raised seam and the ball itself. This suggestion could be applied to cricket. Bowlers anxious to solve the mysteries of swerve could have a cricket ball made to order with the seam so raised, and would thus more clearly be able to note the effect of swerve.

Much useful experience can be gained by noting, particularly with the raised seam ball, the effect of the wind. Young bowlers should also watch carefully to see how the swerve varies according to the way they grip the ball.

In swerve bowling, like other branches of the art, it must be the bowler’s object so to regulate his swerve that the ball will hit the wicket. A new ball swerves much more than the old one, and it is vitally important that this advantage should not be wasted.

It is always advisable for a slow bowler to work against the breeze, which causes the ball to dip and swerve, together with other peculiarities of flight impossible to obtain while bowling with the wind.

Philpott on Drift……..

Philpott points us to looking at Tennis and baseball for clues as to the way that a ball spins and we as Wrist Spinners need to be aware of the potential for applying drift to our game. I can’t quote Philpott direct as the book is still in circulation and therefore subject to copyright laws. But Philpott makes the point using a left-handed serve in tennis to illustrate the dynamics of drift. Pointing out that the LH player slices down on the Left Handed side of the ball, thus creating anti-clockwise spin as with a Leg-Break. In tennis because of the furry nature of the ball this Leg Break type spin sees the ball drift from Left to Right – it drifts ‘In’, noting that the drift occurs in the opposite direction of the turn after bouncing.

In Philpotts book – that’s it, apart from a diagram that illustrates a ball that is spinning with its seam 90 degrees to the direction of flight. There’s no mention of whether the seam is fully upright or slanted backwards or forwards. The illustration suggests that the ball is delivered with the rotation 90 degrees and perfectly up-right.

Woolmer on Drift

Woolmer, on the other hand attempts to take a very in depth look at Drift in his book. Page 301 through to 307 he writes several thousand words illustrated with some good diagrams explaining the Magnus affect. If you want explanations of the magnus affect, youtube is particularly good if you search using links to Baseball. There seems to be far more information relating to the physics of spinning balls in conjunction with Baseball as a sport than cricket. One of the links I looked at trying to get my head round the Magnus effect was . Woolmers illustrations and explanations get fairly complex and are recommended as additional reading, but for me it still didn’t fully explain the drift aspects that I was looking for.

Having tackled the subject of the Magnus effect he then moves on to the ball of the Century from Warne to Mike Gatting
Woolmer then spends a few pages with diagrams proposing what may have happened incorporating the physics provided from what’s known about the Magnus Effect in conjunction with this amazing dismissal.

There’s a couple of interesting points that Woolmer makes that are in opposition to the existing explanations and theories regarding drift. But for me, one key point stands out as being the most important of all the things that I’ve looked at and read and it contradicts Philpotts diagram of the ball with the perfectly presented up-right seam spinning at 90 degrees to its flight path. Woolmer concludes that a ball presented in this manner will not drift. He then goes on to explain in great detail Warnes Ball of the century which has a great deal of drift, but as he gets into it and starts to explain the theory he then notes “In order for the delivery to drift towards leg, the wake of the ball must be disturbed upwards towards the off-side. How this happens is not yet well described in scientific literature. Thus, some speculation is warranted – and illustrated in Figure 5.23”. (Which is the diagram used to explain the ball of the century).

The key revelation within the text is the speculation that in order that the ball does drift in the manner illustrated in the video link, it was probably tilted slightly backwards from vertical (When seen from above). For me personally, this line alone from everything I’ve read strikes me as being the most significant of all my findings and therefore definitely worth looking into.

Additionally another resource that is available to everyone on the internet and is exceptionally comprehensive is fellow bigcricket forum contributor ‘Spiderlounge’s blog that looks at the subject -
I can follow what he’s saying up to a point but then I get a bit lost but within his explanation. But I’ve noticed too, that he looks at the possibility that big drift occurs when the seam moves off the perfectly upright (Viewed from above) position and slants one way or the other.

Some of the information relating to spinning balls is easy to grasp and the Magnus force when it relates to some types of balls makes sense. But, with regards to wrist spinning and the fact that it in itself is a relatively unexplored and unexplained, with very few people prepared to put their hand up and say that they are experts in the field either as protagonists or researchers, it seems that the fact that it is such a dark art amongst all of the cricket specialities that the information is for now, still very scant. The fact that not many people bowl wrist spin means that the scope to explore the physics using players is limited and even if the players had the time and the inclination to get involved with the research, it might then be the case that the ‘Sports Scientists’ with PHD’s in Physics might not be available. Furthermore such an approach to R&D in an obscure facet of cricket possibly wouldn’t justify the money from over-arching bodies such as the ECB?

If you search hard there is evidence out there, that the subject is being taken very seriously as you can see from this link but the information isn’t being disseminated to mere mortals like you and I. I’m also aware that ECB cricket coaches have access to training videos that they can buy readily that may look at aspects such as drift….
But my own teams coaches have access to these videos and they’re aware of how obsessed I am with the subject and the impression I get is, that there’s nothing in these videos that I wouldn’t already know?

So, having looked at as much as I can at the information that is readily available, it all ends up being pretty inconclusive with just that one point with regards to the tilting axis of the ball as it spins its way towards the batsman. On the Bigcricket Forum as I discussed this with the others we all more or less came to the same conclusions……..

· It is a very complex theory to understand and apply to your actual bowling.
· If you spin the ball hard with your Leg Breaks you will produce drift and if you notice it, or someone else notices it - keep it in mind and try and work with it.
· Don’t get hung up on it though, because it may be similar to situation that seamers find themselves in e.g. you can swing the ball some days and not other days – it may be the same kind of thing with drift?

Woolmer winds down his section on Wrist Spinning holding Warne up as an amazing bowler with an exceptional degree of technical mastery and that the Ball of the century was probably a ball in a million. He finishes the chapter though quite fittingly as I have at the start of this section on Drift transcribing Grimmetts original work from 1930’s and saying it was Grimmett who literally wrote the book on spin. We all need to acknowledge the legacy of Clarrie Grimmett, the man was a true genius.

Getting Wickets by C.V. Grimmett. Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, London 1930 (Out of print)
The Art of Wrist-Spin Bowling by Peter Philpott. Crowford Press, Marlborough 2006.
Clarrie Grimmett by Ashley Mallett. University of Queensland Press 1993.
Art & Science of Cricket by Bob Woolmer. New Holland. London 2009.

Credit has also got to be given to the people that have encouraged me over the last few years either directly via my cricket club Grays & Chadwell Cricket Club or on-line via internet forums, especially this particular one so cheers to Neil Samwell, Macca, Sad Spinner, EOW, Gundalf, Ripping Leg Break, Simbaz, Virender Singh Berthwal, Mas Cambios and David Hinchcliffe.
I've become a fan of Adil Rashid and I'll bung some links in here relating to him -

The other blogs in this series that are complete to date include this one which covers The Flipper in more depth than most - check out the video clips.

Here's an article about Stevie Smith, Nathan Hauritz's Leg Spinning under-study as such. The word on the street is this is the bloke who'll take over from Hauritz. In the meantime this article is about Smith being coached by Warne and there's some good pointers from Warne that are worth a look at and consider if you're having trouble with your bowling.
Shane Warne high quality footage bowling in the IPL

Here's some footage of Titch Freeman suggested by Sadspinner over on the Big Cricket forum. I like Freemans approach as it includes an idiosyncratic foot shuffle that is very much like my approach as I go into my delivery


Anyone who is looking to make comments re this blog, the videos on Youtube or just wants to discuss Wrist Spinning we'd appreciate any input especially if you've got some experience and can add to what's here and on the internet. Alternatively if you feel you've got less experience and just want to ask questions do the same thing - join in the discussions and questions at which as far as we know is the biggest wrist spin forum on the internet.
Personal Development and updates

11th Jan 2009 and the club I play for has started winter nets in preparation for the new season. Unfortnuately for me the season hasn't started off well as it seems I've got a condition called Plantar Faciitis which feels like a badly bruised heel and is in fac damage to the ligaments in the foot. I've got to monitor it over the next couple of weeks and see how it goes but may have to stop playing any sport for a couple of months or more if it continues. I'll have to see how it goes.

Anyway at the first session it didn't go too bad. I seemed to have the right-handers either playing defensive shots or trying to attack me and then eventually making a mistake whereby they'd be stumped or caught by slips or gully, so I was pleased with that. Then came the Left Hander. Admittedly he's probably the best player in our team but I was hoping to do better than I did. I managed to get the ball past him twice out of about 20 balls. The 18 were hit for 2's, 4's and sixes I reckon - mostly fours. I've discussed it on the forum and some of the blokes have made some useful suggestions. Last night I didn't have a strategy and was just trying a variety of approaches using this years variations (Leg Break, Wrong Un, top and back-spinning Flippers) and pitching the ball on the line that I'm most confident with - which is his Leg Stump, so he was having a field day.
I've since had a look at what Philpott recommends and he says to pitch the ball wide of the Lefties off-stump using your Leg Break turning the ball back into the stumps. It then makes sense that if you have a straight ball and a Wrong un you'd use these as variations. Philpott says not to stray in closer to the legs as the batsman will work the ball to the on-side. So without getting too technical I'll be looking to use the leg break in this way and see what the lefties come up with. I'm not going to over-complicate it initially as I've got 12 weeks to work out what to do I reckon. So, Leg Breaks down his off-side pitched up maybe using width of the crease to bowl over and around the wicket and varying the speed, trajectory and spin and see how I get on. I'll be watching to see what strokes he plays and let you know.

Link to an old MCC coaching manual from 1952 legspin

Link to Richie Benuad Leg-Spin master class

18th Jan 2010 follow link for bowling against Lefties