United Cricket Club.
Atlanta. USA

Strategies, Tactics, and Trivia

All of the rules of cricket have been described above, as well as some other information which is not ``rules'', such as names of fielding positions. The rest of this file is concerned with other information which is useful to know, but not actually ``rules''.

Bowling Styles

There are two basic approaches to bowling: fast and spin. A fast bowler bowls the ball as fast as practicable, attempting to defeat the batsman with its pace. If the ball also swings in the air, or seams (moves sideways) off the pitch because of bouncing on the seam, it can be very difficult to play. A spin bowler has a more ambling run-up and uses wrist or finger motion to impart a spin to the ball. The ball then spins to one side when it bounces on the pitch, thus also hopefully causing it to be hard to hit. Fast bowlers are generally used with a new ball, while spin bowlers get more spin with a worn ball. There is also medium pace bowling, which concentrates more on swing and seam than pace.

A swing bowler will hold the seam of the ball at a certain angle and attempt to release the ball so that it spins with the seam at a constant angle. With one side of the ball polished and the other rough, differential air pressure will cause it to swing in the air.

A seam bowler attempts to keep the seam vertical, so that the ball hits the seam when it bounces on the pitch and deflects in its path either to the right or left.

A fast bowler can also pull his fingers down one side of the ball as he lets it go, imparting a small amount of sideways spin to the ball. This can cause the ball to move sideways off the pitch. Such a delivery is called a leg-cutter if the ball moves from the leg side to the off side of a right-handed batsman, or an off-cutter if moves from the off to the leg. A specialist spin bowler can get a lot more spin that a fast bowler bowling cutters, however.

There are two types of spin bowling: off-spin, and leg-spin. Imagine holding a ball in your right hand and, for simplicity's sake, throwing it. If you twist your hand in a clockwise direction on release, then the spin on the ball will be such that when it bounces it will spin to your right. This is essentially off-spin bowling (so called because, to a right-handed batsman, the ball spins from the off side to the leg side). The off-spin delivery itself is called either an off-spinner or an off-break. An off-spin bowler will sometimes not spin the ball so much, putting more pace on the delivery. Such a delivery is called an arm-ball.

Now imagine twisting the ball anticlockwise and releasing it from the palm so that it `rolls' over the base of the little finger. This gives the ball spin in the opposite direction, so it spins left when it bounces. This is basic leg-spin (because to a right-handed batsman it spins from leg to off). The basic leg-spin delivery is called a leg-spinner or leg-break.

The interesting thing about leg-spin is that if you cock your wrist at various angles you can in fact, with the same basic bowling action, produce spin in different directions. With the wrist cocked a little towards the inside of the arm, you can produce top-spinners. Go further and you actually end up producing spin in the same direction as an off-spinner. A ball bowled in this way by a leg-spin bowler is called a wrong 'un, or sometimes a googly. Probably trickiest of all is a ball bowled with the hand in the same position as a top-spinner, but released from under the hand, thereby gaining back-spin. This ball is called a flipper.

(Mike Whitaker tells me that a flipper is actually bowled from the back of the hand like a normal leg-spinner, but with the forearm twisted outwards, so the ball spins about a vertical axis. I'm not sure which of these is correct, so I'm mentioning both here!)

Mike has also kindly supplied a graphic which attempts to show the arm and wrist action of the different leg-spin deliveries. Sorry for those with only ASCII browsers, but this is too difficult to show in ASCII! For those of you with graphical browsers, the following diagram shows a view of a (right-handed) leg-spinner's arm, from in front (i.e. batsman's point of view). The rotation of the ball out of the hand is the same in each case, with the ball spinning with the seam as an ``equator''.

So right handed spinners fall into two classes: off-spinners, with their simple off-spin and arm-ball deliveries; and leg-spinners, with their leg-spinners, top-spinners, wrong 'uns, and flippers. Leg-spinners are naturally much more difficult to bat against, because of the great variety of balls they can produce, but they are actually rarer than off-spinners because it is so much more difficult to bowl reasonably accurately with the leg-spin hand action.

For left-handed spin bowlers there is a whole different system of nomenclature!

A left-handed bowler who uses the same action as an off-spinner is called an orthodox spinner. Such bowlers are not uncommon. A left-hander who bowls with the same action as a leg-spinner is called an unorthodox spinner - and these are the rarest bowlers in cricket. The left-handed analogue of the leg-spin delivery (which spins the opposite way, of course) is called an unorthodox spinner. The top-spinner and flipper retain their names. And the left-handed analogue of the wrong 'un is called a Chinaman.

Typical bowling speeds are:

Fast bowler:
130-140 km/h (80-90 mph)
Medium pace bowler:
100-130 km/h (60-80 mph)
Spin bowler:
70-90 km/h (45-55 mph)
Bowlers also make use of the state of the pitch, which is quite crucial to the game, and is one of the things the commentators look at in great detail before the game begins. Because it's a natural surface, there are usually small inconsistencies in its flatness, hardness and elasticity. Over a multi-day game, or even over a single day, these become more pronounced, so it often gets more difficult to bat as the game progresses. Spin bowlers in particular often find that they get much more spin from an old pitch than a freshly prepared one.

Some of the different types of balls bowled have special names:

A ball bounced short so that it bounces high, usually chest height or higher as it passes the batsman.
A ball bounced very close to the batsman's crease. This is difficult to score from and often gets batsmen out, but is difficult to bowl without accidentally bowling a full toss.

Batsman's Shots

The different types of shots a batsman can play are described by names:
A defensive shot played with the bat vertical and angled down at the front, intended to stop the ball and drop it down quickly on to the pitch in front of the batsman.
An offensive shot played with the bat sweeping down through the vertical. The ball travels swiftly along the ground in front of the striker. A drive can be an on drive, straight drive, off drive, or cover drive, depending in which direction it goes.
A shot played with the bat close to horizontal, which hits the ball somewhere in the arc between cover and gully.
Edge, or Glance:
A shot played off the bat at a glancing angle, through the slips area.
Leg Glance:
A shot played at a glancing angle behind the legs, so that it goes in the direction of fine leg.
A horizontal bat shot which pulls the ball around the batsman into the square leg area.
Like a pull shot, except played with the backmost knee on the ground, so as to hit balls which bounce low.
Like a pull shot, but played to a bouncer and intended to hit the ball high in the air over square leg - hopefully for six runs.
French Cut:
An attempt at a cut shot which hits the bottom edge of the bat and goes into the area behind square leg.
Reverse Sweep:
A sweep with the bat reversed, into the point area.
Most of these shots can also be lofted, in an attempt to hit the ball over the close fielders (or the boundary). The batting strokes can be divided into two categories: Straight bat and cross bat. The straight bat shots are played with the bat held close to the vertical, and are the blocks, drives and glances. Cross bat shots are played with the bat held more horizontally, like a baseball bat. These include cuts, pulls, sweeps and hooks.

The following terms are used more informally and are not standard:

A wild swing intended only to hit the ball as hard and as far as possible, usually with little or no control.
Agricultural Shot:
Any shot played with very little skill.

More Weird Names

If a bowler completes an over without any runs being scored from it, it is termed a maiden.

If a batsman gets out without scoring any runs, he is said to be out for a duck. The origin of this term is unclear, but commonly rumoured to be because the '0' next to his name on the scorecard resembles a duck egg. A batsman out for a duck while facing his first delivery of the innings is out for a golden duck.

The runs scored while two batsmen bat together are called their partnership. There are ten partnerships per completed innings, labelled from first-wicket partnership to tenth-wicket partnership, in order.

A nightwatchman is a batsman who comes in to bat out of order towards the end of a day's play in a multi-day game, in order to 'protect' better batsmen. To elucidate, the batting order in an innings is usually arranged with two specialists openers who begin the innings, then the rest of the batsmen in order of skill, best to worst. The job of the openers is to bat for a while against the new ball. A brand new ball is very hard and bouncy, and fast bowlers can use this to great advantage and can often get batsmen out. So it is harder to bat against a new ball. It is also somewhat difficult to begin batting. A new batsman is more likely to get out than one who has been on the field and scoring runs for a while.

Now, in a multi-day game, it sometimes happens that a team's innings will have only a few men out towards the end of the day's play. If a batsman gets out with about half an hour or less until stumps, the batting captain will sometimes send in a poor batsman next instead of a good one. The idea is that the poor batsman (the nightwatchman) will last 20 minutes and so protect the good batsman from having to make a fresh start that evening and again the next morning. It is essentially a sacrifice ploy. Of course, it can backfire dangerously if the nightwatchman does get out before stumps. The nightwatchman is a tactic which is used about 50% of the time when the appropriate situation arises (which itself occurs perhaps once every 4 or 5 games). It just depends on how the captain feels at the time.

A sightscreen is a large screen positioned on the boundary so that it forms a backdrop behind the bowler, so that the striker can see the ball clearly. Sightscreens are white when a red ball is used, and black for a white ball.

A rabbit is a player (almost invariably a bowler, but sometimes a wicket-keeper) who is a very poor batsman. A ferret is an extremely poor batsman (so called because he ``goes in after the rabbits'').

United Cricket Club Atlanta 2002
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