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This is bowling.OGG
The basics of bowling.
Darren Gough bowling

In the sport of cricket, bowling is the action of propelling the ball toward the wicket defended by a batsman. A player skilled at bowling is called a bowler.

There are two different types of bowlers, pacers being the quicks and spinners having the ability to turn the ball from one side to another. A single act of bowling the ball towards the batsman is called a ball or a delivery. Bowlers bowl deliveries in sets of six, called an over. Once a bowler has bowled their over, one of their team mates will bowl an over from the other end of the pitch.

There are rules in the Laws of Cricket governing how a ball must be bowled.[1] If a ball is bowled illegally, an umpire will rule it a no ball.[2] If a ball is bowled too wide of the stumps or too high for the batsman to be able to hit it, an umpire will rule it a wide.[3]



Bowling Techniques
Historical Styles

In the early days of cricketing history, underarm bowling was the only method employed. Many theories exist about the origins of cricket. One suggests that the game began among shepherds hitting a stone or a ball of wool with their crooks and, at the same time, defending the wicket gate into the sheep-fold (from Anglo Saxon 'cricce', a crooked staff). A second theory suggests the name came from a low stool known as a 'cricket' in England, which from the side looked like the long, low wicket used in the early days of the game (originally from the Flemish 'krickstoel', a low stool on which parishioners knelt in church). There is also a reference to 'criquet' in North-East France in 1478 and evidence that the game evolved in South-East England in the Middle Ages.

In reality, there would have been a large number of different games played under a variety of local rules. The idea of a single past time evolving seamlessly into the sport we know and love is appealing but highly unlikely. However, hitting a ball with a stick does seem to have been a popular past time. Whatever the origins or variety of games played, records show Edward II wielding a bat, and, subsequently, it was suggested Cromwell was also partial to a game. In fact, "bat" is an old English word meaning stick or club. The earliest types of bat were rather like a hockey stick - long, heavy clubs curved outwards towards the bottom. The design of the bat reflected the type of bowling that was prevalent at the time - fast, underarm bowls rolled along the ground. By the eighteenth century, the bat had developed into a longer, heavier, curved version of our modern bat - the handle and blade were carved out of a single piece of wood.

The first recorded match took place in Kent in 1646 and, by the late 1600s, it was noted that fines were handed out for those missing church to play. Cricket was popular and widely documented in England during the 1700s. In 1706 William Goldwyn published the first description of the game. He wrote that two teams were first seen carrying their curving bats to the venue, choosing a pitch and arguing over the rules to be played. They pitched two sets of wickets, each with a "milk-white" bail perched on two stumps; toss a coin for first knock, the umpire called "play" and the "leathern orb" was bowled. They had four-ball overs, the umpires leant on their staves (which the batsmen had to touch to complete a run), and the scorers sat on a mound making notches.

The first written "Laws of Cricket" were drawn up in 1744. They stated, "the principals shall choose from amongst the gentlemen present two umpires who shall absolutely decide all disputes. The stumps must be 22 inches high and the bail across them six inches. The ball must be between 5 & 6 ounces, and the two sets of stumps 22 yards apart". There were no limits on the shape or size of the bat. It appears that 40 notches was viewed as a very big score, probably due to the bowlers bowling quickly at shins unprotected by pads. The world's first cricket club was formed in Hambledon in the 1760s and the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) was founded in 1787.

During the 1760's and 1770's it became common to pitch the ball through the air, rather than roll it along the ground. This innovation gave bowlers the weapons of length, deception through the air, plus increased pace. It also opened new possibilities for spin and swerve. In response, batsmen had to master timing and shot selection. One immediate consequence was the replacement of the curving bat with the straight one. All of this raised the premium on skill and lessened the influence of rough ground and brute force. It was in the 1770's that the modern game began to take shape. The weight of the ball was limited to between five and a half and five and three-quarter ounces, and the width of the bat to four inches. The latter ruling followed an innings by a batsman called "Shock" White, who appeared with a bat the width of the wicket. In 1774, the first leg before law was published. Also around this time, a third stump became commonplace. By 1780, three days had become the duration of a major match, and this year also saw the creation of the first six-seam cricket ball. In 1788, the MCC published its first revision of the laws, which prohibited charging down an opponent and also provided for mowing and covering the wicket in order to standardise conditions. The desire for standardisation reflected the massive increase in the popularity of cricket during the 18th Century. Between 1730 & 1740, 150 cricket matches were recorded in the papers of the time. Between 1750 & 1760, this figure rose to 230, and between 1770 & 1790 over 500.

The 19th Century saw a series of significant changes. Wide deliveries were outlawed in 1811. The circumference of the ball was specified for the first time in 1838 (its weight had been dictated 60 years earlier). Pads, made of cork, became available for the first time in 1841, and these were further developed following the invention of vulcanised rubber, which was also used to introduce protective gloves in 1848. In the 1870's, boundaries were introduced - previously, all hits had to be run, and if the ball went into the crowd, the spectators had cleared a way for the fieldsman to fetch it. The biggest change, however, was in how the ball was delivered by the bowler.

At the start of the century, all bowlers were still delivering the ball under-arm. However, so the story goes, John Willes became the first bowler to use a "round-arm" technique after practising with his sister Christina, who had used the technique, as she was unable to bowl underarm due to her wide dress impeding her delivery of the ball.[4]

Soon after this action was to be employed more in matches, however, the roundarm method was quickly banned and determined to be illegal by the MCC stating "the ball must be delivered underhand, not thrown or jerked, with the hand underneath the elbow at the time of delivering the ball"[5]. When it was accepted the rules stated that the arm could not be raised above the shoulder. It was quickly found, however, that a raised arm imparted more accuracy and generated more bounce than the roundarm method. Again, the governing body banned the method. It was not until the method was finally accepted by the MCC in 1835[6] that it grew rapidly in popularity amongst all players. Underarm bowling hitherto had almost disappeared from the game.


Modern day underarm bowling

An infamous "underarm bowling incident" occurred during a match in 1981, in which the Australian bowler, Trevor Chappell, took advantage of the fact that underarm bowling was still legal by rolling the ball along the ground. By doing so he avoided the possibility that the New Zealand batsman, Brian McKechnie, would score a six from the last ball to tie the match, as the bat would not be able to hit the ball high enough to score a six.[7]

As a result of this incident underarm bowling was subsequently made illegal in all grades of cricket, except by prior agreement of both teams, as it was not considered to be within the spirit of the game.

The bowling action

Philadelphian cricketer Bart King bowling

Bowling the ball is distinguished from simply throwing the ball by a strictly specified biomechanical definition.

Originally, this definition said that the elbow joint must not straighten out during the bowling action. Bowlers generally hold their elbows fully extended and rotate the arm vertically about the shoulder joint to impart velocity to the ball, releasing it near the top of the arc. Flexion at the elbow was allowed, but any extension of the elbow was deemed to be a throw and would be liable to be called a no ball. This was thought to be possible only if the bowler's elbow was originally held in a slightly flexed position.

In 2005, this definition was deemed to be physically impossible by a scientific investigative commission. Biomechanical studies that showed that almost all bowlers extend their elbows somewhat throughout the bowling action, because the stress of swinging the arm around hyperextends the elbow joint. A guideline was introduced to allow extensions or hyperextensions of angles up to 15 degrees before deeming the ball illegally thrown.

Goals of bowling

In terms of strategic importance in a game, the priorities of a bowler are, in order of importance:

  1. Get batsmen out.
  2. Prevent batsmen from scoring runs.

Getting batsmen out is the primary goal because once out a batsman can no longer bat in the same innings, so the potential for scoring more runs is gone. Actually preventing the scoring of a run at any point is relatively unimportant, and bowlers will often deliberately bowl so as to make it easier for batsmen to score runs, in order to build overconfidence, tempt them into a miscalculated shot, and thus get them out. Conversely, some bowlers can and will bowl in order to stifle the scoring of runs. This can cause the person batting to become frustrated and opt to play a more aggressive or less competent stroke to break the patch of non-scoring, subsequently increasing his or her chances of getting out. This style is more prominent in one-day cricket where run getting comes at more of a premium.

This contrasts with baseball, in which the primary goal of pitching is to prevent the other team from scoring runs. This is reflected in the difference in terminology of attack and defence between the sports. In baseball, pitching is considered the defensive role, whereas in cricket bowling is primarily an offensive role and is referred to as the attack or charge.

Bowling tactics

David Masters in midflight, illustrating the position of the body during a delivery at the end of a run up, prior to bowling the ball.

To achieve the goals of bowling, a variety of tactics have been developed. Naively, bowling directly at the batsman's wicket seems a good idea, as this provides chances to get the batsman out bowled or leg before wicket. However, most batsman are capable of defending against such deliveries, especially if they expect them. A more promising line of attack is to bowl away from the wicket, and entice the batsman to play a shot at the ball in the hope of scoring runs. A mistimed stroke or deviation of the ball in flight can result in the ball being hit in an unintended direction, either on to the wicket or - more likely - to a fielder for a catch.

Some different types of bowling tactic:

Bowling restrictions

In limited overs cricket, there is a limitation on the number of overs each bowler can bowl. This number depends on the match length, and is usually 20% (a fifth) of the total overs in the innings. For example, the usual limit for twenty-over cricket is four overs per bowler, for forty-over cricket eight per bowler and for fifty-over cricket ten per bowler. There is, however, no limit on the number of overs each bowler may bowl in first class cricket matches, except that no two overs can be bowled consecutively thus restricting any one bowler from a maximum of 50% (plus 1 over) of each innings total.

See also



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