Bowling, in cricket, is the action of propelling the ball toward the wicket defended by a batsman. A player skilled at bowling is called a bowler; a bowler who is also a competent batsman is known as an all-rounder. Bowling the ball is distinguished from throwing the ballby a strictly specified biomechanical definition, which restricts the angle of extension of the elbow. 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 an over, a teammate will bowl an over from the other end of the pitch. The Laws of Cricket govern how a ball must be bowled. If a ball is bowled illegally, an umpire will rule it a no-ball. If a ball is bowled too wide of the striker for the batsman to be able to play at it with a proper cricket shot, the bowler’s end umpire will rule it a wide.
The simultaneous twin objectives of bowling are to take wickets and prevent run scoring opportunities. Both objectives are achieved through the underlying aim of bowling the ball in such a way that the batsman is unable to connect with the ball in the middle of the bat and control its movement after contact. There are three distinct means of achieving this aim: by bowling the ball on a good line and length, by bowling with sufficient pace that the batsman struggles to react to the delivery, or by bowling the ball in such a way that it has lateral movement as it approaches the batsman, either in the air or off the ground. A good bowler may be able to combine two of these skills, a truly great bowler may be able to combine all three.
Line and length
The fundamental skill of bowling on a good length incorporates the ability to pitch the ball such a distance from the batsman that he is unable to move forward and drive the ball on the half volley, and is also unable to step back and play the ball on the back foot. This removes many of the batsman’s attacking options, and also increases the probability of him misjudging a delivery and losing his wicket. A good length delivery is one in which the ball has had sufficient time to move far enough off the pitch to beat the bat but the batsman has not had time to react to the movement and adjust his shot. The faster the bowler and the greater the movement he is able to generate, the larger the area of the pitch that can be designated an effective “good” length.
Other areas of the pitch may also often be used as a variation to a good length delivery. Primarily these are the yorker, in which the ball is bowled directly at the batsman’s feet as a surprise delivery intended to dismiss the batsman bowled, and the bouncer in which the ball is bowled on such a short length that it rises towards the batsman’s throat or head as a means of physical intimidation. But the height of an attempted yorker or full toss must not be higher than the batsman’s waist, or else it will be called a no-ball beamer, which could have bowlers banned from the match.
The line a bowler chooses to bowl will depend on several factors: the movement he is generating on the ball, the shots the batsman is able to play, and the field the captain has set. The two most common tactics are to either bowl directly at the stumps, or to bowl 3 inches to 6 inches outside the line of off stump. Bowling at the stumps is an attacking tactic with the intention of dismissing the batsman bowled or lbw. It can also be used as a defensive tactic, as the batsman will feel less able to play risky shots knowing that he will be dismissed should he miss the ball. Bowling outside off stump is known as the corridor of uncertainty. When done well, this line may confuse the batsman into whether to defend the ball or leave it, and may tempt him to play away from his body with his head not in line with the ball. The main aim of this tactic is to dismiss the batman caught by the wicketkeeper or in the slips. Other bowling variations, such as bowling wide of off stump or bowling at leg stump are generally seen as negative and defensive tactics.
Some different types of bowling tactic:
Pace and movement
Other than the ability to land the ball on a strategically optimum line and length, the main weapons of the bowler are his ability to move the ball sideways as it approaches the batsman and his ability to deliver the ball at a high velocity.
The velocities of cricket bowlers vary between 40 and 100 mph (64 and 161 km/h). In professional cricket, a bowler in the 40–60 mph range would be said to be a slow bowler, in the 60–80 mph range a medium pace bowler, and a bowler 80 mph+ a fast bowler. In the amateur game, these distinctions would be approximately 10 mph slower. Many professional fast bowlers are able to reach speeds of over 85 mph, with a handful of bowlers in the world able to bowl at 95 mph+. The ability to react to a cricket ball travelling at 85 mph is a skill that only professional and high level amateur cricketers possess. The pace of a bowler not only challenges the reaction speed of the batsman, but also his physical courage. Fast bowlers are able to exploit this by bowling bouncers, either regularly or as an occasional surprise delivery.
Bowlers are also able to get the ball to move sideways by using either spin or swing. Adding a spin to a cricket ball will make it deviate due to the Magnus effect in its flight, and then produce sideways movement off the ground. Swing is obtained by using air pressure differences caused by angling the seam of the cricket ball to produce a lateral movement in the air. Fast bowlers will generally only use swing to obtain movement, but medium pace and slow bowlers will often use a combination of the two. The intention is that in creating movement in the delivery, the batsman will misjudge the line of the ball as it arrives, causing him to miss it entirely, in which case he may be dismissed bowled or lbw, or miss-hit it, in which case he may be out caught.
In order to prevent from becoming predictable, a bowler will typically bowl a variety of different deliveries with different combinations of pace and movement. A tactically astute bowler may be able to spot a potential weakness in a batsman that a particular delivery may be able to exploit. Bowlers will often also bowl deliveries in preplanned sets, with the intention of dismissing the batsman with the final delivery in the set. This is known as “setting a trap” for the batsman. Batsmen and bowlers will often also engage in a game of “cat and mouse”, in which the bowler varies his tactics in order to try and trap and dismiss the batsman, but the batsman also keeps adjusting his tactics in response.
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