Fundamentals of Cricket – Fielding & Bowling


Field placements in cricket are not standardized. There are several named field positions, and the fielding captain uses different combinations of them for tactical reasons. There are also further descriptive words to specify variations on the positions labeled by simple names, so that any position in which a fielder stands can be described.

The following diagram shows the rough positions of all of the simply named field positions.

Fielding Positions in Cricket
Fielding Positions in Cricket


Bowling Styles

There are two basic approaches to bowling: Fast & Spin.

1.Fast Bowling

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.

2. Spin Bowling

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.

Leg Spin
Leg Spin

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.

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:

  1. Bouncer:

A ball bounced short so that it bounces high, usually chest height or higher as it passes the batsman.

  1. Yorker:

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.


The Bowling Action

The bowling action itself has to conform to several restrictions. The bowler’s arm must be straight when the ball is bowled (so no “throwing” is allowed). The ball must be bowled overarm, not underarm.

The difference between ‘bowling’ and ‘throwing’: When you throw the ball, the elbow is cocked and used to impart energy to the ball by straightening. When a ball is bowled, the elbow joint is held extended throughout. All the energy is imparted by rotation of the arm about the shoulder, and possibly a little by wrist motion. For a right-handed bowler, the action goes roughly as follows:

After the run-up, the right foot is planted on the ground with the instep facing the batsman. The right arm is extended backwards and down at this stage. The left foot comes down on the popping crease as the bowler’s momentum carries him forward – he is standing essentially left-side on to the batsman. As the weight transfers to the left foot, the right arm is brought over the shoulder in a vertical arc. The ball is released near the top of the arc, and the follow-through brings the arm down and the right shoulder forward rapidly.

Bouncing the ball on the pitch is not mandatory. It’s usually done because the movement of the ball off the pitch makes it much harder to hit. Unbounced deliveries, or full tosses are almost always much easier to hit, and mostly they are bowled accidentally. A full toss above hip height is no ball, and an umpire who suspects that such a ball was deliberate will give the bowler an official warning. A warning is also given if the umpire believes the bowler is bowling at the body of a batsman in a deliberate attempt to injure the batsman. After two warnings a bowler is barred from bowling for the rest of the innings.

If any rule governing the bowling action is violated, a no ball results.

Bowlers are allowed to polish the ball by rubbing it with cloth (usually on their trouser legs) and applying saliva or sweat to it. Any other substance is illegal, as is rubbing the ball on the ground. Usually one side of the ball is polished smooth, while the other wears, so that the bowler can achieve swing (curving the ball through the air). It is also illegal to roughen the ball by any means, including scraping it with the fingernails or lifting the seam. A bowler who illegally tampers with the ball is immediately suspended from bowling for the rest of that innings.

The bowler may bowl from either side of the wicket, but must inform the umpire and the batsmen if he wishes to change sides. Bowling with the bowling arm closest to the wicket is called over the wicket, and is most common. Bowling with the non-bowling are closest to the wicket is called around the wicket.

The bowler may abort his run-up or not let go of the ball if he loses his footing or timing for any reason. The umpire will signal dead ball and the ball must be bowled again. If a bowler loses his grip on the ball during the delivery action, it is considered to be a live ball only if it is propelled forward of the bowler. If such a ball comes to rest in front of the striker, but any distance to the side, the striker is entitled to walk up to the ball and attempt to hit it with his bat. The fielding team must not touch the ball until the striker either hits it or declines to do so.

A delivery may also be aborted by the striker stepping away from his stumps, if distracted by an insect or dust in the eye, for example.

Other modifiers used to qualify positions:
Square: close to a line perpendicular to the pitch, through the batsman;
Fine: close to a line straight along the pitch;
Short: close to the batsman.

The only restriction on field placements is that, at the time the ball is delivered, there must be no more than two fielders in the quadrant of the field backward of square leg.

Sometimes fielders close to the bat wear helmets for safety. When not in use, the helmet (or any other loose equipment) may be placed on the field (usually behind the wicket-keeper, where it is unlikely to be hit by the ball). If any such loose fielding equipment is hit with the ball, five runs are scored, either to the batsman who hit the ball or as the appropriate form of byes. The ball is then considered dead and no further runs can be taken, nor can a batsman be run out.

If a fielder is wearing a protective helmet, and the striker hits the ball so that it bounces off the helmet, he may not be out caught off the rebound. If a ball rebounds from any other part of the body of a fielder, he may be out caught if another fielder (or the same one) then catches the ball before it hits the ground.


Stay tuned for Part III of the Fundamentals of Cricket series!


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