Spin bowling

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Spin bowler Muttiah Muralitharan bowling to the batsman, Adam Gilchrist Muralitharan bowling to Adam Gilchrist.jpg
Spin bowler Muttiah Muralitharan bowling to the batsman, Adam Gilchrist

Spin bowling is a bowling technique in cricket, in which the ball is delivered slowly but with the potential to deviate sharply after bouncing, and the bowler is referred to as a spinner.



The main aim of spin bowling is to bowl the cricket ball with rapid rotation so that when it bounces on the pitch it will deviate from its normal straight path, thus making it difficult for the batsman to hit the ball cleanly. [1] The speed the ball travels is not critical, and is significantly slower than that for fast bowling. A typical spin delivery has a speed in the range 70–90 km/h (45–55 mph).


An off-spin delivery by (right arm over the wicket) Off break small.gif
An off-spin delivery by (right arm over the wicket)
A leg-spin delivery by (right arm over the wicket) Leg break small.gif
A leg-spin delivery by (right arm over the wicket)

Spin bowling is divided into four different categories, depending on the particular physical technique used. There is virtually no overlap between the two basic biomechanical techniques of wrist spin and finger spin. [2]

CategoryLeft arm or right armFinger spin or wrist spinDirection of spin of normal deliveryNotable bowlers
Off spin RightFingerLeft to right Jim Laker, Muttiah Muralitharan, Saqlain Mushtaq, Harbhajan Singh, Ravichandran Ashwin
Left-arm orthodox spin LeftFingerRight to left Phil Tufnell, Ravindra Jadeja, Daniel Vettori, Rangana Herath, Shakib Al Hasan, Derek Underwood
Leg spin RightWristRight to left Abdul Qadir, Anil Kumble, Shane Warne, Mushtaq Ahmed, Shahid Afridi
Left-arm unorthodox spin LeftWristLeft to right Kuldeep Yadav, Brad Hogg, Paul Adams, Chuck Fleetwood-Smith

Depending on technique, a spin bowler uses either predominant wrist or finger motion to impart spin to the ball around a horizontal axis that is at an oblique angle to the length of the pitch. This sort of spin means it is also possible for the Magnus effect to cause the ball to deviate sideways through the air, before it bounces. Such deviation is called drift. [3] The combination of drift and spin can make the ball's trajectory complex, with a change of direction at the bounce.

Spin bowlers are generally given the task of bowling with an old, worn cricket ball. A new cricket ball better suits the techniques of fast bowling than spin bowling, while a worn one grips the pitch better and achieves greater spin. [1] Spin bowlers are also more effective later in a game, as the pitch dries up and begins to crack and crumble. This again provides more purchase for the spinning ball and produces greater deviation. Spin bowlers that open the bowling are rare, but became a more viable option with the introduction of Twenty20 cricket when pitch conditions are in their favour, and the ball also generally drifts more in the air. Spin bowlers can also be used tactically in shorter forms of the game, to 'take the pace off the ball'. This strategy is especially effective to slow down the scoring rates of batsmen who specialise in making use of the pace of faster bowlers to score runs quickly. The lower inherent momentum of a spin bowler necessitates more power exerted by the batsman to achieve the same results.


Both finger spin and wrist spin bowlers use a range of different angles of spin to confuse the batsman and dismiss them. Many of these variations have direct equivalents in the other discipline, but the names used for the various deliveries may be different.

Analogous concepts and terminology [4]
DescriptionFinger spinWrist spin
A delivery in which the ball spins towards the batsman to produce dip and bounce.topspinnertopspinner
A delivery in which the ball spins in the opposite direction to the stock delivery.doosra (a.k.a. the other one)googly (a.k.a. wrong 'un or bosey)
A delivery in which the ball spins away from the batsmen, scrambled seam.sliderslider
A delivery in which the ball spins away from the batsmen, seam upright to produce swing.arm ballalso the slider – rarely used
A delivery in which the ball is squeezed out of the fingers with backspin.no real equivalentflipper
A delivery in which the ball spins horizontally on its axis to produce drift but no turn.undercutterno real equivalent


Spin bowling has become a forte of bowlers from South Asia. The primary reason for this is that pitches in the sub-continent provide more help to spin bowlers. The faster the pitch degenerates, the earlier the spinners come into the picture. Australian and South African pitches are usually very hard and bouncy, helping the fast bowlers more. They do not break up very much during the match. In contrast, pitches in the sub-continent are not that hard. They are not usually held together by the grass as much; hence they break up more quickly and help spin bowlers.

In addition to this, spin bowling is considered to be less tiring than pace bowling as it generally does not employ a lengthy run up. Therefore, spin bowling is more prevalent in the hot and humid conditions of the sub-continent as a form of energy conservation, especially in multi-day competitions.

In general, leg-spin is considered to be one of the toughest types of bowling in which to keep control of the ball, but it is very effective in picking off wickets. [5]

Flight, turn, bounce, drift, dip

Bounce Cricket-Spin-Bounce.jpg
Drift Cricket-Spin-Drift.jpg
Dip Cricket-Spin-Dip.jpg
Flight Cricket-Spin-Flight.jpg

It is customary among cricket commentators to describe and judge the quality of spin bowling in terms of the characteristics flight, turn, bounce, drift, and dip. All these are arts to deceive the batsman and require much practice. The basic trajectory of spin bowling is two-lines-at-an-angle, but the above characteristics (described below) modify this 'normal' trajectory into more complex shapes.

Turn: How much the ball turns after pitching (e.g. 5 degree deviation after meeting the ground). It depends on the number and direction of revolutions of the ball. The movement and rotation of the ball varies, depending on the position of the wrist and the finger. An occasional unexpected straight ball can usefully be included in an attack, but spin variation is the main technique used to deceive the batsman and take wickets. A high rate of turn is above 33 rev/second, or 2000 rpm, which Graeme Swann consistently spin over 2000 rpm, the most amongst English spinners until Liam Dawson also topped 35 rev/second, or 2100 rpm. Also, the slower the ball, it tends to deviate more. For an offspinner, you will have to bowl from a wider of off-stump to get the ball to turn into the right-handed batsman and force them to nick off the edge to a fielder or into the top of off stump.

Bounce: Getting the ball to bounce more than normal, so that the ball meets the batsman at a greater height than expected. Sometimes, if the ball spins horizontally (e.g. a slider), the batsman will not be able to make contact with the ball and it may hit the stumps before the second bounce.

Drift: Getting the ball to move sideways while in air. Late drift causes the batsman to cover the wrong line and the ball may catch the edge of the bat.

Dip: Getting the ball to pitch (meet the ground) at a shorter distance than normal. Late dip causes the batsman to misjudge the length of the ball.

Flight: throwing the ball up a bit more than normal, so that its time in the air before pitching is longer. A slow ball with extra flight may deceive the batsman into thinking it is slower than it is and therefore mistiming his shot. This is very effective for offspinners. Usually a spin bowler relies on tricks during flight to produce turn, bounce, drift and dip, or combinations of them.

Related Research Articles

Leg spin Type of spin bowling in cricket

Leg spin is a type of spin bowling in cricket. A leg spinner bowls right-arm with a wrist spin action. The leg spinner's normal delivery causes the ball to spin from right to left in the cricket pitch when the ball bounces. For a right-handed batsman, that is away from the leg side, and this is where it gets the name leg break, meaning it breaks away from the leg. The turn is mostly when the ball pitches.

Left-arm orthodox spin Type of spin bowling in cricket

Left-arm orthodox spin, Left-arm off spin also known as slow left-arm orthodox spin bowling, is a type of left-arm finger spin bowling in the sport of cricket. Left-arm orthodox spin is bowled by a left-arm bowler using the fingers to spin the ball from right to left of the cricket pitch.

The flipper is the name of a particular bowling delivery used in cricket, generally by a leg spin bowler. In essence it is a back spin ball. Squeezed out of the front of the hand with the thumb and first and second fingers, it keeps deceptively low after pitching and can accordingly be very difficult to play. The flipper is comparable to a riseball in fast-pitch softball.

Off spin Type of bowling in cricket

Off spin is a type of finger spin bowling in cricket. A bowler who uses this technique is called an off spinner. Off spinners are right-handed spin bowlers who use their fingers to spin the ball. Their normal delivery is an off break, which spins from left to right when the ball bounces on the pitch. For a right-handed batsman, this is from his off side to the leg side. The ball breaks away from the off side, hence the name 'off break'.

In the game of cricket, a googly refers to a type of delivery bowled by a right-arm leg spin bowler. The googly is a variation of the typical leg spin type of delivery, in that the cricket ball is presented from the bowler's hand in such a way that once the ball pitches, it deviates in the opposite direction of a leg spinning type of delivery. It has also been colloquially and affectionately referred to as the wrong'un, Bosie or Bosey, with those latter two eponyms referring to Bernard Bosanquet, the bowler who initially discovered and began using the googly.

A topspinner is a type of delivery bowled by a cricketer bowling either wrist spin or finger spin. In either case, the bowler imparts the ball with top spin by twisting it with his or her fingers prior to delivery. In both cases, the topspinner is the halfway house between the stock delivery and the wrong'un - in the wrist spinner's case his googly, and in the finger spinner's case his doosra.

Glossary of cricket terms

This is a general glossary of the terminology used in the sport of cricket. Where words in a sentence are also defined elsewhere in this article, they appear in italics. Certain aspects of cricket terminology are explained in more detail in cricket statistics and the naming of fielding positions is explained at fielding (cricket).

A doosra is a particular type of delivery by an off-spin bowler in the sport of cricket. The doosra spins in the opposite direction to an off break, and aims to confuse the batsman into playing an unavoidable shot.

Fast bowling Bowling technique in cricket

Pace bowling is one of two main approaches to bowling in the sport of cricket, the other being spin bowling. Practitioners of pace bowling are usually known as fast bowlers, quicks, or pacemen. They can also be referred to as a seam bowler, a swing bowler or a fast bowler who can swing it to reflect the predominant characteristic of their deliveries. Strictly speaking, a pure swing bowler does not need to have a high degree of pace, though dedicated medium-pace swing bowlers are rarely seen at Test level these days.

Seam bowling is a bowling technique in cricket whereby the ball is deliberately bowled on to its seam, to cause a random deviation when the ball bounces. Practitioners are known as seam bowlers or seamers.

An arm ball is a type of delivery in cricket. It is a variation delivery bowled by an off spin bowler or slow left-arm orthodox bowler. It is the finger spin equivalent of a wrist spinner's slider or zooter.

Leg cutter

A leg cutter is a type of delivery in the sport of cricket. It is bowled by fast bowlers.

Off cutter

An off cutter is a type of delivery in the game of cricket. It is bowled by fast bowlers.

In the sport of cricket there are two broad categories of bowlers: pace and spin. Pace bowlers rely mostly on the speed of the ball to dismiss batsmen, whereas spin bowlers rely on the rotation of the ball.

In the sport of cricket, a slower ball is a slower-than-usual delivery from a fast bowler. The bowler's intention is to deceive the batsman into playing too early so that he either misses the ball completely or hits it high up in the air to offer an easy catch. It is analogous to a changeup in baseball.

Delivery (cricket) Single action of bowling a cricket ball

A delivery or ball in cricket is a single action of bowling a cricket ball toward the batsman. These terms can also refer to the events that occur after the ball is bowled while the ball is not dead.

Wrist spin Type of spin bowling in cricket

Wrist spin is a type of bowling in the sport of cricket. It refers to the cricket technique and specific hand movements associated with imparting a particular direction of spin to the cricket ball. The other spinning technique, usually used to spin the ball in the opposite direction, is finger spin. Wrist spin is bowled by releasing the ball from the back of the hand, so that it passes over the little finger. Done by a right-handed bowler, this imparts an anticlockwise rotation to the ball, as seen from the bowler's perspective; a left-handed wrist spinner rotates the ball clockwise.

Finger spin is a type of bowling in the sport of cricket. It refers to the cricket technique and specific hand movements associated with imparting a particular direction of spin to the cricket ball. The other spinning technique, generally used to spin the ball in the opposite direction, is wrist spin. Although there are exceptions, finger spinners generally turn the ball less than wrist spinners. However, because the technique is simpler and easier to master, finger spinners tend to be more accurate.


In ball sports, topspin is a property of a ball that rotates forwards as it is moving. Topspin on a ball propelled through the air imparts a downward force that causes the ball to drop, due to its interaction with the air. Topspin is the opposite of backspin.

In cricket, a slider is a type of delivery bowled by a wrist spin bowler. While a topspinner is released with the thumb facing the batsman, a slider is bowled in a similar manner to a legbreak, but instead of imparting sidespin with the third finger, the bowler allows his fingers to roll down the back of the ball, providing a mixture of sidespin and backspin. Whereas a topspinner tends to dip more quickly and bounce higher than a normal delivery, a slider does the opposite: it carries to a fuller length and bounces less than the batsman might expect. The sliders will typically head towards the batsman with a scrambled seam. This has less effect on the flight and bounce but absence of leg spin may deceive the batsman. Frequently the slider is bowled with a mixture of side spin and backspin. This has the effect of making the ball harder to differentiate from the leg break for the batsmen without reducing the mechanical effects caused by the backspin. This delivery may skid straight on or it may turn a small amount.


  1. 1 2 Knight, pp.122–123.
  2. "Spin Bowling Tips". CricketSecrets.com. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  3. "Drift". SpinBowlingTips.com. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  4. Brian Wilkins "The Bowler's Art"
  5. Bob Woolmer "The Art and Science of Cricket"