Saturday, 8 June 2013

Where to pitch a cricket ball: an object lesson from the England cricket team

Something a little different today: Fast bowling line and length. The wealth of information on ESPNCricinfo's site makes for some fascinating observations on where to bowl a cricket ball. This information is taken from ESPN's cricinfo coverage of the Champions' Trophy One Day International between England and Australia on 8 June 2013.

In a nutshell, for a right armer, it should pitch OUTSIDE OFF STUMP. Exhibit one: all right arm seam bowlers bowling for England against Australia:

Given right armers will be bowling "over the wicket" (that is, to the left hand side of the stumps at the bowler's end) There is a clear "line of best fit" here which shows the line is towards middle stump.

When bowling to left hand batsmet they will tend to aim across the batsman and well outside his off stump. There's a very good reason for this: they'll get tonked if they put it on his leg side!) Because of the right armer's natural action, the ball will tend to "swing" in the air from right to left: away from the right hander and towards the left hander.

Note also that, to a right hand batsman, ALMOST NOTHING PITCHES IN LINE WITH THE STUMPS. The ball *should* land outside the line of off stump. Note also that NOTHING, BUT NOTHING, goes down the leg side. 

Also interesting to see what a difference consistency makes: 

Here's Mitchell Starc, the Australian left arm opener. He is bowling mostly left arm over the wicket, but is bowling round the wicket occasionally, which will make his "scatter pattern" more varied, but not so much as to explain the wide spattering here - this is like a Jackson Pollock!  Ten overs of this has cost Australia 75 runs for just one wicket  - incredibly expensive in a one day game.

Compare that to Stuart Broad (After 8 overs: he's still bowling as I write!)

This is really remarkably consistent line and length. But for one yorker, everything is short of a length - just a bit to short to drive, but not so short the batsman is comfortable playing off his back foot. He has to be watchful, and as a result Broad is very economical.