In the age of T20 tournaments, free hits and The Hundred, cricket really is a batter’s game. Bowlers need to constantly evolve and adapt their approach to stay one step ahead.
To succeed in a white-ball game increasingly dominated by the bat, read on for fast bowling tips and look to bring the following aspects into your game.
The bowling armoury
Bowling fast is more intimidating than spin bowling, and requires split-second shot selection from the batters. But if the batter gets the timing right, they can use the speed to their advantage and send the ball flying over the boundary rope.
To fight back against a batter who's swinging from the hip, you need to arm yourself with a suite of four deliveries that you can unleash from the bowling crease at any time, regardless of your bowling style.
The perfect stock delivery for a modern day fast bowler is straight and back of a length. Tie the batter up for space by aiming for the top of off stump. It sounds obvious but if he misses, you hit.
Changing pace is also vital for any modern day fast bowler, and an effective slower delivery can really fox the opposition batter. A delivery that is suddenly slower than your average speed will add another element of difficulty for opposition batters.
When taking pace off the cricket ball, you can bowl a cutter that moves away from the batter - leg cutter for a right-handed batsman and off cutter for a left-hander. This is achieved by placing your middle finger and thumb on the seam, and your index finger just inside, rolling the ball out of your hand over the little finger.
This delivery will cause the ball to move from the leg side towards the off side, (or vice versa for a left-handed bowler).
Complete your fast bowling armoury by executing two of the most effective deliveries in all forms of cricket.
The yorker, if bowled well, is one of the most difficult deliveries for a batter to fend away. A perfect yorker will hit the pitch at around the length of the batter’s feet and they will have to jam the bat down to dig it out. But over-pitch or under-pitch an attempted yorker, and the batter will have an easy shot to play.
At the other end of the spectrum, an aggressive bouncer is a lethal weapon for any fast bowler. A bouncer aimed at the line of the batter’s body can be an effective delivery to bowl if they have freely been playing front scoring shots.
However, accuracy is important, and there is a risk of the batter sending a hook shot over the boundary rope.
Swing bowling specialists should bowl early in the innings, as the swing is usually greatest when the ball is new with a pronounced seam.
Reverse swing is unlikely to be achieved in the one-day game, as the limited number of overs means there is less chance to ‘rough up’ the ball. It is also widely agreed that the white ball used in one-day cricket swings less than the red ball used in Test cricket.
Spin bowlers should master a range of different deliveries to confuse the batters. Different spin angles can create varying amounts of turn and drift, whether the bowler is using wrist spin or finger spin.
Examples include a topspinner that spins towards the batter, a googly that spins in the opposition direction to the usual delivery, or an arm ball with some swing.
To get the level of accuracy required, there is only one thing a bowler can do. Practice. Delivering out on the pitch starts with delivering on the training ground.
Get in the nets and keep working on nailing your bowling action and delivery. Get your bowling arm and non bowling arm working in unison so you deliver the best possible ball, and you will be much better prepared for the rigours of modern day fast bowling.
Getting ahead during an over
Before you bowl a delivery, you can get ahead of the player standing 22 yards in front of you. In one day cricket, batters will use every trick in the book to put you off as a bowler, and reading their movements before you bowl can be key to outwitting your opponent.
Start by gauging the batter’s intent. Are they gripping onto the bat particularly strongly? Are they slamming their bat into the pitch a little harder? Are they pumped up and animated at the crease?
If so, it's likely the batter is setting themselves up to wallop the cricket ball straight out the park, and as a bowler you need to be prepared for this eventuality.
Watch the batter for early movement and try to be adaptable rather than fixing on one delivery. See if the batter is looking for gaps in the field and do your research beforehand on their favourite shots. Variety is essential in limited-over bowling.
The psychology of modern-day bowling
Sometimes as a bowler, you have to accept the inevitable is going to happen, and you're going to get smacked for the occasional four or six. Recovering from being hit all over the place is a hallmark of success.
It’s important for a bowler not to let emotion overtake intent. You know in your head the best way to overcome the batter at the other end, and their actions should not affect your game plan.
Let the situation guide your thinking, not the emotions that come from being hit for six at the crucial stage of a big match.
You need to be in ‘assassin mode’ as a bowler during the death overs. Focus only on playing your game and executing the perfect delivery, and you will be less affected by the exterior pressures in the game.
Bring it all together when bowling at the death
Fast bowlers may have to bowl at the death at some point in their career. This is less common for spin bowlers but still possible. To succeed in such a vital part of limited overs cricket, you need to bring together all the factors mentioned above.
Take a look at the batsman's intent beforehand, call upon your bowling armoury to deliver the perfect ball for the situation, and don't let a boundary get in the way of you dictating terms to a batter.