Bowling (cricket)

Bowling (cricket)

In the sport of cricket, bowling is the action of propelling the ball toward the wicket defended by a batsman. A player skilled at bowling is called a "bowler".

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 their over, one of their team mates will bowl an over from the other end of the pitch.

There are rules in the Laws of Cricket governing 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 stumps or high for the batsman to be able to hit it, an umpire will rule it a "wide".


In the early days of cricketing history, underarm bowling was the only method employed. Initially, all bowling was performed with an underarm action. Later, an English woman, who used to play cricket alongside the gentlemen and who was attired in the dress of the day for a lady – a long, widely blousing dress – was having difficulty in bowling with an underarm action due to the blousing dress, and to counter this she began to bowl with a roundarm delivery method.

Soon after, a man who saw this action began to employ it in matches, however, the roundarm method was quickly banned and determined to be illegal. When it was accepted the rules stated that the arm could not be raised above the shoulder. It was quickly found, however, that a raised arm imparted more accuracy and generated more bounce than the roundarm method. Again, the governing body banned the method. It was not until the method was finally accepted by cricketing authorities that it grew rapidly in popularity amongst all players. Underarm bowling had almost disappeared from the game.

An infamous "underarm bowling incident" occurred during a match in 1981, in which the bowler took advantage of the fact that underarm bowling was still legal by rolling the ball along the ground. By doing so he avoided the possibility that the batsman would score a six from the last ball to tie the match.

As a result of this incident underarm bowling was subsequently made illegal in all grades of cricket, except by prior agreement of both teams, as it was not considered to be within the spirit of the game.

The bowling action

Bowling the ball is distinguished from simply throwing the ball by a strictly specified biomechanical definition.

Originally, this definition said that the elbow joint must not straighten out during the bowling action. Bowlers generally hold their elbows fully extended and rotate the arm vertically about the shoulder joint to impart velocity to the ball, releasing it near the top of the arc. Flexion at the elbow was allowed, but any extension of the elbow was deemed to be a throw and would be liable to be called a no ball. This was thought to be possible only if the bowler's elbow was originally held in a slightly flexed position.

In 2005, this definition was deemed to be physically impossible by a scientific investigative commission. Biomechanical studies that showed that "almost" all bowlers extend their elbows somewhat throughout the bowling action, because the stress of swinging the arm around "hyperextends" the elbow joint. A guideline was introduced to allow extensions or hyperextensions of angles up to 15 degrees before deeming the ball illegally thrown.

Goals of bowling

In terms of strategic importance in a game, the priorities of a bowler are, in order of importance:
#Get batsmen out.
#Prevent batsmen from scoring runs.

Getting batsmen out is the primary goal because once out a batsman can no longer bat in the same innings, so the "potential" for scoring more runs is gone. Actually preventing the scoring of a run at any point is relatively unimportant, and bowlers will often deliberately bowl so as to make it easier for batsmen to score runs, in order to build overconfidence, tempt them into a miscalculated shot, and thus get them out. Conversely, some bowlers can and will bowl in order to stifle the scoring of runs. This can cause the person batting to become frustrated and opt to play a more aggressive or less competent stroke to break the patch of non-scoring, subsequently increasing his or her chances of getting out. This style is more prominent in one-day cricket where run getting comes at more of a premium.

This contrasts with baseball, in which the primary goal of pitching is to prevent the other team from scoring runs. This is reflected in the difference in terminology of attack and defence between the sports. In baseball, pitching is considered the defensive role, whereas in cricket bowling is primarily an offensive role and is referred to as "the attack" or charge.

Bowling tactics

To achieve the goals of bowling, a variety of tactics have been developed. Naively, bowling directly at the batsman's wicket seems a good idea, as this provides chances to get the batsman out bowled or leg before wicket. However, most batsman are capable of defending against such deliveries, especially if they expect them. A more promising line of attack is to bowl "away" from the wicket, and entice the batsman to play a shot at the ball in the hope of scoring runs. A mistimed stroke or deviation of the ball in flight can result in the ball being hit in an unintended direction, either on to the wicket or - more likely - to a fielder for a catch.

Some different types of bowling tactic:
*Leg theory
*Off theory

Bowling Restrictions

In limited overs cricket, there is a limitation on the number of overs each bowler can bowl. This number depends on the match length, and is usually 20% (a fifth) of the total overs in the innings. For example, the usual limit for twenty-over cricket is four overs per bowler, for forty-over cricket eight per bowler and for fifty-over cricket ten per bowler. There is, however, no limit on how many overs each bowler may bowl in first class cricket matches.

ee also

*Cricket terminology
*Bowling machine

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