England left-arm seamer David Willey reveals his tips on how to go about your business as a swing bowler in limited-overs cricket.
My main asset is my swing. Although you can strive for extra pace, if you can learn to use lateral movement you can be just as important an asset to the team. But you have to be precise because when you bowl with less pace your margin for error is smaller.
If the wicket is hard, the ball can get messed up pretty quickly, meaning hitting a good line and length is vital to maximise the new ball.
A strong wrist position and consistent action are important so you can continually manage to present the ball in the way that will give you the best chance of swinging it.
SETTING THE SEAM
If you are bowling to a right-handed batsman as a left-armer, you want the ball on a slight angle to ‘second leg-slip’ to give it the chance to swing back. This is a very awkward ball to face for a right-hander.
VARIATIONS IN PRACTICE
When practising variations, it can be useful to just bowl through to the wicketkeeper, allowing you to focus solely on how to develop your skill. It can take a while to figure out how to bowl the ball in a way that is suited to you, and consequently taking the batsman out and stripping right down to the basic skill can be best. Repetition is key as it means that in a game, you know that you can and have executed the ball in the way you want to.
Don’t be predictable. It is key to keep mixing it up so the batsman doesn’t know what is coming down at him. If you do get it wrong, then it is important you just focus on the next ball and commit to it, don’t get caught up in the moment, you need to be 100 per cent committed to bowl the delivery you decide at your mark.
Early on, you need to have the confidence to bowl fuller, as although this will potentially leak runs, the most important thing is taking wickets.
Set your fields accordingly. Someone like me, swinging the ball in to a right-hander on a full length, wouldn’t have as many slips. I would maybe have a man in the ring in a catching position to offer slightly more protection. If the ball is swinging in late, this might cause them to fall over a bit, making mid-wicket an important position. To a left-hander, with the ball swinging away, I might add an extra slip or another man in the covers. As I’m not an express pace bowler, the batsman’s release shot is often square of the wicket, so I often have a deep square-leg with fine-leg up.
The pressure of building dots is very useful in limited-overs cricket. You can be just as aggressive through giving yourself cover in the field. The drying up of runs will cause the batsmen to come harder at you, potentially forcing a mistake if the ball is swinging. Balls that don’t swing can be useful too, meaning you can beat the other side of the bat. When the ball is in the right area it creates doubt in the batsman’s mind, and even if the variation is natural rather than intentional, my theory is that if I have no clue where the ball is going, then the batsman has no chance.
MIDDLE AND DEATH OVERS
When your main weapon is swinging the ball, this will become useless when the ball gets older. As a result, the more variations you’ve got, and the less obvious they are, the better. Having things like knuckle balls, off-cutters, leg- cutters and a change of pace can complement the potential of reverse-swing late in the innings. However, you have to know when to use these variations and you have to be pro-active with your field, meaning if, for example, I was going to bowl an off-cutter, I’d bring third-man up and perhaps put in a deep square-leg. Although this gives the batsman an indication of what you are going to bowl, at the same time you have protection for the delivery coming.
It’s a simple thing to keep your wrist position in good order. Try just throwing the ball a few yards to a partner and check that your wrist is strong behind the ball. Look at how the seam is coming out and make sure you are presenting it nicely for it to swing back.