Former Ashes-winning England attack leader and master of swing Matthew Hoggard offers AOC a few insights on improving your craft as a swing bowler.
Bowlers can place a lot of emphasis on the bowling hand – the grip, the seam and so on – but without a solid action you won’t swing the ball consistently. The most important aim in swing bowling is to get the seam going down straight and to achieve that you really have to concentrate on your front arm. This should be high and strong at the top of your action, and pull down tight to your body to allow you to follow through and push everything straight down the pitch towards the target.
Many bowlers will naturally swing the ball either in or out the majority of the time, due to their action. Here are some things to think about for each type.
Bowlers who bowl predominantly outswing, like myself, can often get a bit round-arm with their action. The ball is released from very wide and the action stops early – meaning any swing you get will be straight out of the hand and easy to line up. It’s easy to fall into that trap if you’re looking for swing, but to be a more dangerous bowler you need to bowl with a higher arm and look to swing the ball later.
If this is you, make an effort to bring your front arm higher and then pull it straight down – rather than across your body. That should help you to bring your bowling arm down straighter – at less of a ‘round-arm’ angle. Release the ball from as high a position as you can and really complete your action by looking to tickle your left armpit on the way through. The ball should come out straighter and swing later.
Guys who bowl inswing can sometimes fall into the trap of looking to push the ball in while falling away in their action. This will result in early swing, and can also lead to problems with leg-side wides. Again, try to stand tall and strong in your action and follow through down the pitch to keep the seam going down straight as long as possible.
You might have an action that really suits the ball moving in but which makes it almost impossible to bowl a full-on outswinger. But you’ll still be able to get one that holds up, maintains its line and goes straight on, which is just as good as a variation. It’s nice to be able to swing it both ways but if you’re going predominantly in and you get one to hold up, that’s the one that’ll bring an edge. That will be all the easier if you stay tall in your action.
IN THE NETS: FINGER PRESSURES
People talk a lot about the angle of the seam in your grip, but they don’t often think about finger pressure.
Try messing about with slightly different pressures between your index finger and your middle finger on the seam and see how that affects the way the ball comes out.
If you’re looking to bowl inswing the chances are you could apply more pressure with your index finger (to, if you like, help the ball move in), and for an outswinger, press harder with your middle finger to help it move away.
Don’t be afraid to experiment and find out what works for you.