Paced Out

There are few more thrilling sights on a cricket field than seeing stumps cartwheel out of the ground following a quick man breaking through the guardian’s defences. Bowlers like Brett Lee, Shoaib Akhtar, Shane Bond and Steve Harmison regularly break through the 90mph (145kph) barrier, but outright speed isn’t the only way to remove a batsman.

Modern-day legends like Shaun Pollock and Glenn McGrath rely on bowling slightly shorter (i.e. pitching their deliveries further away from the batsman) with exceptional control, hitting the seam of the ball and then finding movement in both directions into and away from the batsman in order to deceive the batsman. Bowlers such as Chris Martin, Chaminda Vaas and Matthew Hoggard use the natural shine of a cricket ball, angle the seam and use the direction in their actions to swing the ball either into or away from batsmen. The majority of fast bowlers also have a stock of variations aimed at catching their quarry unawares, two fine recent examples being the slower balls of Ian Harvey and Chris Cairns.

The basic grip used by a quick bowler – or ‘seamer’ – is to hold the seam of the ball between his index and middle fingers at the top of the ball, with the thumb resting upon the seam at the bottom. All the different types of bowling at speed use this as their base, with slight variations depending on the intended outcome.