The arrival of T20, truth be told, has revolutionized the art of fast bowling. From sticking to a wicket-to-wicket line to adopting the art of swinging and later conjuring the craft of reverse-swing, fast-bowling has cantered a long way.
The advent of the shortest format has made fast-bowlers embrace a slew of variations with slower balls being the most prominent ones. With wide-yorkers, slower-ball-bouncers, slower-yorkers, etcetera, a fast bowler’s quiver is larger than ever before.
Though slower-balls are known to have changed the fate of many games on their own head, how many of us are aware of the different kinds of slower balls used in cricket? Here, we have compiled the details about 10 such slower balls, but the actual number might be even greater!
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#10 Reduction in the speed of action
This is the most classic way of bowling a slower ball and the technique is not rocket science. The fast bowler would enter into his delivery stride as usual and instead of releasing the ball with the momentum gained, he/she would slow the rotation of the bowling arm to send the ball slower than the usual speed to the batter.
The use of this technique is very rare in the modern day since the batsmen of our time are well endowed to read such a profound change of action.
Used mainly as a variation on rough pitches and dust bowls, off-cutters are now used as slower-balls in cricket. In the past, bowlers like Fred Trueman and Richard Hadlee utilized off-cutters to exploit the cracks on a cricket pitch in the hope that they might land one on a crack and cause the ball to misbehave.
The ball is delivered like an off-break albeit with a faster action. The grip used to ball an off-cutter is also not as tight as it is when an off-break is bowled. The index finger is placed along the seam of the ball while the pad of the thumb buttresses the ball. The middle finger is placed slightly away from the seam and the ball is released with the fingers rolling towards the right side (left, in the case of a left arm bowler). This results in a horizontal spin towards a right-handed batsman, making the ball behave similar to an off-break.
Though it doesn’t spin as much as an off-break, the change of pace, the subtle movement off the pitch and at times, higher bounce can account for a mistake from the batsman. This ball is particularly useful at the death when batsmen often attempt to premeditate shots. Great exponents of off-cutters bowl it with hardly any change in action and the only way batsmen can read it is by picking it off a bowler’s hand.
This is the widely used slower ball now since mastering this art is comparatively easy.
Leg-cutters are tantamount to leg-breaks, but they don’t spin as much as them. Much like off –cutters, leg-cutters were utilized in the past as a variation on gripping surfaces. The effect of this canny delivery is antagonistic to an off-cutter as it spins from leg to off.
Bowling a leg-cutter is comparatively difficult just as how bowling a leg-break is a tougher skill than bowling of-breaks. The middle finger is placed along the seam while the index finger is placed slightly away from the seam. The ball is released while spinning the ball towards the off-side.
This results in the ball deviating like a leg break and usually results in the right-handed batsman edging the ball behind.
#7 Back-of-the-hand slower ball
This could be considered as the fast bowler’s version of googly since the ball comes from the back of the hand. This ball produces a greater effect with minimum effort.
The ball is held like a normal seam-up delivery, but during release, the arm is twisted so that the back of the hand faces the batsman. This results in the ball traveling at a slower speed.
But what does most of the damage is the dip this slower ball produces. The slightly higher trajectory can make a batsman anticipate a full toss, but the late dip can make the ball sneak under the bat, mortifying the batsman.
Unlike most of the other slower-balls, this type has the highest propensity of the ball landing on the seam and this can also result in extra bounce. This can be handy when the batsman attempts to play horizontal bat shot.
Thisara Perera, Jade Dernbach and James Faulkner use this ball at present.
#6 Holding the ball deeper in the fingers
This is yet another least used type of slower ball in international cricket. Contrary to the conventional grip where the ball is nestled in the fingers until the knuckles, when bowling this slower ball, the ball is pushed further into the hand.
By doing so, the release of the ball can be delayed with no change in the arm speed. The effect of this ball is similar to that of the butterfly as the ball endures less spin and often dips under the bat.
Brett Lee is known to have mastered this subtle, yet, rare art of bowling.
#5 The single finger ball
This is the arm ball used by off-spinners as a variation. Unlike the usual seam up balls bowled by pace bowlers, as the name implies only one finger, that is the index finger, is used in bowling this slower ball. The lack of a finger reduces the force imparted on the ball and hence the ball travels slower out of the hand of the bowler.
A similar ball is bowled by off-spinners to make the ball go straight, rather than spinning.
#4 The palm ball
The palm ball is famous in baseball but is not used much in international cricket. Despite no fast bowler, in records, having used this slower ball, the possibility of doing so exists.
The ball is ensconced in the palm with all the fingers spread over it and then released. The will produce an outcome that is similar to the butterfly. Since fingers are not slid back, there won’t be any backspin and the ball would travel slower through the air, deceiving the batsman.
#3 The Knuckleball
The knuckleball was introduced by Zaheer Khan while Nuwan Kulasekara is the only other bowler to have tried this slower ball. Kane Richardson used what looked like a knuckleball against India in the 3rd T20I.
The ball is held in place by the knuckles instead of the finger tips which results in the ball moving slower through the air. Zaheer Khan clean bowled Australia’s Mike Hussey in the quarter-final of the 2011 world cup and then had Chamara Kapugedera caught at short extra cover with this slower ball in the final using the knuckleball.
Even though Nuwan Kulasekara once experimented with a similar ball, he now prefers the back-of-the-hand slower ball.
#2 The split-finger ball
Though Dilhara Fernando is credited with the invention of this ball, Glenn McGrath had used such balls way before the Sri Lankan pacer to a very good effect.
The index finger and the middle finger are spread wide, straddling the seam so that the ball sits between the sides of the two fingers. This produces a delay in the release of the ball with the same arm speed and unlike the other slower balls, nothing much can be read off the hand of the effector.
However, this ball is tough to control as the bowler needs to maintain a straighter follow though. A similar kind of grip can be observed in baseball in the form of a split-finger fastball. This ball is also known as the spider.
#1 The butterfly ball
This has not been bowled in an international match as yet, but a video by a cricket academy shows what this ball can do.
The success of this ball depends on imparting zero-spin on the ball which deprives the ball of the Magnus effect. This results in the ball dipping on the batsman. Like the back-of-the-hand ball, this can make the batsman misjudge the height of the ball.
The grip used to bowl this slower-ball is unorthodox in a way that the ball is actually pinched between the thumb and the index and middle fingers. The ball is placed at the tip of the fingers and thus, when released it produces minimal backspin on the ball.