All fast bowlers should learn how to bowl a fearsome bouncer. When bowled accurately, and at the right time, the bouncer has the ability to intimidate and unsettle batsmen, no matter how long they’ve been at the crease. It also pushes them back in their crease, messes with their footwork, and can hamper their decision-making process. This is why the bouncer is such a potent weapon!
If you’ve been watching cricket for any length of time then I’m sure you’ll have seen or be aware of some of the most legendary contests between batsmen and bowlers. Contests like Larwood vs Bradman, Holding vs Close, Donald vs Atherton, or even more recent ones like Jofra Archer taking on the great Steve Smith at Lords in the Ashes. Each of these duels was made famous thanks to some awesome displays of fast bowling, and in each case the batsman had to suffer a barrage of nasty bouncers!
In this post I’m going to give you the information that you need in order to learn how to bowl a bouncer. I’ll share 9 of my favourite tips with you that will teach you how to improve your accuracy, where you should be aiming to land the bouncer and the types of field placings you should be considering along with other things. Let’s begin…
If you want to learn how to bowl a bouncer, take note of the following tips:
- Improve your bowling accuracy
- Make sure your bowling is quick enough
- Bowl with aggressive intent
- Bowl plenty of bouncers in practice
- Target just underneath the front shoulder of the batsman
- Use the angles of the crease to your advantage
- Don’t overuse it
- Make sure you set an effective field
- Adapt to the pitch conditions quickly
I’ll now run through each of these tips individually to give you some more info on each of them!
Improve Your Bowling Accuracy
To bowl an accurate bouncer, you’re going to have to be able to land the ball on a specific area of the pitch. If you can’t hit the desired area with regularity, you’re going to struggle to bowl bouncers that are hard for the batsman to play. If you land the ball too short, the bouncer could pass harmlessly over the batsman’s head. Too full, and the ball won’t rise high enough. Too far to the off side or to the leg side of the batsman’s body and they will find the ball much easier to attack.
Ideally when bowling a bouncer, you should be targeting the area of the pitch shown in my diagram below. The diagram shows the ideal bouncer landing zone when a right arm bowler is bowling to a right handed batsman. The landing zone is broadly the same if a right arm bowler is bowling to a left handed batsman! For left arm bowlers, the required landing zones will be on the same length but just on the opposite side of the wicket!
To hit these areas regularly, you’re going to have to improve your accuracy. Fortunately, there are several ways you can do that! One of them is by using a simple target practice drill.
To perform the target practice drill follow these steps:
- First, get yourself the equipment you’ll need. You’ll definitely need a ball – which can be a cricket ball, a tennis ball or a rubber ball depending on what surface you’re practicing on. You’ll also need something to use as a target – I often use small cones or some coins for this. Anything small but visible is perfect! You can also use a set of wickets and a batsman in this drill if you have them available, but you don’t need them.
- Next place your target (a cone or a coin or whatever you’ve chosen) in the area that you will be trying to land the ball. When practicing the bouncer, you should be placing your target in the area of the pitch that I showed above!
- Go through your usual fast bowling run up as usual, keeping your eyes on your target as you approach the crease.
- Release the ball and try to hit your target
This drill is superb for getting yourself comfortable with hitting different lengths, and I’d recommend using this drill in practice if you want to perfect your bouncer.
I’d recommend bowling 20 deliveries and trying to hit your target each time. Once you’ve bowled them all, record how many times you were able to land the ball in the target area. Let’s say you only manage to hit your target 5 times in 20 attempts, then you know you have plenty of work to do and you should use this drill more often!
If you want more information on how to bowl good line and length, you should probably check out my fast bowling accuracy post by clicking here! In that post I share plenty more drills that you can use to improve your ability to bowl good line and length consistently!
Make Sure Your Bowling Is Quick Enough
To put it simply, some bowlers just can’t bowl the ball fast enough to bowl an effective bouncer. The deadliest bouncers have a combination of pace and bounce, and if you don’t have pace, you definitely won’t be able to extract as much bounce from the pitch.
If you’re not sure whether your bowling is quick enough, there’s a simple way that you can tell. Grab a cricket ball, get yourself in the nets or on the practice field and try to bowl some bouncers to your team mates. If you can’t get the ball up above the batsman’s waist, then it’s clear you won’t be able to bowl a good bouncer just yet. Similarly, if the ball loops slowly towards the batsman’s upper body, this probably isn’t ideal either.
If you’re really wondering whether bowling bouncers is a good idea for you, get a coach to watch you bowl a few, and get them to give you some feedback. They may suggest that with your current level of pace, bowling bouncers is not an effective strategy for you. In this case, they’d probably tell you to work on your accuracy and focus on pitching the ball up while you work on becoming faster.
Thankfully, there are many simple ways that we can add speed to our bowling, but mainly it’s going to require you to practice – a lot. With enough hard work during practice anyone can add a yard of pace, but many players (especially young cricketers) are unsure of what specific things they should be doing in order to make these improvements. If this sounds like something you’re unsure about, I’d recommend reading one of my other articles which will take you through several different things you can do in order to bowl faster – you can read it by clicking here! This is a great place to start when it comes to adding pace to your game, and it will give you a nice little checklist of things to work on.
Bowl With Aggressive Intent
The bouncer is an aggressive, hostile delivery, so when you’re bowling one you’ll have to adopt a similarly aggressive attitude.
Fast bowlers that are trying to bowl the ball on a good length (click here if you’re not sure what a good length is) will be trying to place the ball there, allowing it to ‘kiss the pitch’. This approach should change when it comes to bowling a bouncer!
The bouncer is an effort ball, and you’ll have to release the ball with a lot of pace and aggression if you want it to get up towards the batsman’s head/neck area. This is especially true when playing on slow pitches! When I’m bowling one, I like to think about smashing the ball into the surface of the pitch, rather than just landing it on the pitch. I like to imagine myself trying to make a huge dent in the pitch with the ball. This is the kind of approach you will need to take if you want to bowl good bouncers.
Bowling in this aggressive way and slamming the ball into the pitch offers a number of advantages:
- It could extract movement from the surface. The ball could seam away from or in towards the batsman, and it could also hold up in the pitch, causing the batsman to play their shot too early. If any of these things occur, it will be difficult for the batsman to deal with.
- It could intimidate the batsman. If a batsman sees you approaching the crease with intent, and bowling fast, aggressive bouncers, it could make them a bit reluctant to face you. This is exactly what you want to achieve!
Bowl Plenty of Bouncers in Practice
If you want to improve any aspect of your bowling, there’s no better way to do so than by getting plenty of practice!
Many cricketers will choose to only practice with their club, and this will result in them getting about 1 – 2 hours of bowling practice per week. If you want to make serious improvements though, I’d recommend practicing your bowling at home too. Try to get at least 1- 2 hours practice a week away from your club. If you need some ideas on how to practice at home, I’ve written a full guide on it that you can read by clicking here!
When you’re practicing, try to bowl a few bouncers in a row so you can really get the feel for what works and what doesn’t. Fast bowling is all about repetition and rhythm, so the more your body gets comfortable with bowling bouncers in practice, the easier it will be to replicate that skill during a real game of cricket. If your practice sessions last for an hour, I’d recommend trying to bowl at least 20 bouncers in a session of that length. If you’re bowling to an actual batsman this will be even better as it will add a bit of competition to the mix and will give you a good idea of how challenging your deliveries are to face.
Target Just Underneath the Front Shoulder of the Batsman
What is the ideal area on a batsman’s body to target when you’re bowling a bouncer? In my opinion, it’s just underneath their front shoulder!
A lot of bowlers who are bowling the short ball think they have to target the batsman’s head, but I think this is the wrong approach. If a delivery is travelling towards a batsman’s head, they can easily duck or sway out of the way of the ball. Because the head is at the top of the body, it is the easiest part to move.
If you target the batsman a bit lower down, just underneath their leading shoulder or close to that area, you’ll see that they often find it a lot harder to evade deliveries that are aimed in that area. This section of the torso can’t be moved as easily, so if they hesitate at all it will probably lead to them getting hit. The photo below shows the exact zone on the body of the batsman that I always aim for when bowling bouncers.
In addition to the fact that this height of delivery is hard to get out of the way of, it also forces the batsman into a decision of whether to play the ball with a horizontal or vertical bat. To explain why this happens – first consider a ball that reaches the batsman at stomach height. Many players would choose to defend this delivery with a straight bat, as I’m demonstrating in the photo on the left below. Now imagine a ball that arrives slightly higher, just underneath the shoulder. Even though there is only around 15 – 20 centimetres difference between the height of the two deliveries, the shoulder height one is a lot more difficult to defend with a straight bat. You can see in the photo on the right below that I’m struggling to get over the top of the ball, and my bottom hand is very close to coming completely off the bat.
The photos above are why the shoulder height delivery is so perfect. It introduces a dilemma into the batsman’s mind, and this is exactly what we should be hoping to achieve as fast bowlers. Head height deliveries offer the batsman 2 easy choices, get out of the way or play an aggressive shot. Shoulder height deliveries offer an extra option – get out of the way, play an aggressive shot or play a back foot defence. If they choose the back foot defence option and the ball bounces slightly more than they anticipated, it could lead to them popping up a simple catch to the keeper or a close fielder.
Use the Angles of the Crease to Your Advantage
I love this tip because it certainly made my bouncers a lot more dangerous, and I think it could have the same effect on yours!
Basically, fast bowlers should utilise the angles of the crease as much as possible when bowling a bouncer. A slight change in the angle from which we deliver the ball can make the delivery feel much more threatening and can cause the batsman to react in dramatically different ways.
For example, look at the diagram below. The blue line shows a bouncer being delivered by a bowler who is very tight in to the wicket in their delivery stride. These kinds of bouncers often travel in a straight line towards the batsman, and as a result this allows them to line them up a little better. This means they will find it easier to judge the ball and they will be able to duck/sway out of the way much earlier. Now, have a look at the red line. This bouncer is delivered from much wider of the crease, and as a result the angle of the ball is coming in towards the batsman rather than travelling in a straight line. This new wider angle makes many batsmen feel like the ball is following them, and makes it a lot harder for them to get themselves out of the way. If you can tuck the batsman up by using this kind of delivery then it could lead to them playing a poor shot or taking a blow to the body – which is what we want to achieve when we bowl a short ball!
Some bowlers will also choose to go around the wicket to try and cause the batsman problems with an angle they may not be comfortable with. The diagram below shows what kind of angle this shift to around the wicket bowling can create!
To summarise this section – if you think that a batsman is playing your bouncers too easily, changing the angle of delivery is always a good option. When a batsman feels like they can’t easily get out of the way of the ball they could be forced into a rash shot, and by angling the ball in towards their body we could force them into a mistake like this.
Don’t Overuse It
In my opinion the bouncer works best when it is used as a surprise delivery. Some bowlers like to bowl 2-3 bouncers per over, but I feel that if a batsman begins to realise that you bowl the bouncer this often, they will start to camp on the back foot – setting themselves up nicely to pull or hook the ball.
I think it’s a much better strategy to bowl one bouncer every over, or one bouncer every two or three overs. This is just long enough for the threat of the bouncer to leave the batsman’s mind. If they haven’t received a short ball for a while, they may become complacent and start planting their front foot down the pitch towards you early. If you see they are getting themselves into this position, then you can throw in the surprise bouncer. This time, they shouldn’t be as prepared for it because they haven’t received one in a while! If you bowl the surprise bouncer accurately it should be difficult for them to deal with, and should make them a lot more reluctant to come forward on to the front foot.
I think this is especially true if you’re a slightly slower bowler. The really quick bowlers can get away with bowling a higher percentage of bouncers because the speed of the bowling makes every short ball very tough to deal with – whether the batsman knows they’re coming or not! However, if you bowl at an average pace and bowl bouncers very regularly, a batsman will find it much easier to anticipate and wait for the ball before playing a well-timed aggressive shot.
Take Jimmy Anderson for example. He currently bowls somewhere in the region of 80mph, which isn’t very quick by fast bowling standards. Yet when he chooses to bowl a bouncer, the batsman will often struggle to play it. Why does this happen? To put it simply, it’s because the batsman always expects Anderson to be bowling those swinging deliveries on a good length. The last thing he is worried about when batting against Anderson is the short ball, and this makes it a dangerous delivery! By not bowling the delivery as much, we can make it much more dangerous than it would be if we were to bowl it all the time.
Make Sure You Set an Effective Field
Getting your field placings right is an important part of fast bowling and can definitely have an impact on how a batsman reacts to receiving a bouncer.
The fielding positions that will mainly come in to play when you’re bowling short to a batsman are behind square on the leg side, as well as slightly in front of square towards the mid-wicket region. Fielders that stand close to the bat like short leg or silly mid-on will also have opportunities to take catches when bouncers are being bowled.
If you’re bowling to a batsman who is clearly struggling with the short ball, then I’d recommend getting fielders on the boundary behind square on the leg side, as well as getting someone to field at short leg. This means that if the batsman fends the ball off, it could pop up to short leg, and if they play an aggressive shot they could be caught on the boundary.
Using field placings like the ones I’ve mentioned above can also be used as a bluffing tactic. By placing fielders in these positions, the batsman is more likely to be expecting a bouncer. When they’re expecting a bouncer, the quick full delivery may be the most dangerous ball you can bowl. Many professional bowlers use tactics like this to affect the mental state of the batsman. Sometimes the mere threat of the bouncer is enough to force them into mistakes!
The field that you set should always be designed with your method of bowling in mind. If you’re targeting the body of the batsman, you should set a primarily leg side field. If you’re targeting the channel outside off stump, you should have a primarily off side field set. Similarly, if you plan to unleash a barrage of bouncers, you should work with your captain to ensure that fielders are placed in positions where they can best take advantage of any wicket taking opportunities that are produced as a result.
Adapt to the Pitch Conditions Quickly
Sadly, some pitches just aren’t suitable for bowling bouncers on. As fast bowlers there’s no doubt we would love to play all of our games on lightning fast pitches, with plenty of bounce and movement available, but that just isn’t often the case.
When you begin bowling on a pitch, you should be using your first 6 – 10 balls to judge the surface. You need to know which kinds of deliveries are going to be good options on that pitch. So, for example, if you try to bowl a bouncer on a new pitch and it sticks in the wicket and loops towards the batsman at waist height, you should quickly realise that this may not be a good ball to bowl on this pitch.
On slower pitches, you should be pitching the ball up and trying to get it to swing, or trying to extract some seam movement from the surface. Off cutters and leg cutters are also a good option as they can cause the ball to deviate. Some bowlers ignore the pitch conditions and continue to bowl how they usually would, which could present the batsman with more scoring opportunities than they would usually get!
If you try to bowl a bouncer early in your spell and the ball flies through to the keeper at a good height, then you know that this pitch is suitable for bowling short on. These are the kinds of judgements you should be looking to make in the first couple of overs that you bowl.
The bouncer is one of a fast bowler’s most important weapons, and it’s something we should all spend time working on. Hopefully the tips I’ve given you in this post will have given you some new ideas for how to practice, as well as new thoughts about how you can use the bouncer to your advantage. If you enjoyed this post you should probably check out one of my other bowling related articles! And if you’re bored of reading about bowling, there are plenty of other posts on the site. Have a look and see if you can find something that interests you!