If a fast bowler is going to succeed in modern cricket, they will probably need to possess one excellent slower ball that they can use to disrupt the rhythm of a batsman. Some fast bowlers (myself included) will choose to develop an off cutter! Some will learn to bowl a slower ball out of the back of their hand, and some will prefer the knuckle ball. A lot of bowlers choose the leg cutter instead, and it is the leg cutter that I’m going to be giving you a full breakdown on today!
In this post, I’ll cover the following:
- What a leg cutter is and how it behaves
- How to bowl the leg cutter
- A couple of simple drills you can use to practice it
- The situations where bowling a leg cutter might be beneficial
- Where to aim when bowling the leg cutter
If you feel like you’re interested in any of those things, stick around! By the time you’re done reading this post, you’ll have all of the information you need to become a great leg cutter bowler. All you’ll have to do after this is get out to the nets and practice it! Let’s get started…
What Is A Leg Cutter?
A leg cutter is a type of slower ball in the sport of cricket that is primarily bowled by fast bowlers. To bowl this delivery, the bowler will apply a small amount of sideways rotation to the ball as it leaves their hand. When bowled by a right arm bowler, a leg cutter will leave the hand rotating in an anti-clockwise direction, meaning that when it hits the pitch, it could spin from right to left (away from a right handed batter). A leg cutter that is bowled by a left arm bowler will leave the hand rotating in a clockwise direction. This means that when the ball hits the pitch there’s a chance it could spin from left to right (in towards the body of a right handed batter).
The leg cutter is dangerous because it leaves the hand quite a bit slower than a normal delivery from a fast bowler. Therefore, a batsman who has got into a rhythm of facing fast balls may struggle to time their shot properly when the bowler throws in a random slower ball like the leg cutter. Because their mind is conditioned to respond to the fast ball, they may execute their movements a little too early and play their shot too quick. This can often lead to a batsman missing the ball entirely or popping simple catches up in the air to a close fielder. It’s a huge weapon for fast bowlers!
The leg cutter can also be deadly if you’re playing on a wicket that is spinning or seaming. Because of the spin that you impart to the ball as it leaves your hand, there’s a decent chance that it could deviate significantly as it hits the pitch. Therefore, a batsman may end up playing down the wrong line and getting an edge on the ball.
How To Bowl The Leg Cutter
As I’ve already explained, the leg cutter can be an incredibly effective delivery if it’s used correctly, and thankfully, it’s very simple to learn how to bowl. You just need to make sure you practice it enough! Follow my steps below if you want to learn exactly how to bowl it:
- The most critical aspect of bowling the leg cutter is holding the ball with the correct grip. I’m demonstrating this in the pictures below. All you have to do to move from the normal fast bowling grip to the leg cutter grip is move your index finger down the side of the ball and place your middle finger more centrally on the top of the ball. Once you’ve made this change the leg cutter grip for a right arm bowler should look like the picture on the left. The leg cutter grip for a left arm bowler should look like the picture on the right.
- Once you have the ball in the correct grip, you should go through your run up exactly as you usually would. As you approach the crease, prepare to release the ball. In this phase, really concentrate on making sure that your run up and bowling action looks exactly the same as it normally does. A lot of bowlers who aren’t comfortable bowling slower balls tend to slow their action right down when they’re going to bowl a ball like the leg cutter, and this can give a batsman a clue about what you’re going to do. Stick to your normal action, follow step 3 closely, and the ball will leave your hand slower automatically.
- This step is where the spin is applied to the ball, and this is also what causes the delivery to be bowled more slowly. As the ball is leaving your hand, rotate your hand slightly as if you were turning a doorknob to open a door. As you do this, drag your middle finger down the side of the ball. Left arm bowlers will be dragging their middle finger down the right side of the ball, and right arm bowlers will be dragging their middle finger down the left side. This can be seen by looking at the arrows in the pictures above. This movement applies the spin, and because your fingers aren’t directly behind the ball like they would be for a normal delivery, the ball comes out slower.
Once you’ve gotten comfortable with this process, you should start to learn how to disguise the delivery even more. Why, you ask? Well, when we bowl a slower ball like the leg cutter, we want the batter to have absolutely no idea what’s coming. However, sometimes the batsman will see that we are holding the ball in a slightly weird grip as we approach the crease, and as a result they’ll know we’re about to bowl a variation. To combat this, bowlers start their run up holding the ball in the normal fast bowling grip, and then switch to the leg cutter grip during their delivery stride. This gives the batsman a very small window in which they can spot the change of grip – so most of them will be unlikely to see it!
Give this a go in practice. Run up to the bowling crease, and just as you get to where the umpire would usually be standing, switch to the leg cutter grip and try to bowl the ball. Mastering this will help you ensure that no batsman sees what you have in store for them.
That being said, you should focus on mastering the actual deliver first before you start worrying about changing grips. The leg cutter is a challenging delivery to bowl accurately, and you’ll need to practice it a lot before you use it in real cricket matches. Once you’ve practiced it for long periods of time in the nets and can bowl it accurately, you can start working on the late grip change that I mentioned above!
What Drills Can You Use To Practice The Leg Cutter?
There are two main drills that I like to use to practice my slower balls, and specifically, my cutters. If you can use these drills to practice the leg cutter regularly during your practice sessions, you’ll find yourself being able to bowl the delivery more accurately in no time. Have a read below if you’d like to know how to perform the drills.
The Standing Release Drill
I like this drill because it really helps you get comfortable with what it feels like to release the leg cutter from your hand. This is the most vital part of the delivery, so it’s important to get this bit right. Follow these steps if you’d like to try this drill:
- Get yourself a set of cricket stumps and stand about a cricket pitch length away from them.
- Next, gather a few cricket balls that you can use. If you get about 5-10 balls, this will mean you don’t have to keep going to retrieve the ball every time you bowl one! If you don’t have cricket balls available, you can use rubber wind balls or tennis balls as a substitute. As I said, this drill is all about getting comfortable with releasing the ball properly, so the type of ball you’re using isn’t critical at this early stage.
- Pick up one of the balls and hold it in the leg cutter grip that I showed you earlier in the post.
- Now for the main part of the drill. All you have to do to perform the drill is take one step forward towards the stumps and bowl a leg cutter, dragging your middle finger down the side of the ball and applying rotation to it as it leaves your hand. Essentially what you are doing here is cutting out the run up part of your action so you can focus on your action and how the ball is released. Really concentrate on getting this finger movement correct as you release the ball and try to get the ball spinning as it travels down the pitch.
- I’d recommend bowling at least 10 deliveries like this, so you can get a good feel for what you need to do. Of course you can bowl more if you wish, but use 10 as a baseline!
The Target Practice Drill
If you performed the first drill, you should be a little more comfortable releasing the leg cutter from your hand. Your next job is to bowl it accurately off a full run up, and this is where this simple target practice drill comes into play! Let me walk you through the drill…
- The main thing you need for this drill is a large, open, flat surface where you can bowl. You need to make sure there’s enough space for you to be able to go through your run up, and then enough space for you to bowl. If your cricket club has practice facilities, then they should have space for you to be able to this. If not, you’ll have to find some space elsewhere.
- The next step is to gather the main equipment you’ll need for the drill. You’ll need at least one cricket ball (or another type of ball if you’re playing on hard surfaces), and you’ll also need a target to aim at. I usually use coins or a mat that I can place on the ground. You can also use things like cones!
- Next, you need to place your target in the area of the pitch that you’re aiming to land the ball. I usually place the targets on a good length on the line of off stump.
- Once you’ve placed your target(s) in the desired area, your only remaining task is to run up as usual, bowl the leg cutter and try to land the ball on the targets.
- I’d recommend doing this for at least 20-30 balls, and then judge how successful you were when you’re finished. Note down how many times you managed to hit your target! Then, the next time you perform the drill, you can try and beat your previous attempt.
I wrote an entire post dedicated to improving your accuracy as a fast bowler – and you can read that by clicking here. Getting your slower balls in the right areas is incredibly important, and I think that post would definitely help you out!
Where Should You Land The Leg Cutter?
Choosing to bowl the leg cutter is always a solid option for a fast bowler, but landing it in certain areas makes it even more potentially effective. Here are the three main areas that you should look to bowl your leg cutters:
- On a good length, just outside off stump – This is one of the most challenging line and lengths for a batsman to play against, because landing a ball here often forces the batsman into indecision over whether to play forwards or back. If a batsman tries to drive a leg cutter out of this area, the spin on the ball could lead to them getting an outside edge. The pace that has been taken off the ball could lead to them mistiming the shot and hitting it straight to a close fielder. Bowling a leg cutter in this area opens up lots of opportunities for a dismissal, so it’s always a good bet.
- On a yorker length – I love slower balls, and I also love bowling slower ball yorkers. Yorker deliveries are very hard to hit for boundaries, and a leg cutter yorker makes it even more difficult for a batsman to get a good connection with the ball. I often find that when bowling slower ball yorkers the batsman can lose the ball in the flight, so you’ve got a good opportunity for an LBW or bowled dismissal by bowling it here.
- On a short length – Slower ball bouncers have become a lot more popular in modern cricket, so if you watch any major tournaments like the IPL or the T20 world cup, you’re likely to see fast bowlers use them quite often! When you bowl a short ball, the batsman often expects it to bounce quickly off the pitch and up towards their head. So, when the ball comes off the pitch slowly and loops towards the batter, this can severely hamper their timing. Try this one out in the nets and see if it works for you!
When Should You Bowl The Leg Cutter?
There are certain times when deliveries like the leg cutter will be especially dangerous. In these moments, you should probably be bowling more of them! Here is a swift breakdown of some of these moments:
- If there isn’t a lot of seam movement/swing on offer – Seam movement and swing are two of a fast bowler’s deadliest weapons. If they are present, it stops batsmen being as aggressive and often allows the bowlers to get on top of the contest. If there is no movement in the air or off the pitch, a batsman can line a bowler up a lot better and hit big shots a lot easier. These are great times to bowl the leg cutter! As we’ve discussed, slower balls like the leg cutter are a great way to mess with a batsman’s timing, and this can make them think twice about playing an aggressive shot every ball.
- If you’re playing on a spinning surface – If you’ve read this post fully, you’ll know that when you bowl a leg cutter you are applying side spin to the ball. This means there’s a chance the ball could spin when it hits the surface. So, if you’re playing on a pitch which is offering lots of turn, leg cutters could be especially dangerous. A batsman may play a shot on a certain line, and the leg cutter could cause the ball to spin past the edge, or hit the edge of the bat. A spinning surface makes the delivery much more of a threat.
- When playing on slow, low or soft pitches – Basically, if you play on any surfaces where the ball isn’t coming on to the bat nicely and seems to get ‘stuck’ in the pitch, just know that a leg cutter is likely to be an effective ball on that surface. Bowling a leg cutter on a pitch like this takes even more pace off the ball, and means that the batsman has to time the ball perfectly and generate a lot of power if they want to hit boundaries.
- When a batsman is feeling intimidated – If you are winning the contest against a batsman and you can tell they are afraid of your pace, bowling a well-directed leg cutter is an absolutely brilliant wicket taking tactic. A batsman who is scared of the speed of your bowling probably won’t be moving their feet very well, and they will probably be rushing their shots in anticipation of the speed of your delivery. So, when you bowl a slower ball like the leg cutter, there is a high likelihood they could miss the ball or severely mistime it – which offers you a great opportunity for getting a wicket!
- When the batsman is in slog mode – If a batsman is trying to hit big shots every ball, then throwing in a few leg cutters is always a good move. Slogging a ball for six requires the batsman to get a good connection on the ball and time it well, so a slower ball challenges their timing and means they could end up skewing the shot and hitting the ball up in the air!
The leg cutter is one of the most popular slower balls, and this shows just how effective it is. It will take a lot of practice to perfect it and land it in a good spot every time, but that is the case with a lot of cricket skills – the more you practice them, the more likely you’ll be able to execute them in pressure situations.
If I were you, I’d focus on perfecting one type of slower ball before you start working on a different one, because it takes a lot of work to get them right. However, if you feel like you’ve perfected the leg cutter and would like to develop another slower ball option for yourself, you can check out my breakdown of all of the different slower balls by clicking the link here!