How To Bowl An Off Cutter – A Comprehensive Guide

The more deliveries that a fast bowler is capable of bowling, the more dangerous they will be to a batsman. All fast bowlers will have their standard stock delivery, which is the delivery that they will bowl 70 – 80% of the time, but what about the other 20 – 30% of deliveries? These are usually referred to as ‘variations’, and the off cutter has always been my favourite fast bowling variation.

I love the off cutter because it’s simple to teach and just as simple to learn. Plus, it can be hugely effective and can cause the ball to behave in strange ways! In this post I’m going I’m going to share what the off cutter is and the techniques that are required to bowl it. On top of that, I’ll give you some extra info including why and when bowlers will choose to bowl this delivery, and I’ll share some of the drills that I regularly use to practice my off cutter!

What Is An Off Cutter?

An off cutter is a type of slower delivery that many fast bowlers will choose to use. It requires the bowler to hold the ball in a slightly different grip to the conventional fast bowling grip and drag their fingers down one side of the ball as it leaves their hand. This action of dragging the fingers down the side of the ball causes the ball to rotate as it travels through the air, which means there is a chance that it will grip and spin slightly once it hits the pitch!

The off cutter is a dangerous delivery for two main reasons:

  1. After spending some time at the crease, the batsman will have gotten comfortable with the speed of the fast bowler’s quicker deliveries, and will be timing their shots in order to hit these fast balls at the right time. In these moments, the bowler may choose to surprise the batsman with a slower ball like the off cutter! When the bowler bowls an off cutter the ball takes slightly longer to reach the batsman, which can result in the batsman playing their shot too early! If the batsman plays their shot too early this can cause the ball to pop up in the air to a fielder, or lead to them missing the ball completely and being bowled.
  1. Due to the spin that is imparted on the ball as it leaves the bowlers hand, there is a chance that the ball can deviate significantly once it bounces. If the ball moves laterally as it hits the pitch when the batsman is not expecting it, this can be the difference between them edging/missing the ball and hitting it out of the middle of the bat. The diagram below shows the impact that deviation of the cricket ball once it bounces can have!
Diagram showing the potential deviation of a cricket ball once it hits the pitch
A Little Bit Of Movement Off The Pitch Can Lead To A Dismissal. This Is Just One Of The Advantages Offered By The Off Cutter

How To Bowl An Off Cutter

As I’ve already mentioned, the off cutter is really simple to teach and really simple to learn. If you follow the simple steps below, you’ll be able to bowl an effective off cutter in no time:

  1. The first step is getting the grip correct. To bowl the off cutter you’ll need to alter your normal fast bowling grip slightly. You can do this by moving your index finger on to the top of the seam, and sliding your middle finger down the side of the ball. Once you have made the change, you should be gripping the ball in the same way that I’m showing in the photos below! If you’re a right arm fast bowler, copy the photo on the right, and if you’re a left arm fast bowler, copy the photo on the left. The index finger, the little finger and the thumb should remain in the same place that they are when bowling a standard delivery.
Off Cutter grip for both left and right handed bowlers
Left: The Off Cutter Grip For Left Handed Bowlers
Right: The Off Cutter Grip For Right Handed Bowlers
  1. Stand at the end of your run up and hold the ball in the off cutter grip. Go through your run up as usual and prepare to release the ball.
  1. It’s important to remember to run up as the exact same speed that you usually would for your normal fast deliveries. As well as that, you should make sure you rotate your arms at the exact same speed as normal! When bowling the off cutter, a lot of bowlers tend to slow down their action because they are consciously trying to bowl the ball at a slower speed. This can give batsmen a clue what delivery you are about to bowl, which is the last thing you want! Go through your action exactly as normal, make sure you’re following step 4, and the ball will naturally come out slower!
  1. As you are in the process of releasing the ball, rotate your hand slightly as if you are turning a door knob. Right arm bowlers should rotate their hand clockwise, and left arm bowlers should rotate their hand anti-clockwise. As the hand rotates, drag your index finger down the side of the ball to apply the spin. Running your fingers down the side of the ball as you release it is what causes the delivery to be bowled slower!
How to release the off cutter
As You Release The Ball, You Should Rotate Your Hand & Drag Your Index Finger Down The Side Like I’m Showing In This Photo. Left Arm Bowlers Should Rotate In The Opposite Direction

Once you get comfortable with the grip that is required to bowl the off cutter and how you need to release the ball, you can change your routine slightly to make it even harder for batsmen to notice what delivery you’re about to bowl. This time, instead of holding the ball in the off cutter grip before you start your run up, you should hold the ball in the normal fast bowling grip as usual. As you’re approaching the crease, just before you enter your delivery stride, you should adjust the ball in your hand and switch to the off cutter grip, before delivering the ball in the way I described in step 4 above.

Highly skilled batsmen will be watching the ball in your hand all the way from the end of your run up to the point at which you deliver the ball. Therefore, if you’re holding the ball in the off cutter grip throughout your entire approach to the crease, there is a risk that an alert batsman will spot this and prepare for the slower ball. If you can learn to switch from the normal fast bowling grip to the off cutter grip during your run up, this makes it harder for even the most perceptive of batsmen to notice how you’re holding the ball. As a result, your off cutter will be more likely to take them by surprise, which is exactly what you should be aiming to achieve. The less clues we give the batsman, the better.

If you’re just beginning to learn how to bowl the off cutter, don’t worry about switching grips during your run up just yet. Your first focus should be on learning how to deliver the ball accurately! Once you have improved in that area, you can look at adding little tricks like the grip switch!

What Drills Can You Use To Practice The Off Cutter?

There are 2 main drills that I’ve used over the years to practice my off cutter. Both of these drills will teach you to release the ball in the correct way, as well as how to bowl the delivery accurately. Let me walk you through them…

The Standing Start Drill

If you haven’t bowled an off cutter before, then this is the drill you should start with! Follow these steps if you’d like to try it out:

  1. Set up some cricket stumps and stand around 20 metres away from them. This is approximately the length of the cricket pitches you’ll be bowling on, so it’s perfect for practice like this.
  1. Gather a few cricket balls so you don’t have to keep retrieving them every time you bowl a couple of deliveries. I’d recommend using 5 – 10 cricket balls if you have them available!
  1. Pick up one of the cricket balls and hold it in the off cutter grip.
  1. Your task in this drill will be to take one step forward and bowl an off cutter. Essentially, we have removed the run up part of the bowling action, and instead will be focusing on just the release portion. Focus on dragging your index finger down the side of the ball and getting the ball spinning as it leaves your hand.
  1. When performing this drill, I’d recommend bowling as many off cutters towards the stumps as you can. The focus of this drill is to get your fingers used to the feeling of bowling the off cutter, and for this you’ll need to bowl quite a few! Start with a minimum of 10 deliveries, and bowl as many as you like beyond that!

Once you think you have a good feel for the delivery and the ball is leaving your hand accurately on a regular basis, you can make your off cutter practice a little more complex by using my next drill…

The Target Practice Drill

The first drill was about learning how to release the off cutter from your hand, and now this one will help your ability to bowl the delivery accurately in the area that you want. I use this drill a lot for fast bowling in general, but it works perfectly for honing the accuracy of your off cutters too!

To perform this drill, follow these steps:

  1. First, you’re going to need to make sure that you’ve got a large, flat surface on which you can bowl. You’ll need enough space to go through your entire run up, and then enough space to bowl the ball. If you attend practice sessions with your club then they may have facilities available, but if not, you’ll have to find some space at home!
  1. Gather your equipment. You’ll need at least one cricket ball (or a softer ball if you’re playing on a hard surface like wood or concrete), and you’ll also need either some cones or some small objects like coins. These will be the targets that you’ll be bowling at.
  1. Arrange your targets in an area of the pitch that you’d like the ball to land. If you have cones, you can place one in a certain position and try to hit that specific cone, or you can make a small circle of cones and try to land the ball close to that zone. If you’re using coins, the same thing applies. You can either aim to hit one coin, or create a small pile/circle out of them and try to hit that area.
  1. With your targets arranged, all you have to do is run up as normal, bowl your off cutter and try to hit them! As you’re running up, I find that it often helps if you keep your eyes fixated on your target.
  1. I’d recommend bowling around 20 – 30 deliveries at your target, and judging your success once you’re finished. I like to note down how many of my 30 deliveries hit the target, and remember that the next time I perform this drill. By doing this, you will always have a target to beat and will drive yourself to do better! Competing against yourself is a great way to make improvements!

If you’re interested in learning more about how to improve your line and length and your ability to bowl accurately, then click here to read one of my other posts that I dedicated to that topic! Bowling your slower balls in the right areas is hugely important, and that post will certainly help you to do that!

Where Do Bowlers Bowl The Off Cutter?

There are a variety of different places that professional fast bowlers will try to land their off cutters, and all of them can cause batsmen problems. Here are my three favourite areas to land them in:

  • On a Good Length, Just Outside The Off Stump – This area is often referred to as ‘the corridor of uncertainty’, and gets that name because it forces the batsman into some tough decisions. Bowling an off cutter in this area is a great ploy because if the batsman chooses to leave the ball, it could spin in slightly and hit the off stump. Bowling in this area can also force the batsman into a drive, which gives us multiple opportunities to get them out! The spin on the off cutter could cause the batsman to edge the ball to the keeper, or they could also mistime the ball and hit it in the air to a close fielder!
  • On A Yorker Length – A yorker is always a great ball to bowl, and a slower ball yorker can be especially deadly. To hit a yorker for a boundary or any significant amount of runs, the batsman will have to time their shot perfectly, and the off cutter makes it a lot more difficult to do that!
  • A Short Length – Believe it or not, slower ball bouncers have become hugely popular amongst professional bowlers in the last decade of cricket. When a batsman sees the ball dropped short they may instinctively try to play a quick hook shot, and the slower ball will often cause them to mistime the ball horribly! Try the off cutter bouncer in the nets and see how it works for you!

When Should You Bowl The Off Cutter?

When you are bowling, there will be certain moments and situations that make bowling an off cutter more dangerous. Here are a few things I like to look out for that suggest to me that bowling the off cutter might be an effective strategy…

If the Ball Isn’t Moving Around Much – If you can’t get the ball to swing in the air and there’s no seam movement off the pitch, then bowling an off cutter or a different type of slower ball might be a good method of attack. If we continue to run in and bowl fast balls with no movement, batsmen will be able to line up our deliveries better and hit them for boundaries. In this situation, make sure you throw in a couple of off cutters in each over to give them something to think about.

If the Pitch Is Offering A Lot Of Spin – We’ve already established that one of the main advantages of the off cutter is the spin that you can extract from the pitch. So, if you’re bowling on a wicket that is turning sharply, this can make the off cutter even more dangerous!

When Playing on Slow, Low Wickets – We’ve all played on those pitches that make you feel you’ve lost your ability to bowl fast. Where you can’t hurry the batsman at all or get the ball to carry through to the wicket keeper on a consistent basis due to the lack of pace in the pitch. Well, these wickets are perfect for bowling off cutters on. Bowling slower, spinning slower balls on these kinds of decks make the ball much harder for the batsman to time properly, and as a result can help us to pick up some easy wickets.

When The Batsman Is Feeling Intimidated – If you can force a batsman backwards and make them fear your fast bowling, then this is a perfect time to bowl a well-directed off cutter. I’ve used this tactic on many batsmen in my cricket career. Bowl 3 or 4 well directed short balls at them first, and if they look afraid or as if they’re struggling to handle that kind of bowling, your next ball should be a nice, full off cutter – preferably on a yorker length! If the batsman is anticipating another short aggressive delivery, there is a high chance they will misjudge your slower yorker and end up getting bowled/given LBW!

When The Batsman Is In Slog Mode – If you’re bowling to a batsman who is trying to hit every ball out of the ground, then it’s often a good idea to mix a few off cutters in with your quicker deliveries. A batsman will have to do incredibly well to pick every single ball and time each one of them correctly. Bowling off cutters in these moments makes it more likely that the batsman will pull out of the big shot and look to take a single, or mistime the ball completely and hit it up in the air. Obviously, there is a risk that the batsman could spot your slower ball and whack it for 6, but if you focus on landing the delivery in a challenging area this should lessen the risk.


I’ve tried to cram as much info about the off cutter into this post as I can, so I hope you can put it to good use! It is a delivery that has served me very well over the years, and I’ve been very successful when bowling it. Quite a few of my favourite wickets have come about due to me bowling those off cutter yorkers that I mentioned above! However, if you don’t feel like this is the type of slower ball you want to bowl, then you may be interested in reading all about the other types that are available to fast bowlers – I’ve written a post covering them all which you can read here!

To close out this post, remember that the most important thing is being able to land the off cutter accurately, and this can only be consistently achieved through practicing it for hours in the nets! I’d wait until you have complete faith in your ability to bowl the ball accurately in the nets before you try it in a competitive cricket match!

Once you’ve mastered the delivery, use it sparingly and at the correct moments in order to trick the batsman. If you bowl 3 or 4 off cutters in each one of your overs, the batsman will be a lot more prepared for it, and they will be able to anticipate the ball a lot better. Remember, the element of surprise is your friend! The more experience you have of bowling the off cutter during real game situations, the more you will get a feel of when is the appropriate time to use it, and this will make you much more of a handful for batsmen. Good luck!

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