What Is A ‘Good Length’ Ball In Cricket?

The term ‘good length’ is another one of those classic cricket phrases that has a meaning that may not be obvious to the casual viewers of the sport. It’s a term that is used a lot by commentators and people who watch the game, especially when describing certain types of delivery that have been bowled by the bowler. Many of my posts on this site have been dedicated to explaining some of the more obscure cricket phrases, and that is what I will be doing in this post too! I’ll take you through what a good length ball is, and we’ll also explore why they’re so effective. In addition to that, I’ll tell you who some of the best bowlers of the good length ball have been, and share a drill that you can use to practice bowling it!

But before we get into all that, let’s clear this up – what is a ‘good length’ ball?

A good length ball is a delivery that pitches roughly 6-7 metres away from the batsman’s stumps. A good length delivery that is bowled in the correct area will be just above knee height when it gets to the batsman. Good length deliveries do not have to be on a particular line. They can be bowled down the leg-side or the off-side as long as they bounce 6-7 metres in front of the batsman.

The diagram below should give you an idea where a good length ball should bounce in relation to deliveries of other lengths. A ‘full length’ ball will pitch slightly closer to the batsman, whereas a back of a length ball will pitch slightly further away.

Diagram showing different lengths of delivery
Good Length Deliveries Will Bounce 6-7 Metres Away From The Stumps Of The Batsman

Beware that you may also hear good length deliveries being referred to as ‘length deliveries’. These two phrases mean exactly the same thing so if you hear the other version there’s really no need to be confused!

How High A Good Length Ball Will Bounce
This Picture Shows You How High A Good Length Ball Is Likely To Bounce

Why Are Good Length Balls So Dangerous?

One of the main aims of a bowler in cricket should be to create doubt in a batsman’s mind. We want them to be hesitating before they play their shots, because the extra split seconds of delay that those hesitations cause can be costly. If a batsman is caught in two minds between whether to play at or leave a delivery, or whether they’re wondering if the ball will swing or not, they may play a false shot and get out in the process. Good length deliveries are so dangerous because they also make the batsman hesitate in this way!

A ball bowled on a good length will be just above knee height as it reaches the batsman. This is a difficult height for them to deal with, because it makes them unsure as to whether they need to play a front foot shot or a back foot shot. If a batsman is caught in two minds between whether to come forwards or play back, it may lead to them not moving their feet much at all and getting caught on the crease. Getting caught on the crease in this way can lead batsmen to lunge or jab at the ball with their hands, which makes it much more likely that they will edge the ball or play a false shot. To put it simply, bowling a good length ball really allows you to test the technique and shot selection of a batsman.

Ideally, fast bowlers should be trying to land the ball on a good length, just outside or on the line of the batsman’s off stump. This combines the most dangerous length with the most dangerous line. If you can bowl quickly and land the ball in this spot regularly, you will cause problems for any batsman! I remember the great West Indian fast bowler saying that if a bowler can land the ball in this spot regularly at high speed, then it doesn’t matter if you can get the ball to move off the pitch or through the air. Every now and again you’ll get a bit of natural variation, such as the ball hitting the seam or hitting a dent in the pitch, causing it to behave strangely. This will put doubt in the batsman’s mind and could result in a wicket for you. Sometimes, putting the ball in good areas and allowing natural variation to occur is just as effective as trying to get the ball to swing and seam.

That being said, good length deliveries are especially dangerous if you’re bowling on a pitch that is offering a lot of movement off the deck, or if you’re able to swing the ball in the air. Glenn McGrath was an expert seam bowler who could get the ball to seam around a lot, and he would almost always aim to get the ball on a good length. He was incredibly accurate! James Anderson is an expert swing bowler who regularly lands the ball in these areas too. Extra elements such as seam movement and swing make it even more dangerous for batsmen to play at these types of balls!

Which Bowlers Bowl Good Length Deliveries?

Although any type of bowler can bowl a delivery on a good length, there are certain types of bowlers that do it more often than others. The main types of bowlers that you will see bowling good length deliveries are the fast medium bowlers that usually achieve speeds of 75 – 85mph. Some of them will be aiming to swing the ball, and some will be aiming to hit the pitch and get the ball to seam around. Bowlers like Jimmy Anderson who aim to get the ball to swing can afford to bowl the ball a tad slower, whereas bowlers who aim to extract movement from the pitch will usually have to bowl slightly faster, or ensure that they are absolutely ruthless with their accuracy.

Other bowlers that spring to mind when I think of people who were capable of bowling good length deliveries are Vernon Philander, Chaminda Vaas, Mohammad Asif, Tim Southee, Ryan Harris and Stuart Clark. If you don’t know who any of those guys are, I’d recommend searching for some of their highlights on youtube! At their peak they were all incredibly highly skilled bowlers with different strengths and weaknesses.

How To Practice Good Length Bowling

We’ve talked a lot in this post about what good length deliveries are and why they’re so effective, but how about a way that you can teach yourself to bowl them?

There’s a very simple drill that I’ve used many times over the years to practice my bowling, and I always like to show it to younger players so they can use it too. To perform the drill read the steps below.

What you will need for this drill:

  • A large flat open space that is about the length of a cricket pitch. You need enough room to run up and bowl the ball!
  • A ball that is suitable for the surface you’re practicing on
  • A marker – I have used cones, an item of clothing or coins for this in the past. Anything that is easy to spot from a distance will be fine!

Optional items:

  • A set of cricket stumps
  • A ball stop – to stop the ball once it has gone past the stumps

How to perform the drill:

  1. Place your marker(s) in the area where a good length ball should be bouncing. For example, if you’re bowling on a full-length cricket pitch, the area that you mark should be roughly 6-7 metres in front of the batsman. If you’re a young bowler who can’t bowl very fast yet, you may want to push your target a bit closer to the batsman! I’d also recommend placing your marker on the line of the off stump, as this will help you to learn to bowl a good line.
  2. Walk to the end of your run up, turn around and fix your eyes on the marker.
  3. As you begin your run up, keep your eyes on the marker and prepare to deliver the ball
  4. As your arms begin to rotate in order to deliver the ball, try to point your front arm towards the marker. This helps to align your body with the line that you want to bowl.
  5. Release the ball and try to hit the marker.
  6. Repeat the process as many times as you like until you feel like you can deliver the ball near the marker on a more regular basis.

Like I said, I’ve used this drill in my practice sessions many times over the years, both at home and during nets with my team mates! It really does help you to get comfortable with hitting certain areas of the pitch, and teaches us to focus on exactly what we want to achieve with the ball before every delivery. I’d recommend doing a drill like this at the end of every practice session, and bowl 10 balls at the marker. Then you can grade yourself out of 10. Give yourself a point every time you bowl a delivery that hits the marker or lands within a few centimetres of it!

If you want more tips and drills that will help you to improve your line and length bowling, I’d recommend checking out one of my other posts by clicking here! There should be plenty of new ideas in there for you to try!

Which Shots Can You Play Against Good Length Deliveries?

If you’re a batsman and you’re wondering which shots you can use to combat good length balls, here are a few of my favourites…

Forward Defence

This is an essential shot against good length deliveries! You will need a solid defensive game in order to stop the ball from hitting your stumps or crashing in to your pads. To play the shot, move your front foot towards the ball and bend your front leg. With your head and your body weight over your front knee, use the bat to knock the ball into the ground.

The Drive

The drive is an attacking shot that can be played through the cover region, straight down the ground, or through mid-on. To play these shots to a good length delivery, you’re going to have to get a nice long stride in and get as close to the pitch of the ball as possible. This is essential if you want to get on top of the bounce and control the shot. With your weight over your bent front knee, wait for the ball to arrive under your eyes before bringing the bat through smoothly and striking the ball in the desired direction.

Back Foot Defence

If you’re playing on a particularly bouncy pitch, or you’re batting against a taller bowler, you may wish to defend a good length ball from the back foot rather than the front foot. To do this, push back off your front foot, bringing your feet closer together. Stand tall on the balls of your feet and bring the bat through vertically to make contact with the ball. Ensure that the bat face is angled towards the ground so that the ball doesn’t spend too long in the air, this could give a fielder enough time to intercept it!

Back Foot Drive

This shot is also useful if you’re playing on a bouncy pitch or against a tall bowler. Again, you should push back off your front foot, bringing both of your feet closer together. Stand tall on the balls of your feet, this will allow you to get on top of the bounce when the ball reaches you. Once the ball is close enough, bring the bat through vertically and follow through after striking the ball. Ideally, the shot will be hit somewhere in the region from mid-on to the extra cover boundary.

The Ramp

The ramp is a useful shot if you want to distract a bowler and try to put them off bowling a certain ling and length. Ideally, the ramp shot will be hit over your own head behind square on either side of the wicket. To play the shot, turn your body front-on towards the bowler and track the flight of the ball. Extend the bat out on front of you with the face of the bat pointing towards the sky. Once you’re in position, use the face of the bat to deflect the ball over your own head. As you do so, move your torso out of the way of where you want to hit the ball. You definitely don’t want to get hit in the face by the ball and this can easily happen if you don’t move your head to the side!

If you want more tips on how you can play good length balls more effectively, then I’ve written a full guide on it that you can read by clicking here! It should give you all of the tools that you need to combat that type of bowling!

Conclusion

I hope this post has helped to clear up any confusion that any of you had about the term ‘good length’ as it relates to Cricket. There are plenty more interesting posts on this site so feel free to have a browse, you should find something to suit your taste!

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