What Is A ‘Jaffa’ In Cricket?

When I’m watching cricket with members of my family that aren’t really huge fans of the sport, I have often had them ask me – ‘What is a Jaffa?’

If you’re a big cricket fan or if you’re just becoming interested in the game for the first time, you may have heard this word on commentary too, and you might now be wondering what it means! If this sounds like you, then stick around because in this post I’ll give you a brief but thorough explanation of how the word is used in the context of cricket. I’ll also chuck in a bonus section too at the end of the post!

So, what is a Jaffa in the sport of cricket?

Jaffa is a word that is often used in cricket to describe an unplayable delivery that either gets a batsman out, or comes very close to getting them out. A jaffa will often do something remarkable before it reaches the batsman, such as seaming sharply once it hits the pitch, or swinging a lot as it travels through the air. When a jaffa is bowled, it will often excite the bowler, the fielding team and the commentators, whilst leaving the batsman looking confused!  

How about I give you a few of more detailed examples? Firstly, for fast bowlers! A delivery from a fast bowler that angles in towards the batsman’s leg stump, pitches on a good length and then seams towards the off side, hitting the off stump would often be referred to as a jaffa. Similarly, a fast ball that is bowled on an off stump line that swings away at the last second, causing the ball to narrowly miss the edge of the batsman’s bat would also be referred to as a jaffa.

Now, for spin bowlers! Imagine a right arm leg spin bowler bowling to a right handed batsman. Imagine they bowl a leg spin delivery that drifts in towards the right hander’s leg stump before pitching and spinning away towards the off side. If the bowler has bowled the delivery perfectly, the ball could hit the off stump or hit the edge of the bat! The delivery I’ve just described is the exact same one that Shane Warne bowled to Mike Gatting in the Ashes in 1993! This delivery was so good that it came to be known as ‘the ball of the century’. This is the perfect representation of a jaffa! Check it out in the video below if you’ve never seen it.

The Gatting Ball Is A Perfect Example of a Jaffa Bowled By a Spinner

How Is The Word Jaffa Used In A Sentence?

If you’ve not heard the word used in cricket commentary before, you may be wondering how it fits into a sentence. You’ll be glad to know it’s quite simple! When a commentator spots a delivery that behaves in a remarkable way and flummoxes the batsman, they may say something like the following:

  • ‘What a jaffa!’
  • ‘That is an absolute jaffa’
  • ‘He’s been bowling jaffas all afternoon!’
  • ‘He’s bowled him with a jaffa!’

What Are Other Words That Mean The Same Thing As Jaffa?

As with most things in cricket, jaffa is just one word that could be used to describe an unplayable delivery. There are multiple other words that commentators could use that mean exactly the same thing! I’ve heard many of these in my cricket career so far, so I thought it would be good to share some of these with you so you can listen out for them. Here they are:

  • Corker
  • Cracker
  • Beauty
  • Snorter
  • Stormer
  • Brute
  • Peach
  • Pearl
  • Zinger

There will no doubt be a few words that I’ve missed, but those are most of the ones I’ve heard over the years!

How To Bowl A Jaffa Yourself

If you’re a bowler, you should be aiming to bowl as many jaffas as possible. If you can learn to bowl those unplayable deliveries more regularly, you’ll cause batsmen many more problems and take more wickets as a result. So, what skills do you need to develop in order to bowl more jaffas? Let’s go through a few of them…

Master Your Control Of Line & Length

For both fast and slow bowlers, accuracy is key. Landing the ball in certain areas of the pitch causes batsmen more problems than others, so if we can hit these troublesome areas more regularly we’ll have a higher chance of producing those jaffa deliveries.

If you want to learn how to control your line and length to a much greater degree, I’d recommend checking out my post on that by clicking here! That post includes plenty of tips and drills that should help to improve your accuracy.

Learn How To Swing The Ball

Swing is one of a fast bowler’s greatest weapons. If the ball moves laterally in the air before it reaches the batsman, this makes the ball much harder to judge and much harder to hit. A bowler who can bowl accurate outswinging deliveries will test the batsman’s technique and will be constantly threatening the edge of their bat. Swinging the ball past the outside edge, or swinging the ball back in towards the stumps are two types of delivery that will be regularly referred to as jaffas.

If you want a general guide on how to swing the ball both ways – read this post! I’ve also written a much more in-depth post on outswing that will teach you all of the intricacies and little details involved with bowling those deliveries. If you want to read that, the link is here!

For those of you who have a slightly advanced knowledge of cricket, you may be interested in my tips on how to bowl reverse swing! Click here if you want to head over to that post!

Learn How To Get The Cricket Ball To Seam

Seam movement is the phrase used to describe what happens when the ball hits the pitch and deviates due to the contact. This is one of the most challenging things that a batsman has to negotiate. Therefore, bowlers who can extract seam movement from the pitch will be much more likely to bowl unplayable deliveries.

I’ve explained all the reasons behind why seam movement occurs, as well as how you can learn to achieve it more regularly in the post linked here! If you’re a fast bowler, I’d highly recommend checking that post out!

Learn How To Bowl Variations (Spinners)

Spin bowlers will be able to bowl more jaffas if they develop an effective variation to go alongside their usual stock delivery. For example, a right arm leg break bowler will normally spin the ball from right to left. If this is the only delivery that they are comfortable bowling, then batsmen can settle in to a rhythm against this type of spin and can begin to pre-meditate their shots. However, if the bowler learns to bowl a googly (which spins from left to right), this can put a lot of doubt in the mind of the batsman. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen batsmen expecting the ball to spin in the usual leg break fashion, but instead it spins the opposite way and bowls them through the gate. This is another example of a jaffa bowled by a spinner!

If you would like to read my review of all of the different spin bowling variations, as well as tips on how to bowl each of them – click here!

Learn How To Bowl A Yorker

A yorker is a quick delivery that pitches close to the batsman’s feet. It is a delivery that is used regularly by the quickest bowlers in cricket to target the stumps. If the batsman cant adjust the position of their feet and jam the bat down on the ball in time there is a high likelihood that they will be dismissed by this ball! The yorker is a great wicket taking option that all fast bowlers should possess.

If you’d like to learn more about the yorker, including specific ways that you can practice it and teach yourself to bowl it better – click here!


I hope this post has helped to clarify the meaning behind the term jaffa. I have lots of other posts on the site that will help you get your head around those confusing cricket phrases you may come across – so check them out if you’ve still got questions about the game!

I also have plenty of technical posts that will help you raise your game! I hope you enjoy your stay here.

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