When watching cricket, you may have heard commentators mention how it’s important for bowlers to bowl a good ‘line and length’. The problem is that a lot of newcomers to the game of cricket don’t understand what this phrase means! There are a lot of phrases like that in cricket, and one of my goals on this site is to help newcomers get their head around them quickly! So let’s begin…what exactly is line and length?
The line of a delivery refers to the direction in which the bowler has bowled the ball. If the bowler delivers the ball towards the off stump, then this delivery is said to be on an off stump line. If the bowler bowls the ball very wide of the batsman’s off stump, then this ball would be following a much wider line. The length of a delivery refers to how close the ball is to the batsman when it makes contact with the pitch. If the bowler aims to bounce the ball next to the batsman’s feet, then this is said to be a very full length. If the bowler wants to bowl a bouncer, and whacks the ball into the pitch about halfway between themselves and the batsman, this is a shorter length delivery.
If you want to see how the different lines on a cricket pitch can be broken down, take a look at the diagram below!
To see the different lengths on a cricket pitch, check out my next diagram.
What Is The Best Line & Length To Bowl?
There are certain areas on a cricket pitch that are more dangerous to a batsman than others. If a bowler can consistently put the ball in these dangerous areas, then they will see success!
The ideal line and length is different for spinners and fast bowlers due to the different speeds they bowl and the amount of sideways movement that they get out of the pitch. In the next couple of sections of this post I’ll explain the line and lengths each type of bowler should be trying to bowl!
If you’ve been watching cricket a while, you might have heard people talk about how a bowler is putting the ball in ‘the corridor of uncertainty’ or something similar. This mythical cricket phrase refers to the ideal line of a delivery for a fast bowler, which is on the off-stump or just outside it. This is seen as the most difficult line for batsmen to deal with because it makes the ball very hard for a batsman to leave alone. They will often be forced into playing a shot at the ball because if they choose to leave it, there is a high chance it may go on to hit the wickets! Also, when fast bowlers are bowling the majority of the close catching fielders will be behind the batsman in the slip region. Bowling this line means there is an increased chance the batsman will get an edge on the ball, sending it in the direction of the wicket keeper or slip fielders!
The length that a fast bowler should be aiming for is to pitch the ball around 6-7 metres away from the batsman. Pitching the ball here means that by the time it reaches the batsman, it will have bounced as high as the top of the stumps. This puts doubt in the batsman’s mind as to whether they should be coming forwards towards the ball or playing a back foot shot instead. The doubt and uncertainty that these deliveries cause is the reason they’re so dangerous!
The ideal line for a spin bowler to bowl depends on a number of factors:
- The direction that the ball is spinning
- The amount that the ball is spinning
If you are a spin bowler that is spinning the ball in towards the body of the batsman, then you should look to bowl a line that is outside the off stump. This ensures that when the ball turns, it does not go too far towards the leg side, allowing the batsman to easily whip the ball off their pads for runs. If you are spinning the ball away from the body of the batsman, you may choose to land the ball on the line of off stump or middle stump. This means that when the ball hits the pitch it should spin past the off stump!
If the ball is spinning very aggressively, then a bowler that is spinning the ball towards the body of the batsman should bowl a lot wider of the off stump. Bowlers who spin the ball away from the body of the batsman can now pitch the ball closer to the leg stump, because it will spin more aggressively towards the off side. If the ball is not spinning much at all, both types of spin bowlers should bowl a line closer to the off stump.
In my opinion, the ideal length for spinners to bowl is one that tempts the batsmen to drive the ball. It’s really that simple! For this, a spinner will need to bowl a full length and push the ball closer towards the batsman than a fast bowler would. You should be aiming to pitch the ball around 3-4 metres away from the feet of the batsman. Hitting a good length is vital for spin bowlers because of their lack of pace. If they bowl too short, then batsmen will have plenty of time to weigh up the delivery, rock on to the back foot, and strike the ball in any direction they want!
What Are The Other Factors That Can Affect The Line And Length We Bowl?
There are certain factors that may affect the line and length that we choose to bowl. The ideal lines and lengths that I outlined above are for professional adult cricketers playing on evenly paced pitches, but often cricket is not played in these conditions! Let me outline a few things that may change where we look to bowl:
- The Bounce Of The Pitch – Some pitches bounce more than others, so this means a bowler will have to adjust their length to compensate for this difference! On a very bouncy pitch, bowlers will be able to move their lengths a bit closer to the batsman, because bowling their usual length on a pitch like this will lead to their deliveries getting a bit too high. On pitches that don’t offer a lot of bounce, bowlers may have to dig the ball into the pitch a bit shorter in order to get it up around the top of the off stump.
- The Height Of The Bowler – Taller bowlers will naturally be able to get the ball to bounce more than shorter bowlers. Therefore, a taller bowler will be able to push the ball a bit closer to the bat and still achieve the same amount of bounce as a smaller bowler would when bowling a shorter length!
- The Age Of The Ball – At the start of a match when the ball is new, it is harder and it will bounce higher. As the game goes on, the ball gets older and softer, and bowlers will struggle to get it to bounce as high. Therefore, with the older ball, bowlers may have to adjust their length and bowl a bit shorter to get the ball to bounce as high as it was doing earlier in the game.
- The Speed Of The Bowler – Slower bowlers should aim to pitch the ball a bit closer to the batsman than quicker bowlers. This is because slower bowlers may not have the pace to get the ball to carry through to the wicket keeper if they bowl too short! This is especially true for young bowlers. The ideal length of fast bowling for youngsters will be closer to the bat than the 6-7 metres that I mentioned earlier in this post!
Hopefully this post has given you a good introduction to what line and length is, and why it is important in cricket. If you’d like to get some of my tips on how you can improve your line and length, and become a more accurate bowler, the click the link here!