When you’re watching a game of limited overs cricket, it’s only natural to want to see the best, most destructive batters lining up against the world’s most challenging bowlers. When I watch England, I’m always waiting for guys like Jos Buttler or Jonny Bairstow to go into all out attack mode. When I watch India, I look forward to seeing the same approach from batters like Hardik Pandya and Rishabh Pant.
When a batter is in this kind of mood – ready to try to hit every ball for six – you’ll often hear commentators saying that bowlers should avoid bowling deliveries ‘in the slot’, as this will make it easier for the batters to hit boundaries. But what does this mean? What is ‘the slot’, and why should bowlers avoid landing the ball there? That’s what I’ll be exploring in this post!
So, what is ‘the slot’ in cricket?
The slot is an area on the cricket pitch in which the bowler can land the ball. The area is around 4-6 metres away from the batter’s stumps. Deliveries that land in the slot are easier to hit aggressively because they bounce up to a comfortable height, allowing batters to get underneath the ball and hit it powerfully.
The diagram below shows the slot area of the pitch highlighted in red, and it also shows how it relates to other lengths that bowlers can bowl. You can see that a ball in the slot is slightly shorter (further from the batter) than a yorker, but a bit fuller than a good length ball (shown in green).
Balls that land in the slot can also often be referred to as ‘half volleys’. A slot delivery/half volley bounces a short distance in front of the batter, meaning that it won’t have bounced above knee height of the batter by the time it reaches them. Against this type of delivery, it is much easier for the batter to swing through the line and hit the ball powerfully down the ground over the top of the infield. In fact, a batter can usually hit this type of delivery almost anywhere on the field! A slightly fuller ball on a yorker length would bounce too close to the bat for the batter to reliably get underneath it and hit it aerially, whereas a slightly shorter ball that is back of a length would be much easier to hit square of the wicket. You can read more about back of a length deliveries by clicking here.
You will usually only hear the term ‘the slot’ used when watching a limited overs cricket match like a 20 over or 50 over game. This is because the main objective for the batters in this form of the game is to score as many runs as quickly as possible, and it is the bowler’s job to limit the flow of runs. Because batters in limited overs cricket are trying to hit 4’s and 6’s constantly, the slot receives its name because this is the area that makes it the easiest for the batters to hit these shots. The ball has been delivered in their primary hitting zone, and it is likely that a good, aggressive batter will take advantage.
In longer formats of cricket, batters aren’t looking to find the boundary as regularly. Therefore, a batsman in limited overs cricket is much more likely to attack a ball that lands in the slot compared to a batsman playing in a longer format of cricket like a test match. In a test match, the zone called the slot is usually referred to as ‘a full length’, and any ball that lands in this area is just as likely to be left alone completely or defended back towards the bowler as it is to be attacked.
Is A Ball In The Slot Always A Bad Ball?
In this post so far I’ve explained why balls that land in the slot are easier to hit aggressively than other types of deliveries. But does this mean that every ball that lands in the slot in limited overs cricket is a bad one? No, not quite!
It’s perfectly possible to take wickets with balls that land in the slot. Especially if you can get the ball to swing! A batter may see a ball land in the slot and instinctively go to play a full-blooded attacking shot, but if the ball swings this may mean that they edge the ball through to the keeper/slips or miss the ball entirely and get bowled. When the ball is swinging, bowlers may become a little braver and be more willing to put the ball in this area.
When the ball isn’t swinging, it’s still possible to take wickets by bowling in the slot – although it’s not really an optimal strategy. For example, the batter could mistime the ball or just miscue their shot completely, leading to them being caught or bowled. If you are going to bowl in this area, I’d recommend using a good variety of normal pace deliveries and slower balls, so that you can mess with the timing of the batter. This will hopefully mean that they don’t connect properly with their big shots and will be caught in the outfield.
Is The Slot Always In The Same Place On Every Pitch?
Not every cricket pitch displays the same level of bounce, therefore the slot isn’t always in the same place on every pitch. On pitches like the WACA in Australia that usually have a higher level of bounce, slot deliveries will probably land a little closer to the batter. On pitches with lower bounce, bowlers will need to pitch the ball a slight bit shorter to get the ball in the slot!
I hope you come away from reading this post feeling like you learned something! If you’re a batter and you want to become better at dispatching balls that are ‘in the slot’ – click here to read my power hitting tips post! If you’re a bowler and you want to learn how to avoid bowling in the slot, then I have a great post on how to improve your accuracy that you can read by clicking here!