The best fast bowlers have multiple different methods that they can use to attack a batsman. Guys like Glenn McGrath and Vernon Philander bowl that nagging line and length that tests out a batter’s technique. Some bowlers like Mitchell Starc and Mark Wood use their raw pace to try to blast through a batsman’s defence. Others like Jimmy Anderson and Dale Steyn use their mastery of swing to tempt the batsman into a risky shot. All of the methods I’ve just mentioned are probably the best wicket taking options in the game of cricket, but fast bowlers do have other tools at their disposal, one of which is the bouncer!
Newcomers to the game of cricket may be wondering why bowlers choose to bowl bouncers. Is the bowler trying to hurt the batsman? Or do they see the delivery as a genuine wicket taking option? These are the questions I’ll be answering in this post! Let’s get started…
Here are the five main reasons why bowlers will choose to bowl bouncers:
- To Intimidate The Batsman
- To Stop Them Coming Forward
- To Exploit Specific Weaknesses In A Batsman’s Technique
- To Bowl To A Defensive Field
- When They’re Bowling On A Particularly Fast & Bouncy Pitch
If you’re interested in learning more about these reasons, then make sure you keep reading below as I’ll be taking you through each one in detail!
How Does Bowling Bouncers Intimidate The Batsman?
A bouncer is a short delivery that is aimed towards the batsman’s upper body – so it’s no wonder that it can be an intimidating delivery to face. Especially if it’s bowled at high pace!
Many fast bowlers will use the bouncer to target the batsman’s body. If the batsman doesn’t deal with the ball well, they could get hit or knock the ball waywardly in the air. As a result, their confidence may be severely reduced when they receive their next ball. Intimidating a batsman like this and lowering their confidence is a great way of making them play tentative shots – which can often lead to dismissals!
How Does Bowling Bouncers Stop Batsmen Coming Forward?
One of the main reasons that fast bowlers bowl bouncers at batsmen is to stop them pushing forward and playing front foot shots as easily.
To explain why, you first need to understand that it’s a lot easier for batsmen to deal with good/full length deliveries if they are moving their feet positively down the wicket towards the pitch of the ball. If a batsman receives many good/full length deliveries in a row, they will feel a lot more comfortable getting on to the front foot and playing shots because there is no real physical threat to them.
Bowling a few bouncers increases the physical threat, and pushes the batsman backwards onto the back foot and threatens their upper body. If the batsman doesn’t deal with these deliveries well, they could get hurt and have their confidence dented as I explained in the previous section. Something like this will likely stick in their mind and will probably mean that they will be a bit reluctant to get onto the front foot when they receive their next ball. So, if the bowler follows up the bouncer with a full ball that is swinging away, the batsman may play at it without moving their front foot down the pitch. The threat of another bouncer being bowled has forced them to hang back in their crease! If a batsman is hanging back in this way, it means that their body weight will not be moving towards the ball, and this will lead to them lunging at the ball with their hands – which is great for a bowler!
So, to summarise – if you see a batsman who is getting on to the front foot much too easily, throw in a couple of bouncers and try to mess with their footwork. Bowling a well-directed bouncer can make it much harder for the batter to play front foot shots because it hampers their decision-making process.
How Do Bouncers Help The Bowler To Exploit A Batsman’s Weaknesses?
This one is nice and simple. If you’ve played cricket or watched it for any reasonable amount of time, you’ll know that there are some batsmen who just don’t like bouncers. So, if you’re a bowler who is bowling to one of those batsmen that does not play the short ball well, that is the kind of delivery you should be targeting them with.
I remember that Jonny Bairstow showed a little bit of vulnerability against the bouncer when he made his debut for England. Once the West Indies team saw this, they made sure that they bowled a lot more bouncers at him in order to test him in an area that he wasn’t comfortable with. I also remember the Indian batsman Suresh Raina being consistently targeted with bouncers because opposition bowlers thought that it was something he struggled to deal with.
To summarise, fast bowlers are much more likely to bowl bouncers against a batsman that has a perceived weakness against the short ball. This is why all batsmen should spend a lot of time practicing their ability to play the short ball! If you want my advice on how to do that, click here!
How Can You Use The Bouncer When Bowling To A Defensive Field?
Bowlers like Neil Wagner of New Zealand use the bouncer as a defensive tactic, to dry up the batsman’s flow of runs and force them into mistakes. New Zealand usually resort to this tactic when the ball is getting old and has stopped swinging in the air or seaming off the pitch. This is usually a time in which the batsmen would be looking to score a lot more freely, but the short ball tactic combined with a defensive field is often successful in slowing down the scoring rate.
To use this tactic, you need two things:
- Make sure that you’re able to bowl extremely accurately – Neil Wagner can consistently get his bouncer to target the front shoulder of the batsman, which is one of the most awkward positions for a short ball and makes it very hard for the batsman to sway/duck underneath. To the batsman, it feels like they are being forced to play a shot at the ball. If you want to learn to bowl as accurately as Neil Wagner, take a look at one of my posts which is full of accuracy tips by clicking here!
- Set a defensive, but threatening field – New Zealand have become the masters of this in the time that Wagner has been in the test team. They will place a variety of fielders on the leg side, and leave the off side largely open. Then, Wagner will target the body of the batsman. If the batsman tries to play the hook or the pull shot, it will be incredibly difficult task to keep the ball clear of all of the fielders on the leg side, which makes it hard to score runs and to avoid getting out! Many batsmen will get frustrated with this and will end up hitting the ball in the air towards a fielder. If you want some examples of how effective Wagner is with the short ball, have a look at this video on youtube below.
To summarise this section, the bouncer can be used a lot during periods of the game when fielding teams want to dry up the flow of runs and frustrate the batsmen. This is particularly likely to happen if the bowling team has a bowler that is capable of bowling accurate bouncers at good pace!
Why Do Bowlers Use Bouncers On Fast & Bouncy Pitches?
Bowlers are more likely to bowl bouncers on fast and bouncy pitches because the nature of the pitch makes that delivery more dangerous to a batsman.
Let’s look at some examples to explain why. Pitches in Sri Lanka are not known for their suitability for fast bowling, because the ball doesn’t bounce, seam or swing much on the pitches in that country. As a result, trying to bowl bouncers on a low and slow pitch like the ones in Sri Lanka requires a lot of effort, and usually receives very little reward. The ball will not get up very high due to the lack of bounce, and the lack of pace in the pitch will mean the batsman has plenty of time to react to the ball and prepare to hit it for runs.
Now compare this with a traditionally fast and bouncy pitch like the WACA in the Perth, Australia. Fast bowlers will choose to use the bouncer a lot more on a pitch like this because they get a lot bigger reward for their efforts. The bowler doesn’t even have to bowl the ball particularly short, and it will still bounce above the batsman’s waist as long as the bowler is quick enough. To score runs on a pitch like the one at the WACA, a batsman must have the ability to deal with the bouncer well – because they know they’re going to face a lot of them!
I hope this post was a good explanation of the reasons of why bowlers choose to bowl bouncers. If you’d like some tips that will help you improve your ability to bowl a bouncer, click here to read my in depth guide on it!