Thursday, 26 October 2017

The Leg Break

The Leg-Break                                         work in progress 79 view 8/4/18

This is the main delivery bowled by ‘Wrist-Spinners’ or ‘Leg-Spinners’. The description I’ll use here will assume that the bowler is a Right-armed bowler. Otherwise unless stated, the scenario will involve a RH (Right-handed) batsman.

The basics

From the bowler’s perspective when the ball is delivered it hits the wicket and because of the ‘Leg-Spin’ (anti-clockwise spin/rotation of the ball), it deviates off of its line and ‘Breaks’ towards the left (Off-side) of the cricket pitch. 

From an absolute learners perspective, the key thing is to be able to get the ball to spin and therefore turn off the wicket. If you're learning from scratch this above all else is the most important thing - make the ball spin 'Give a rip'. 

Some people have a very natural ability to do this, kids for some reason shown once or twice are often able to do this with real ease. If you struggle with it, the thing you should do is have a ball you can have with you as much as possible, or an apple or an orange and continuously flick the ball from hand to hand. Do this with the ball deep in the hand in the palm, or further up in the fingers, try with a firm grip and a loose grip and bit by bit you'll find a method that suits you at this stage. In the longer term, you'll need to develop the technique with a loose grip as that's generally seen as the most effective technique.

The Grip

The basic grip involves the ball nestled in the palm of the hand lightly using a 2 fingers up and 2 fingers down grip. The ring finger is rested on the seam normally and it's this finger that primarily imparts the spin on the ball when released. 

The cocked Wrist and Flick

This is another aspect that some people are confused by the idea of Flicking the ball. In your gather you generally 'Cock your wrist' e.g. bend your wrist over as per the image below and you maintain this 'Cocked' position through your bowling action right through to the point at release. As you bring your arm over to the point of release you 'Un-cock' your wrist and flick the ball off of the 3rd finger simultaneously with as much of a snap/flick as you possibly can to put the revs on the ball. The idea is that the ball shouldn't be rolled off the fingers, but flicked off the fingers. Some people infer in their guidance that you shouldn't focus on this and you shouldn't do any form or training with regards this. I'm with Peter Philpott on this and I reckon your should be constantly flicking the ball or something similar as much as you can.

If you do flick the ball all of the time (1). It'll maintain the flexibility of the wrist and build muscle memory, and (2). It'll allow you to get a feel for what it is you need to do. If you vary it at the start - loose grip, tight grip, in the palm or a more fingery position in the hand, you'll sense that you're flicking it sometime and rolling it at other times. Philpott advocates you do this all of the time flicking it from hand to hand. You'll see bowlers do this as they stand at the top of their mark before they run in and bowl.
On the subject of the Flick I personally was never sure that I was doing it right for years, I could get the revs on the ball, but was it enough? Was I flicking or was I rolling? It wasn't until I thought of the action as an un-furling that I kind of got my head around the idea and felt confident that I was doing it correctly. Have a look at this video here as this was a bit of a revelation to me with regards to developing the flick and snapping action. I found this a really useful method of working it out.

The bowling action

It's probably the case that you've come to wrist-spinning via bowling seam up initially, so hopefully you'll have some idea about your approach to the crease - the 'Run-up'?

As Wrist-Spinning is a form of slow bowling, generally the approach to the crease is short. Guidance differs with regards to whether you come in straight or come in at a slight angle, a lot of people such as Stuart MacGill who comes in off of a fairly long run-up advocate coming in relatively straight - keeping all of the energy moving towards the batsman. Other Wrist-Spinners, such as Abdul Qadir run-in off of an angled approach to the wicket. It's probably more important to not get too hung-up on whether you do it one way or the other, as long as you're getting the ball to spin you're on the right track. The most important thing with Wrist-Spinning is that you spin the ball.

So, going back to the premise that you're a learner in the early stages of your development... You're now spinning the ball and you've got a run up. We'll assume that you've got a method of getting through the bowling action at the crease and you're landing the ball on the cut strip. We'll skip the intricacies of the bowling action as that'll be covered in more detail here and we'll focus for now on landing the ball 'Line and length'.  

Line and length

This is one of those tricky elements of bowling where there's no real specific answer and it's not much help when you get it wrong in a game and someone says to you "Get your line and length right".

I'll attempt to simplify it. I guess a lot of people will think about wrist-spin bowling in terms of Warne's ball of the century pitched out-side of leg. The anomalous name "Leg-spin bowling" doesn't help either, it should be referred to as Wrist-Spin bowling as we don't always look to bowl down the leg-side as the name kind of suggests. Personally as a starting-off approach I would encourage anyone starting out to try and bowl an off-stump line. 

I advocate this approach for a number of reasons...

You can kid yourself that the reason your bowling both with an off-side and leg-side attack is that it's wholly intentional when you know full well, that you were actually trying to bowl a middle and leg line. You can do this and it'll get you wickets, but there will be a day when you realise its massively beneficial to be able to bowl where you either want to or need to. Additionally you or your captain would have set an appropriate field which you need to bowl in a way that is appropriate. You may have heard the phrase "Bowl to your field". So if the captain or you yourself have set an offside field like this...

Where the majority of the team are on the off-side, the last thing you want to be doing is bowling it down the leg-side, so that the batsman can hit the ball into the empty areas of the field. In the situation above, the field may have been set with the prior knowledge that the batsman had a good cover drive... You need to watch the batsmen prior to your spell, to ascertain his strengths and weaknesses and come up with plans to try and exploit these. With the knowledge of the batman's preference to use the cover drive, or maybe trying to encourage a batsman to use the cover-drive you could leave a gap (Indicated by the purple) section on the image. What's then required is that you bowl on the off-side trying to encourage the cover-drive looking to force a mistake - with the ball coming off the edge of the bat into the areas loaded with fielders in zone A.

Therefore in order to execute the plan you've got to be able to bowl an off-stump attacking line. So, as a part of your development, work on your accuracy be able to bowl consistently on an off-stump line either turning the ball away from the bat or reducing the amount of rev's you put on the ball and bowling it relatively straight. 

As you get better, you'll come to realise that using only your Leg-Break you've got a whole series of options...

  1. Change your wrist position to increase the seam angle to potentially increase and decrease the amount of turn.
  2. Lower or raise your arm angle and release point, again this usually increases or decreases the amount of turn off the wicket.
  3. Intentionally take the spin off the ball with the use of the fingers and wrist - don't flick it as hard.
  4. Bowl slower or faster - change the pace.
  5. Spin it harder, so that it dips more and potentially drifts.
  6. Bowl loopier or flatter.
  7. Bowl from different positions on the crease to vary the angle of attack. This means using crease width and potentially the depth e.g. bowl back from the popping crease or even level with the stumps.
  8. Move your field around - tweak it a bit, just to get the batsman thinking.
  9. This one you might not of ever heard and it's relatively subtle... Don't get up on your toes in your pivot. Getting up on the toes tends to increase the amount of action you get on the ball, you might find that by not doing so  reduces the amount the ball does (Spin and dip). My own bowling action doesn't facilitate a full on rise up on to the toes as I'm quite old, but I've noticed that if I bowl and intentionally get up on the toes the ball does more. So, it may be the case that the opposite happens if you don't go up on your toes? It might be worth exploring especially if you're looking for a way to vary your bowling in some subtle way?
Point 7 above the moving around the crease is a really useful tactic used by Warne and at anytime on the internet there's usually a couple of video's of his SKY TV Masterclass that explain and demonstrate this have a look at the links below...(Click on the image for the video). 

To be able to bowl with such accuracy takes either natural ability and luck, or tuition at an early stage to establish and groove a bowling action that works. Or as in the case of most people lots of practice. Some people say, (Me included) it's going to take you years and hours of practice in order to develop this ability. 

Shane Warne as far as I know doesn't say much about how much he used to practice and you can find plenty of articles saying about his idea of training involved a burger in each hand! He did though and there's plenty of documentation that evidences his relationship with his mentor the late Terry Jenner, this video here (below) which I'd never seen before, features Warne Bowling in the nets in 1997 accompanied by Jenner - again click on the image for the video.
Warne says of his abilities...

"Where my ability to spin a cricket ball came from I don't know. I can only think that I was born with it. I have a skill as a cricketer and fortunately cricket found me".
Shane Warne My Illustrated Career. Cassell Illustrated, London, 1998.

Jenner was a big part of Warne's bowling, having met in in 1990, he was the bloke that Warne turned to when things weren't going right as Jenner had the ability to spot what was wrong and help Warne rectify the problem. This relationship as far as I'm aware continued right through to the very end of Warne's career. So, despite Warne's obvious natural abilities he obviously trained and worked to rectify problems when he had them and so should we.
Google images of Warne with Terry Jenner.

The question is how much and how often?

Pitch Vision -

The Leg-Break delivery is known as your 'Stock delivery' this means that this is the ball that you bowl the majority of the time - 85%-90% of your deliveries. It also has to be the ball you bowl with the most accuracy and consistency and should be the ball that you get the majority of your wickets with. Therefore in practice it's the delivery you work with the most and it's the delivery that you build your plans and strategies around in the game.

In order to execute the delivery with maximum effectiveness you have to understand that it combines a whole body approach in it's execution. This whole body approach includes attention to detail to the way that you move your body through the crease in the bowling delivery from your toes to the very tips of your fingers. Similarly, the movement through the crease, from the point that you bound into the delivery, to your follow through, having released the ball all dictates the effectiveness of your Leg-Break. Again there are a multitude of bowlers that you can look at as examples of how this is done, but there are flaws in trying to emulate and copy the style of other bowlers, you should look to develop your own approach appreciating that your physique to some extent dictates how you'll end up bowling.

Key components of the action include...

  • Landing sideways on as you come out of the bound
  • Pivoting on the toes in the rotation 
  • Rotating 180 degrees
  • Using a high leading arm - reaching forwards
  • Looking over the outside of the arm in the gather
  • Bringing the bowling arm down across the body and past the hips in the follow through
  • Following through and fading out of the delivery rather than stopping abruptly.

Whether to pitch the ball on the leg-side or the off-side is down to you, having made a decision as to whether the batsman has particular strengths and weaknesses. This is done based on prior knowledge or from watching the player prior to starting your spell. 

The intention is that the batsman tries to play a straight or cover drive and the ball deviates off its initial trajectory catching the edge of the bat and being caught behind or in the slips. 

Leg - break bowling 1

Have a look at this one too from Ben in New Zealand - he's got a pretty good channel you should subscribe to him.



  1. Dave Thompson you are just a genius in explaining wrist spin topics

  2. Thanks for your comment mate. Have you seen the posts with the field settings and plans. What do you reckon to them?