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BOLA’s The Name

by Wisden Staff

Is this the winter that you finally get better? You can’t keep calling yourself a batsman if you’re only averaging 11, you just can’t. We look at what BOLA’s bowling machines can offer… it might be just what you need.

With the honourable exception of golf, there probably isn’t a sport in the world that demands such a focus on unrelenting technical graft as cricket.

Even when you’ve ‘got it’, you can find out you’ve got a new problem somewhere else. Cricket is hard work, it’s dedication. But we wouldn’t want it any other way.

We’re big fans of bowling machines, namely because there isn’t a friend in the world who can bowl for as long as we need to actually make improvements. Here are a few options from BOLA – if your club hasn’t already invested, get on to them.


In 1984 the team at BOLA started messing around with prototyping and a year later Surrey CCC bought the first BOLA bowling machine. It then took a decade trying to get people used to the idea. That’s an argument that’s finally been won.

“Our primary market is everyday club cricketers who are looking to improve, and it is possible to improve with quantity,” says managing director Nye Williams. “Quality’s not everything. People can improve massively within the confines of very poor technique. They just get better at doing it the more balls they face.

“I’ve got hundreds of club users who would say they’ve massively improved just by using a machine, regardless of the coaching input. At the very highest level if you want to coach a particular thing then the reference ball is absolutely priceless in terms of a ball that is in the same place each time so if you want to teach somebody to work out faults in somebody’s technique then that is definitely the way to go.”




The Daddy. This is BOLA’s headline offering and it does it all. Your club really should get one, if they don’t already.

Able to reach speeds well beyond the ability of most club cricketers the BOLA is your machine for all seasons. It has swing and spin settings, it can land the ball in the same spot every ball or it can produce more random results.

This is a machine that will allow you to work one one specific skill, or your entire game, at your leisure.

Used extensively by professional clubs the BOLA is the absolute go-to for improvement from players right at the very top to, well, to you.



Who doesn’t want to smash Shane Warne for six? There literally isn’t anyone on this planet who doesn’t want to come a few yards down the track, get to the pitch and dispatch Warnie 10 rows back – if only to see his face try and remember how to move so that it could accurately reflect his disappointment.

The Merlyn is a brilliant piece of kit. You may remember it making headlines in 2005 as England sought to find a way to deal with that Aussie leggie (basically the reason it was invented), and if you haven’t been lucky enough to face one yet then you’ve got to find a way.

Flintoff attacks Merlyn back in 2006

Flintoff attacks Merlyn back in 2006

In its basic form it will bowl offies or leggies, but you can get so much more out of it. It can, for example, drift one way and turn the other. Anything that the world’s best spinners can do, you can get Merlyn to replicate.

It will also produce prodigious amounts of turn, it will essentially turn square, and the ECB are big fans of using it to replicate the turn you’d get on a turning surface. We may never find ourselves in a Test match situation but the Merlyn can offer your average club cricketer two major things: 1. The ability to genuinely improve against the turning ball, 2. A whole heap of fun.

Now 10 years old, the ECB is due to take on a new batch of Merlyns in January 2017. Did you know, that every country ground in the country has one? The new fleet has some improvements, there is – for example – better traffic light indication of the ball release and, like the BOLA Trueman machine, Merlyns will now take LED screen technology, so you’ll be able to seen an outline of the bowler as he’s releasing his delivery. Not bad, eh?



A common complaint against bowling machines is that they’re too big, too clunky and too expensive.

Those clever people at BOLA heard those complaints and decided to come up with something pretty darn clever: “About a year ago we decided what we really needed was something that fits in underneath the standard machine in terms of where you start”, says Williams. “The BOLA Junior is half the size, half the weight and half the money of the standard item.” As KP may say, boom.

This is an absolute revolution if you’re a 14-, 15-, 16-year-old who can’t get on the machines at your club because the bloke from the 1sts with the BMW, the huge eyebrows and the runs is always hogging it. Get one of these, stick it in your garden and the job is a good’un.

It gets up to about 65mph which, if you put it 15/16 yards away, is pretty darn quick. It throws a lighter ball with a reduced diameter (at 68mm rather than 71) but the bat-feel you get is fairly realistic. If you’re able to hit it, that is.

The clue’s in the name with the BOLA Junior – if you’re junior it is a dream. It probably doesn’t give the grown-up practice you may require if you’ve got a mortgage to worry about but it is a brilliant middle-ground. You can use it anywhere – which, given the BOLA professional is 40kg, is a pretty special USP. Pick it up, take it to your local park and practise your switch-hits.



You can, at times, get a little bit trapped with a bowling machine if you’re not careful. The problem being, because you can’t watch the bowler running up you’re not quite replicating what it’s like out there in the middle. It’s possible, especially when you consider trigger movements, to get in bad habits.

The TrueMan by BOLA gets around the problem like a dream. With an LED screen on the front of the machine, a silhoutted outline of the bowler is displayed to the batsman so that he can track the run-up and – to a certain extent – the release.


Bowled Mitch!

Research undertaken by BOLA and Sussex University demonstrated that – on a scale of 1-10, if 1 is perfection against a real bowler – a conventional bowling machine may be a 10 in terms of how a batsman’s trigger movement is affected. A TrueMan is a 2. Also, don’t forget, you’re essentially facing Mitch. How fun is that!

The TrueMan is perhaps the most contemporary of BOLA’s offerings. You can operate it from your phone and it’s the kind of design that should excite young cricketers. Again, like the BOLA junior, this fits through the door and goes in the cupboard. Logistically, it’s easy as pie.

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