The independent voice of cricket

Cricket Coaching

How To Bowl Smart With Ian Harvey

by Wisden Staff 15 minute read

Gloucestershire coach Ian Harvey, formerly one of the game’s best one-day performers, explains how to bowl intelligently in short-form cricket.

Ian Harvey was a master of the craft of seam bowling in one-day cricket. With numerous different slower balls, a lethal yorker and a skiddy bouncer, he was labelled ‘The Freak’ by his own Aussie teammates and blazed a trail of innovation that today’s T20 stars are still following.

Having been a key part of the multiple-trophy-winning Gloucestershire side of the late Nineties and early Noughties, he rejoined the club as a coach last year, promptly helping them to silverware again with victory in the Royal London One-Day Cup.

Here he shares his tips on bowling plans and the use of variations in limited-overs formats.


ODIs: 73 matches; 85 wickets at 30.31; four 4-fers
List A: 305 matches; 445 wickets at 22.36; 21 4-fers; nine 5-fers
T20: 54 matches; 52 wickets at 23.73; one 4-fer


A lot of players now have a lot more variations than I did when I was playing. The biggest thing when you’ve got lots of variations is knowing when to bowl them. Three factors are crucial to this.


Certain deliveries work really well on certain wickets. Work out which of your options suits the pitch and the ground on any given day.


The captain might come up to you and say: ‘We need a wicket to break this partnership’ and then he’s giving you a bit of a licence to try all your skills. On other occasions you might not need to try them all: they might need 10 or 12 an over and if you’re bowling your yorker really well, you’re doing a good job. You’ve got to think ‘How am I going to cut the boundaries out?’ And if you keep building pressure then hopefully the batsman will do something different and get himself out.


The captain can easily set a field but if you’re bowling it somewhere different from what the captain knows or wants then it’s not going to work. At Gloucestershire we talk about bowlers taking responsibility to work with the captain in setting fields. The game can’t start until the bowler’s bowled the ball – and they know what they’re trying to do. So alongside the captain, they should be able to work together as a bowling group to pretty much set their own fields, and then bowl accordingly.


In terms of executing the specific skills it comes down to the hard work you’ve done over the winter or in training and trusting in that when you get out to the middle in a game.


Think about setting a field that you can bowl two or three different deliveries to, so the batsman can’t just look at the field and say, ‘I know where he’s going to bowl’ and so set himself for it. For example, if you set a leg-side field with plenty of protection on that boundary, with all your fielders up on the off-side, you can bowl two or three deliveries: slower balls into the wicket which they can only really hit into the leg-side, yorkers into leg stump and maybe a straight slower-ball bouncer. They really are going to struggle to hit those balls to the off-side with power.


The mentality of a bowler is you want to take wickets, you want to get all batsmen out. But sometimes you have to look at
 the bigger picture and what’s best for the team. When a guy is batting really well sometimes the best thing you can do is get him off strike. And that’s something you can plan for: try setting a leg-side field and bowling one just on his hip so he’s got nowhere else to hit it. And then when you get the newer or lesser batsman on strike you might be able to bring a slip in, bring a couple of fielders up and try and bowl
 to take wickets at the other end. You still want to put pressure on both batsmen,
 but getting the ‘in’ batsman up the other end allows you to try and build pressure on the other guy, try and get him to hit through the field early in his innings, and take a risk that he might not normally take. As well as that, if you can starve the set batsman of the strike, maybe he might make a mistake and do something he might not normally do.


If you bowl five really good balls, it’s a good idea to try and bowl a ball that you know the batsmen can only get a single to (and set the field appropriately – see above). But you also don’t want to put too much pressure on yourself. If you think ‘I’ve bowled five good balls here, I don’t want to mess it up and go for a boundary’, you can end up feeling under pressure and bowling a ball that you wouldn’t normally bowl. So stay calm
 and if a certain ball has been working well, stick at it.


Glamorgan v GLOUCESTERSHIRE, B&H Cup Final, 2000 Harvey 9.3 overs, 5-34

Matthew Maynard got a magnificent hundred and it was looking like they were going to run away with it. He just never looked like he was going to get out, so the rest of the bowlers and I, along with the captain Mark Alleyne, had to come up with a plan to try and get him off strike and try and put pressure on the rest of the batting.

From my point of view that meant setting a leg-side 
field and bowling leg-stump yorkers and having him just squeezing it into the leg-side for a single. But we needed a wicket as well: I felt that bowling all my variations to Matty, who was in and set, he’d be able to pick them a lot easier than if I tried them to the new batsmen coming to the crease. So we built pressure and used the varieties to take wickets at the other end. On that occasion it worked for us and although Matty got a fantastic hundred we went on to win comfortably.

Have Your Say

Become a Wisden member

  • Exclusive offers and competitions
  • Money-can’t-buy experiences
  • Join the Wisden community
  • Sign up for free
Latest magazine

Get the magazine

12 Issues for just £39.99