England allrounder Ben Stokes on how to use your variations as a seam bowler.
USE THE WRIST
If I’m in a good rhythm then I don’t think about my action. It’s all about my wrist. Making sure that my wrist is right behind the ball, and changing the position of it depending on the delivery I want to bowl.
KEEP THEM GUESSING
Sometimes I’ll want to bowl an inswinger, so I’ll try and make the batsman see that it’s shaped for an outswinger. But once I’m in my delivery stride and about to uncoil, I’ll flip it round in the hand, changing my wrist position and the angle of the seam, so it becomes an inswinger.
STICK IT UP ‘EM
Every now and then, I’ll suggest to Cooky that I should have a go at some short stuff for a few overs to make something happen. It’s normally early on to specific people who you know don’t fancy it, or if nothing’s happening and we can’t see how we’re getting them out. It gets me going. If I can get a few through at decent pace and it hits the gloves, then it gets the blood pumping and it gets everyone else going too.
SET YOUR FIELD FOR THE SHORT STUFF
WE SAY: The conventional field for hostile short-pitched bowling is a 5-4 off-side set-up, with two men back on the boundary for the airborne pull or hook, and a short-leg option for the ball that pops up off the glove. The more defensive option sees short-leg moved back to a conventional mid-wicket. Similarly on the off-side, gully could retreat back to third-man as a more defensive move. Note there is no cover fielder. That area is now open to the batsman – but it’s a good player who hits a Ben Stokes bouncer through there…
THE SLOW BOUNCER
It’s a good ball to bowl when the batsmen are swinging, because it’s hard to pick up, and hard to get hold of. The way I bowl it is by putting my thumb halfway up on the ball, so the arm comes over at the same pace as it would for a fast ball, but once I get into my actual action I’ll just flip my thumb up and pull the ball into the deck halfway down.
SLOWLY DOES IT
I’ve got four slower balls, but the one I go to most is my version of a leg-cutter. I roll my fingers down the left-hand side of the ball to take the pace off and get some movement off the pitch from leg to off. The grip is like a normal ball, and I wouldn’t change it until the arm comes over and I’m actually about to release it. That’s when I roll my fingers down the side of the ball.