As the batsmen are usually turbo-charged right from ball one in T20s, the bowlers feel the pressure more than ever. Adding to that, the minimally swinging white ball and the featherbed pitches have forced the bowlers to be more innovative to survive.
So, in addition to bending their back for bouncers and steaming in for yorkers, bowlers have got more reliable on their slower balls.
Here are some technical insight about the five majorly used slower ball types. You will also learn the techniques used to bowl different variations of slower balls.
So without further ado, here we go!
1. The Knuckleball
The hardest ball to identify as a batter.
Bowlers grip the ball with the knuckles of their bowling fingers. What’s more fascinating is that the bowler gets a tremendous decline of pace as the ball gets released but with the same arm speed. This particular factor is all enough to trap the batters who love to slog as far as they can.
But on the other hand, this variety requires utmost balance and patience from the bowler.
Some veterans used to bowl this type. Initially, it was Charl Langveldt, followed by Zaheer Khan.
At present, many modern-day bowlers have mastered this art to bemuse the batters at the right times. The much-disciplined Bhuvaneshwar Kumar is a frequent user of this ball to remove key scalps at the death overs.
Australia’s Andrew Tye has been exceptional with this delivery. On the other side of the world, Pat Brown from the English soil marks his feet by being more productive with his knuckles. Pat Brown bowls it extremely slow, which is slower than many spin bowlers’ normal deliveries. To get more excited about this delivery, watch Pat Brown’s knuckle deliveries.
The easiest and the most effective.
Bowlers tend to have a normal seam position and make their wrist twist towards the right at the last moment of release.
Most of the time, this delivery takes off the pace and gets the skid without making any turn.
But when the pitch assists some turn for this ball, it becomes dangerous. It is the left-handed batters who get more offended by this ball as the right arm pacers use it often against them.
Since the variety has been easier, it has been the most bowled slower ball type and the go-to ball for most modern-day bowlers.
Even though many bowlers like Dwayne Bravo, Tim Southee, and the likes execute this with shrewdness, Mustafizur Rahman’s off cutters are exceptional with its sharp turn and unhandy bounce.
An absolute nightmare for right-handed batters.
A pacer needs a flexible wrist and powerful ring finger to make this magic work.
This delivery pitches and goes away from the right-handers, a lot like a quick leg spinner.
Leg cutters were bowled a lot during the 80s and 90s to be effective on the uncovered pitches. The master tacticians such as Malcolm Marshall, Dennis Lillee and Wasim Akram had this weapon in stock.
Due to the flexibility this variation demands, leg cutters aren’t often bowled by modern-day bowlers. But Trent Boult being Trent Boult, has this variation with sheer accuracy. Moreover, with him being the left-arm pacer, this slower-type adds more sharpness to his skill set.
Yet another current crop to execute this variation is Jasprit Bumrah. Bumrah’s bowling action is more suitable for this type. But he bowls it rarely.
4. Back of the hand
The not-so-secret weapon, yet it’s powerful.
Bowlers release this right from the back of their arm, which is almost like a leg spinner bowling a googly.
This delivery dips down, and that dip makes the ball even more clueless, mostly resulting in finding the top edge of the bat. The greater the pressure applied by the wrist, the greater the dip will be.
Addingly, the ball gets more effective when the bowler releases the ball at the top, providing extra bounce.
Since the seam may hold its upright position, it can manage to yield some swing along with the scary turn, which are far enough to bewilder a batter.
The only disadvantage is the batters can acknowledge this ball right when it is released. This can alert the batsman from falling into the trap.
James Faulkner was the best in this business, but unfortunately, many batters have already decoded his back-of-the-hand ball. Apart from the Aussie all-rounder, Tymal Mills mostly prefers this variation and had a peak in his career for some time. Maybe they have used it more often than they should be!
The modern-day English pacers Tom Curran and Jofra Archer never miss using this back-of-the-hand slower at times.
5. The Split-finger
The traditional slower ball type.
The releasing fingers are kept apart from the seam when the ball is released.
The surprising factor is the seam here. It can either be upright or wobble after the release, leading the ball to swing depending on the surface conditions.
In a similar vein, the splitted seam slowers can either get the skid or get some fractional movements after pitching.
Glenn McGrath was extremely good at yielding some movements from this type of delivery. At the same time, even the rookie bowlers get to use it occasionally to take the pace off. But unfortunately, the perfection and productivity of the veteran Glenn McGrath haven’t yet been found.
To wrap up
Slower balls are like a double-edged sword. It blows hot or blows cold for a bowler. What is required more for a bowler is the courage to execute these skills out in the middle.
Where there are challenges, there are opportunities. These slower balls have made the batters alert at the back of their minds before going hard. And that’s a good sign for healthy cricket.
So it is not going to be that long to expect the bowlers to produce more varieties of slower balls.