Yorkers, Bouncers and Other Tricks
Fast bowlers do not rely solely on pace and movement either through the air or off the pitch to get their wickets. They have other ways of deceiving batsman, which is why the fast bowler’s art is just as practised as that of a spinner. In addition to using the cutters, a fast bowler has several other ways to unsettle batsmen and take wickets.
The yorker is a delivery that is pitched right up to the batsman and lands at his feet. When this happens, there is every possibility the batsman will play over the top of it. The delivery might initially appear as a half volley or full toss, just ripe for driving; in reality, an attempted drive is likely to find the bat passing over the ball. Because the ball does not bounce, it gets to the batsman sooner than he thinks it will. Since the ball is in its trajectory through the air longer than the standard pitch, it has more chance to swing. The fast, swinging yorker is one of the most difficult balls to counter: The batsman often jabs down on it at the last minute if he makes contact at all.
Because there is such a fine margin of error, practice this delivery in the nets before attempting it in the middle. If the pitch is too full, it is indeed a full toss. If the pitch is a fraction short of yorker length, it becomes a half volley that deserves to be driven. To achieve the right length, it might help to look a little farther ahead towards the target so that you release the ball at the right time in the action. For instance, if you usually look at the point on the pitch where you want the standard ball to land, try looking at the batsman’s feet. If you normally look at the base of the stumps, look at a point halfway up the middle.
A good ploy is to bowl a yorker straight after a bouncer, which tests the batsman’s courage as well as his technique. The bouncer is banged into the pitch short of a length, with the idea that the steeper trajectory will get the ball to rise higher than from a normal length. But the ball has to be well directed, for a bouncer that is not close enough to the batsman to cause him concern is a wasted ball. Although most batsmen will happily watch bouncers pass wide of the off-stump or harmlessly down the leg side, a bouncer steepling towards a batsman’s head or throat is an entirely different matter. The bouncer must not be too wide, but neither can it be so short that it climbs way over the batsman’s head. A bouncer or two that shake up the batsman might get him on his back foot or even force him to back away. If either of these happens, the batsman is vulnerable to the yorker.
It might sound strange, but one of the most potent weapons in the fast bowler’s armoury is the slower ball. The batsman will find it difficult to adjust to the odd ball that arrives at a reduced pace, and he might well be through his shot before the ball arrives. Bowl the ball straight to hit the stumps if the batsman misses, or have him LBW. Even if the ball is slightly off line, the batsman might find himself hitting the ball in the air to offer a catch, so the delivery has plenty of potential as a wicket-taker.
Disguise is the key. If the ball is obviously slower, the batsman will have little difficulty adjusting. Your arm should come over at the same speed as usual. Vary your grip to bring the ball out of your hand more slowly. Putting three fingers on the ball instead of two, holding the ball farther into your hand rather than with your fingers or using a spinner’s grip to deliver the ball with an off-break action will all produce the desired effect (figure 2.9, a-c). Bowling with a leg-break action will have the same effect as well, but that requires a high degree of control and is difficult to conceal—even though spotting it is one thing, and playing it is quite another. Some bowlers have more than one way of bowling a slower ball; that can lure a batsman into trouble if he thinks he can detect the slower ball from the bowler’s action, only to discover that there is another variety with which to cope.
These deceptive deliveries distinguish the very good fast bowler from the ordinary one. They require much practise to perfect, but when they have been mastered, the rewards justify the effort that goes into getting them right. Stupid enough to be a fast bowler? I don’t think I was ever bright enough.