Contact Us

How Bowling deliveries changed over time in Cricket

Cricket has been the game of evolution. Here's a list of different types of cricket bowling deliveries and how these evolved over time.

Last updated: 12.03.2019
How Bowling deliveries changed over time in Cricket| Sports Social Blog

Cricket has been the game of evolution since its inception. A number of theories exist about the origins of cricket. The most common theory is that cricket was derived from bowls or lawn bowls. Hence the initial days of cricket bowling had a similar kind of style of delivering the ball. The ball was delivered with the hand below the waist, along with the ground. And, this was the famous or ‘infamous’ underarm bowling in cricket.

How It Began

Underarm bowling was the only bowling pattern used in cricket till the first half of 19th century. Then as the popular story of a brother-sister duo suggests, the pattern was changed during a play session between Kent cricketer John Willes and his sister Christina Willes. The sister was unable to bowl underarm because of the voluminous skirt she was wearing. So she raised her arm higher than usual and invented the overarm bowling. The idea was warmly welcomed and adopted by the brother.

In 1816 the Laws were changed and round-arm bowling was termed illegal. But Willes bowled round-arm for Kent against MCC at Lords in 1822. It was obviously called ‘no-ball’. Although Wills rode away from the scene to never play any major cricket, he championed the pattern.

Sussex bowlers kept on practicing round-arm bowling. Finally, the law was modified in 1828 to include overarm bowling. But round arm bowling was still restricted. The umpires were asked to give judgment on the same and confusion reigned. Finally, 42 years after Willes introduced round arm delivery; it was termed legal by the International Cricket Council.

The story of Willes brother-sister is a popular one. Contrary to this, another theory suggests that Hambledon's Tom Walker was at the forefront of the innovation. Willis only "revived what was forgotten or new to the young folk" according to the testimony of "Silver Billy" Beldham.

Types Of Cricket Deliveries

Once overarm bowling was legally accepted, the pattern was modified from time to time by different bowlers in a different era to introduce new styles. Those styles are largely based on the way of delivery, pace, movement of the hand.

Fast bowling is one of the two main approaches of cricket bowling, the other being spin bowling. Fast bowling is basically based on the speed of a bowler. A bowler with good enough pace is called the fast bowler.

A fast bowler is also called a seam bowler when he or she can swing the ball. Practitioners of pace bowling are usually known as fast bowlers, quicks, or pacemen. Fast bowling or Medium fast bowling includes deliveries like the bouncer, inswing, outswing, yorker and new inventions like reverse swing, slower ball, and knuckleball.

Spin bowling is another type of bowling with multiple variations. The main idea is to deceive the batsmen with the turning ball.

Off Spin is one of the primary ways of spinning the ball. Most of the time off spin is delivered using the fingers by right arm bowlers. The deliveries can include Off Break, Carrom Ball, Dusra and Arm Balls. More in details: Off Spin Bowling

Leg Spin is considered to be one of the most artistic aspects of cricket and leg spinners are not frequent. For leg spin, the bowler has to use his wrist to turn the ball and can include deliveries like Leg Break, Googly, Flipper, Sider, and Top Spin. More in details: Leg Spin Bowling

Among Left Arm Spinners, left arm orthodox is the most common way to bowl and here the ball is delivered using the fingers whereas for Chinaman bowling the bowler has to use the wrist of his left arm to turn the ball. Left-arm wrist spin bowling was first introduced by Ellis Achong, a West Indian player from Chinese origin and hence this type of bowling is called Chinaman. This is difficult and only very players till now have bowled Chinaman bowling in international cricket for a long time.

Let’s Talk About Some Legends

Now since we are done with the history and types of bowling, we must talk about a few legendary bowlers cricket has gifted us.

First in the list should be none other than Frederick Robert Spofforth. This Australian pace bowler was the finest of the nineteenth century and was the first bowler in the history to take 50 test wickets. Fred was also known as "The Demon Bowler", because of his pace degree. He was also the first to take a Test hat-trick in 1879.

Let’s also talk about Jim Laker. Laker is one of the greatest spin bowlers in cricket history. In 1956, he took nineteen (of a maximum twenty) wickets in a test match at Old Trafford Cricket Ground to defeat Australia single-handedly. The match is famously known as the ‘Laker’s Match’.

While the 70s and 80s were dominated by fast bowlers like Dennis Lillee, Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall, the 90s saw the return of the spinners. Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne, and Anil Kumble dominated the attack for their respective countries during the 90s. Murali finished with 800 test wickets whereas Warne had 708 and Kumble got 619 – all-time highest wicket-takers for their respective countries.

When Deliveries Caused Controversies

Two of the most controversial events in cricket are also related to the act of bowling. In 1932-33 England, cricket team came up with a strategy to restrict Australian batsmen during their Ashes tour. The main aim was to confine the extraordinary skill of Don Bradman. Deliveries were targeted to the body of the batsmen and the batters were expected to defend themselves with the bat resulting in a catch in the leg-side. This tactic brought wide criticism from the Australian fans and experts, especially after Australian wicketkeeper Bert Oldfield was hit on his temple by a vicious bouncer from England fast bowler Harold Larwood. Larwood was the main weapon of England Captain Douglas Jardine who managed to bring the Ashes back but his policy almost divided the cricket world.

In 1981, Australia was playing New Zealand in the third final of the Benson & Hedges World Series Cup at the Melbourne. Although Underarm bowling was long gone in the rulebook of the Australian cricket board there was no specific mention about it. With New Zealand needing six runs in the last delivery of the match to tie, Australian captain Greg Chappell instructed his brother Trevor to bowl underarm along the ground. The crowd and the New Zealand players were stunned by this act of non-sportsman like behavior. There was uproar and the rules were changed immediately.

Although the batsmen are the more popular to the fans and in these days of limited overs cricket crowd goes to the ground expecting batsmen to dominate with big hits and bowlers are also adjusting and coming up with new strategies to counter the challenges of small ground, bigger bats and overall change of mentality to a more aggressive one. However in test matches still bowlers can control the results. Because how many runs you score unless you take 20 wickets, you will not win the test matches.

Chase Your Sport

Stay up-to-date on the latest sports news, stats, expert analysis and trends, including cricket, football, wrestling, tennis, basketball, Formula One and more. Find previews, schedules, results of upcoming events, and fantasy tips on Chase Your Sport.