Strike bowling is the rather agricultural policy of trying to get the batsman out through sheer pace and power, at the expense of fully utilising the ball or the conditions to extract movement and deceive the opponent. Unsurprisingly, this is almost exclusively the preserve of ‘fast’ bowlers like Australia’s Brett Lee and you’ll often see strike bowlers taking the new ball, as it comes on to the batsman quicker.
Strike bowlers tend to be most successful against opening batsman – when the ball is fresh – and against tail-enders – who probably don’t want to be dealing with pace anyway. However, the effort required to generate such speeds means that they are generally only used in short spells of four or five overs.
Despite this oft-referred to category, it is worth remembering that strike bowling is the least defined of the three. Skills from both seam and swing bowling can overlap into strike bowling with small adjustments, and many players like England’s Andrew Flintoff are known as strike bowlers with the ability to extract swing or use the seam. Nevertheless, they are marked out by their use of a few specific deliveries (which can be seen less frequently from other types):
- Yorker – Taken from the verb ‘to york’, meaning to bamboozle and generally befuddle, the Yorker is an incredibly potent delivery which, more than any other delivery, focuses on pace. The theory is simple – bowl the ball on such a length that it bounces right in the block hole (right in front of the batsman’s feet). The surprise element, coupled with the quick adjustment required from the batsman, makes it an excellent way to pick up an lbw or knock the stumps back. However, get it just slightly wrong and your full toss (a delivery which does not bounce before reaching the batsman) will be splayed to the boundary rope. Pakistan’s Waqar Younis was especially adept with the Yorker, even managing to create swing through the air!
- Bouncer – Almost the exact opposite to the Yorker, the Bouncer is largely self-explanatory. Whereas the Yorker attempts to bounce the ball just before the stumps, the Bouncer means pitching the ball in the first half of the wicket. The bounce generated due to the pace and length of the delivery means the batsman will be fending the ball off at chest or even head height. This makes for uncomfortable playing, as he will be unable to watch the ball onto his bat or, worse still, won’t read the delivery and may have to take evasive action with his bat or gloves (permitting an easy catch). However, once again, if bowled on a placid pitch, expect a limp bounce and an easy hook to the boundary or, if the length is too short, it will end up soaring over the batsman’s head for a no-ball.
- Slower delivery – A particularly popular delivery in today’s cricket, the slower delivery is an excellent way to mix things up mid-over. After rocketing in balls at around 90 miles per hour, dropping your pace around 20 miles will surprise the batsman and could lead to a mis-timed shot or missing the ball entirely. Moreover, the slower delivery also enables the fast bowler to utilise certain variations (some fast bowlers even use the off break grip!), while the reduced pace may increase the chances of swing off the pitch or from the conditions. The critical thing with a slower delivery is proper disguise and, by consequence, many fast bowlers prefer a conventional grip but with the first two fingers spread so that extra drag on the ball is provided on release. Get it wrong, however, and you could be looking at six runs against your name.