A bowler delivers the ball overarm. He generally starts with a run to add speed to the ball, and he usually aims to hit the pitch before striking the wicket. He varies both the direction and the length of the bowl. A straight ball goes in a direct line with the wicket. If spin is imparted to the ball, it will come up from the pitch at an angle.
An off break ball hits the pitch on the off side of the wicket and turns toward the batsman and leg side; a leg break ball hits on the leg side of the pitch and turns across the face of the bat to the off. Bowlers also can make the ball swing in flight.
An inswinger swerves from off to leg, thus moving into the batsman; an outswinger swerves from leg to off, moving away from the batsman.
A ball is said to be good length if it comes off the pitch at such a distance from the batsman as to make him uncertain whether to step forward to play his stroke or to move back.
For fast bowlers the wicketkeeper stands 12 to 15 yards behind the stumps. He crouches close to them to receive bowls of slow bowlers.
The striker should take a comfortable stance, with the weight evenly balanced on both feet and the knees slightly relaxed for easy and quick movement. The bat should be held straight (vertical), with the full face toward the ball.
The batsman may either stop the bowled ball or hit it. By shifting his feet and wrist, he can hit the ball in any direction.
If he makes a hit he decides whether or not to run; if the ball goes behind the wicket, his partner decides.
The basis of all batting strokes is the forward stroke to a straight ball. The striker steps with the front foot down the pitch, and hits the ball in front of the forward foot.
Other strokes include the drive, in which the batsman lifts his bat higher than for the forward stroke and meets the ball just behind the forward toe; the leg glance, in which he deflects a ball bowled in a line with or outside his body to the on side; the hook stroke, in which he hits a short rising ball to the on-side with a cross bat; the square cut, in which he hits a short ball outside the off stump by stepping across the wicket and hitting down; the late cut, in which he plays a short ball outside the off stump, stepping across with his right foot and sending the ball past the slips. Cutting is an effective way of getting runs off short, fast balls bowled outside the off stump.
The condition of the pitch, as well as the weather, affects the bounce and liveliness of the ball. A pitch is judged fast if the ball comes off the ground quickly, and slow if it comes off sluggishly. During a match a pitch cannot be changed unless it becomes unfit for play, and then only with both captains’ consent. If the captain of the side winning the toss believes the pitch and weather favor batting, he will probably take first innings.
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