Bowling (cricket)

In the sport of cricket bowling is the action of propelling the ball toward the wicket defended by a batsman. A player skilled at bowling is called a bowler; a bowler who is also a competent batsman is known as an all-rounder. Bowling the ball is distinguished from throwing the ball by a strictly specified biomechanical definition which restricts the angle of extension of the elbow. A single act of bowling the ball towards the batsman is called a ball or a delivery. Bowlers bowl deliveries in sets of six, called an over. Once a bowler has bowled their over, one of their team mates will bowl an over from the other end of the pitch. The Laws of Cricket govern how a ball must be bowled. [1] If a ball is bowled illegally, an umpire will rule it a no ball. [2] If a ball is bowled too wide of the striker for the batsman to be able to play at it with a proper cricket shot, the bowler's end umpire will rule it a wide. [3]

There are different types of bowlers ranging from fast bowlers, whose primary weapon is pace, through swing and seam bowlers who try to make the ball deviate in its course through the air or when it bounces, to slow bowlers, who will attempt to deceive the batsmen with a variety of flight and spin. A spin bowler usually delivers the ball quite slowly and puts spin on the ball, causing it to turn at an angle while bouncing off the pitch.

History of bowling

Bowling techniques
Usual Overarm
Illegal techniques
Pakistani Shoaib Akhtar holds the world record for delivering the fastest ball (161.3 km/h). [4]

In the early days of cricket, underarm bowling was the only method employed. Many theories exist about the origins of cricket. One suggests that the game began among shepherds hitting a stone or a ball of wool with their crooks and, at the same time, defending the wicket gate into the sheep-fold (from Anglo Saxon 'cricce', a crooked staff). A second theory suggests the name came from a low stool known as a 'cricket' in England, which from the side looked like the long, low wicket used in the early days of the game (originally from the Flemish 'krickstoel', a low stool on which parishioners knelt in church). There is also a reference to 'criquet' in North-East France in 1478 and evidence that the game evolved in South-East England in the Middle Ages.

In 1706 William Goldwyn published the first description of the game. He wrote that two teams were first seen carrying their curving bats to the venue, choosing a pitch and arguing over the rules to be played. They pitched two sets of wickets, each with a "milk-white" bail perched on two stumps; toss a coin for first knock, the umpire called "play" and the "leathern orb" was bowled. They had four-ball overs, the umpires leant on their staves (which the batters had to touch to complete a run), and the scorers sat on a mound making notches.

The first written " Laws of Cricket" were drawn up in 1744. They stated, "the principals shall choose from amongst the gentlemen present two umpires who shall absolutely decide all disputes. The stumps must be 22 inches high and the bail across them six inches. The ball must be between 5 & 6 ounces, and the two sets of stumps 22 yards apart". There were no limits on the shape or size of the bat. It appears that 40 notches was viewed as a very big score, probably due to the bowlers bowling quickly at shins unprotected by pads. The world's first cricket club was formed in Hambledon in the 1760s and the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) was founded in 1787.

During the 1760s and 1770s it became common to pitch the ball through the air, rather than roll it along the ground. This innovation gave bowlers the weapons of length, deception through the air, plus increased pace. It also opened new possibilities for spin and swerve. In response, batters had to master timing and shot selection. One immediate consequence was the replacement of the curving bat with the straight one. All of this raised the premium on skill and lessened the influence of rough ground and brute force. It was in the 1770s that the modern game began to take shape. The weight of the ball was limited to between five and a half and five and three-quarter ounces, and the width of the bat to four inches. The latter ruling followed an innings by a batter called Thomas "Daddy" White, who appeared with a bat the width of the wicket. In 1774, the first leg before law was published. Also around this time, a third stump became commonplace. By 1780, the duration of an important match was generally three days, and this year also saw the creation of the first six-seam cricket ball. In 1788, the MCC published its first revision of the laws, which prohibited charging down an opponent and also provided for mowing and covering the wicket in order to standardise conditions. The desire for standardisation reflected the massive increase in the popularity of cricket during the 18th century. Between 1730 and 1740, 150 cricket matches were recorded in the papers of the time. Between 1750 and 1760, this figure rose to 230, and between 1770 and 1790 over 500.

The 19th century saw a series of significant changes. Wide deliveries were outlawed in 1811. The circumference of the ball was specified for the first time in 1838 (its weight had been dictated 60 years earlier). Pads, made of cork, became available for the first time in 1841, and these were further developed following the invention of vulcanised rubber, which was also used to introduce protective gloves in 1848. In the 1870s, boundaries were introduced – previously, all hits had to be run; if the ball went into the crowd, the spectators would clear a way for the fieldsman to fetch it. The biggest change, however, was in how the ball was delivered by the bowler.

At the start of the century, all bowlers were still delivering the ball under-arm. However, so the story goes, John Willes became the first bowler to use a "round-arm" technique after practising with his sister Christina, who had used the technique, as she was unable to bowl underarm due to her wide dress impeding her delivery of the ball. [5]

The round-arm action came to be employed widely in matches but was quickly determined to be illegal and banned by the MCC, who stated that "the ball must be delivered underhand, not thrown or jerked, with the hand underneath the elbow at the time of delivering the ball". [6] When it was accepted the rules stated that the arm could not be raised above the shoulder. It was quickly found, however, that a raised arm imparted more accuracy and generated more bounce than the roundarm method. Again, the governing body banned the method. It was not until the method was finally accepted by the MCC in 1835 [7] that it grew rapidly in popularity amongst all players. Underarm bowling hitherto had almost disappeared from the game.

Modern-day underarm bowling

An infamous " underarm bowling incident" occurred during a match in 1981, in which the Australian bowler, Trevor Chappell, took advantage of the fact that underarm bowling was still legal by rolling the ball along the ground. By doing so he avoided the possibility that the New Zealand batsman, Brian McKechnie, would score a six from the last ball to tie the match, as the bat would not be able to hit the ball high enough to score a six. [8]

As a result of this incident underarm bowling was subsequently made illegal in all grades of cricket, except by prior agreement of both teams, as it was not considered to be within the spirit of the game

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