Coaching Corner 16 – Seam and Swing

Once the basic action is sorted out, we can look and seam and swing.

Seam bowling

See Coaching Corner 10 for the basic grip.

The principle is straightforward enough. If you can land a ball on a hard, proud seam, it will deviate according to the angle at which it hits the pitch.  Grassy pitches are especially helpful to seam bowlers.

Make sure that the bowling arm is high, the wrist is “cocked” before delivery ,and that you “hit the pitch” rather than “floating” the ball down.  But this is not the same thing as bowling half-way down the pitch!  It simply means that you get plenty of height and energy into the delivery

Seam position is all-important.  It has to stay upright, so make sure that the hand stays behind the ball and the wrist flicks down the ball.   This imparts back-spin which keeps the ball stable – the same principle as a gyroscope.

Swing bowling

A cricket ball swings because of the different speeds of airflow over the two halves of the ball separated by the seam.

The air moves faster across the side that is smooth and shiny than across the rougher side.  That is why we shine the ball – but only one side of it!

The position of the seam is crucial.  Think of it as the bow of a ship, pointing in the direction you want the ball to go.

So for out-swing, the seam will be pointed towards first slip, for in-swing it will be pointed towards fine-leg, so the grips are slightly different.

For outswing see photos below. 

Grip at delivery. Front view: note the seam pointing towards the slips.  Rear view.  Note the hand is behind the ball.

For in-swing see photos below.


Note the position of the seam.  The second finger is on top of the seam to help control the angle.

Now remember what we said about shining the ball.  The shiny side should be on the opposite side of the ball from the way we want it to swing, i.e. for out-swing, the shiny side, looking down the pitch should be on the right (leg-side), for in-swing, the shiny side will be on the left (off-side).

You still need to have a good basic action.  It is easier to bowl out-swing with a side-on action, and in-swing with a front-on action, but it is the position of the wrist that is all–important.  Make sure that the hand and wrist are behind the ball and aligned with the direction in which you want the ball to swing.

The idea is to get the batsman committed to the front foot so make sure that you keep the ball up to the bat but without bowling half-volleys.

Common faults

·         Wrist and hand position.

·         The seam not keeping straight because of the grip or uneven pressure applied to one side of the ball.

·         “Pushing” the in-swinger rather than bowling it with a purpose.

Training tips

·         With a partner bowl with a red-and white halved ball to check the seam position in flight.  Make minor adjustments to the grip (some like to bowl the out-swinger with the fingers together rather than separated) until the seam is consistently upright.  If you haven’t got such a ball, then put chalk on the seam of an ordinary ball to see its position clearly.