“…his action is distinctly round-arm, and he delivers with his hand scarcely more than shoulder high…he is able, by turning his hand over at the moment of delivery, to put top spin on the ball, and to put drag spin on it by turning his hand the reverse way and cutting under it.”

From Beldam & Fry’s description of the bowling of WG Grace, in Great Bowlers and Fielders: Their Methods at a Glance

We know that top spin will tend to make a delivery dip sooner than a delivery without top spin, and drop a little shorter, maybe bounce a little higher as it hits the pitch at a steeper angle.

“Drag spin” (“under spin”, with the seam at the bottom of the ball spinning forwards along the direction of flight) will have the opposite effect on the flight of the ball — it will travel a little further, meet the pitch at a shallower angle, perhaps bounce a little lower.

I should emphasise — even at high revolutions, the effects of spin on the flight of a cricket ball might not be obvious.

But it is subtle variations from the expected flight that defeat the batter’s stroke.

I don’t know if Lasith Malinga did impart any spin-swerve (or even swing, in the vertical plane). But his success in firing through his yorker might have been down to more than just the unusual release point.

And there might be something in Grace’s top- and drag-spin for the inquisitive bowler.

Maybe when my bowling arm gets even lower, I’ll give it a try!


I coached a young player who had a passable “Malinga” action. Sharp, for a 7 year old — he had two older brothers, and needed to find a way to compete.

I didn’t see him for a few months at the end of one summer, and when he next came to practice his action was much more conventional. His brothers had taught him to bowl “properly” — tall in the delivery stride, high release, hint of in-swing, just like the two older siblings.

He has a bit about him, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he develops into a useful cricketer.

Oh, but if he had stuck with that round-arm delivery. Maybe added some spin-swerve. Now that could have been exciting.

Published by Andrew Beaven

Cricket coach, fascinated by the possibilities offered by the game. More formally - ECB level 2 cricket coach; ECB National Programmes (All Stars & Dynamos Cricket) Activator Tutor; Chance to Shine & Team Up (cricket) deliverer; ECB ACO umpire.

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