It sounds like it should be a very straightforward delivery but the reality is that an arm ball can really confuse a batter. So what is an arm ball and how is it delivered?
What is an Arm Ball in Cricket?
An arm ball is a delivery sent down by a slow bowler in cricket. Instead of the ball spinning as it should, it just travels on its regular course with little or no deviation.
The delivery is so called because it ‘goes on with the arm’ and it is traditionally used to surprise the batter.
How to Bowl an Arm Ball?
The big difference between the arm ball and a regulation off spin delivery lies in the grip. If you remember all the articles on traditional off spin, the ball should be held between the middle finger and ring finger with the seam running horizontally.
The bowler then rotates the wrist to gain spin as that ball is released.
With an arm ball, the seam runs almost vertically with the ring finger placed behind it. The middle finger then rests at the side. This can help the ball to swing as it would for seam bowlers.
As the ball is released, no rotation is put on it. It should therefore travel on its original path without turning.
It’s important to keep the run up and follow through exactly the same as you would for a regulation off spinner. All of the deception lies in that process.
The very best batters can spot the change in grip and the lack of rotation as the ball leaves the hand so it’s important to disguise the other parts of the delivery process as much as possible.
Line and Length for an Arm Ball
Bowlers should be looking to bowl a fuller length than they would with their stock ball. The idea is for the ball to ‘rush on’ to the batter and catch them unawares. If the ball is short, they will realise that this is the arm ball and will have more time to adjust their shot.
The aim is to pitch the ball fuller and to tempt the drive. If the batter is playing for spin and there isn’t any turn, the danger for them is that they will edge to slip.
So, in terms of the line, the bowler is aiming at around middle stump to middle and off stump for the right hander. For the left handed batter, they can aim a little wider of off stump. In both cases this will help to bring bowled and LBW into play.
It’s also very important to consider your field. There should be a higher chance of the batsman edging the ball so you should look to put in at least one slip.
If this is a one day game where fielding restrictions mean that the captain is reluctant to use slips, think about reinforcing the field behind square on the off side.
Length, line and field placings are all vitally important when considering the arm ball.
Using the Arm Ball
Remember that the arm ball is intended to be a surprise delivery. If a slow bowler overuses it, the batter will have an advantage. A ball that doesn’t turn is easier to play so the arm ball only really works if the batsmen are expecting the delivery to spin.
That’s why it’s important to use the arm ball sparingly.
If the conditions are conducive to swing and the faster bowlers have been able to get the ball to move in the air, the arm ball could be effective at any point in the innings.
Many spinners advocate the use of the arm ball early on in a batter’s innings. At that stage, they are just getting used to the pitch and to the degree of spin that a bowler is achieving. They are not really thinking about the arm ball at that point.
Early use of the arm ball in your spell can also be a good idea. Above all, think about a number of variations and only look to use the arm ball as a surprise delivery.
It may sound like an innocuous delivery but the arm ball really can be a spinner’s secret weapon. The England off spinner Ray Illingworth once claimed to have taken over 40 wickets with the arm ball in a single season.
At a professional level, it may be fair to say that this is one of the easier variations to spot. The bowler has to change their grip and the way in which they release the ball. This could be less difficult to pick and that’s one of the reasons why it’s recommended to bowl the arm delivery early on when the batter may not be fully concentrating.
In club games, any type of variation will be much harder to pick. This could be a productive delivery so why not get down to the nets and start practising the arm ball.