The Best Way to Shine a Cricket Ball – and How Does It Help Swing Bowling

Why do bowlers and their fielders shine a cricket ball? In this guide, I’ll look a bit closer at the dynamics and why it is important to maintain that shine. Also under the spotlight are the ways in which you can and can’t treat the ball while on the field of play.

How to Shine a Cricket Ball Properly?

  • Only one side of the ball should be shined – This is an important point and it relates to the thermodynamics of that ball as it moves through the air. Bowlers will point out to each other which side they are shining and this will become obvious as the ball gets older.
  • Grip the ball firmly on the seam and the shiny side should face outwards, away from your hand.
  • Apply fluid to the section that we need to shine (in normal playing situations this will either be sweat or saliva.
  • Rub the ball against clothing – usually the trousers, to dry the ball and to let that fluid absorb. A shine will be the result and reward.

Why Swing Bowlers Shine Cricket Balls?

All of the fastest bowlers want to shine the ball but it’s particularly important for swing bowling. The science is a little complicated but having a shiny side and a rough side can help the ball to move in the air.

Essentially, air will cling to the ball in different proportions when one side is shiny and the other is rough. If the conditions are right, this can assist conventional and reverse swing.

Shine Cricket Ball

Team Strategy for Legal Ball Tampering

Believe it or not, there will be a team strategy in place for legal ball tampering. The bowlers will be expected to shine the ball but not every member of the fielding side will join them.

Before the match, the captain will usually delegate this task to one other team member. They will typically stand at cover or mid off, close to the bowler. Fielders will get this ball to the player as quickly as possible and they will shine it before returning it to the bowler.

Illegal Ways of Ball Tampering

Changing the ball by artificial means is not allowed and illegal ball tampering is a contentious subject. Those who break the rules can suffer strict penalties, including suspensions, under the relevant law.

Artificial substances and third party objects may include:

  • Wax
  • Sun cream
  • Bottle tops
  • Sandpaper

The above examples are known to have been used. This is strictly prohibited under the laws of the game.


Using Saliva During Covid-19

Professional and recreational cricket took a break when the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020. When the sport returned later that year, certain rules had to be put in place. These specifically related to ball shining and they banned players from using saliva on the ball in case this aided the spread of the virus.

It was still acceptable to use sweat and shining the ball remained an important part of the game during these difficult times.

Closing Thoughts

While I played at club level, I bowled a lot of overs. Most of them were medium pace but I found that I could get the ball to swing if the conditions were right.

The exact science behind the practise may not have been so easy to understand but it is important to work on that ball and to give your team a better chance of taking wickets. Beside swing bowling, there are a whole range of bowling techniques at your disposal.