What does a Jaffa Mean in Cricket? Explained with Examples

Cricket has a language all of its own and one of the more curious terms is the ‘jaffa’. But what does jaffa mean and how did the phrase come about?

What is a Jaffa in Cricket?

It has no fixed definition but generally a jaffa is an unplayable, exceptional delivery. The batsman will either play and miss, or they may edge the ball through to the keeper. If the jaffa is a particularly effective pitch, it will rearrange the batsman’s stumps.

At best, the batter might be lucky and get an edge past the slip cordon.

Prior to the advent of the word ‘jaffa’, players and commentators may have mentioned a ‘corker’. This essentially means the same thing and, while it’s outdated now, you may hear ‘corker’ used on rare occasions.

James Anderson
James Anderson, 2013-14 Ashes

Examples of Jaffa Balls

We can use some real examples of jaffa balls and there are plenty of videos that can be found around the internet. A jaffa could be a late swinging delivery from a seam bowler that also leaves the pitch sharply and deceives the batsman.

Alternatively, a spinner may get some real grip on the surface and send down a delivery that turns so much that the batter can’t play it.

England’s Jimmy Anderson and the Australian pair of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath bowled plenty of ‘jaffas’ in their respective careers. In Anderson’s case, this video shows an almost perfect delivery to Michael Clarke which holds its line and perfectly underlines what a jaffa is all about.

Anderson features in another video here which also includes jaffa balls from Bangladesh’s Mustafizur Rehman and the great Wasim Akram of Pakistan. Late swing from seam bowlers often leads to the term ‘jaffa’ as we have seen in these examples.

The word ‘jaffa’ is used more sparingly when it comes to spinners. There is something of an association with speed here and that’s why there are more videos that focus on the pacemen and seamers.

Shane Warne’s Ball of the Century

When a spinner does bowl a jaffa, this usually occurs when a leg spinner gets a lot of turn to bowl a right handed batsman. That’s why we mentioned Shane Warne in this section and his ‘ball of the century’ to Mike Gatting in 1993 is the perfect example.

A jaffa is even rarer when it comes to orthodox off spin bowlers but England’s Graeme Swann delivered lots of special balls. Here’s a great example as he bowls Australia’s Ricky Ponting.

The Origin of the Word

Nobody is entirely certain as to when the term was first used although it’s recognised that a ‘jaffa’ is a modern term. It’s most likely to refer to the delicious tasting, thick skinned orange that is grown in the port of Jaffa, in Israel’s Tel Aviv.

Jaffas are said to be swift which is an odd adjective to use in relation to a piece of fruit. Perhaps a better explanation is that a jaffa is ‘tasty’ just like a perfectly directed cricket ball.

Consecutive Wickets

Another great bowling feat – however much much rarer – is to bowl several consecutive wickets in a single over. As you might expect, it is a bowler’s dream to collect six wickets out of six deliveries and produce a perfect over. But is a six ball six wicket scenario possible in international cricket?