Types of Spin Bowling in Cricket – Spinner Techniques Explained

I’ve previously looked at the two main areas of slow bowling – off spin and leg spin. In this review, it’s time to delve a little deeper and discuss variations plus specific types of delivery such as the Googly, Flipper, Carrom Ball and so on.

Introduction to the Types of Spin Bowling

I’ll kick this off by covering four different techniques used by players to impart spin in different directions. The grip is key to imparting that spin on different areas of the ball to get a specific result.

Spin Bowling Types by Direction of Rotation

1. Over Spin

Over Spin is also referred to as top spin at times and the ball will rotate in the direction in which it is travelling. A ball delivered with over spin will not tend to drift in the air or turn off the pitch but it can hurry on to the batsman and make them play a false shot.

The bounce can also be erratic with an over spin delivery. At times, the ball can keep low but it can bounce higher than expected when it hits the seam.

2. Back Spin

With a back spin delivery, the ball will rotate backwards towards the seam. Once again, there may not be too much deviation in the air or on the pitch so the key to success is in the speed of the ball.

When back spin is imparted, the ball is held in the front two fingers while the thumb does the crucial work. The ball can arrive more slowly than the batter expects and they may play their shot too early as a result.

This is the type of delivery which is also referred to as a ‘flipper’.


3. Side Spin

Side spin is occasionally known as barrel spin. The grip requires the bowler to hold the seam in the fingers while one hemisphere of the ball is facing the batsman. As that ball is delivered, the fingers rotate and that ball spins sideways along the seam.

This type of delivery should result in some turn off the pitch and it can also cause a significant amount of drift in the air so it is a double threat. The batsman can be deceived and get into a false position when the ball hits the pitch.

4. Lateral Spin

Lateral spin is sometimes called an undercut because the bowler is actually undercutting the ball at the point of delivery. As the ball comes out of the hand, the intention is for the seam to be perfectly horizontal with the fingers gripping along that sideways seam.

The palm of the hand will be facing up to the sky and horizontal side spin will be imparted as the bowler releases the ball. If the bowler gets it right there should be significant drift – similar to that which is generated by faster, swing bowlers.

In contrast to the regular side spin delivery, a ball which is bowled with lateral spin may not deviate too much from its path. It’s that pronounced drift that is its major weapon as it heads towards the batter.

Spin Delivery Types by Mode of Spinning

What is the Difference Between Finger Spin Vs Wrist Spin?

A finger spin will literally use the fingers to impart spin onto the ball. They have a tighter grip and, potentially, there should be more control.

A wrist spinner will turn the ball at the point of delivery with their wrist. The grip is looser and it is harder for a wrist spinner to control the ball.

1. Finger Spin

We normally associate finger spinners with those who carry out off spin bowling. When delivering the ball, the spin is imparted by the fingers and any turn will go in the direction of a conventional off spin bowler.

Therefore, if a right arm off spin bowler is delivering to a left hander, that spin will see the ball turn from the off stump to the leg stump.

The off spinner’s secret weapon is the Carrom Ball or Doosra. If this is executed correctly, the ball will spin in the opposite direction to that which is explained above. There is a change in the grip with the Carrom Ball which will see the middle finger bent behind the ball. On the point of delivery, that ball is almost ‘flicked out’ of the hand.

2. Wrist Spin

A wrist spinner is a less common term for a leg spinner. On delivery, the rotation of the wrist is intended to impart spin as the ball leaves the side of the hand.

When the ball turns for a conventional right arm leg spin bowler, the ball will move from the leg stump to the off stump when a right handed batsman is facing

A wrist spinner will also look to bowl a googly in an attempt to confuse the batsman who is expecting a regular leg spinner. The googly is bowled with a leg spin action but it would turn the ‘other way’ i.e. to a right handed batsman it would move from off stump to leg stump when a right arm bowler sends it down.

It’s a very subtle twist on a regular leg break and it involves using the ring finger to impart spin on the point of delivery.

Spin Bowling Types by Arm Used

1. Right Arm Spinners

Right arm slow bowlers are generally referred to as being more ‘conventional. As such, they will tend to be defined as either ‘off spinners’ or ‘leg spinners’.

Of the techniques listed above, a right arm spinner can, in theory, bowl all of them. However, an off spinner will tend to be more associated with side spin and lateral spin. Meanwhile, a leg spinner may look to perfect overspin and back spin,

2. Left Arm Spinners

Left armers can be rarer in any sport and that’s the case for bowlers. A left armer who looks to bowl off spin may often be referred to as ‘left arm orthodox’.

A left arm bowler delivering leg spin is generally called a wrist spinner rather than a leg spinner which can be confusing for those who are new to the game.

Until relatively recently, a left arm wrist spinner would also have been called a ‘left arm chinaman’ bowler. This is because Ellis Achong was one of the first exponents of the art. Achong was of Chinese origin and played six tests for the West Indies in the 1930s.

You may still hear this term but it’s considered quite derogatory in the present day and is going out of use as a result.

Spin Bowling Types by Direction of the Ball

Off Spin and Leg Spin

When a right arm off spin bowler delivers a ball to a right handed batsman, the intention is to turn that ball from the off stump into the leg stump.

If you have a left handed bowler and / or a left handed batsman, the directions are reversed. Therefore a left arm off spinner will turn the ball from leg stump to off stump when delivering to a right handed batter.

Similarly, a left arm leg spinner will move the ball from off to leg when delivering to a right handed batsman. Find more about the difference between off spin and leg spin in our previous article.


Spin Bowler Types

Clearly there are more categories of bowlers than many of us thought and it’s hard to ‘pigeon hole’ some players into specific brackets. Some may even try to bowl different types of delivery to confuse us even more.

The England batsman Liam Livingstone also bowls spin and he will mix this up between off spin and leg spin. His choice may depend on the pitch conditions or it may just come down to whether there is a left handed or right handed batsman at the crease.

There are even those who bowl right handed and left handed. Ambidextrous cricketers could be the future of the game and there are two – Kamindu Mendis and Shaila Sharmin – who have bowled with both arms at international level.

These instances are rarer but there are main categories that we can put bowlers into and I would suggest the following:

  • Right arm off spin
  • Right arm leg spin
  • Left arm orthodox (off spin)
  • Left arm wrist spin (leg spin)

Within those categories, the bowlers will look to perfect the types of deliveries that we saw at the start of this round up. Back spin, side spin, lateral spin and over spin can all be used by those bowlers to an extent.

In general, those are the main categories that we are looking for but the modern game offers a number of different variations.

Closing Thoughts

If there is any conclusion to draw from this it’s the fact that spin bowlers have to provide something different in the modern day. If we take one of the more successful spinners – India’s R Ashwin – we can see that he likes to vary his run up, his type of delivery and the point of delivery.

Because of this, it’s hard to put bowlers into a specific category but this explains the types of spin bowling that you will most likely see in the modern game. Cricket is an evolving sport and it will be fascinating to see these methods employed, along with any new variations that might appear in the future.