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Benj Moorehead: Paul Harris’s non-spinning art

December 18th, 2009 by Benj Moorehead in England, South Africa, Test cricket


So you have to spin the ball to be a decent spinner, do you? Well, yes, but only occasionally if you go by Paul Harris’s success. Most spinners use the one that goes straight on as a surprise. If it works inversely, as in the case of Harris and as England discovered today, it is mighty effective.

Harris, who is among the top 10-ranked Test bowlers, isn’t easy to admire. He shuffles up to the wicket and then round comes the arm. It’s an action wholly lacking in mystery. Everyone wants a spinner to have a bit of mystery.

Yet his bowling produces wickets. The monotonous action, it turns out, produces a monotonous line and length. He rarely goes for many runs and batsman often get caught when they go after him as Trott and Prior did today.

As a batsman it must be difficult to convince yourself it’s not going to turn, at least not much, when Harris is bowling. The release implies it will. Harris’s bowling arm comes down from an angle which goes against the way he spins, or feigns to spin, the ball.

Ian Bell fell into this trap. A delivery pitched on a perfect line and length turned not a bit.

Very well then, England’s batsman might have thought. He doesn’t spin it, we’ll play him like that from now on.

Then came the mystery ball. It pitched very close to the one that got Bell. Collingwood played. It turned. It turned! Outside edge to Kallis at slip.

That single delivery means England’s batsman cannot be sure of what will happen when a Harris delivery lands. It’s almost certain not to turn. Then again it just might.

It’s all a bit odd, and hardly pretty. But 75 wickets in 25 Tests is no freak. And, as we’ve seen today, he gets out decent batsman – 64% of his Test wickets come from the top six batting positions.

Benj Moorehead is editorial assistant of The Wisden Cricketer

You can find him on Twitter @wisdencric_benj

Posted in England, South Africa, Test cricket |

2 Responses to “Benj Moorehead: Paul Harris’s non-spinning art”

  1.   Cricket Betting Blog says:

    He got quite a lot of the Aussie top order out this time last year as well.

    I used to think he was just a stock bowler who kept things tight and tidy, there to rotate the fast bowlers around.

    I also used to think he is someone you could milk for 4, 5 runs an over without taking any major risks, rather than trying to hit him out of the attack.

    Is he really a decent bolwer who is rightly ranked in the top 10? I don’t know anymore. I used to think the rankings where a joke with him ranked so high.

    It could be that batsmen are a bit slow on the uptake and haven’t worked out the best way to play him yet, and are as a result making his stats look better than he is.

    There seems to be a method with him though, where teams see him as vulnerable and try to get after him. The only problem is that this theory only seems to result in wickets for Harris.

    Whatever his secret is, it seems to be working for him.

  2.   Apoorv Singhal says:

    One of the more under-rated spinners in test cricket today,Harris. Most spinners today are spending nights working on this variation and that, instead of working on their flight trajectories, changes in pace, dip and deviation, aspects which Harris has great control over. Look at Harbhajan. The Aussies couldn’t lay a bat on his spitting offbreaks in 2001. Now he fires the ball in every second delivery.

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