In praise of part-time bowlers

Posted by
2 minute read
David Warner slogs Joe Root to a fielder (BT Sport)

We’ve always loved part-time bowlers. Just as many of our favourite batsmen are tail-enders, so many of our favourite bowlers are occasional fill-ins, such as Gary Ballance, Alastair Cook and James Vince.

Sadly for us, it always feels like England are far more part-timer-averse than the other Test-playing nations. Michael Clarke used to pride himself on leftfield bowling changes, while you always felt that MS Dhoni would bowl pretty much anyone, provided they had at least one arm. England captains generally prefer to rotate the same frontline bowlers until the opposition hit 700.

But part-timers aren’t just about fun; they’re also about disrupting rhythm. We’ve already described this as well as we can in the past, so brace yourselves for a copy and paste.

We play squash. Every now and again, the stars align and both ourself and our opponent have decent fitness and excellent timing and we play the sport like it’s meant to be played. At these times, the rallies drag on.

When things are going really well, we middle the ball every time, play it exactly where we want to, but neither of us can engineer a winner. It becomes a strategic battle, which is very satisfying. However, these points are almost always resolved in exactly the same way: with a mishit.

It’s not that every shot in the rally’s the same. It’s that you get used to the way the ball moves, whether it’s a drive, a drop shot or something played off the side wall. You’re in rhythm. Your body’s moving into the right position long before the ball arrives and it does so with perfect timing.

A mishit plays havoc with this. Your brain simply can’t get to grips with the weird, looping trajectory or the non-angle which brings the ball to the middle of the court.

This is not purely an amateur phenomenon. Facing out-and-out filth is hard when you’re not used to it. Everyone’s vulnerable. We’ve seen AB de Villiers dismissed by a ball that bounced twice before reaching him.

You get good at what you practise, so if there’s one delivery most professional batsmen feel confident facing, it’s an 85mph delivery that would hit the top of off stump.

What they’re far less used to is a stinky 72mph long hop way down the leg-side. They may not get out to it, but the brain can’t quite get all body parts into unfamiliar positions with nanosecond perfect timing.

When a partnership drags on, filth can work. More filth please.


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


Why risk it when it's so easy to sign up?


  1. In the wee small hours of the morning, Daisy did not express this point of yours with the same depth of logic, practical examples and informed opinion.

    But she did express the same point.

    I think she said, “why the hell doesn’t Joe Root bowl himself more often?”

    Was the expletive “hell” or was it “fuck”?

    Anyway, you get the idea. And the Daisy seal of approval. Not bad for a Saturday morning.

    1. Part-timer bowler captains always err on the side of hardly ever bowling themselves. Very annoying.

      1. Annoyingly, as VC in India he bowled himself when Alastair Cook left the field for a comfort break (or getting his batteries replaced), and instantly took a wicket.

        His bowling is actually better than Steve Smith’s, whose entire career started as a chubby blonde legspinner (who as a result has taken Ian Bell’s wicket in ludicrous fashion)

  2. Not only is he England’s all time top run scorer, but Cook has to be one of the filthiest purveyors of filth I’ve seen. And he’s got a bowling average of 7.

    Come on Joe. Give him a trundle.

  3. The thing is, I remember when Vince bowled a little stint last year it causing absolute havoc. At absolute worst, a 3 over spell might go for 20.

    I don’t think I’ve ever endorsed a KC post more

  4. Stevie Wonder also loved Part-Time Bowlers:
    We are batters by day, bowlers by night
    Knowing it’s so wrong, but feeling so right

Comments are closed.