Line and length are two phrases used commonly together in cricket. It refers to the bowler’s ability to bowl an effective delivery. A previous article has already explained the importance of line in cricket.
While line dictates the direction of the ball, length helps in understanding the height of the ball after pitching. There are three lengths that a bowler can bowl in cricket – short, good and full.
A short pitched delivery usually bounces above or in line with the shoulder of the batter. Such a bowl is often called a bouncer. It requires a lot of skill to bowl a bouncer as there is very little margin that separates a legal bouncer with a wide ball. A bowler can bowl one legal bouncer over the batter’s shoulder. Bowling a second bouncer in the same over will be considered a no ball and the batting side is awarded a free run and a free hit.
A good length deliver is considered to be an ideal delivery in many ways. The ball pitches somewhere in the centre of the pitch and batters are often cautious before determining where a bowl may travel after it pitches in that area.
A full length delivery is bowled near the batter’s legs. This delivery can be both lethal or a gift for the batter. A bowl that pitches exactly near the toes of the batter is called a yorker. Such a bowl when executed perfectly is very difficult to dig out. However, when bowled in line of the off stump, the batter might feel the ball is in his slot and it usually results in a lot of runs.
Bowling full lengths in the early overs can be tricky for the batter as the bowl swings during this phase of the innings.
Bowling full lengths in the death overs can be beneficial in restricting the flow of runs. However, mistiming the release of the ball is common and the batter might receive an over pitched or a full tossed ball that is easy to hit. Moreover, it may also get directed over the waist of the batter resulting in a no ball.
Controlling the line and length depending on the conditions, stage of the innings and the skill of the batter thus plays an important role in how the game progresses.