James Taylor was one of the country’s finest players of spin and one of the county game’s most complete limited-overs batsmen. Here he provides some clear and simple guidelines on how to play spin.
Playing spin is about having areas of the ground that you’re trying to access. Facing any spin bowler, you should try to have in your mind a first, second and third scoring option. As long as you know exactly where you want to try and hit the bowler and you break it down like that, playing spin becomes a lot easier.
Here’s what I look to do to an off-spinner. This isn’t a specific plan for everyone but shows how having a plan makes the task as simple as possible.
OPTION 1: DOWN THE GROUND
Facing an off-spinner I’m thinking I’m going to hit him to long-on every ball. This means it’s important to pick the length up quickly. So as soon as the ball goes up above my eyeline I’m looking to get down the track and hit it down the ground. That also means it’s important to be really quick on your feet.
OPTION 2: SQUARE OF THE WICKET OFF THE BACK FOOT
Although I’m generally looking to hit to long-on, if it’s dragged a little bit shorter I can push off my front foot and hit the ball square on the back foot. Usually that means pulling him just in front of the square-leg umpire.
OPTION 3: DRIVING THROUGH COVER
While I might score mainly with my first and second options when the ball is either up above the eyeline or dragged down, if the bowler goes full and wide – which he might if I’m scoring freely in other areas – I can then look to drive him through extra-cover.
ADAPTING TO THE FIELD
- You’ve always got to have your single options, your two options and then your boundary options. Try to know exactly where you’re looking to get each of those. My boundary options are very different to where I would hit a single.
- It sounds simple but obviously you’re looking to hit boundaries where there’s no fielder, so if mid-off is up, I’ll try to hit the off-spinner over mid-off for four. It’s better not to have to go over the top of a guy on the fence all the time. The fielders on the boundary are the good places to get your singles and twos.
- Rotating the strike is a massive thing. You don’t have to be whacking it out of the ground every time. Singles might frustrate the bowler into bowling into a different area, which might in turn bring about a boundary ball.