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FOR SOMETIME at BOLA HQ we have been aware that our machines are not being used to their full potential in some quarters. Many experienced cricketers and coaches express surprise when informed that the BOLA machine can deliver a variety of spinning deliveries. This article is an attempt to rectify that situation.

Our first point of call is to Gloucestershire C.C.C. where Andy Stovold is Director of Cricket Development. “Some of the best sessions that you can have with a machine are bowling spin - which can be lots of fun,” says Andy. “The machine can give you any delivery you want and largely reflect the wit of the coach who is using it. He has to do a little work to sort out the angles, trajectory and speed to produce realistic spin but it is well worth the effort.”

The BOLA machine produces a ball that swings in the air in the same plane as it spins off the pitch (see box for machine set-up details). Different surfaces offer varied amounts of grip on the ball and result in more or less spin. Coaches have to experiment with the surfaces available to them and there is always the possibility of introducing mats for spin sessions.

“Balls of different ages will come out of the machine slightly differently and introduce the variety that helps to make a spin session realistic,” said Andy.

David Houghton, the former Zimbabwe captain who has coached Worcestershire, Derbyshire and Zimbabwe uses the Machine to coach spin. “We obviously coach people to play with the spin and to use their feet. If someone is reluctant to come down the pitch then it is no good trying to coach him to do so. You have to concentrate on teaching them to sweep because that is their only other option in playing spin. The machine is really good for coaching the sweep because the ball bounces relatively high.”

Mark Davis, ex-Somerset all-rounder and cricket professional at Millfield School in Somerset, teaches the sweep to his pupils using the Machine. “I agree that the best way to play spin is by using your feet and hitting down the wicket but on pitches that are offering a lot of turn the sweep has to be considered.”

“I deliver the balls at relatively slow speeds and coach the batsmen to adopt a stable base before attempting to sweep,” explains Mark. “The bat should be swept from a high position to a low one in order to keep the ball down.”

“It is important that the batter does not overstretch their front leg when sweeping because this will limit their reach. The front knee should be bent and the players weight should be forward, not back, and their eyes over the front foot.”

The delivery head of this machine has been angled to the right and the speed bias set to its left hand maximum. The consequent delivery will spin from leg to off upon pitching. The ball will also move in the same direction in the air.
The delivery head of this machine has been angled to the left and the speed bias set to its right hand maximum. The consequent delivery will spin from off to leg upon pitching. The ball will also move in the same direction in the air.
Coaches should experiment with trajectories and positions on the crease. Speeds should start at around 35 mph.