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Cricket bowling styles: Off spin or off break

Updated on June 23, 2011
The off spin grip
The off spin grip

In cricket, there are basically three types of spin; finger spin, wrist spin, and a third style known as carom ball bowling. Off-spin is a type of finger spin.

An off-break delivery is so-called because it turns from the off-stump to the leg-stump of a right handed batsman. An off-spinner uses variations in turn, bounce, flight and pace to outfox batsmen.

Unlike wrist spin, off-spin is easier to control since the majority of the turn comes through the fingers. However, there is minimal wrist action involved, unless you are Muttiah Muralitharan. The former Sri Lanka off-spinner was able to use a combination of wrist, finger and a unique shoulder movement to turn the ball almost square on any pitch.

Off-spinners are thought to be less difficult to face than wrist spinners because they extract less turn and have fewer variations. In addition, the bowling action makes it easier for the batsmen to see the grip of the ball and pick deliveries.

However, off-spinners generally bowl quicker than wrist spinners and can use variations in pace to deceive batsmen. Since the off-break moves away from a left-handed batsman, the off-spinner usually poses a greater threat to those batsmen, since the ball turning away is likelier to induce misjudgement.

Muttiah Muralitharan

An off-break bowler must have the following characteristics:

  • Must bowl right-handed
  • Must use finger spin

As such, left-handed finger spinner is known as a slow left arm orthodox bowler. Some of the greatest exponents of this craft are Saqlain Mushtaq (Pakistan), Muttiah Muralitharan (Sri Lanka) and Harbhajan Singh (India). These bowlers have significant variations to the standard off-break, such as the arm ball and doosra.

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Arm ball

The arm ball is a faster delivery that is bowled by running the fingers against the side of the ball as opposed to over the seam. The arm ball usually goes straight and is appreciably faster than the standard off-break. It is designed to either surprise batsmen with pace or trap batsmen who are playing for turn; sometimes it does both.


The doosra is the off-spinner’s equivalent of the “googly.” It turns the “wrong way.” It is a controversial delivery since it is difficult to bowl without straightening the arm. Since throwing is not permitted in cricket, bowlers who bowl the doosra often find the bowling action for that delivery being scrutinized. The “doosra” turns from leg-stump to off-stump and is still bowled with an off-break action.


The most successful off-spinner in the history of cricket is Muttiah Muralitharan. He is the first and only man to scalp 800 Test wickets and only one of two men to take more than 500 ODI wickets and more than 1000 international wickets (Test and ODIs). Off-spin bowling continues to pose a threat in international cricket and has even been surprisingly successful in limited-over formats.

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    6 years ago from Southern England

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