Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Doctor Spin Presents: Paul Harris

Paul Harris is a left arm orthodox spinner. At the start of his test career he was roundly criticised by all and sundry, with Geoffrey Boycott famously calling him "roobish" on the 2008 tour of England. But his ability to hold up an end for long periods has earned him grudging respect from his opponents and cricket viewers. This reliability allowed Graeme Smith to rotate his strike bowlers at the other end. Although South Africa's bowling arsenal is dominated by the quickies, Harris is the spine of the bowling strategy in test matches between overs 35 and 79.

There's nothing flash about his run up at all. The only vaguely remarkable thing is that as a left arm spinner, he comes off a straight run up from around the wicket to right handers. Most lefties come through and around to RH batsmen. His grip for his stock delivery is conventional and as is the case for most SLA's, it's easily changeable in the gather to deliver an arm ball.

Harris never really extracts Hollywood turn from any surface. The angle of his delivery arm is closer to 45 degrees than next to his ear. This makes the seam travel through the air more along the X axis, resulting in the ball hitting the surface on the leather more often than the seam. Harris loses a lot of mechanical grip off the pitch because of that. He also loses the prospect of topspin (resulting in dip and bounce) and natural drift as a result.

But it ain't really broke, so he shouldn't fix it. What Harris does well is he sets up his gather from side-on, sharply rotating his hip at the point of delivery, resulting in a natural heavy rotation of the front foot.

Harris has found the optimal speed for his bowling over the last 12 months. He's slowed down by about 5kph since he came onto the scene. Consequently we are seeing him toss the ball up more often. This change in flight is very subtle, almost indiscernible, but very effective. His control of his variation is exceptional. The Aussies targeted him as the weak link in the bowling lineup and many of them were perished when they were well settled at the crease. There aren't many long hops or full tosses in a Paul Harris spell, resulting in batsmen having to manufacture boundary scoring opportunities. In test matches, a bowler would come out on top in this scenario more often than not.

Harris delivers the ball from very wide in the crease. He's not the biggest turner in the world, but getting closer to the stumps will result in the perception of more turn, because of a more wicket-to-wicket angle. This perception of more turn could create doubt in the mind of the batsman.

I would like to see him get closer to the stumps on occasion as another variation. If Harris wants to turn the ball more, I would have him learn to bowl through and around the wicket, and get his left arm closer to his ear to encourage more overspin. The rotation of his hips, together with the angle and momentum of his run up would result in more revolutions on the ball through the air. This remodeling would take about a year, and I don't think the juice is worth the squeeze.


Sean on August 19, 2009 at 7:23 PM said...

Roscoe this does not seem to be you normal writing style why the sudden change.

Darren Buser on August 19, 2009 at 9:26 PM said...

He can be serious when the mood strikes and does know a lot about spin bowling. Even though I cart him to all corners on a regular basis.

Roscoe on August 20, 2009 at 2:08 AM said...

I've decided to take the site in a new direction. from now on there will be only science! Serious is the new funny.

Anonymous said...

We had the joy of having Harris play at Warwickshire a few years back and he did alright. Four 5 wicket hauls in 8 first-class matches coupled with a good list A record wasn't a bad return. He was however replacing Vettori as our overseas player so i wasn't entirely happy.

Apparently though, Harris still wouldn't be able to get the wicket of Geoffrey Boycott's mom (who from the sounds of it is the greatest cricketer never to actually play a cricket match. Poor woman, i hate wasted potential.)


Shaun Custers on August 24, 2009 at 2:51 PM said...

Hey Roscoe,

Nice post, I agree Harris has the potential to become a great spin bowler. Roelof van der Merwe is starting to compete for a test spot, so I don't think you'll see Harris change his action to much.

Remember Harris took a career best 5 for 27 in the MTN Championship to help the Titans win it two years in a row.

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