How slow should a slower ball be?

They are slow, but can they be TOO slow.

We call them slower balls, but they're not just slower. In the second semi-final of the WBBL, Mel Jones, Lisa Sthalekar and Julie Price were commentating when Nicola Hancock came on to bowl a leg cutting slower ball.

This ball was slow by Hancock. The replay shows her rolling it out the side of her hand, almost like a legspinner. But the surrounding conversation was what caught my attention, only because you hear it a lot.

Mel Jones asked if the slower ball was too slow.  This is something you hear a bit when a bowler has a really slow slower ball.  Hancock had taken Beaumont with this sluggish nut earlier in the innings. So even with proof that the massive change of pace worked, they were still questioning the speed.

But do the commentators really mean it's too slow, I think what they're really saying is perhaps something slightly different.

So Tymal Mills has what I would think is the biggest, slower ball differential in the world.  I would say that Mills can bowl at 155KMH (he will probably correct me on this) and I have seen his slower ball down at 105KMH. That's a huge variance of nearly 33% less speed. I am not sure if anyone else in the world does that as often.  England have focused a lot on change up pace variation. It was one reason Benny Howell didn't pop out to them originally (other than the fact they believe he's a medium-pacer) is because there's no big difference between his fastest and slowest balls.

That's not a problem with Mills, in the last three years, his economy rate at the death is 8. That is 1.3 runs per over less than other bowlers. To put that in perspective, Dwayne Bravo and Chris Jordan are both at 9.5 an over and higher.

Making him one of the world's best. And he bowls a lot of slower balls at the death. No one tracks the exact numbers, but my guess is his back of the hand slower ball is delivered at least 35% of the time, and I'd assume more.  How often he bowls it is not the only thing that makes it easy to pick, it also comes out of the back of the hand, which most batters notice. So why is Mills really slow ball so hard to hit, it's because there is so much work on the delivery it rises out of the hand, which is frightening from a man of his pace. Then the ball dips massively, before kicking up off the surface. Those three tricks  mean it's more than just slow or easy to pick.

So let's go back to Hancock's slower ball, Hypocaust tells me that Hancock can get to 123KMH, in this match she got to 116 while her legcutter was 85. That means her differential is around 31%.

That is more or less the same differential as Mills. But even to the eye it is clear they are different. That's because the leg cutter slower ball can't dip as much and won't kick as much as the back of the hand slowerball. The revs are on the side of the ball, where the revs on the back of the hand are straight over the top. So what the commentators are really saying isn't that Hancock's speed is too slow, they might be suggesting it's sluggish if the ball isn't doing anything else.

Later Price was on comms again, and she talked about how another bowlers off cutting slower ball was too easy to pick.  Dwayne Bravo's off cutting slower ball is relatively easy to pick, Ben Laughlin's is as obvious as they come.  The reason those two still work is the incredible revs both of them put on the ball. Laughlin's drifts away it is ripping so much, and Bravo's drops violently at the end.

A slower ball is many things.

Slow is good, because if a batter's set for one pace, the lack of speed will throw them off. It helps if they can't pick it, a batter playing for one delivery when another one comes is always good. What the ball does next is also important.

The perfect slower ball would be one that is slower, not picked, dips, bounces and deviates, but that's almost impossible.  Most of the best change up bowlers work with one or two of these as their strength.

Hancock's slower ball is only terrible if she doesn't get much dip, or bite off the wicket, the actual pace of it probably matters less.  But at 85KMH she's practically bowling a spinners delivery. So if it's a well ripped leggie, then if a batter picks the delivery, they still have to recalibrate quickly to a completely different kind of ball. There might be drift, drop, bounce and turn. If it's a rolled slow leg cutter, then she could spend a lot of her time looking back over her shoulder at how far they have gone.

The Beaumont delivery probably didn't need many revs, as Tammy was already down in the premeditated scoop position.  Even if she picked it and it had no revs, this was her only shot option. And trying to scoop someone who's just delivered a spinner is probably never going to work.

In this particular case, too slow was the perfect pace.

The latest Red Inker Podcast is on Liam Plunkett with professional northerner Rory Dollard.