Leg spin

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A leg spin or leg break delivery bowled from over the wicket.
A leg spin or leg break delivery bowled from around the wicket.

Leg spin is a type of spin bowling in cricket. A leg spinner bowls right-arm with a wrist spin action. The leg spinner's normal delivery causes the ball to spin from right to left (from the bowler's perspective) when the ball bounces on the pitch. For a right-handed batter, that is away from the leg side, and this is where it gets the name leg break.[1]

Leg spinners bowl mostly leg breaks, varying them by adjusting the line and length, and amount of side spin versus topspin of the deliveries. Leg spinners also typically use variations of flight by sometimes looping the ball in the air, allowing any cross-breeze and the aerodynamic effects of the spinning ball to cause the ball to dip and drift before bouncing and spinning or "turning", sharply. Leg spinners also bowl other types of delivery, which spin differently, such as the googly.

The terms 'leg spin', 'leg spinner', 'leg break' and 'leggie' are used in slightly different ways by different sources.

The bowlers with the second- and fourth-highest number of wickets in the history of Test cricket, Shane Warne and Anil Kumble, respectively, were leg spinners.[2] One famous example of leg spin is Warne's Ball of the Century.


In the 1970s and 1980s, it was thought that leg spin would disappear from the game due to the success of West Indian, and later Australian teams, exclusively using fast bowlers. During this time Abdul Qadir of Pakistan was the highest-profile leg spinner in the world and is sometimes credited with "keeping the art alive".[3][4] However, leg spin has again become popular with cricket fans and a successful part of cricket teams, driven largely by the success of Shane Warne, beginning with his spectacular Ball of the Century to Mike Gatting in 1993.

Comparison with other types of bowling[edit]

A left-handed bowler who bowls with the same (wrist spin) action as a leg spinner is known as a left-arm unorthodox spin bowler. The ball itself spins in the opposite direction.

The same kind of trajectory, which spins from right to left on pitching, when performed by a left-arm bowler is known as left-arm orthodox spin bowling.[5][6]

As with all spinners, leg spinners bowl the ball far more slowly (70–90 km/h or 45–55 mph) than fast bowlers. The fastest leg spinners will sometimes top 100 km/h (60 mph). While very difficult to bowl accurately, good leg spin is considered one of the most threatening types of bowling to bat against for a right-handed batter, since the flight and sharp turn make the ball's movement extremely hard to read, and the turn away from the right-handed batter is more dangerous than the turn into the right-handed batter generated by an off spinner. Any miscalculation can result in an outside edge off the bat and a catch going to the wicket-keeper or slip fielders. Alternatively, for a ball aimed outside the leg stump, the breaking may be so sharp that the ball goes behind a right-handed batter and hits the stumps – the batter is then said (informally) to be "bowled around his or her legs". A left-handed batter has less difficulty facing leg spin bowling, because the ball moves in towards the batter's body, meaning the batter's legs are usually in the path of the ball if it misses the bat or takes an edge. This makes it difficult for the bowler to get the batter out bowled or caught from a leg break.

Leg spin: Some sources make the term 'leg spin' synonymous with leg break,[7][8][9] implying that other deliveries bowled by a leg spinner do not count as 'leg spin'. However, other sources use the term 'leg spin' more widely, to include all deliveries bowled by a leg spinner, including non-leg break deliveries.[10][11][12]

Mason Crane bowling a leg break during the 2017–18 Ashes series

Leg break: In the definition of a leg break, some sources actually include the bowler being a leg spinner,[13][14][15] which implies that only leg spinners can bowl leg breaks; all leg breaks are bowled by leg spinners. Other sources do not include the bowler being a leg spinner in the definition of a leg break, and say a leg break is simply a delivery that spins from the legside to the offside,[16][17][18] and so can also be bowled by other types of bowler.[19][20][21][22] In this case, leg breaks are (only) mostly bowled by leg spinners.[23]

Leg spinner: The term leg spinner can be used to mean either the bowler[24][25] or the leg break delivery.[26][27]

Leggie: The term leggie can also be used to mean either the bowler[28] or the leg break delivery.[29]


A leg break is bowled by holding the cricket ball in the palm of the hand with the seam running across under all the fingers. As the ball is released, the wrist is rotated to the left and the ball flicked by the ring finger, giving the ball an anti-clockwise spin as seen from behind.

To grip the ball for a leg-spinning delivery, the ball is placed into the palm with the seam parallel to the palm. The first two fingers then spread and grip the ball, and the third and fourth fingers close together and rest against the side of the ball. The first bend of the third finger should grasp the seam. The thumb resting against the side is up to the bowler but should impart no pressure. When the ball is bowled, the third finger will apply most of the spin. The wrist is cocked as it comes down by the hip, and the wrist moves sharply from right to left as the ball is released, adding more spin. The ball is tossed up to provide flight. The batter will see the hand with the palm facing towards them when the ball is released.

Notable leg spin bowlers[edit]

Shane Warne bowling a leg spin delivery

Players listed below have been included as they meet specific criteria which the general cricketing public would recognise as having achieved significant success in the art of leg spin bowling. For example: leading wicket-takers, and inventors of new deliveries.

Other deliveries bowled by leg spin bowlers[edit]

Highly skilled leg spin bowlers are also able to bowl deliveries that behave unexpectedly, including the googly, which turns the opposite way to a normal leg break and the topspinner, which does not turn but dips sharply and bounces higher than other deliveries. A few leg spinners such as Abdul Qadir, Anil Kumble, Shane Warne and Mushtaq Ahmed have also mastered the flipper, a delivery that like a topspinner goes straight on landing, but floats through the air before skidding and keeping low, often dismissing batters leg before wicket or bowled. Another variation in the arsenal of some leg spinners is the slider, a leg break pushed out of the hand somewhat faster, so that it does not spin as much, but travels more straight on.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Science of Spin Bowling: Basics of a Leg Break". Cricbuzz. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  2. ^ "Records / Test matches / Bowling records / Most wickets in career". ESPNcricinfo. Retrieved 28 July 2020.
  3. ^ Abdul Qadir, player profile Scyld Berry et al., Cricinfo, 1998 and November 2008.
  4. ^ Farewell to Shane Warne as cricket's great teaser bowls his final ball Mike Selvey, The Guardian, 19 May 2011.
  5. ^ "How to bowl leg spin". BBC. 23 August 2005. Retrieved 17 May 2019.
  6. ^ "Learn to bowl leg spin". BBC. 30 October 2003. Retrieved 17 May 2019.
  7. ^ "ESPN glossary of cricket terms". ESPN. 17 April 2007. Retrieved 11 July 2020. Leg-break/spin - When the ball pitches and turns from leg to off for a right-hander.
  8. ^ "Spin". BBC. 23 August 2005. Retrieved 11 July 2020. Leg spin involves turning a ball off the pitch from the leg-side of a right-handed batter, to the off-side.
  9. ^ "Leg-spin". The West Yorkshire Cricket website. Archived from the original on 23 July 2020. Retrieved 23 July 2020. Leg spin involves turning a ball off the pitch from the leg-side of a right-handed batter, to the off-side.
  10. ^ "Bowling leg-spin with Adil Rashid". wisden.com. 31 January 2020. Retrieved 11 July 2020. I've got four deliveries: the leg-break, the top-spinner, the googly (also known as the wrong'un) and the slider. Which deliveries the bowler bowls depends on the situation on the ball and the pitch.
  11. ^ "R Ashwin, now a legspinner too?". ESPN. 23 December 2017. Retrieved 25 July 2020. The ESPNcricinfo style sheet makes a fine distinction between legbreak and legspin. Legbreak is a delivery, legspin is an art form of which legbreak is a part. Legbreak is a delivery that turns away from a right-hand batter, legspin is the whole set: legbreaks, wrong'uns, topspinners, sliders, flippers; zooters, if you believe Shane Warne.
  12. ^ "Shane Warne Masterclass: Australia great talks leg-spin in The Zone". skysports.com. 12 June 2016. Retrieved 23 July 2020. Shane Warne lit up a drizzly Lord's when he entered The Zone to deliver a masterclass on the art of leg spin... Warne went into huge detail on the pace leg-spinners should bowl at and when to bowl your variations, including the wrong 'un and flipper.
  13. ^ "Leg-break". yourdictionary.com. Retrieved 23 July 2020. (cricket) a normal ball bowled by a leg spin bowler, moving from leg to off (for a right-handed batter).
  14. ^ "Glossary of Cricket terms". 888sport.com. Retrieved 23 July 2020. Leg break - A spin bowling delivery bowled by a leg spinner that turns from the leg side to the offside of a right-handed batter.
  15. ^ "Leg Break". definitions.net. Retrieved 25 July 2020. leg break (Noun) a normal ball bowled by a leg spin bowler, moving from leg to off (for a right-handed batter).
  16. ^ "Leg-break". dictionary.com. Retrieved 23 July 2020. a ball deviating to the off side from the leg side when bowled.
  17. ^ "Leg break". Collins. Retrieved 23 July 2020. a bowled ball that spins from leg to off on pitching.
  18. ^ "Leg-break". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 23 July 2020. a bowled ball in cricket that breaks from the leg side to the off side.
  19. ^ "Dananjaya – the offspinner picking wickets with leg-breaks and googlies". ICC. 25 August 2017. Retrieved 23 July 2020. When asked about what sort of a bowler he was, Dananjaya's response was: "I am an offspinner. My wicket-taking balls are leg-spin and the googly."
  20. ^ "Sonny Ramadhin: A self-taught bowler of remarkable merit – Almanack". Wisden. 9 May 2020. Retrieved 25 July 2020. His orthodox attack was the off-break... His variations, which kept the batsmen on tenterhooks, were the leg-break and plain straight ball.
  21. ^ "Off-spinner with leg-breaks is like a multi-lingual: Sachin Tendulkar". economictimes. 24 April 2018. Retrieved 25 July 2020. An off-spinner who can bowl leg-breaks is like a multi-lingual, said Sachin Tendulkar.
  22. ^ "Ashwin set to bowl leggies in IPL". cricket.com.au. 7 February 2018. Retrieved 23 July 2020. I am just trying to build my armoury," Ashwin said after bowling leggies in a domestic 50-over match in Chennai on Monday. "I used to bowl good leg-breaks with my off-spin action when I was playing league cricket in Chennai.
  23. ^ "Leg Break". sportspundit.com. Retrieved 25 July 2020. A leg break is a kind of delivery bowled usually by leg spinners.
  24. ^ "How does a leg-spinner get a stress fracture?". Wisden. 20 May 2020. Retrieved 7 August 2020. Mason Crane, the Hampshire leg-spinner
  25. ^ "The Cricket World Cup's greatest leg-spinners". ICC. 30 September 2018. Retrieved 7 August 2020. we look back at the top leg-spinners to have graced the ICC Cricket World Cup
  26. ^ "England And The Leg-Spinner: A Terribly Awkward Romance". Wisden. 10 June 2014. Retrieved 7 August 2020. Then there was Eric Hollies. Doing Bradman with a googly was no fluke; the week before he'd bowled him with a regulation leg-spinner but noticed The Don couldn't pick the wrong 'un.
  27. ^ "Learn Warne's five spin deliveries". BBC. 2 August 2005. Retrieved 7 August 2020. Leg-spinners have five different balls in their armoury: Leg-spinner Top-spinner Googly Slider Flipper
  28. ^ "Ben Stokes the hero again as England secure thrilling last-gasp Test victory in Cape Town to level South Africa series". Daily Telegraph. 7 January 2020. Archived from the original on 11 January 2022. Retrieved 8 January 2020. Well that wasn't the way I expected him to pick up the wicket, but that's why you throw the ball to your leggie.
  29. ^ "The doosra ain't the only game in town". ESPN. 27 February 2017. Retrieved 26 July 2020. And indeed, I never bowled another leggie in international cricket... Having bowled offies and leggies as a kid.
  30. ^ "Wisden – Five cricketers of the century". Cricinfo. 23 October 2008.
  31. ^ "Tich Freeman profile and biography". Cricinfo. Retrieved 23 October 2021.

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