The science of spin bowling

With the 2013 Ashes series underway, England’s spin bowlers might be interested in the findings of a pair of physicists who have picked apart the physics behind spinning cricket balls.

16th July 2013

With the 2013 Ashes series underway, England’s spin bowlers might be interested in the findings of a pair of Australian physicists who have picked apart the physics behind spinning cricket balls.

Brothers Garry and Ian Robinson have come up with a set of equations to describe how a spinning ball is affected by the wind as it moves through the air.

Their equations, which also take into account the speed of the ball, gravity, air resistance, and a lifting force called the 'Magnus effect', show that the wind can have a large effect on the ball's movement. A crosswind, for instance, can cause the ball to dip or 'hold up', depending on the direction of both the wind and the ball's spin.

When the spinning ball interacts with a 14km/h crosswind, for example, the point at which it hits the ground can change by about 14cm – enough to bamboozle a batsman.

So if the English spin bowlers want to take some wickets, they may be hoping for some blustery conditions during the five-test series.

The mathematically minded among you can read the full paper here.

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