What is a googly?

What is a googly? The origin of the term ‘googly’ is uncertain, but it was first recorded in the early twentieth century, when it was used to describe a type of delivery, or ball bowled, invented by Middlesex and England cricketer of the day, Bernard Bosanquet. Bosanquet was a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1905 and, by that stage of his career, was already well-known to the scribes at the independent cricketers’ almanac as an exponent of a deceptive, off-break delivery, which became known as a ‘googly’.

The stock delivery of a right arm leg break bowler, or right arm leg spinner, is the leg break. For a right-handed batsman, the leg break turns, or ‘breaks’, away from the leg-side to the off-side or, in other words, away from the batsman’s body. An important characteristic of the leg break is that spin is generated by the wrist, rather than the fingers. Thus, by bowling the ball out of the back of the hand, with the wrist at 180º to the ground, the right arm leg break bowler can spin the ball clockwise, rather than anticlockwise. The end result is a delivery that, while apparently bowled with a normal leg break action, breaks away from the off-side to the leg side or, in other words, a ‘googly’.

Deception and infrequency are the keys to the efficacy of the googly. Bowled correctly, the ‘wrong ‘un’ should be indistinguishable from a regular leg-break and, employed sparingly, can bamboozle an unsuspecting batsman by turning in the opposite direction to that expected.