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What Is a ‘Yorker’ in Cricket?

By CricketersChoice Editors

In cricket, a commonly used term is the ‘yorker’. To cricket fans, commentators, professionals and amateurs the yorker is a familiar description for a specific type of delivery that has woven itself into the history of the game. 

The yorker is exclusively part of the bowler’s armoury in cricket – something that can be used to devastating effect and a type of delivery that often causes problems for the batsman. When executed well, the yorker is unplayable, and it is one of the most pleasing sites for spectators, with stumps, bails and batsmen’s footwork often flying in different directions. 

But what is the yorker? Why is it different from all other types of delivery in cricket? And how do you bowl a yorker? We take a look at the history of the yorker and explain why it is such a popular part of cricket.

What Is a Yorker in Cricket? 

In cricket, when the bowler delivers the ball towards the batsman, all different lengths of delivery have a certain name. For example, if the ball is pitched at a short length, causing it to bounce and rise around the batsman’s chest, neck or head area, it’s called a ‘bouncer’. If the ball bounces around midway on the pitch and finishes by the batsman’s hip, it’s usually considered a full-length delivery. 

However, the yorker is longer than a full length. Typically, on a full-sized crease, the ball must bounce anywhere two metres from the batsman to just before the stumps to be considered a yorker.

This is why the yorker is one of the most difficult deliveries to play for a batsman – they have so little time to react from when the ball pitches (particularly challenging when the ball measures 80-90 mph after leaving the bowler’s hand!)

Most professional players will bowl a variety of deliveries on purpose throughout their spell (except for a full toss, which is usually accidental). This gives the bowler a chance to either tempt the batsman into playing a shot or to aim at the stumps. When looking back on a bowler’s spell, it’s common to see the majority of deliveries pitching either full or at yorker length.

What Is the Difference Between a Yorker and a Full Toss?

Another bowling delivery is the full toss. A full toss is a delivery that doesn’t bounce before it gets to the batsman. This can be at any height, from the batsman’s toe to the top of their head, as long as the ball is airborne once it is hit, it’s classed as a full toss. Often, a high full toss is classed as a ‘no-ball’. 

Therefore, the difference between a yorker and a full toss is that a yorker bounces just before reaching the batsman or the stumps, while a full toss does not. 

Full toss deliveries are regarded as one of the easiest deliveries for a batsman to hit in cricket, almost the same as a baseball player taking a free swing at a bad pitch. Yorkers, on the other hand, are more difficult to play as the pitch of the delivery can cause the ball to react differently.

What Is an in-Swinging or Out-Swinging Yorker?

Both inswinging and out-swinging deliveries are common in cricket. Some of the world’s best bowlers can swing the ball both ways, at pace, which can be a devastating tool. 

While inswinging and out-swinging deliveries are more commonly bowled at a full-length, these types of delivery can also be bowled at a fuller length, known as in-swinging or out-swinging yorkers.

Although swing is difficult to play for a batsman at any length, the swing on a yorker can be particularly unpredictable due to the short length of travel from the bounce the stumps or batsman. 

The amount of ball swing is also dependant on the conditions of the pitch. Team captains and cricket commentators often head out to inspect the pitch before a match and determine whether it favours the batting or the fielding side. A pitch with more grass and more moisture will benefit the bowlers, as the ball will react more on these surfaces. By comparison, the dryer and harder pitches are more beneficial to the batting side as deliveries will come with less movement. 

How to Bowl a Yorker in Cricket

For budding cricket players, the yorker is one of the most difficult deliveries to perfect. Releasing the ball too early from your grip, and with too much pace, will cause a full toss, while a late release with too much speed will lead to a bouncer. 

Here are a few simple steps to practice when trying to perfect the yorker:

  1. The grip is important. A player’s thumb should be underneath the ball but the index and middle finger should be placed on top of the ball. 
  2. A good length run-up. Player’s will usually mark out their run-up based on the number of paces they prefer, which helps with their rhythm as they approach the crease. To bowl a fast yorker, bowlers need to generate enough speed from a longer run-up.
  3. Take aim. When running up, focus on where the ball should pitch and finish, a key area for the yorker would be in line with the stumps, to bounce the ball just before the batsman’s feet. When practising in the nets, using flat markers provides a good, visual surface area to focus on. 

Release and power. Driving the ball with the shoulder helps to generate enough power but release time is important too as you want to get the most power as your arm is just approaching the downswing. Practice makes perfect! Particularly for a refined skill like bowling a yorker. For further expert tips, check out one of the world’s best at bowling the yorker, Australia’s Mitchel Starc, who gave his best advice on bowling yorkers to Cricket Australia.

Who Invented the Yorker Ball in Cricket?

The origins of the word ‘yorker’ cannot be verified entirely, as history suggests it came from a few different words or phrases in the 19th century.

However, one certain fact about the yorker is that it originated from the English northwestern county of Yorkshire. Below are two of the most valid origins of the term ‘yorker’.

  1. Opposition players invented the term to describe how players from the English city of York bowled at them, which would have been full and fast. 
  2. The term ‘york’ was a slang word used by Yorkshire residents to mean quick-witted in the late 19th and early 20th century (just as cricket was growing in popularity around the world.) But the meaning of ‘yorker’ evolved to mean that someone had been cheated or swindled. 

It is likely that the deceptive nature of the delivery was first described as a ‘yorker’ by players from Yorkshire. However, the full and fast delivery was more than likely used in cricket matches elsewhere in different countries before it was widely referred to as the ‘yorker’ in modern cricket. 

Who Is the World’s Best Yorker Bowler?

In world cricket, several exceptional bowlers would stake their claim as the best yorker bowlers ever.

Balancing the raw power and precision needed for a yorker is hard enough as a one-off, but some of these international pros could produce yorker after yorker on some of the biggest stages in world cricket.

  • Waqar Younis (Pakistan): Waqar Younis is regarded as one of the greatest ever pace bowlers in the history of cricket. With an unplayable knack of swinging the ball late at devastating speed, nobody knew how to bat against Younis when he was at his peak. Younis famously bowled at the batsman’s feet, rather than mixing short and full deliveries, making him the greatest, most consistent yorker bowler ever.
  • Lasith Malinga (Sri Lanka): Lasith Malinga is regarded as an emphatic yorker bowler, capable of wrong-footing batsman on queue and providing some of the best yorkers in history. For a period, he was also known as ‘Slinga Malinga’ because of his unusual bowling technique, considered more like a throw rather than a traditional fast bowler’s delivery.
  • Wasim Akram (Pakistan): Wasim Akram is also referred to as the ‘Sultan of Swing’ and many believe he is the best left-arm quick bowler ever to play cricket. With the ability to vary his bowling speed at will, and to swing the ball in and out with exceptional accuracy, Akram could wrong-foot any batsman with his yorkers.
  • Brett Lee (Australia): Bret Lee is one of the fastest bowlers ever to play the game. Lee played cricket on the edge, regularly displaying raw aggression, intimidation and grit, which reflected in the sheer pace of his bowling. But, Lee’s controlled aggression, balanced with an amazing ability to reverse swing his yorkers, meant he was a nightmare for opposition batsman to face.
  • Curtly Ambrose (West Indies): Quick bowler Curtly Ambrose was consistently quick and precise. Although the 6ft 7 giant was capable of intimidating the greatest batsman with rapid bounders, Ambrose often displayed more finesse to his game than he gets credit for, dismissing some of the world’s greats with pure pace and subtle ball movement on his yorkers. 

What Is the Best Yorker in Cricket History?

Yorkers are usually admired by all who play or watch the game. From the bowler to the spectators, to the batsman who was dismissed, everyone who appreciates cricket loves to watch a perfect yorker uprooting and cracking into the stumps.

There are some notable mentions for the best yorker ever in cricket. Jasprit Bumrah’s dismissal of West Indes batsman Chris Gayle in the 2016 Twenty 20 World Cup semi-final was unplayable. Kemar Roach, a former West Indes quick bowler, once produce a yorker so quick that Zimbabwe batsman Vuzimusi Sibanda broke his bat in two trying to defend the delivery.

But, head and shoulders above the rest, for pure speed, precision, swing and elegance was Sane Bond’s delivery to Darren Ganga in an ODI match between New Zealand and the West Indies in 2006. The approach, the timing, the swing and Ganga’s resignation on the floor after nearly all three of his stumps had been knocked over give Bond the title of perfect yorker!

Conclusion

The fuller than full-length delivery that is the yorker has provided cricket with some of its greatest moments. The sight of batsman scrambling to adjust their feet while they are dismissed is a delight for all. 

A good quality yorker is one of the reasons why cricket fans spend hours and days committing to watching a match of cricket – it is one of the most admired sights and pieces of technical skills admired universally within the game.