In part 1 of this series we looked at why middle practice is so important and how to deal with the problems of running a middle practice session. Today we are looking at what types of scenarios you can set up, and how to keep them interesting to everybody, even the guy stuck at third man.
1. Reach a target
Everyone has played some version of this game, usually in the nets when you have 6 balls left to hit anything from 10-30 (depending how mean the coach is).
In this version you are out of the net but the principle is the same: To win the game you have to score a set number of runs. The captain sets the field and each pair attempt to make it over the target before time runs out.
Give the batting pairs 3-5 overs to get to the target. If you are pushed for time have a third batsman padded up acting as umpire. If a wicket falls he goes in. If a second wicket falls the attempt is over.
As the batsmen are hitting out, you might want a few spare balls to keep the game going!
2. Set a target
In this scenario you are batting first, so have no set target to reach apart from 'as many runs as possible'. Set the current score and over number and tell the pair they have 3-5 overs to score as many runs as possible to allow for a declaration (or for the death of a limited overs game).
If you are feeling tough you can say once a wicket falls the next pair is in. If you want to make it fairer you can give each pair 1-2 lives, or say a wicket means -4 runs and the pair bat on.
You can also say that the pair must hit 1 boundary in the first over, 2 in the second, 3 in the third and so on until they fail and their innings is over.
To make it interesting, add a competitive element by saying the pair with the most runs wins.
3. Rotate the strike
In this scenario you are in the middle section of the game. Spinners or medium pacers are on, the ball is old and the field is less aggressive. It's the pair's job to rotate the strike and score as many runs as possible without taking too many risks. The fielders have to try and frustrate the batsmen.
You could play it straight and keep it as a pure game situation (100-4 after 30 overs for example, each pair gets 5 overs the pair with the most runs and least wickets wins).
If you want to focus on running rather than boundaries you can ban fours and sixes, telling the batsmen they can only play tip and run. This is great fielding practice too.
Another version of this scenario is to tell the pairs they can bat as long as they like but must score 1 run in the first over, 2 in the second, 3 in the third and so on. If a wicket falls or the target is not reached the attempt is over. Whichever pair gets the most overs is the winner.
4. See off the new ball
Get your opening bowlers to bowl to your top order batsmen with a new ball in this scenario. The aim is to reflect the opening overs of a match.
How you set up this scenario depends on the format you play and the wicket you are on:
- Encourage the openers to be aggressive by telling them they have to hit a boundary every over to stay batting.
- Get the openers to see off the new ball by giving them 2 runs for leaving the ball outside off stump and an extra run for every run scored to a defensive shot.
You can again get players to bat in threes rather than pairs to save time and add pressure by making a wicket mean something.
5. Save the game
The aim here is to simulate an epic rearguard action to draw a match when you are batting last. Although it's not nice to think you will be in this situation, if you play declaration cricket there will be games where it happens. If you are thorough you need to practice it to improve your chances of survival.
Pair a tail-end batter with a more accomplished player and set the situation up where the pair has to bat out the last few overs (usually 3-5). If either player is out, the attempt is over.
Although, if you are feeling generous, you can give a life or have teams of 3.
In all these scenarios, the key to making them work is to make it count for something. It's very easy to drift into 'having a hit', but if you make it competitive with players trying to achieve something over other pairs (or threes) then they will stay focused through the session.
Plus it's a fun way of keeping practice interesting.
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image credit: Wolfram Burner