This article is part of the “How to Improve Your Batting Shot Selection” series. To see the full list of shots click here.
In 2002 Michael Vaughan was in imperious form and it was a pull shot that set the tone.
During the Ashes in Australia that year he seemed invincible. On his way to 177 in the 2nd Test he got a ball from Glenn McGrath that was just back of a length. It was a perfectly reasonable delivery that in a Test match should have been defended.
He was in such good nick he stepped back and dismissed it through midwicket for 4.
That’s the power of the pull shot: It makes bowlers hang their heads and makes batsmen seem like giants.
It crushes the soul and spirit of a fielding team.
But it can also make you look foolish, so choose your weapon carefully. After all, you are not Michael Vaughan.
Easy money: Long hop
As every schoolboy (in 1955) knows, the pull shot is played to a long hop: a ball slow, short and inaccurate enough to give you time to step back and strike it across the line.
It’s easiest and safest to play to a ball on a leg stump line (or just outside), but it can be played safely on bouncier pitches to balls that are straighter.
With the ball bouncing up to hip height you can let bottom hand instinct kick in.
Room for creativity
Due to the shot being instinctive and rarely coached beyond the basics, the pull shot has a lot of variety between batsmen.
That means you have a pick of styles to use depending on the conditions.
First the slow pulls, that are played on slower pitches or against slow medium or spin bowling.
- Orthodox pull: Played to slow bowling; you have time to get deep in your crease and transfer your weight, hitting the ball out in front of you and through midwicket. It’s the best technique for safe hitting but is not used against quicker bowling.
- Front foot pull: Coached in the old days to kids as a way of playing a slow full toss, Twenty20 and true pitches have brought it back to higher levels. It’s a riskier shot that can only be played to medium paced bowling on a reliable pitch but is a useful death option. You can pull off the front foot when the ball has not enough pace and the length is orthodox: higher rick but rewarded with a boundary.
These are most useful at junior levels where the pitches and bowling are slow. However, they are just as effective at high levels with the front foot pull being used in top level international cricket at the death.
The fast pulls are more commonly seen at high levels where the bowling is quicker and the pitches faster and bouncier. When the batsman is more confident the ball will bounce over the stumps he can get the quick-fire pulls out.
- Lara pull: Played with one leg in the air, the shot allows you to pull the ball against quicker bowlers because you are only using your upper body in the shot.
- Ponting pull: This is now the most popular method of pulling in modern cricket. Rather than stepping back and across the batsman rocks his weight back and leans in when hitting the ball. It’s the defining shot of Ricky Ponting’s career. It’s majestic.
You can also use these shots to much fuller balls that you would the slow pulls.
So when considering the pull, look at the pitch and bowling first, decide what the best shot is for the situation and stick to your choice. Then you can let instinct kick in when the right ball arrives.
It will make you that little bit more like Ponting, Lara or Vaughan at the height of their powers.