We have all been there; the nagging bowler who doesn't give you anything to hit, and just keeps plonking the ball on a length.
Time after time, while the runs dry up.
You fear being called too defensive, so you try hitting it and end up caught. Your game ruined.
What can you do?
It's simpler than you think, it just takes a little practice.
You see, you don't have to either block or day, or play some crazy shot. You just need to work on changing the ball yourself.
If the bowler is going to put the ball in the same place, you can do the leg work. Change position and turn a length ball into anything you like.
Your options are:
- Come down the wicket.
- Go deep in your crease.
- Step to the off side.
- Step to the leg side.
Each option changes a good length ball on off stump:
- A half volley to front foot drive.
- Back of a length to drive, cut or pull.
- "Leg stump" length ball to flick off the hip
- Wide length ball to drive on the up.
The real trick - as you have already worked out - is to play the ball as you would normally play it. The ball you have made into to a leg side length ball can be knocked off the hip for a single. Easy. You are not making a huge swing, you are still playing safe cricket shots, its just that you are scoring from them.
Even in dire batting situations, this is an effective tactic. Let's face it, if you are 50-5 and you stroll down the wicket to drive you can't do worse. You are far more likely to put him off his length so you can play from your orthodox position again.
It's bold. It's cheeky. It's safe. It's effective.
Level up the cheek
In fact, you can take thing up a level by combining two of the options.
If you need to score quicker than normal you can, for example, walk down the wicket and step to the off side at the same time. You make the length ball into a leg stump half volley, then you hit it over mid on for a boundary.
You might look something like this:
First, how cheeky is that? The bowler will be fuming.
Second, how safe is it? Let's think about it. You have made the ball into one of the easiest to hit. You have aimed to hit it into a gap roughly 25m deep and 40 wide (think how much space there is behind the fielders). I reckon you can do that more often than you can't. So, yes, it's super-safe.
Don't try without practice
Before you go and try it, there is one proviso.
Please practice it.
Spend a session, or two. Or five. Get to the nets and try each option. Do it every ball you face, even if some of the balls are not suitable (although a bowling machine is handy to get you started). Know you will likely get it wrong because you have not tried it before. Know that it's OK to make mistakes. That's what nets are for.
Then, when you feel confident you have one or two options nailed, go for it.
Keep practising it as well, but be more selective about what type of bowler you play it against at nets. The more you do it the better you will get and the freer you will be able to score without taking risks.