Middle practice is a far better way to improve your tactics and game plans than nets will ever be.
That's because nets lack context. There is no pressure of the game or fielders.
But to learn how to play under pressure you have to practice under pressure. And middle practice does exactly that.
For players wanting to realistically practice the skills of their specialist role in the team, there is nothing like middle practice.
It also incorporates fielding practice into your batting and bowling sessions, something which is easily missed out on.
So good coaches and captains look to middle practice to bridge the gap between netting and playing.
Middle practice is exactly what it sounds like: A practice session played on a wicket with fielders instead of a net. It's designed to feel as close to a real game as possible.
Although it's traditionally been first-class and Academy teams who do middle practice, with a bit of creativity any side can do it: Club, school, village or University.
As long as you have access to a field with a wicket (turf or artificial) you can do middle practice.
Once the session is ready to go, the coach or captain sets a match scenario: A realistic game situation to help players practice tactics.
Making the most of it
If you are limited to your resources you can customise the scenarios:
- Not enough fielders. Some practice sessions will not have the required 11 fielders (plus 2 batters and 2 more padded up). To combat this place a net on the leg side and estimate runs scored when it is played through that area.
- Short time.If you only have an hour or two a week total practice time you need to take some shortcuts to speed things up. Use 3 batters rather than two and bowl from one end (the spare batter acts as umpire). Have the next batters ready to come in straight away.
- Lack of interest. Players, especially younger ones, can easily get bored during middle practice. Keep it interesting by setting exciting game situations, encouraging a competitive element and allowing everyone to be involved (change fielders around, use lots of bowlers, make everyone have a go at captaining, discuss tactics with fielders and batters).
Discuss tactics and plans to make better players
It's important to make time in all scenarios to discuss with the players how they will approach the situation. Ask batsmen how they are looking to score and in what areas. Ask fielders to work out what field is best for that type of bowling. Ask bowlers what line and length they want, and which variations they are planning on using.
This discuss helps develop tactical awareness in players of any age, so is a crucial part of the process.
In the final part part we look at 5 middle scenarios you can use whatever level you play. Click here to go to part 2.