This article is part of "The complete guide to cricket field settings" series.
Being a better captain and bowler means mastering the art of setting the field. Chances are that you already know the names of the positions and you may have an idea of fields that suit certain bowlers and match situations. There is much more to it that that though. To fully understand what is going on you need to grasp the principles of field setting, and to do that we need to go right back to basics.
The 3 principles of field placing
1. Core Positions
There are 2 reasons to set a field: To take wickets and to stop runs being scored. Most bowlers bowl with the aim of hitting the stumps by straight, pitched up deliveries and decent batsmen will try and hit these types of deliveries through the famous 'V' using cover, straight and on drives. In this situation the fielders need to be in position to stop these shots (and edges). In other words, the V can be inverted to create a line of defence on each side of the wicket. This is the basic framework, or core positions from which to build:
Mid on and mid off stop the straight drives, third man and long leg are there to stop the edged ball, Extra cover and Midwicket stop the wider drives.
In theory then, these core 6 fielders (plus wicketkeeper) should be enough for a bowler to defend effectively if he bowls a good line and length. One important factor to note is that the fielders always form a straight line from one end of the pitch to another. If this does not happen (someone too close or deep) then the gap the batsman can see is bigger and more runs can be scored. So set fielders in the right place and don't let them wander.
This leaves you 3 spare fielders that you can set anywhere you like (attacking or defensive). However the core positions are just a framework from which to build. They ignore the many variations that makes cricket so interesting and setting the field so challenging.
Once you understand the core positions, you can start to work out the variations and start to work your brain. Variations that the core positions don't take into account:
- Match situation - Are you attacking or defending?
- Type of bowling - spinners, medium pace or fast bowlers?
- Pitch conditions
- Accuracy of bowling
- Swing and seam movement - more movement alters the angles the ball is coming to and from the bat
- Batter's limitations - All batsmen favour certain shots and ignore others.
With every variation, different positions are brought in or taken out of play. However, the basic principles still apply, and each change must be considered carefully with justification and not just chase the ball by putting fielders where the batter hits it.
For example, perhaps you are all out attacking with a fast bowler on a fast pitch with plenty of bounce. Your 3 spare would all be attacking (say, 2 slips and a gulley). As your aim is to get wickets you could forget about long leg and third man and move them to close catching, an extra slip and a leg slip or short leg.
If the batter plays with an open face you might consider cutting off his square shots with 2 gulleys or a square third man, especially if your bowler bowls outswing as a stock ball. The variations are never ending but always must have solid grounding.
I go into more detail on this aspect here. For now though, be aware that you have a framework to work from and flexibility to be creative depending on the situation.
The final principle of setting a field is the ability to bluff. There will often be times where setting the best field may not be the best way of reaching your aims (wickets or run reduction) and this is where a poker face comes in handy.
Bluffing does not mean you should forget the first 2 principles, but once you have laid your plans you can double cross with a clever field placing that looks more sinister than it is. A classic example is an off spinner who does not turn the ball much setting 2 short legs and a wide slip. This could make the batter think it is turning and the slip getting lots of catches. The short legs are just the bluff.
Perhaps you have a weak fielder who you need to hide. Instead of just plonking him at mid on or fine leg, you could put him at silly point to an off spinner to crowd the batter. He may never catch a cold, but nothing will come to him anyway and at least he is putting the batsman off.
Again, there are many bluff strategies for many situations. However the same rules apply: Don't forget the basics and keep thinking. Also, never try your bluffs for too long. Most are rumbled quickly, especially if they get a wicket.
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