This article is part 1 of a 2 part series. To go to part 2 click here
Is there anything more demoralising on the cricket field than the opposition building a big partnership?
It seems no matter what anyone tries, 2 batsman have got themselves set and are going about the business of scoring runs with scant regard for the 11 men trying their hardest to break their grip.
But are you just as much to blame as the batsmen's skill?
I know I have played in games where the only thing we try to break the partnership is the odd change of bowling and increasingly defensive fields.
But where is the fun in that?
So here are 4 other things you can try.
Are they obvious? Perhaps. But from experience of being out there with increasing desperation, it's easy to forget. So next time the score is 98-0, take a moment to remember a couple of these.
If they work, you will be a hero.
1. Change the delivery
With the constant mantra of club coaches to bowl at the top of off stump and the lack of practice of variations it's easy to forget that there are several ways to mix up the ball you bowl:
- Change of pace: quicker or slower balls. The key is not to change action.
- Change of angle: Go wider on the crease or go around the wicket. Suddenly batsmen are playing at balls they should leave and leaving balls they should play.
- Change of spin: More or less spin makes the ball behave differently in the air, even if it is not doing much off the pitch; A big ripper will dip more, the arm ball curves in the air like a swing bowler and a flipper skids on.
2. Put in a short leg
My dad, a club cricketer who has played cricket in 5 decades, once told me if nothing was happening he would just put himself at short leg for a few balls.
The theory is that the batsmen, used to being on top, feel confused and pressured by a man suddenly breathing down their neck as the bowler runs in. He starts wondering if the captain seen something in his technique to justify such a move, or is about to get some short stuff.
Of course it's all bluff, but sometimes it works. Pressure is a curious thing.
Other field changes that work in this way are: short mid off and leaving behind square on the leg side open.
3. Keep someone off strike
The tactic of starving a batsman of the strike is all about creating frustration. Unless he has the patience of Job, a batsman will look to score off balls he would normally not consider purely because he has not got a run for a couple of overs.
The way to do it is to quietly give your target a single then squeeze the other batsman with a ring field. Then as the over is coming to an end you make sure he gets a single, keeping your target off strike.
The key to making this work is to be subtle about what you are doing so it feels like an accident to the batsmen, and that requires some sharp fielders.
When giving a single the ring fielders need to be slightly out of position. This can be done in a number of ways:
- Too close. For example, cover slides to an almost catching position while extra cover drops back to he or she is too deep and too straight creating a gap that allows the single but saves the boundary.
- Too deep. For example, put your weakest and slowest fielders at mid on and mid off then drop them back a tiny bit too deep.
- Leave a gap. On the batsman's strongest shot, take out the saving one fielder and put him on the boundary, if the boundary is long keep them close enough to save 2.
It works especially well if you stop the aggressive or better batter in the partnership, but only if you do it quietly. If the batsman catches on to your plan he will try and counter it.
4. Change ends
Different ends behave differently, so why not try your star bowler from the other end for a change?
It may be that he or she has to bowl uphill and into the wind for a change, but desperate times call for you to try anything, even if it defies logic.
A word of warning about this tactic; I captained a game recently where I thought I would try our leg spinner from the other end. I got a left arm spinner to bowl one over to allow the leggie to change ends, and then brought the left-armer on at the other end a few overs later.
Sadly we had no scorer and the opposition scorer was so confused we had to spend an hour in the dressing room working out the bowling figures. So if you try this, make sure the scorer knows what is going on.
In part 2 we look at 4 more ways to break a big partnership. Click here to go there now.
image credit: andy_carter