In one day cricket, the tactic used to be to play yourself in early, knock the ball around in the middle overs and smash it at the end. Nowadays, the really powerful teams are able to attack throughout the innings.
Is this go-for-broke method realistic in limited over club and school cricket too?
You don't see it very often, so any side that can make it work will drastically improve their chances of winning your cricket matches. Years of professional teams have proven the power of going for it, the odds are in your favour.
Let's look at how you approach an attacking innings.
Confidence is most important
The absolute number one reason why teams prefer to play safer is because the batsmen in the side are not confident in their ability to play attacking cricket consistently.
Which is fair enough. It's hard.
So an attacking approach starts with batsmen who know how to score quickly. Every batsman will have a slightly different way of doing this, so everyone needs to know their own games and be comfortable that they can fill a role of scoring at a faster rate.
The team culture must be clear that it's OK to push up against your ability to score quickly. If mistakes are made, no one will blame your approach. That said, the culture must also not allow total recklessness. Attacking cricket is not mindless slogging. If you do need to develop your tactics, your team mates will be there to help you.
This all takes some work, so don't make the mistake of deciding on the first game of the season that you can suddenly blaze away for fifty overs. Put in some practice and have some honest conversations with the key batsmen to make sure they are happy with the approach.
Assess the conditions
If you feel confident that most batsmen have a method for faster scoring (not always about hitting boundaries by the way) then you are ready to assess how hard to go on the day of the game.
Firstly, consider the conditions. Good batting pitches and a weak bowling attack means you can go a lot harder than if you are coming up against a green pitch with an opposition who have four accurate seam bowlers. There are still ways to get on with it even in the latter case and you should have both discussed and practised these. Everyone will feel confident you can still be aggressive without taking huge risks.
- Stealing singles from leg byes, diving stops and mis-hit shots.
- Placing the ball into gaps
- Running every run hard and looking for fielding errors
- Having a safe boundary option
If you are batting second, you have a better idea of what can be done. If you are batting first, you will have to take a more educated guess. Either way, when you start your innings you should have a target in mind for the first ten overs. You might also have an overall idea of how many runs you want at the end.
Assess the situation
As the game progresses, you will constantly assess your target. It's rare that everything goes fully to plan because no plan survives contact with the enemy. So, keep looking at,
- Bowling quality
- Run rate
- Wickets fallen
- How "in" the current partnership is
It's here there is often another big mistake.
In 50 over cricket, most club and school teams feel pretty good when the score is 50-1 from 10. What about when the score is 60-3 from 10? Or, worse, 38-4 from 10?
The standard advice is to hunker down, rebuild the innings, play safe and hope to get through the overs.
But we are not that team any more.
We are a team of confident run makers. What do we do?
A really confident batsman pulls out the "escape shot" and sends the first ball of the best bowler's next over for a boundary, then picks up a couple of singles. I'll take six in the over and 44-4 from 11. Do it again and you are 50-4 from 12 and there is a fielder on the boundary. The noose is a little looser just 12 balls later.
Even a slightly less skilled batsman can run it around, take cheeky singles and look to score orthodox boundaries. If the pair have confidence in their ability to recover.
I recall a game I played once where I was batting at 10. I came in with the score on 58-8 chasing 272. Me and the number six batsmen knew it was an impossible task, but we determined we were going to take them as deep as possible and keep up with the run rate. They had brought on part time bowlers and we started running it around. I hit a couple over extra cover. The opening bowler was brought back and I started running the ball down to third man. We were scoring at more than five an over with virtually no risk. We stayed around long enough that it rained and the match was abandoned. The moral? Never lose confidence!
The point is this: Keep assessing and keep going. It's a valid tactic to shoot for 250 and get bundled out for 180. More often you will sail past your goal.
Turn good into great
So far I have mostly talked about what to do if your plan starts to go wrong (stay strong). What about the good days where it goes better than intended?
If you are 92-0 from 15 overs you still need to keep assessing. What's your aim for the next ten? Are all the opposition bowlers cannon fodder today or is there a mystery spinner hiding at fourth change? Is rain coming to liven up the pitch? What if we play three silly shots in a row and it all falls apart?
A big mistake here is to settle for a target too early.
Instead, push against your limits. How many are you capable of? Considering the conditions and situation, you can start to bring out some of your riskier shots. That blazing drive away from your body that only works on a flat pitch is out of the locker and ready for action.
Just as you need to gear up quickly when it's going your way, you also need to make sure that any change is assessed fast. A bowler finds his rhythm and starts to out-think you. You need to reign in the wilder shots but still look to rotate safely. A big stand is thrown away by a silly shot and the next batter in is so stiff and bored and full of excitement to actually get to the middle they miss a straight one. Does that really mean the surviving partner should change anything?
It's a balance: Never leave runs on the table but also never let the red mist take full control. Unless you need six off the last ball to win.
- Modern batsman are more confident to attack and understand how to do it.
- Team culture must allow an attacking mindset without blame.
- Assess the conditions and situation and look to score as fast as you can in this context.
- Constantly reassess as the game changes.