Think of the excellent one day ‘finisher’ batsmen like Michael Bevan, Eoin Morgan and MS Dhoni: The guys who can win a game by being there at the end of the innings.
They all have the ability to keep up with the run rate through innovative batting. It seems they can play the same ball into at least 2 different areas of the pitch.
All good limited overs team have at least one player with the job of finishing an innings in a run chase. You might say this is pure talent and normal batsmen can’t hope to emulate their skills.
But you can.
And here’s how.
1. Start with the basics
Even the most innovative of finishers at the top level have a sound basic technique. Sure, someone like Eion Morgan can do all kinds of crazy things with his wrists, but he can also play traditional shots expertly.
The drives alone are crucial to any finisher, as with solid technique in the on and off drive you can score in a wide area from cover to midwicket. Nobody can cover every gap in that arc and you are not even taking a risk.
So, learn to drive with the full face of the bat.
This will allow you to take care of the traditional bad balls without even thinking about being clever.
2. Learn the safe innovations
At many levels, step one is all you need. But when the rate is creeping up and you need to start to rotate the strike or even score a boundary, how do you innovate?
You learn how to adapt the safe shots to make good balls into boundaries.
Take a good length ball from a medium pacer. Tradition would dictate you defend it, and in longer games you probably would. But imagine yourself in a situation where the run rate is creeping up and a boundary would help release the pressure.
You could have an old fashioned swipe across the line, but that is risky.
What is much better is adapting your sound technique to allow you to score.
Hitting straight ‘on the up’ by keeping your hands and elbow high:
Manoeuvring your body to the off side to allow you to swing the bat straight but hit the ball through or over midwicket:
Manoeuvring your body to the leg side to allow you to swing the bat straight but hit the ball through or over cover:
These 3 options alone, although simple adaptations of technique allow you to score boundaries to good balls, just like the expert finishers can do.
Notice also 2 things:
- You are still covering such a wide arc no captain could ever hop to plug all the gaps
- You are still playing straight, thus scoring fast but not taking as big a risk as sweeping or slogging.
Of course, you need to practice this as the timing of your movement is vital. Getting throwdowns or bowling machine feeds is crucial to making sure you hold your technique and play with timing rather than slogging.
3. Develop your awareness
Once you can play these shots, your next challenge is to be able to keep your wits about you under pressure and choose the right shot.
For example, if the bowler has a strong off side field, stepping away will get you less runs than hitting straight or to the leg side.
So, when you are getting ready to face the next ball, check the field, look where the gap is and aim to get the ball there with either orthodox or ‘on the up’ shots.
Keeping this calm under pressure is harder than it sounds. In the heat of battle we have all seen batsmen do crazy things, especially after a couple of dot balls. Don’t be that guy.
Be the guy who has mental techniques to play under pressure.
And once your mental training is combined with some new shots build on good basic technique you will be an expert finisher too.
For more technical tips and even more safe but effective shots you can learn to be a finisher, check out Gary Palmer’s How to Bat in Twenty20 Cricket, only on PitchVision Academy.