Even today, where there are a hundred different types of ball, good old-fashioned line and length bowling is an incredibly effective way to bowl: Hit the spot, do a bit off the pitch or in the air, take wickets. Simple.
Yet it's also a world of pain to do consistently.
Sure, you bowl in nets as much as you can. You put up with slogging batsmen and you take time to work on your action.
Then you get out into a game and bowl two four balls every over, wondering where it all went wrong.
What's going on?
It's not the puzzle you think, but it does take some work on your part. It's easy improve your accuracy (and pace at the same time) with a simple process.
To show you how, here is a session I did last night with my club's 2nd XI bowling group. The drill is based on wanting to get the most from all the seamers, but also allow the batsmen to bat in nets.
Accuracy bowling drill
The drill takes place in a usual net setting, with a batsman (or pair of batters) playing at the other end. The bowlers took turns to bowl, as normal.
The goal was to try and bowl line and length in a realistic environment.
We defined a target area on the pitch. Because we were lesser skilled bowlers (club 2nd XI) I was generous with the target, but also realistic.
Then we bowled and the batsmen batted as they would in a game situation. How the batters played didn't matter to the bowlers, their goal stayed the same no matter what: Hammer length.
So far, so normal. So how is this drill different?
To get the most from a drill, you have to monitor the result. Basically, this drill is all about getting and staying focused on improving line and length bowling, and nothing else.
In a normal net, it's hard to know if you are meeting your goal. You can get a basic sense of things but if you rely on memory you have already failed. To counteract this you need to track the results. You can use hand notation, but we used used PitchVision.
Also, we tracked results as a group. While it's perfectly possible to track individual bowlers, I wanted to give the guys the sense of working together for a result. Let's face it, if you are bowling brilliantly and your mate at the other end is serving up rubbish, you are both going to suffer!
Additionally, was no visual guide for the bowlers. No "bowling at a cone" here. This made the session far more realistic: A batsman and no guide to bowl at.
As the drill went on we reviewed each ball at a time, and thought through adjustments that needed to be made to create an instant feeedback loop.
So, how did it go? Here are the results:
As you can see, there was a range of lines, lengths and speeds. In 117 balls tracked,
- 33% hit the target area(the grey box on the pitch map)
- 36% were a good length
- 15% were on the line of the stumps
For this level, based on previous results, I would regard a 50% accuracy rate as a good start. So there is clearly work to do in all areas, but we can easily see that line was the worst area.
For my team, the aim is to bowl to hit the stumps. Early UK conditions mean slow, low wickets so hitting the stumps is your best way of getting wickets through bowled or LBW. With 35% of balls short, that's a lot of wasted deliveries that look good indoors but get creamed on a wet May track in Scotland. Of course, not every ball off the stumps is poor, but every ball on the stumps gives you a better chance of taking a wicket.
That's a huge benefit of using PitchVision here too. You can convert indoor results into realistic outdoor outcomes. You might bowl a short ball indoors that you feel looks great as the batsman struggles. However, when you look at the cold data, you realise that you just bowled a long hop in a game situation.
However, results aside, you can see the benefit of effective tracking. We now have a benchmark to try and improve and a tactic to point to if we bowl badly in our league game on Saturday.
I fed the result back to the bowlers, who can come to the next session with the focus of:
- Raise hitting the stump line (even if it bounces over on a bouncier indoor wicket) to over 20%
- Raise target area success to over 40%
With the eventual aim of getting both up to 50%
One extra benefit of this tracking beyond the feedback loop is player motivation. Target bowling is a bit dull but when they can see how fast they bowl and how they are contributing to the pitch map, they bowl with more focus than a normal net.
This is an adaptable drill, so here are some variations:
- Run the session with individual bowler tracking, bowling in pairs to reflect overs in a match.
- Take the batsman out and place a visual target on the pitch to try and hit
- Add in PV/VIDEO of the bowler's action to see the difference between the action between a good length ball and otherwise.
This might be a subtle difference to look at from the outside, but this bowling accuracy drill makes a huge difference to both the atmosphere of the net and, over time, the skill levels of your bowling group.
For more information on PitchVision at your club, school or Academy, click here.