England's disarray against fast bowling at Lord's was not a surprise to those who have watched them closely over the years.
Despite Lords being a very good batting track, England seemed clueless against the fast bowling onslaught in the 4th innings.
Australia shifted their length of attack to push the batters back and then pitched the ball fuller to bring the stumps in or get the edge. The classic combination of short, short, full. The same combination that undid them in Australia 18 months ago.
So what can be done in this situation?
Here are some drills.
Boxing pad drills
These are part of The ECB Lead Batting Coach, Graham Thorpe's 'playing fast bowing' toolkit.
The coach or partner puts the boxing pads on their hands. The batter gets into their batting stance, ready for action.
The coach presents a low offside pad and the batter moves forward to strike the pad with their top hand batting glove (in a drive motion). Phase 2 makes the batter adjust and move to strike a high pad on the coaches opposite hand (in a pull motion). Phase 3 is to avoid the first pad that now comes in like a bouncer. The batter chooses to duck or sway.
The drill can start slow and then be increased in speed until it resembles a boxers speed in the gym.
4 rounds in each set. 3 sets per session.
Then the coach or partner can start to randomise the shot routine; pull, drive, duck.
Do this 3 times a week before you bat in nets or in a game and you will soon see the following things happen:
- Speed of movement from your stance into ball contact will increase.
- Ability to pick up cues (the pads in the drill, the ball in reality) and respond with appropriate movement patterns.
- Transfer weight forward and back with greater efficiency.
Sussex CCC decision making drill
Sussex batter, Chris Nash taught me this one.
A coach or partner walks into a length between short and length and delivers the ball in an underarm fashion with the release hand getting as close to the ground as possible.
The aim is to deliver a fast delivery into one of 3 heights:
- 3/4 stump height
- Hip height
- Chin height
For each appropriate decision in movement pattern (back or forward) the batter gets a point. For every poor decision the thrower gets a point. The first to 5 points wins the game.
This drill sharpens the ability of the batter to quickly adjust to different heights of delivery. Something that England failed to do on Day 4 of the Lords Test Match.
Loose-head bowling machine drill
This one is only to be facilitated by an experienced bowling machine coach. As we know, in the wrong hands, a bowling machine can be very dangerous so it's vital that only a senior coach does this.
A coach will use the handle on the back of the bowling machine to tilt the machine head slightly so that the ball shifts in length between all lengths from bouncer and half volley. The handle allows the coach to change length without giving the batter an early cue. I operate this drill anywhere from 60 mph for the younger or less experienced players to 82 mph against our top players.
The softer/lighter bowling machine balls are great for this as they sting rather than bruise and often swing around naturally to increase the challenge to the batter.
These 3 drills alongside nets and throws will sharpen up any batters technique and method ahead of facing a "Mitchell-like" onslaught!