Handle Pressure with Set Piece Practice | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

Handle Pressure with Set Piece Practice

What’s the best way to handle a pressure situation in a cricket match?

Simple: knowing you have been there before and succeeded. There is no better confidence than the confidence of experience. This is why practicing set pieces is a crucial tool for any side who want to know for sure they can battle out of any situation, no matter how rough.

A good coach or captain is always looking for ways to add this pressure into practice to build confidence. Set piece or scenario practice is the perfect tool for the job.

In fact, it’s a method used widely with IPL teams for that exact reason.

Set pieces are simply game situations that you know happen to your team. In limited overs cricket they are easy to spot because the same things happen time and time again in the more contrived format.

These are:
  • A Big Stand
  • A Batting Collapse
  • Middle Overs Lull
  • Death Hitting Out

Simply practicing these 4 situations will cover 90% of what happens in Twenty20 and other limited over games. If you want ideas for exact match situations I would look to the IPL for some real life scores, fields and tactics. It’s not just sizzle, there is plenty of steak for the cricketer who plays in short formats (like most young players).

How to set up set piece practice

The easiest way to have a set piece session is to use middle practice. Of course you need a wicket and some space for this, but if you have access it’s easy to set up, even if you do not have a full squad at the session.

You can also do set piece practice in nets. Use BATEX to setup the scenario and rhythm of the match then bat using the pairs option.

Before the middle practice starts brief the team on the exact situation. Here are some examples:

  • Big Stand: A Twenty20 game where the openers have put on 50 runs in 6 overs. The field is spread, a spinner and seamer are on.
  • Batting Collapse: A 50 over match where the score is 37-4 after 8 overs. The opening bowlers are still on, with an aggressive field.

Set the field, choose your bowlers and how many overs the batting pair will face, and away you go. Remember to treat this as hard practice and put on your game face.

Use actual game situations for the types of games you play, you can find them easily in your scorebook. It’s also handy as skipper or coach to know what the field setting was at the time. If you can’t remember easily then make sure someone is taking a few notes.

Talk to the players about the tactics and methods they are using, then as the scenario plays out; keep discussing what is working and what else can be tried if it needs work. Eventually you will iron out a tactical approach that works for your team.

This works especially well for practicing situations where things are going badly. We have all been frustrated by a big batting stand or terrified of a collapse when the team loses a couple of quick wickets. With set piece practice you have specifically trained for the situation, allowing you to stay confident under that pressure.

Set piece practice works well at non-professional levels. Clubs, schools and academy setups can all benefit from this type of practice. In fact, on many occasions it’s far more beneficial to players that an average net session.

So give it a go with your team, and let me know how it works out!

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I use these "scenario" style nets extensively during my indoor sessions in the winter with young cricketers and have done middle practice with them too in early season. It is an ideal opportunity for players to learn how to chase down targets, rebuild, contain, set fields, change fields etc. according to the situation. As a coach, my task is to ask the questions that might prompt the changes and allow them to make the choices, right or wrong.

For example, 40 off the last 5 overs sounds daunting to 14 year olds but it doesn't take long for them to work out how they could score 50 off 5. Then the bowlers need to learn how to defend 40 off 5 and the skills and tactics that requires.

I recommend everyone uses these types of practices. You can't buy experience but this is a decent way of practising it!

Read up on game sense coaching theory.

Agreed, that's why BATEX works so well.

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