How to be a better opening batsman

Forward DefenceOpening the batting is not all dour defence as many think. It's a matter of good organisation.

The bowlers usually have the upper hand with a new ball and fresh legs. That means you, more than any other position, need to have your wits about you.

What makes a good opening batsman?

Opening is a specialist position. By that I mean it takes more practice to get right. The more you do it the better you get at it. However, there are certain traits a good opener has (or is able to develop).

  • An adaptable technique. Although you should have lots of shots, playing straight is most important early on. You should have the ability to switch gears from disciplined defence to attack depending on the conditions, match situation and bowling.
  • A good judge of the off stump. Knowing when to play and when to leave is a great skill for the opener, even in Twenty20 conditions.
  • Patience. There will be times when the bowlers make you play and miss. However, the bad ball will come. The ability to stay focused on the next ball will see you through the tough periods all openers experience.

This is often what coaches mean when they talk about 'seeing off' the opening bowlers. I don't like the phrase though. It puts openers into a defensive mindset. Opening the innings is about having a sound defence and being ready to attack.

Once you have assessed that conditions have are in your favour you can start to think more aggressively. This may be a couple of hours in, or right from the first ball. However, even in this 'mode' you need to keep a tight defence as a good ball is never far away.

Opening practice

There is not much an opener can do differently from any other batsman to prepare. The principles of deliberate practice apply just as much with any position in the batting order.

That said, you will want to focus on two areas in particular:

  • Middle practice. Practicing against fresh bowlers with a new ball in simulated match conditions will teach you how to adapt to the mental and tactical side of opening. When you have had a middle practice sit down with your coach and opening partner (and possible the number 3) and discuss how it went, what your tactics were and whether they worked or not.
  • Technical development. While you want as many shots as possible, the main areas to work on are the straight shots and judging whether to play or leave. This can't be done in standard nets as the bowling is not accurate enough so grab an empty net with your opening partner and give each other some accurate throw downs instead.

I would also strongly recommend learning how to rotate the strike by taking cheeky singles and turning ones into twos.

An opener needs to be a positive player with the ability to leave attack behind for a while if you are up against a good opening bowling attack. Practice with this in mind and you will not go far wrong.

 

 



If you want to learn everything there is to know about batting technique, check out Gary Palmer's interactive coaching courses. Gary is a coach with over 20 years experience teaching players to become first class cricketers. For the first time he has put his drills online, only at PitchVision Academy.


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Comments

These tips are excellent... I just need to know more about the shot selection a opener has to make or adjust to when starting the innings. Is it all too different from the middle order batsman?

Good link Ben. I would say an opener leaves more balls and looks to play with more discipline early on.

cheeky singles

I find that batting in a bubble early in your innings helps as an opening batsman.

This means picturing which balls will be outside your bubble (which you will leave) and which balls you want to play at.

I think you need to have a clear idea in your own mind of what your scoring areas are. Personally I drive well straight down the ground, and play well square of the wicket off the back foot. If the ball is doing a bit, I will look to concentrate on my strengths and not get dragged into playing shots that I am not comfortable with.

The other thing you need to look at is the fielders, particularly if you haven't played the opposition before. Who is left/right handed? Who's their Collingwood/Panesar in the field? Where can you pinch quick singles?

I Live in Australia and im about to start under 16s cricket I ve been an opeaning batsman since ive started club cricket i find the best way to be an opening batsman is by staying out there in the middle and dont worry if u play and miss at a few balls the more u r out there in the middle the better u become. Also dont worry if u get bogged down the runs will come. It took me 166 balls to make my first club 50.

Great advice, being relaxed and confident in your own ability is a top skill to have for opening batsmen (or any batsmen).

Thanks for replying

I'm a coach and would like to know if there are any drills you can recommend to stop a batter "falling over". In my experience, this seems to be more common with players of about 16 and up. Maybe it has something to do with mental issues.

Does this happen when they try to play a flick to the leg side if it is i need help to

I live in Sri Lanka .... and ive been an opennin batsmen since ive started playing (6 years).
3 or 4 day cricket has always been a challenge for me..but ive been able to perform well as i know that theres enough time to score runs.
But the only problem is the shorter form 20 and 30 over criket that we play here. i've always found it difficult to do well if i dont get off to a quik start as im one of those players who cannot score so freely or very quikly. i tent to giv away my wiket by tryin to hit over the infield. :S
so i would really appreciate it if someone could giv me some handy advice !
thnk u.

opener just hav to foucss a little bit more as new ball swings alot..n patience is also very much important,waiting for loose delievery is not an easy task,so b patient.And play ur natural game..dats it.u'll gonna rok.These tricks was taught to me by my coach Mr Uday Gupte who is also coach of GAUTAM GAMBHIR..

yeah 20-20 is a shorter form of game where u hav to score run..but just keep one thing in mind dat u cannt hit a gud ball..all wat u co is to play it for single or just defend it..n u r not connecting ball prperly den just rotate d strike n see all things from non-striker end..dats wat i was doing when i had scored 96 unbeaten in 48 balls..but we lost d match though...just wait for loose delivery n chikky single..
if a batsman take six single in six ball..den he is really a gem..sooo keep roking dude...
soon 2 c u in team...

20-20 is a tough game for an operner very much so if ur a defenceive one like me. The best thing to do is to keep ur head and rotate the strike alot. If u have a guy at the other end who can hit a ball for six and four let him have most of the strike.

do u have any drills i can use to get my foot more to the pitch of the ball. i seem to be taking a very little step

nuthing will b more benefecial den shadow practise..do it everyday..

Thxs Kunal ur info helpme out last nite at training/trails. I drove the ball well of the front foot and defened well 2 thxs to u. Cheers mate for helping me improve my game

Whats shadow practice???

When you practice in the mirror without a bowler.

Thanks forall of the good advice, Ian 46 and play second team cricket, I have a fair technique and have been part of a couple of decont opening partnerships. Could anyone give an old cogger some advice that will help my batting strike rate

Hi Del, take a look at the articles and coaching courses ion the site here and here. They key is to know when to take calculated risks.

ive moved up from 4 to opening batsman i am really nervous what do i do to get the nerves out?

i get nevers when i open espically when i face first ball but its sometimes gd to have nevers as it keeps u more alert to wat the bowler is doing unlike when u r not nevers and not foucusing. The nevers will calm down after u have got to known the bowler and u feel comftable at the crease and wat shoots u r playing at the crease as well. another gd thing when u r nevers is when a ball is off the stumps leave it alone early on to see wat the pitch is doing to. also dont do anything rush u have all day remeber that gd luck

im fourteen and ive played for one year , ive made it into prems and i bat three and four . but id really like to have a crack at opening but if i fail i dont want to risk loosing my three four positions , what should i do ?

Hai,am practising to bat for a decade and am having a problem to play shots in offside ...what to do

hey,
i live in the uk and i am having difficulty opening against swing bowling coz im not sure which way it will swing :S any advice?!!?

thnks

i find it hard to know when to try really hit a ball. im opening for my team but once the good bowlers have finished there overs and bowlers start pitching them short or down leg im not the best at being offensive. how can i improve on this?

Learn to on drive well it's the fastest route to attacking batting.

im in my second year of under 14s and my coach has asked me to open. i said yes but ive got 2 problems. i get nervous when opening ( but i want to do it ) and im a really slow batsmen ( when hitting runs that is ). we only get somthing like 45 overs per side.

so can anyone help me

thanx

kizza - I would argue that 45 overs per side is more than plenty to be able to play yourself in and then build a decent sized innings whether or not you have the power to pierce the field.

However, a lot of that comes with practice and timing (for example, when practicing, learning to place the ball in the gaps by having static targets as fielders to miss).

Other things you can do to help the team would include learning to run quick singles safely and rotate the strike (David links to the article on rotating the strike and running between the wickets above), so that even if you only get one or two singles an over, you aren't bogging the team down becasue the other batsman will have plenty of the strike, too. Make sure you are always prepared to run (and are backing up when your partner is on strike - you might help him/her turn ones into twos as well).

Make sure that every batsmen in the team is aware of the opportunities for singles though, so you aren't suddenly surprising them (and running them out!) - they should be practicing this as well though...

If you are facing quicker bowlers, learn to use the pace of the ball and dab to third man, or flick of the pads down to fine leg - chances are you'll get a couple of boundaries this way, too. Also, don't be afraid to run wides and byes to keep the score ticking along. At junior levels you'll likely find enough bad deliveries that you can get free runs from, or keepers not taking the ball every time, so take advantage of this.

thanks i'll put your tips into action.

you wouldn't have any tips on how to stop being totally nervous

Hi kc,

This is something I am asked constantly and to be totally honest with you, different things work for different people.

However, the two strategies I find most useful are Imagery and Self Hypnosis... perhaps this will help more:

http://www.pitchvision.com/do-you-have-the-mental-toughness-to-be-a-grea...

One thing you must always remember... you are not alone Eye-wink

Cricketers from all grades get nervous; right the way up to professional.

The most important thing is that you go out there and ENJOY it; no matter what happens Laughing out loud

Let us know how you get on... good luck!

Hi there. i have been opening the batting for 2 seasons already, (and this is my third, even tho i want to come down the order)

i am a defensive player (originally when i learned to bat about 15 years ago) i was thought my defense) and 2 seasons ago, i had to open as we only had 1 genuine opener.

my job was just to defend and stick it out for at least 8 to 10 overs, to kill the ball.
my partner thought me to defend into gaps, hence i started getting runs.
the thing is being left handed, i was afraid to get into line.
i got proper equipment, and lost all fear of opening.

i suggest the best way to lose the nerves and fear of opening is get proper padding (incl a chest guard) and take a few shots on the body.

after that, you wont be scared of whatever the bowlers come with.

Great tip SM, accepting you are going to get hit is a good step. So is building up a solid technique in defence against pace.

I'd also say it's good to have a few nerves, as long as you are not crippled by them.

mostly u just nervous walking out and facing the first ball, (cos u don't know how fast it is or what the pitch will do, but i noticed that usually by the 5th over all the nerves are gone and i start playing freely.

To Open u definitely need to know how to play defensive.

another aspect of opening is to be mentality solid. ie, not let anything people say affect your game. i notice, your opponents will do everything in the book to demoralize u, including sledging...

the longer the openers are in, the quieter the opposition becomes.

good thing that we have a left/ Right combination

Thank you. I will also see you. Soon at. The acadmey and you are right 20-20 is the game where you need to deal in boundaries and you need aggressive start

Thanks for all of your help, I have same problem as some on the blog. I can stray in but do not score many runs although i can hit powerfully. I opened the innings last year and made 22 off over 100 balls. i had run out a previou8s partner and felt obligated to stay in so i became defensive. Any tips for this as although i am 48 i love the game and want to improve.

i have commented on this page before and have asked about nerves. i have since hit good form and i have found that nerves go away after 3 balls. one thing that i find works is just be very confident and make sure you always talk to your opening partner because he or she is in the same senario as you. but what could work is to pretend you are on 5 or 15 and make yourself believe that you have already made a start in your innings, adam gilchrist tried this technique and he made 100. i hope this works.

hey frns
i am ravi from india
i m plyng under 16 leagues and district in kolkata or delhi .
i am right handed
opening batsmen.
i used to like T-20 and one day cricket.
and my average are good in both type of games.
but when i was open in days matches .
i dint score much bcz i dont have good patience for this format .
plz give me some good tips to improve my batting in days cricket..
thanks

Hi Ravi and everyone else.
the thing is after u get a boundary, dont try to hit the next one to the boundary.
the bowler is expecting that most of the time and he tightens his line, and waits for you to mess up. how many people have got out directly after hitting a boundary? i bet all of us did at some time or the other.
if u can relax the next ball (unless its a bad ball, or if your eye is in) you will end up staying longer and hence make a lot more runs.
i may give up cricket next season and look towards coaching juniors (helped many youngsters with technique) can you advise if i should) or should i carry on playing (body seems to be giving up on me)

Hi Del Turner.
if you faced 100+ balls its fair enough to say that the opposition played mind games on you.
normally there is always guilt after running out a partner (unless he did something stupid like running when u hit it directly back to the bowler)

in any case, your opposition knew you wont run unless the ball went to the outfield, so they kept you on strike as much as possible. easiest way to do that would be bowl for the wicket and set a straightish field (mid on, mid off)
the best way to combat that and not get out, would be use the bowlers pace and play with an angled bat. by this i mean, get into line and deflect the ball either fine leg or third man.
they cant have more than 2 behind square on the leg, and also if they put slips, that means they will have to bowl outside off (cos if they bowl for the wicket, u walk into line of the stumps and deflect down leg)
apart from rotating the strike, where a more confidant partner can go for more aggressive shots, you will be getting singles. so if you add up the 100+ balls you faced, you would have ended up with a 100 with a strike rate of close to 100 if not more.

thanks mate for your advice Smiling

@SM..
hey mate i am suffrng from back pain ..tell me how to get relief..
tel me sm exrcise n strechng for back pain...Sad

Hey ravi.
The lower back pain is a problem that I have as well
That's one of the reasons I'm thinking of giving it up.
What use to help me was using a weightlifters belt under my
Padding. That use to help.
U suffer with the lower back mainly because of your stance, so I don't hold my stance long anymore.
Hope it helps

keep ur posture right and strengthen ur back using exercise such as deadlift rows etc. good luck

Hey there,
I live in the U.K. and i am 13 years old and am having some difficulty playing swing bowling as i cant tell which way it will swing, is there a way to tell? (I am a left hand bat and go in no 1). Any advice would be appreciated.

Hey there,
I live in the U.K. and i am 13 years old and am having some difficulty playing swing bowling as i cant tell which way it will swing, is there a way to tell? (I am a left hand bat and go in no 1). Any advice would be appreciated.

Hi vraj.
I'm also a lefty that takes first ball.

Normally what I do for the first 2 balls of the first 2 overs is take leg
Guard, and then as the bowler bowls walk across to offstump and defend expecting the ball to swing into me.
(Most times the guys are outswingers to righthanders. So I expect that.)
For a ball swinging away from a lefty, the ball will be pitched on leg line, so I will know that its swinging away from u.
If he swinging it into a left hander and pitches on leg line, it will swing down leg and will be called a wide.
Main thing in the first few overs, is don't chase the ones that's swinging away from u that are pitching middle/ leg and swinging away. That's the delivery that u can end up nicking and
Getting out.
Defend, or get into line( as in ball heading towards your body, and guide down fineleg)
That always works for me, but then again, im strong in defence and on the legs.
Depends on what your strengths are
Cheers

I never understand the question of how to tell which way the ball is swinging. That's like asking how to tell whether the bowler is left handed or right handed. Watch the ball as the bowler releases it, and your eyes should furnish you with the necessary information about the direction it is bending.

Hi sm and AB,
I decided to use both your advice today and since the ball was really swinging and i scoed 38 in 7 overs to win the match, so thanks a ton guys!!!
Cheers

Hi Vraj.
good to know that it helped.
can you tell how exactly the runs were scored?
i bet that there was quite a few wides bowled to you down leg.
how many runs did u make in the fineLeg region?

Hi SM,
Well i actually hit a six and a four in the fine leg region. I got one really nice connection that sent the ball flying through the cover region and the rest i just picked up singles and twos. I had about 6 wides down leg side (but since i play Under 13 cricket its expectable) but i think your advice has really helped me developed and made me a better player and thank you for all your help mate.

Hello all cricket lovers, I'm a high school cricket player. I'm 17 years old. In grade 8 my first match I opened batting ofcourse nd after tht my batting has just dropped, these days I'm asked if I won't be 12 man in the team I feel like a have crushed my dreams. My dream is to become the worlds greatest all-rounder but my batting is letting me down. All I want is some tips on how to I'mprove my batting so that I cn become the worlds greatest batsmen.

You are in the right place friend. Start here: http://www.pitchvision.com/cricket-batting-complete-guide

iam 14 years old how to prove that iam a great cricketer in the world by playing shots please send me the reaply

Hi,

I am playing for some club cricket 50 overs game... I am a top order batsman and captain has lot of faith on me so he sends me at no 3 or sometimes open the innings as many of the middle orders already cemented their place in the line up. I have been failing to convert good starts, getting out cheaply and captain is losing trust on me match by match. I am mentally so strong to go out n play and not getting runs under my belt and getting out cheaply.

Please advise how to over come from this and get some runs and also how to retain my captains faith on me.

Thanks.

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