How to Control the Middle Overs Bowling First | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

How to Control the Middle Overs Bowling First

In part one of this analysis of a 50 over club limited overs match, we looked at the first 15 overs. In this part we examine the tactics used by Craig Wright, former Scotland and current Watsonian CC captain, during the lull middle overs.

How do you manage the middle overs of a limited over match?

It’s the most difficult portion of an innings because there are far fewer “set piece” moments. As captain you have to think on your feet. Your goal is now to dry up the runs and frustrate the batsmen into getting out.

You will remember from part one that the first 15 overs of this match saw Watsonian boss the game without taking wickets. After 15 tight overs the score was 48-1 on a track with plenty of pace, bounce and sideways movement.

Controlling the lull overs

The secret of controlling the game in the middle overs is to bowl a consistent line with a well-set defensive field. Wickets are important but only to slow scoring down, so fewer risks need to be taken with field placing and bowling tactics.

For me in this level of cricket, line is more important than length because you can set a field to a consistent line.

While he could have chose a leg side line, Wright was looking for his strong seam attack to keep an off side line so he could have a 6-3 off side field.

This tactic worked well early on in the middle section.

Left arm seamer Mike Legget partnered up with opener Paddy Sadler, beating the bat. The runs were drying up and you could see the Grange batsmen playing loose shots in frustration.

The field began to close in, especially when a wicket fell in the 22nd over leaving the score on 70-2.

With Grange hanging in for survival, Watsonian hunted for more wickets, keeping in the slips and looking to get the number 4 batsmen with a very aggressive field for midway through a limited overs match:

This field was possible because of the consistent line and helpful pitch. You will notice how there is no fine leg, instead he has moved round to deep backward square leg. This opens up the possibility of being "beaten on the inside" to a loose ball flicked fine off the batsman's legs. However, it does allow the bowler the option of a short ball. In this game I would have kept the fielder finer because the number of bouncers bowled was virtually zero.

However Grange survived well. There were some loose balls bowled (mainly over-pitching) and one batsman was set after a few lucky moments early on.

By the 30th over Grange were 102-3.

A good general rule in 50 over games is to double a team’s score at the 30 over mark. Watsonian wanted to keep it below 200. Grange had batting to come, including a famed big-hitter. The game was in the balance.

With key bowler Sadler bowled out, Watsonian started to defend; the bowlers stuck to the principle of bowling to one side of the wicket, pitching it up just back of a good length. Typically the field was like this:

Had the bowling been less accurate, it might have been required to have another man on the leg side for cover. On slower pitches fine leg could be up in the ring. Later in the innings, mid on went back on the rope too.

Captain Wright bowled his remaining seamers (Legget, Chalmers, Routray and a returning McKenna) in short 2-5 over spells. This is important for several reasons:

  • The batsmen are being set new challenges and struggle to settle
  • You are keeping your options open for who to bowl at the death

Staying calm in a rapidly changing situation

You can see how the situation was changing rapidly. This is where a good captain shines. You need to stay calm under pressure, trying to think ahead of the game while also dealing with:

You could see Watsonian trying to get under the skin of the Grange batsmen with some energetic fielding and calls of “pressure building” when a few dot balls were strung together. They were squeezing hard.

However, they couldn’t get a stranglehold. Some average bowling gave away runs (50 in the 10 overs between 30-40). Watsonian had given away momentum going into the death.

The good start had meant that the score was 151-4 after 40 overs. The innings could still go either way.

In the final part we will look at how to manage the final 10 overs as captain.  Get the free email newsletter to stay up to date.  

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five bowlers, and none of them spinners!

Don't worry, we will see the introduction of some classy spin bowling in the next part...