This article is part of the “How to Improve Your Batting Shot Selection” series. To see the full list of shots click here.
With its stylish flourish, the cover drive will always get your team-mates roaring “shot!” as you blaze the ball away. Yet, it’s a paradox of a shot.
It has to be selected with the utmost caution and played with the greatest of vigour. If you fail you are very likely to be walking back to the pavilion, practicing it in the mirror instead of putting it into action on the field.
From the book: The half volley
Refer to your coaching book and you will be told the most simple thing about the cover drive; that it’s played to a half volley on or just outside the off stump. The ball is struck with virtually the full face between extra cover and cover.
This shot is especially effective when the ball is moving away (swing or spin) and you can go with the movement to naturally hit it a little squarer than the straight or off drive.
It’s also why left handers seem especially adept at the shot. The angle of a right arm bowler brings the line across the batter’s body so it’s natural to cover drive.
However, unlike other drives, it carries a greater risk of dismissal.
Analysing the risk
When played well the cover drive looks easy; however there are certain things to consider.
First, the shot is played to a ball that is in the ‘corridor of uncertainty’ (on or outside off stump). That means a misjudgement is much more likely to lead to an edge behind. This is especially true if your footwork is not getting you to the ball. You end up ‘reaching’ for the ball away from your body and not playing with the full face.
In other words, the cover drive is the most likely shot to be played with loose technique. This is especially true for longer games where the ball can be left alone forcing the bowler to go to a straighter line.
Second, it can lead to the specific technical fault of ‘falling over’.
It’s a problem that plagues even the best players. Ricky Ponting had it, Graham Gooch succumbed. Chances are you will too and often the cover drive is to blame.
It all stems from the desire to hit the ball through the covers early in an innings. Many players consider the cover drive their ‘banker’ shot and are looking to the cover area to get some early runs. So they lean too far to the off side, plant their front leg and hope the ball lands in the right spot.
It’s great when you get that half volley outside off and hit a boundary.
It’s not so great when you get an inswinger from a left arm over bowler thudding into your pads in front of middle stump.
Finally, the cover drive is a dream for the off spin bowler, turning it in to you. She is looking to make you play the ball as square as possible so she can bowl you through the gate or use the arm ball to get you caught at slip.
So consider cutting out the cover drive and playing a lot straighter when:
- The ball is swinging or spinning in to you.
- Your footwork is not as it should be (especially early in an innings).
- You are getting out LBW or bowled, playing around your front pad.
Going inside out
On the other hand, when you are attacking the cover drive is the basis of the ‘inside out’ shot that allows you to be innovative when you need to score quickly. The risk is quite high (which is why you so often see stumps spread-eagled), but if you are hitting out it is one of the easier risk-taking shots.
The inside out shot is played to a ball that is anything from a half volley to a good length. The ball needs to be straight and not moving in the air or off the pitch. Natural off-side players often find it an easier shot to play than the slog sweep to the on-side.
Your target area is still between cover and extra cover (not too square) but to get the ball there you need to step away to the leg side to give you room to hit. When you are in position, play the shot as an orthodox cover drive for a boundary.
You can also sit back a little in the shot and hit it over the top for six.
When the bowler angles the ball into you by going wider on the crease it is best to cut out this shot. It will feel like the ball is following you as you step back and not give you room to swing the bat. It’s easier to go leg side.
So take care with your cover drive and remember to avoid the technical pitfalls with plenty of grooving in the nets of all the drives.