How to win the first hour of a match with the ball | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

How to win the first hour of a match with the ball

This is part two of a two part series by Laurie Ward from The Complete Cricketer Academy in Cape Town, South Africa. To go to part one click here.

The best opening bowlers work in tandem and to apply as much pressure up front on the new batsmen, even if conditions favour the batting side.

  • Be ready to bowl from ball one: Bowlers must use the conditions and new ball. Be warmed up and focused so you can extract as much from the new ball as possible. Do not give the batsmen the momentum and confidence.
  • Know your target areas: Recognise what the conditions require and your role within the game. If bowling on a belter of a track aim to frustrate the batsmen with consistency, stringing the dot balls together. Frustration may lead to mistakes, particularly if they feel the ball coming on to the bat but are not scoring.
  • Don’t experiment: Your full armoury of deliveries should have been perfected in the nets. Do not try a big in-swinging yorker if you haven’t mastered it in practice. You should be looking to build pressure and this may be a release ball if you are fractionally off target.
  • Don’t try too hard: This may sound a strange comment but not every ball can be a wicket-taking delivery. You need to work on building the pressure and creating a mistake, especially on a good track. There is no need to try all the tricks if conditions are in your favour. Stick to the game plan. Make it as hard for the batsman as possible.
  • Bowl to your plan/field: Spraying the new ball both sides of the wicket only helps the batsman settle and adjust to the pace and bounce of the wicket. It also offers opportunities to score and hands over momentum. It is difficult for the captain to set a field and heads may drop from your team mates. 

Winning the first hour as a fielding unit

Let's not forget that if you are bowling, fielding is vital in the first hour.

  • Set the tone: Back up your bowlers. If the batsman does play a shot make sure to stop it. Nothing gets past, and if it should, chase hard and commit to saving runs. Anticipate every ball coming to you. Back up throws and other fielders when they are fielding. As they say; "make every run a prisoner."
  • Take your chances: When opportunities arise, you must be ready and able to take them. All fielders should be alive and concentrating from the start and specialist fielders should be in the right positions, having practiced the necessary skills in the warm-up.
  • Work as a unit: Ring fielders should be co-ordinated and primed, walking in to make the batsman feel if he is being squeezed in. Chase the ball in pairs and get the ball in quickly to stop extra runs.
  • Recognise conditions: If the ball is coming on and the outfield is fast ring fielders can give themselves a few extra metres but still should walk in, allowing a bigger ring to cut off angles for boundaries but still cutting off quick singles. Close fielders should take their lead from the keeper, setting themselves in the correct positions to take edged chances.
  • Promote positive talk, vibe and teamwork: Keep on-field talk positive and directed to boost teamwork. Work hard on body language being strong. There is often no need to bring a batsman into it if you are squeezing the pressure on. This may have the counter-effect of making him more determined and will also detract from your positive words. Let your fielding do the talking and subconsciously undermine the batsman.

Whichever you are doing, taking first knock or in the field, use these tactics and skills to take advantage of the first hour and aim to dictate the game from there. 

For more bowling, batting and fielding tactics at club level look at the online cricket coaching course: The Game Plan: How to Build A Winning Cricket Team by former Glamorgan player and coach Adrian Shaw.

image credit: SarahCanterbury

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