Englands batting selection challenges aren’t any different to our own in many ways. Some players playing well and holding the side together with others hardly contributing at all.
Jennings, Westley and Malan have been challenged by the increased levels of consistency and patience of the Test seamers. It hasn’t been the pace that has done them, just the ability to hold a line, a length and stick to a plan allied with the ball moving fractionally one way or another.
This is Test Match cricket and it exposes technique quicker than any other form of the game.
So what can a coach do to help players who are being technically exposed as they make the step up into a higher level of the game?
Let’s look at them Keaton Jennings and come up with some potential solutions; I bet there is someone in your team who may have similar challenges.
Potential Keaton Jennings Drills
Keaton Jennings had a perfect start in scoring 112 on debut against the Indian spinners but since has been a walking wicket against quality Philander and Morkel, consistently nicking behind when the ball slants across him.
Keaton rarely transfers his weight into the ball. He has very stiff legs when he plays forward and his weight stays back or in a neutral position.
Players who have these symptoms often push or jab at the ball with hard hands. The body is purely trying to find the ball as a result of knowing that it hasn’t moved effectively.
The hard push towards the ball with the hands means that a hands are playing the ball well ahead of the body’s centre of mass and head position.
Fine control is lost which brings the edge into play more regularly as Keaton struggles to adapt to the late moving ball.
Keaton’s hard hands then make the edge carry to slip at very catchable height. We have seen this regularly in eight Test innings.
Potential Drill Solution #1
A drill I would encourage for Keaton is the Bob Woolmer One leg Drill.
This comprises of underarm feeds initially. The batter steps forward onto their front leg and releases their back foot from the ground. In order to retain balance, the batter has to shift their body weight over their front leg or otherwise the would topple over. This shift in body weight is exactly what Keaton needs to help his game at the top level.
Drill progressions are simple. Overarm Throw Downs - Bowling Machine and then finally, Facing bowlers.
Michael Vaughan used to do this drill every morning before a Test Match day as he knew he had potential to get straight legged and not transfer his weight through the ball if he didn’t work hard at it.
Effective weight transfer helps players to generate power for offensive shots as well as control for defensive ones. Players who master this tend to score in straighter areas than those who hold their weight back.
So if you want to score more runs in the “V” then this drill is for you as well!
Potential Drill Solution #2
A drill I would encourage for Keaton is the soft hands defence drill
The second simple drill that I would encourage Keaton Jennings to do is to face bowlers or a bowling machine where the focus is to bat in a realistic fashion yet defend with the specific intention of making the ball bounce as close as possible to him post contact.
Place cones around the batter in a circle. Start the circle as a 5 metre radius with the batting stumps as the centre point.
The aim is to defend an appropriate ball ball with soft hands and very late so that the ball falls gently into the ground as close as it can to the batter.
The player knows that they are doing this drill well when any edges hit the round within the circle before bouncing to potential slip fielders.
The progressions are to:
- Reduce the radius of the defending circle.
- Increase the challenge of the delivery (faster, more movement, newer balls, greener surface)
Kane Williamson is the master of soft hands in defence.
Kane combines the key elements of both drills when he defends and has an incredibly low slip catch dismissal as a consequence.
Marcus Tresothick is someone I would encourage Keaton to watch on video as Marcus played with very straight legs (just like Jennings) and didn’t always transfer his weight perfectly.
Yet, Tres had very soft hands when he defended.
This is an example how one good element of technique can get you out of trouble when other elements are exposed.
Ideally, I would ask Keaton to work on these two drills in order to become more Kane Williamson-like before he heads to Australia for the Ashes in November.
Building these drills into Keaton Jennings practice programme would help him a lot in my very humble opinion.
Do you have any players who may benefit from one or both of these drills?
If you do then give them a go!