The "bull ring" has one of the bounciest strips in world cricket. England bowled poorly with 2 new balls on day one. The pitch displayed bounce and carry but lacked a bit of pace.
Broad and Anderson bowled too short and on a 5th or 6th stump line for large parts of the game yet the South African batters simply watched the ball sail through at head height through to Johnny Bairstow.
Whilst this was a good survival tactic, they failed to put the two opening bowlers under pressure at all. This allowed Broad to feel his way back into his bowling, build his rhythm find the right length for the springboard of a surface. Something they regretted later in the game!
Contrast this to Joe Root's approach when he entered the fray at 22-2 in England's 1st innings.
As soon as Root got a sniff of the cut, he piled in. The net result was that the inexperienced South African attack had to adjust their aim and were forced to overpitch.
Root scored 110 in 139 balls in a low scoring and short Test match. In terms of context, it could have been argued that he was Man of the Match.
The great news for us mere mortals is that Joe Root didn't even have a cut shot in his locker at the outset of his Test career.
It took some bad experiences against Mitchell Johnson and co in 2014 to kickstart his cut shot development.
Graham Thorpe - the England lead batting coach - started to work with Joe's backswing, making it more "active and ready" to prepare him to specifically develop a cut shot.
The technical adaptation was that Joe got his hands slightly further back in anticipation of ball release and that he was ready to bounce. This got Rooty's engine ticking.
Thorpe started building the shot gradually, appropriately layering up the intensity and the complexity using different types of feed from underarm initially through to Sidearm. Then he introduced extreme pace into the mix.
The extreme pace drill is fantastic. It can be used to work specifically for the cut or the front foot square drive but also to increase the batters speed of reaction, perception, anticipation, execution and ultimately, confidence.
Set the bowling machine up so that the ball is fired way outside off stump. This means that the batter will not be in any danger. I have sent balls of 85mph to the offside of young batters for many years.
They start by watching the ball go by them.
Quickly, the shouts of "man, that's too quick" are replaced by silent and concentrated ball tracking. Then within minutes we start hearing the bat making contact with the ball.
Soon, the batter is climbing into the odd ball.
The odd ball becomes most balls.
Within a couple of sessions many players have asked me to speed the drill up in order to challenge them a little more!
Obviously be careful: Make sure you have a reliable bowling machine, good pimpled balls and that you are a good feeder. It's a skill, work at it.
But it's a great drill that we can use to develop lots of vital batting capacities. It is particularly good at building your version of Adam Gilchrist's "lifeline" cut shot.
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