"Run him out!"
The batsman had dropped the ball into the off side and called a quick single. His partner was slow off the mark.
The point fielder saw the chance early. He got low, moving swiftly to sweep up the ball. He had done it ten thousand times in practice and was drilled to aim at the base of the stump. The partnership was as broken as the wicket was about to be.
As he reached for the ball he was already imagining it flying to the stumps. Which is why he didn't grab it cleanly, overshot the trickling ball and raised his eyes to the sky in disgust while the batsmen scampered through without risk.
How many times a season do you see this in your team? How often have you done it yourself?
The frantic rush for the ball under a moment of pressure was enough to put you off your well drilled skill. I'm willing to bet you miss far more run outs from missed pick ups than from missed stumps. Sound familiar?
Here's what you do to redress that balance.
Woah! Slow down!
When you are in a game, pressure is up and you try to do everything at maximum speed. The truth is you don't need to be at 100% to get the job done.
Speed of reaction and ability to anticipate will put you in a good position for most run outs.
When you are ahead of the game, you can take a little longer over the skill itself:
- Watch the ball and move towards it.
- As you approach, picture it smacking into the palm of your hand before you even start to think about the throw.
- Once it is secure you can move to the throw itself. You are well drilled and the throw will come naturally to you.
You can do all this at a much slower pace than you imagine. Of course you can't dally - especially if you are a little slow in your acceleration - but you could go at 85% speed and still get the run out as long as you execute a direct hit.
Want a good rule of thumb for the speed you need?
If you are scrunching up your face in fierce anger you are going too hard. You're putting so much effort into your face muscles contracting, it's no wonder your technique is lacking. A calm, peaceful face is a sign of confident focus and an increase in run outs.
Run out drills
So, next time you work on your run out throws, make sure you don't just work on the technique. That's important, but so is the ability to anticipate the ball coming to you, make a swift decision to throw and stay focused on just the ball.
You have so much more time if you get these parts right. Then you don't need to over-rush.
To do this, make sure there is an element of pressure and decision-making in your drills too.
You can try 360 fielding, or Bland's game. Throw in a batsman with this drill or play a small-sided game where batsman have to play tip and run every ball.
These are all fun variations that work on fielding anticipation, decision-making and skill execution. With enough work, your ability will go up and so will the number of run out chances you take.
(image credit: Sarah Canterbury)