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Bowler's take centre stage in this week's newsletter. We outline what the 5 Laws of bowling success are, look at what "a good length" really is and discuss ways to get wickets when batsmen are blocking out.

But just to keep the batsmen happy, we also examine the little known 4 levels of playing spin to help you get a couple more runs before the bowlers take over.

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

The 5 immutable Laws of bowling success

Some say bowling is a 'god given' skill. Those rare few with the talent for it are the only ones who can succeed.

Those people are wrong.

Bowling ability isn't bestowed by a higher power at birth. It's the result of 5 simple things, all within the reach of anyone wanting to be successful with the ball.

You can be a spinner or seamer, 10 years old or in your forties. These are the universal truths that dictate your success.

1. The Law of single minded obsession

There is a proven fact from every walk of life from brain surgery to gardening: The best are the ones who practice the most.

The obvious conclusion is to practice more than anyone else if you want to be better than everyone else. You are the first to arrive at nets and the last to leave. You are the one taking a box of balls on your own and bowling at a target until it gets dark. You are the one seeking out games in the summer, even if it's just a pickup match in the park.

But it's more than that too.

Cricket obsession is born from a deep love of playing; something you can't fake. If you enjoy what you do you will do it more, and so you will get better at it.

Also you will be relaxed, focused and happy. If you feel that way, success will be far more likely.

Even the boring, hard work doesn't feel that hard if you are having fun.

2. The Law of pinpoint accuracy

Think of any great international bowler. The variety in styles is huge from the pace and athleticism of Michael Holding to the spin of Shane Warne. When they were at their best they all had one thing in common: accuracy.

Accuracy is not just the realm of wily medium pace bowlers. If you have searing pace, you need to be accurate. If you are a leg spinner, you need to be accurate.

Nobody gets a pass because without accuracy you can't set a field and if you can't set a field you can't build pressure on batsman to force a mistake.

Mostly this is down to single minded and deliberate practice (see Law 1), but the ability to know how to stay confident and control your concentration levels are also key skills for staying accurate. You need to trust yourself in the middle and controlling the mental side of the game allows you to focus on just playing without over-thinking.

To learn some simple tricks to improve your confidence and keep your concentration buy the online coaching course "How to Use Mental training to Boost Your Game" on PitchVision Academy.

3. The Law of explosive power

All bowlers also need to be explosive. Seamers need to generate as much pace on the ball as they can muster. Spinners must spin the ball hard. That takes a powerful action.

That means every part of your body is involved in your action to put pace or spin on the ball. Your front leg should brace, your hips should drive through, and your shoulders should rotate fully.

In that moment of delivery, effort is at 100%

It's not just a psychological thing to work on in the nets either. Your fitness training also needs an explosive element. Throw medicine balls, do clap push ups, learn power moves with weights and experiment with light plyometrics.

4. The Law of variety

Nobody needs 5 different slower balls or to invent new types of leg breaks, but all good bowlers need to know simple ways to mix up their style because it confuses the batsman and knocks him or her out of rhythm.

It doesn't have to be dramatic or clever because batting is difficult enough. Even a small change is enough to upset a player. Pick one or two changes and work on them:

  • Pace. Either slower or quicker with no change of action.
  • Angle. Round the wicket, wider on the crease, tighter to the stumps.
  • Length. Yorkers are a winning variation for all types of bowlers. Good seamers can call on a bouncer.

Spinners, naturally, also have their variations from the hand be it the leg spinner's googly or the finger spinners arm ball.

A good rule of thumb is to practice a variation about 20% of the time and use it sparingly in games unless you have a specific reason to do otherwise.

5. The Law of knowledge

Knowledge gleaned through playing builds up a bank of experience you can draw on in any situation.

If you have been hit round the park before, you know how to handle it tactically and mentally. If you are able to read a batsman's weaknesses because you have seen it in another game, you can bowl the same way again.

But such skill takes a conscious effort on your part. Take time to read up on techniques (not just bowling either), Pay attention when you play and ask other players about why they did things when you get the chance. The more you know, the better armed you are when you are standing at your mark and wondering what to bowl.

image credit: p_a_h

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Adrian Shaw reveals the secrets of 20 years of first-class experience

Former first-class cricketer Adrian Shaw is passing on the benefits of his experience to PitchVision Academy members.

Shaw is the latest coach to join the PitchVision Academy panel of cricketing experts with a brand new online coaching course called "The Game Plan: How to Build a Winning Cricket Team".

And there is nobody better qualified to help you develop your team into a well drilled unit. Shaw has played, captained and coached for over 20 years. He has played in teams with enormous success (including the County Championship with Glamorgan) and learned exactly what works and what doesn't.

With the benefit of this knowledge he has produced an online coaching course that covers the proven methods to:

  • Develop teamwork
  • Get more runs
  • Have better bowling plans
  • Improve fielding standard

As Director of Cricket at the recreational club Neath CC, Shaw has adapted his first-class methods to the unique challenges of the non-professional game too.

So no matter if your team is the most social pub side or a serious club team looking to get closer to the first class game, The Game Plan is the course to learn Shaw's methods.

To purchase The Game Plan: How to Build a Winning Cricket Team click here.


The hierarchy of playing spin

How many good players of spin are there in club cricket?

I would hazard a guess there are very few.

Playing spin is difficult and takes practice, but good spinners are rare in the non-professional game and so batsmen don't get to face them much in the nets or in matches.

The result is batsman who can defend or slog, with not much in-between.

So how do you improve your play against spin with limited time to practice and play?

I think the easiest way to develop a game-plan is to treat playing spin techniques as a hierarchy of risk vs. reward.

1. Play straight with the spin

The underlying principle of playing spin is always the same: first play with the spin using the full face of the bat.

That means driving with a high elbow on the front and back foot. The exact target area will vary depending on the way the ball is turning.

  • Ball turning in: Look to drive/flick the ball in an area between midwicket and mid off.
  • Ball turning away: Look to drive the ball in an area between cover and straight mid on.

At this level simply wait for the over pitched or slightly short ball then get in position and swing the bat through the line towards the target area.

Simply playing like this will get you plenty of runs without having to do anything else.

2. Use your feet

Now imagine the spinner is tying you down enough so you are behind the rate you would like to be scoring at.

The first tactic is to use your feet to move down the wicket and turn a good length ball into a half volley that you can drive straight.

This is slightly riskier than staying in your crease because if you miss it you can be stumped, but because you are still playing straight you can pick up runs in your chosen scoring area (which hasn't changed).

Pick the right line to move and do it with confidence. You can find out more about how to move down the pitch to spinners here.

3. Sweep

Sweeping is a riskier way to score against tight bowling because you are playing across the line, which is why it's third in your list of options.

If the mid on and mid off are back and the ring fielders are tying you down then the sweep is a handy option to manipulate the field.

It's best played against a bowler pitching the ball on or outside leg stump with the ball turning away (for example left arm over to a right hander) because LBW is out of the picture.

You can also sweep to the ball turning in if you hit it square.

If you are right handed the riskiest sweep is the off spinner bowling around the wicket (for left handers the risk is the left arm round bowler). This is because if the ball straightens and hits you in line you are likely to be out LBW.

If you want more tips on playing the sweep, look at this article.

4. Improvise

If you are looking to score quickly and off almost every ball (say at the death of a one day innings) you must take risks, however you can still look to score in safer areas, even when you are hitting sixes.

One way of doing this is the modern "forward press" of taking a small step onto your front foot just before the delivery. This means you have the option to move down the wicket and hit straight, or to go really deep in the crease on the back foot and drive or pull.

To the ball moving away you also have the option of cutting and late cutting safely if you are deep in the crease.

Other improvising options are:
  • Ball turning in: Move the front leg out to the leg side, opening yourself up to hit the ball over mid on or midwicket if it's full or square leg if it's on a length with a slog sweep.
  • Ball turning away: If the line is leg side you can sweep or slog sweep the ball over midwicket. A straighter line means you can move down the wicket and hit with the spin over extra cover, going 'inside out'.

The trick to playing spin well is to not try and move up the hierarchy unless you have to. If you can score at the required rate by sticking with number 1 then why take additional risks?

This is especially true if you have little practice time against decent spin. Focus on the basics of 1 and 2 then, if you have more time, start practicing 3 and 4.

For more on the techniques and tactics of playing spin; including videos on how to play, check out The Complete Guide To Effectively Playing Spin Bowling on PitchVision Academy.

image credit: Sarah Canterbury

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What is a good length to bowl?

It doesn't matter if you bowl occasional leg spin or you open for a Premier League team; you want to bowl a good length.

Consist accuracy is one of the non-negotiable Laws of bowling success.

But what does a 'good length' really mean?

In the past coaches have always stuck to the mantra of 'putting the batsman in 2 minds'.

How to spin out a batsman set on defence

Picture the scene; you are playing in a English declaration game. The weather is set fair and after batting first you have enjoyed an excellent tea.

The opposition start well, but lose a flurry of quick wickets. With 6 over to go 22 runs are needed but numbers 10 and 11 are at the wicket.

So they shut up shop, batting out to save the draw.


About PitchVision Academy

Welcome to this week's guide to playing and coaching better cricket.

I'm David Hinchliffe and I'm Director of the PitchVision Academy team. With this newsletter you are benefitting directly from over 25 Academy coaches. Our skills include international runs and wickets, first-class coaching, cutting-edge research and real-life playing experience.


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Issue: 101
Date: 2010-06-04