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Big partnerships are no fun if you are in the field, but just because the batsmen are in control, it doesn't mean you have to give up.

That's why this week we look at 8 ways you can break through when your well of hope is running dry.

We also look at a couple of new ideas: aggressive dot balls and avoiding coaching the pull shot. Points for discussion at the very least so remember you can leave your own comments at the bottom of every article or email us any time.

Have a great weekend, 

David Hinchliffe

4 Ways to break a big partnership

This article is part 1 of a 2 part series. To go to part 2 click here

Is there anything more demoralising on the cricket field than the opposition building a big partnership?

It seems no matter what anyone tries, 2 batsman have got themselves set and are going about the business of scoring runs with scant regard for the 11 men trying their hardest to break their grip.

But are you just as much to blame as the batsmen's skill?

I know I have played in games where the only thing we try to break the partnership is the odd change of bowling and increasingly defensive fields.

But where is the fun in that?
So here are 4 other things you can try.

Are they obvious? Perhaps. But from experience of being out there with increasing desperation, it's easy to forget. So next time the score is 98-0, take a moment to remember a couple of these.

If they work, you will be a hero.
1. Change the delivery

With the constant mantra of club coaches to bowl at the top of off stump and the lack of practice of variations it's easy to forget that there are several ways to mix up the ball you bowl:

  • Change of pace: quicker or slower balls. The key is not to change action.
  • Change of angle: Go wider on the crease or go around the wicket. Suddenly batsmen are playing at balls they should leave and leaving balls they should play.
  • Change of spin: More or less spin makes the ball behave differently in the air, even if it is not doing much off the pitch; A big ripper will dip more, the arm ball curves in the air like a swing bowler and a flipper skids on.
2. Put in a short leg

My dad, a club cricketer who has played cricket in 5 decades, once told me if nothing was happening he would just put himself at short leg for a few balls.

The theory is that the batsmen, used to being on top, feel confused and pressured by a man suddenly breathing down their neck as the bowler runs in. He starts wondering if the captain seen something in his technique to justify such a move, or is about to get some short stuff.

Of course it's all bluff, but sometimes it works. Pressure is a curious thing.

Other field changes that work in this way are: short mid off and leaving behind square on the leg side open.

3. Keep someone off strike

The tactic of starving a batsman of the strike is all about creating frustration. Unless he has the patience of Job, a batsman will look to score off balls he would normally not consider purely because he has not got a run for a couple of overs.

The way to do it is to quietly give your target a single then squeeze the other batsman with a ring field. Then as the over is coming to an end you make sure he gets a single, keeping your target off strike.

The key to making this work is to be subtle about what you are doing so it feels like an accident to the batsmen, and that requires some sharp fielders.

When giving a single the ring fielders need to be slightly out of position. This can be done in a number of ways:

  • Too close. For example, cover slides to an almost catching position while extra cover drops back to he or she is too deep and too straight creating a gap that allows the single but saves the boundary.
  • Too deep. For example, put your weakest and slowest fielders at mid on and mid off then drop them back a tiny bit too deep.
  • Leave a gap. On the batsman's strongest shot, take out the saving one fielder and put him on the boundary, if the boundary is long keep them close enough to save 2.

It works especially well if you stop the aggressive or better batter in the partnership, but only if you do it quietly. If the batsman catches on to your plan he will try and counter it.

4. Change ends

Different ends behave differently, so why not try your star bowler from the other end for a change?

It may be that he or she has to bowl uphill and into the wind for a change, but desperate times call for you to try anything, even if it defies logic.

A word of warning about this tactic; I captained a game recently where I thought I would try our leg spinner from the other end. I got a left arm spinner to bowl one over to allow the leggie to change ends, and then brought the left-armer on at the other end a few overs later.

Sadly we had no scorer and the opposition scorer was so confused we had to spend an hour in the dressing room working out the bowling figures. So if you try this, make sure the scorer knows what is going on.

In part 2 we look at 4 more ways to break a big partnership. Click here to go there now.

image credit: andy_carter

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Learn how to drive like a professional cricketer

Is there any greater sign of a player's class than his or her ability to drive the ball?

A technically sound drive fixes a huge number of problems in batsmen. Do you recognise any of these problems:

  • Frequently getting out bowled and LBW
  • Nicking off
  • Hitting the ball in the air
  • Getting caught from leading edges or at square leg
  • Getting caught at short leg/silly point

Not being able to score in the mid on and midwicket area

Each of these are classic examples of drives that are not technically perfect.

While you may get way for it if you have a good eye and are facing average bowling, what happens when you come across a swing bowler who can get the ball down to you quickly on a tricky wicket?

Chances are, you will have plenty of time to think about it in the pavilion.

But even with limited time to practice, you can solve these problems.

If you know how to practice.

And that comes from emulating how the professionals do it.

One person who knows how the pros practice is coach Gary Palmer. Gary has worked with first-class players for 20 years and knows a thing or two about perfecting technique.

His method, that he outlines in his online coaching course 'How to Play the Perfect On, Off and Straight Drive', is a simple one. Use simple drills to achieve perfection then repeat as often as possible.

How different is that from traditional club nets where everyone turns up, has a hit and goes home again?

With the right drills you can learn how to:
  • Align your body and bat swing correctly to the line of the ball
  • Stay balanced throughout the shot
  • Complete the swing of the bat in the most effective way

Once you know the feel of these critical aspects of driving you will be in much better positions to play the ball late, hit the middle more often and score in a wide arc between extra cover on the off side and midwicket on the leg side.

And if you can do that you are going to score runs more consistently in all conditions, not just when the sun is beating down on a flat track against tired bowlers.

And consistent runs means more fun, more chance of selection for higher honours and a sparklingly successful cricket career (whether it be playing professionally yourself, or just enjoying your Sunday afternoon village match a little more).

And the secret really is just practicing in the right way.

So before you go to the nets and start your new practice regime, click here to buy 'How to Play the Perfect On, Off and Straight Drive' and pick up the drills you need.


4 More ways to break a big partnership

This article is part 2 of a 2 part series. To go to part 1 click here

Breaking a big partnership is hard work. Maybe you have already tried the previous 4 things and you are still struggling to get a wicket.

Here are 4 more ways you can try.
1. Throw down your hat

Sometimes a simple strop is what it takes to focus everyone's mind. It's amazing how much fielding improves after a blast from captain or bowler.

The trick is in the timing of it.

If you curse and shake your fists too often, everyone becomes immune to your behaviour and it loses effectiveness.

But if you pick your moment you can throw the book at someone and everyone else in the side tries that little bit harder.

The effect doesn't last very long, with a couple of boundaries soon taking the sheen off your well planned tantrum. But there is a chance the increase in efforts leads to that piece of bowling or fielding you need.

Be warned though; batsmen love to see players having a go at each other in the field. So make it short and sharp and don't let ill-feeling linger. Some people like to bite back, or fume quietly about your histrionics. Pay attention to the response of the players.

2. Keep your head up

It's a simple case of maths. There are 11 fielders and only 2 batsmen. If you keep the energy and enthusiasm up, batting is a lonely job and pressure can tell.

But it's easy to say and hard to do when your team are watching the ball go to all parts with little to give you hope.

This is where individual character has to take over and each player in the side has to take responsibility for being confident and optimistic, even in the face of an all out assault.

This begins by sticking together. It's easy to get frustrated when things are not going right. Some players will start to look around for things to blame; dropped catches, bad captaincy or a poor umpire.

But blaming means you are not sticking together, so if you see that happening make sure players refocus on things that can control like how well they field. You don't have to be the captain to do it either.

On a more superficial level, sometime to keep things interesting you just need to make a change for change sake. Between balls have a joke with the side, or swap places with another fielder for a few overs. Little things can help focus the mind.

But most importantly, it's about knowing that one ball can make the breakthrough. Every player has the job of keeping that in mind every ball.

3. Bring on the occasional bowlers

If all the main bowlers have been tried and have failed, then it's time to bring on the occasionals.

Part-time bowlers are much underused in games where there is a big stand, but the bowler who lacks skill can relight a game because they make things happen.

Yes the risk is that the thing that happens is that they get wacked for 28 in 2 overs. But they also may bowl a slow full toss and see the batsman hang his head in horror as he loops it straight to midwicket.

Sometimes both these things will happen, but 28.00 is a good bowling average.

So bung on your occasional bowler (or even your never-bowled-before bowler). You never know what will happen and you have nothing to lose. Just make sure you take him off as soon as the impact has been made. There is no law that says you have to keep a bowler on the over after he takes a wicket.

4. Run them out

The final stand-by is the good old run out; breaker of many batsman's hearts.

Usually a run out comes through bad judgement or communication between batsmen, which you have no control over. But from time to time it's more about brilliant fielding.

And that takes plenty of practice long before you find yourself in the big stand.

Anyone can practice hitting the stumps. You can do it as a team or on your own. All you need is some space a ball or two and something stump shaped. Practice every day if you can because the more you practice the better you get.

It's boring, but it's worth it.

Then as you pick up the ball and look up to see the over-confident batsman taking an 'easy single' you will have the confidence that you have made the breakthrough.

If you enjoyed this series, get the free weekly coaching newsletter and get more tips and tricks delivered to your inbox every Friday. 

image credit: TTGE

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Are you bowling aggressive dot balls?

Imagine a typical dot ball.

Perhaps you are thinking of the opening batsman shouldering arms to a ball outside off stump. Maybe you picture a workmanlike off-spinner having a good length ball pushed back with a textbook forward defensive.

The dot is the DNA of cricket. It happens when nothing else happens. It's part of the unique rhythm of the game. The bit that people who don't understand it scratch their heads and say "this is boring".

Is coaching the pull shot harming young cricketers?

As any coach knows, coaching the pull shot is an easy win. Kids love it, they can do it easily and it gets them runs when they are starting out.

But it's also reducing their chances of batting success.

The pull is already the most natural of shots for anyone to play: step back and hit across the line through the leg side. Any novice player can do it.

The fact is that it's a staple of village tail-enders around the world.


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: 108
Date: 2010-07-23