Pitchvision Academy


As 48 year old Martin Crowe has decided to have another run at first-class cricket we thought it would be a good week to talk about age. So we have articles on how to make it a professional in your 20s, and how to keep going in your 40s.

We also look at separate topics protecting your shoulders and carry on the analysis of a one-day club innings.

Have a great weekend,  

David Hinchliffe

How to Break into Professional Cricket: What’s the Age Barrier?

 Dirk Nannes didn’t listen to conventional advice.

The wise sages of cricket all agree: If you have not made it into a first-class setup by the time you are 18, you may as well be on the cricketing scrap heap.

But Dirk was a skier. Sure, he played good club cricket in the summer but he never took it seriously. He was happy on the slopes.

Then he decided cricket would be a better bet. Convention dictated he was wasting his time; he was too late to make it as a professional. He switched anyway.

In 2006, at 29, he made his first class debut. 3 years later he was an international.

Can you be like Dirk?

Nannes is quiet the late developer, and he is not alone in making a late attack on professional cricket. It can be done.

So what are your chances?

In reality it’s very hard to break through if you are outside the conventional “academy” system. The reason is nothing to do with talent either.

When you are young the more you train and play, the better you become. If you are recognised as a potential first-class player at a young age you are given more games and better coaching and a crucial time in your development.

You start to believe your own hype and get the confidence that goes with increasing skill levels.

Players in this setup are pulling away from their peers through more deliberate practice. By the time they get to their late teens are well ahead.

The good news

The good news is that if talent is less important than good practice, you can blossom late if you miss the academy gravy train.

It just means you have to start practicing and playing very hard indeed. You have a lot of catching up to do.

Dirk and others like him could do it because they had a good base from which to build. They were already athletic with good general sport skills: coordination, balance and agility all came naturally to these guys.

They still had a long lead time before they made it too. Nannes played club cricket seriously for 7 seasons before he broke through for example.

Which brings us back to that age barrier.

You can make it as a professional right up into your late 20s. But that comes with a proviso:

  • You have to have a base of athletic ability that was developed as a youngster (aged 6-14).
  • You need to be playing good standard amateur cricket (such as UK Premier League 1st XI).
  • You must be performing deliberate practice 2-5 times a week.

Be honest with yourself and ask if those things are a realistic possibility. If they are and you are 25 years old, then go for it. It's a long road with no guarantees of success, but it's possible; Dirk proved it.

Oh and if you do, make sure you let PitchVision Academy know how you get on. We believe in you. 

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How to Control the Middle Overs Bowling First

In part one of this analysis of a 50 over club limited overs match, we looked at the first 15 overs. In this part we examine the tactics used by Craig Wright, former Scotland and current Watsonian CC captain, during the lull middle overs.

How do you manage the middle overs of a limited over match?

It’s the most difficult portion of an innings because there are far fewer “set piece” moments. As captain you have to think on your feet. Your goal is now to dry up the runs and frustrate the batsmen into getting out.

You will remember from part one that the first 15 overs of this match saw Watsonian boss the game without taking wickets. After 15 tight overs the score was 48-1 on a track with plenty of pace, bounce and sideways movement.

Controlling the lull overs

The secret of controlling the game in the middle overs is to bowl a consistent line with a well-set defensive field. Wickets are important but only to slow scoring down, so fewer risks need to be taken with field placing and bowling tactics.

For me in this level of cricket, line is more important than length because you can set a field to a consistent line.

While he could have chose a leg side line, Wright was looking for his strong seam attack to keep an off side line so he could have a 6-3 off side field.

This tactic worked well early on in the middle section.

Left arm seamer Mike Legget partnered up with opener Paddy Sadler, beating the bat. The runs were drying up and you could see the Grange batsmen playing loose shots in frustration.

The field began to close in, especially when a wicket fell in the 22nd over leaving the score on 70-2.

With Grange hanging in for survival, Watsonian hunted for more wickets, keeping in the slips and looking to get the number 4 batsmen with a very aggressive field for midway through a limited overs match:

This field was possible because of the consistent line and helpful pitch. You will notice how there is no fine leg, instead he has moved round to deep backward square leg. This opens up the possibility of being "beaten on the inside" to a loose ball flicked fine off the batsman's legs. However, it does allow the bowler the option of a short ball. In this game I would have kept the fielder finer because the number of bouncers bowled was virtually zero.

However Grange survived well. There were some loose balls bowled (mainly over-pitching) and one batsman was set after a few lucky moments early on.

By the 30th over Grange were 102-3.

A good general rule in 50 over games is to double a team’s score at the 30 over mark. Watsonian wanted to keep it below 200. Grange had batting to come, including a famed big-hitter. The game was in the balance.

With key bowler Sadler bowled out, Watsonian started to defend; the bowlers stuck to the principle of bowling to one side of the wicket, pitching it up just back of a good length. Typically the field was like this:

Had the bowling been less accurate, it might have been required to have another man on the leg side for cover. On slower pitches fine leg could be up in the ring. Later in the innings, mid on went back on the rope too.

Captain Wright bowled his remaining seamers (Legget, Chalmers, Routray and a returning McKenna) in short 2-5 over spells. This is important for several reasons:

  • The batsmen are being set new challenges and struggle to settle
  • You are keeping your options open for who to bowl at the death

Staying calm in a rapidly changing situation

You can see how the situation was changing rapidly. This is where a good captain shines. You need to stay calm under pressure, trying to think ahead of the game while also dealing with:

You could see Watsonian trying to get under the skin of the Grange batsmen with some energetic fielding and calls of “pressure building” when a few dot balls were strung together. They were squeezing hard.

However, they couldn’t get a stranglehold. Some average bowling gave away runs (50 in the 10 overs between 30-40). Watsonian had given away momentum going into the death.

The good start had meant that the score was 151-4 after 40 overs. The innings could still go either way.

In the final part we will look at how to manage the final 10 overs as captain.  Get the free email newsletter to stay up to date.  

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Cricket Show 115: How to Avoid Fatalities

There are in-depth looks at both fielding and fitness on the show this week. Burners may be suffering from a (self-diagnosed) debilitating back injury, but he is as strong as every when it comes to wordplay.

Meanwhile David tells the sorry tale of his team choking badly. Maybe more people will go to club nets now?

We also talk to strength coach and Watsonian left arm seamer Mike Legget. “Guns” gives us the lowdown on getting fast and strong for cricket, even at club level. Plus we answer your fielding questions in the mailbag.

How to Get in Touch With the Show

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4 Incredibly Simple Exercises to Prevent Shoulder Injuries

Who hasn’t had a little twinge in the throwing shoulder at least once?

It’s not surprising when you look at how the joint is brilliant and versatile, yet complex and unstable. If you don’t look after your shoulder, all that throwing, bowling and hitting will cause you a lot of pain!

The Martin Crowe Guide to Playing Cricket as an Oldie

Martin Crowe, dodgy knees and all, announces his comeback to cricket at 48 years old. In the same week 46 year old boxer Bernard Hopkins became light-heavyweight world boxing champion.

Who says sport is for young men?

These men in their 40s – and countless thousands of others at amateur levels – prove that you can keep sport in your life without making a fool of yourself.

So how do you follow Crowe and adapt to your changing needs as you get older?

Simple; plan.


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: 152
Date: 2011-05-27