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If you want a hero to emulate, Mitch Johnson is a great choice: a fast bowler who has gone from wayward to destroyer. Steffan Jones examines his case and shows you the things you can learn from the Aussie paceman.

We also help you come up with some better training ideas than "6 balls left", and show fast bowlers the facts about doing laps for fitness.

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

How to Bowl Like Mitchell Johnson


This is a guest article from former professional bowler, and current Strength, Conditioning and Fast Bowling Coach Steffan Jones.

Why is Mitchell Johnson so unplayable at the moment?

What has made him change from a guy that struggled to hit the cut strip to now being the quickest bowler in the world and a genuine game changer?


It's not technique.

His bowling arm is slightly higher. but lets be honest, there is nothing drastic.

What has changed is this: The way he is treated. Johnson is now a finely tuned Ferrari. He sits in the garage until he's taken out and when he's out he gets absolutely floored! He's not taken out to get the bread from the shops. The Ferrari comes out when things need to be done quickly and impressively. The Head Coach believes in him and the value he brings. Like that sports car, Johnson is loved and cared for!

That's the way it has to be because you cannot physiologically keep the speed and intensity up for long periods of time.

Don't make a racehorse a workhorse

However, I've played in cricket teams where the valuable resource of the fast bowler is misused. They make the racehorse into a workhorse.

Unfortunately, physically it is impossible.

A bowler cannot bowl flat out for longer than 4-6 overs. Usain Bolt can't keep his 100m pace over 400m, let alone 1500m.

In fact, bowling long spells is a way to lose pace, and make bowlers bowl within themselves. You then get out of the habit and the mindset of bowling quickly. I'm convinced through 20 years of experience that bowlers become slow when they work at less than 100%.

So by using a gun bowler effectively and efficiently you have more chance of that bowler getting you a crucial wicket at the crucial point of the game. Pace frightens people. Fact. No one likes batting against a genuinely fast bowler.

That's just not happening right now. But you can see how important it is through the example of Mitchell Johnson.

If you look at how Australia are using Johnson the longest spell is 5-6 overs. That way he can keep the pace up and constantly unleash thunderbolts at the batters. His runs per over are irrelevant because he knows, the coach knows, Australia as a country know and the team knows his role. The Australian bowling attack has combination to back him up. Two bowlers hit line and length very effectively at a lively pace while a spinner wheels away to give the seamers a break at one end.

Then, when he's recharged and ready to be unleashed, Johnson is let loose on the opposition.

Why are you bowling long spells?

If you are being made to bowl long spells then ask the question "why?". Ask the coach and captain your role in the side. Get clarity so when you're asked to bowl you now what to do.

Every bowler has a role: A medium pacer or the all-rounder has the role of run rate control. Your job as a fast bowler is to make things happen, get wickets, rough the batter up.

In short: Bowl fast!

It's your future you deserve to know what teams expect of you. If clubs want you to slow down and hit areas, my advice is to find another club, a Darren Lehman type coach and be used as the strike bowler you deserve to be.

For complete training plans that fit this model for fast bowlers, check out Get Wheels and Advanced Speed Demon on PitchVision Academy.

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Are You Damaging Batsmen with "6 Balls Left"? You'll Enjoy This Solution

Have you ever said to a batter "you have 6 balls left!", then they change their mode and just slog?

The damage that this does is immeasurable.

Any progress from the session is diluted or reduced. The batting shapes and thought processes evaporate.

Arguments ensue about whether it was 4, 6 or caught at deep mid on

The batter starts the next opportunity to bat with this poor experience running through their veins.

It's one of my biggest bug bears, and for years I have been trying to figure out a way around this.


A simple, effective way to improve strike effectiveness

I have been experimenting, and I think I have one option.

This has been built around the adage of "coach the intention; not the action" and ultimately has created a game within a game.

At a point towards the end of someone’s net session, inform the batter that they have a certain amount of balls left. For this example, we will make it a 12 ball game and our friend "Burners" is the batter.

The game is simulating the last 2 overs of an ODI or T20 match. The intention is to optimise the quality of striking under pressure.

The scoring system:

  • Play and Miss = 0
  • Edge = 1
  • Good contact = 2
  • Exceptional contact = 3

A perfect round is 36 points. At the end of the 12 balls, the player will have a score which can be used in a number of ways.

  1. Player to keep tabs of their score to set themselves challenges in repeat practice sessions
  2. Encourage Motivation and Focus at the end of net sessions
  3. Make it competitive within the group
  4. Selection criteria potential/Deployment within a game?
  5. Further Analysis

Now this is optional but you know I love a useful spreadsheet. It's formulas can help me to identify trends that develop and progress/regression over time. If we take Burners performance over 10 occasions where he took on the "12 Ball Challenge" then we can see that there are a number of trends that occurred:

  1. Whilst progression was not linear (it rarely is), we can see that Burners developed his striking quality over the journey from Test 1 to Test 10. This can be monitored on the line graph.
  2. The numbers in the spreadsheet also tell us a story of how Burners developed into a strong finisher (ball 11 & 12) in his final 3 Tests after a very poor/inconsistent finish on the same balls in his first 4 Tests.
  3. The bar chart shows that Burners averages 2 or more points on balls 1, 3, 8 and 9 which are his most effective deliveries.
    • Can you map this against the players emotional state at those times?
    • Can you map this against video footage that you take concurrently?
  4. Burners averages 1.775 per ball in these ten scenarios.
    • Can he learn strategies/approaches that increase that his overall scoring effectiveness?

Have a go at the "12 ball challenge" and see if it makes any difference to the quality of your net sessions and starts to impact upon performance in the middle.

Then let us know how you go so we can discuss it here!

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Cricket Show S5 Episode 7: The New Rules of Batting

Mark Garaway and Sam Lavery join David Hinchliffe to chat about the missing two thirds of batting development, and how you can work on your picking line and length and shot selection alongside developing perfect technique.

Plus, we focus on spin in the readers questions. We talk about a spinner who is not allowed to bowl spin and a coach who wants to help his spinners get more turn.

Burners is on the road and speaks to Mark Thorburn, Analyst at Gloucestershire County Cricket Club, about how he works with the bowlers to attack the most important areas.

Download the show in iTunes or listen in your browser!


How to Send in Your Questions

If you want to win a cricket coaching prize, you need to send in your burning questions to the show. If your question is the best one we give you a free online cricket coaching course!

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This is show number 250.

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Stop Doing Laps, Start Taking Wickets

 Wouldn't you like to know a way to get miles in your legs without 10 rounds of the ground?

While, most ex-cricketers and coaches will tell you that stamina is good for bowlers, a long jog just isn’t the way to do it. Long jogs are sure recipes for disaster.

Still sceptical? Have a look at the stats.

Here's a Creative Way to Get More Young Cricketers

Does your team need more young cricketers?

Many clubs are feeling the pinch these days. Kids have more choice of activity than ever, which is making the pool smaller every year. It's tough to compete with football, PlayStation and iPads.

You can't sit back and wait for a new intake of 11 year old players to arrive. You have to start early and make cricket as entertaining as all the other distractions. That's why it's time to rethink how to bring youngsters into the game.


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: 296
Date: 2014-02-28