Pitchvision Academy


Picking length, for many, is a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Once you get it, there is a big jump in skill level. Until you do you are left wondering how anyone can do it! That's why in this newsletter we look at that strange batting skill, and give you some things to take to your next session.

Then we move through the big coaching questions with Mark Garaway, down to a simple drill upgrade from Iain Brunnschweiler. Both brilliant in their own ways and unmissable. We finish with an analysis of the bowling action and working out which one is best if you want to be a fast bowler.

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

How to Pick Length

The relationship is simple: The better you pick length, the better you are as a batsman. It's, at least, one third of the art of batting.

Yet, as a coach, I see many players struggle to pick length well. They hit balls in practice all day long and look technically sound. Then they go out in the middle and get caught playing forward to a back of a length ball, and spooning a simple catch up in the air.

People say things like "he's stuck on the crease", "he falls over" and "he's too defensive". While all these comments may be true, they are not the root cause. The root cause is often not picking the ball in time to get into the right position.

Do you recognise these symptoms in yourself?

Here's my solution.


Play by numbers

As you know, I'm a big believer in backing ideas with numbers. Stats play the role of allowing you to accurately track your progress. You just need the right number to examine.

When it come to picking length, it's a tough area to measure. How do you judge what you have been thinking in a split second? The answer is buy using some numbers.

This is exactly what I did with my troubled player. The process is simple:

  1. In nets, video the player batting
  2. Note down the length of every ball faced
  3. Compare the video to length and scored the player on picking the right length based on moving forward or back. A correct movement is a point, incorrect or late movement is no points.
  4. Give the player a percentage
  5. Perform some remedial work, and repeat.
  6. Watch the score shoot up!

To make this easier we used PitchVision for the length tracking. Because the video is integrated, we can easily look at all the ball pitched up, and all the short balls. Then watch the player in another window:

The above image is all the fuller balls in the session. You can see the length on the pitch, the bounce height and the video of the shot. You can see how easy it is to tie technique to the type of ball. Here is the same session filtered by shorter balls instead:

You can even filter by pace and by stage of the net (later in the session bowling gets more erratic and batsmen are more fatigued). Although in this case I looked at the whole session (around 40 balls).

This method provides an ideal feedback loop that has be proven to be the fastest way to develop skill and iron out technical issues.

So, with your loop in place, what drills do you try?

Drills for length selection

The first rule of drilling for length is to stay away from bowling machines as much as possible.

Machines are a wonderful tool, and can be used in this situation, but using throw downs, sidearm or bowlers gives more advantages: You can get in rhythm better, see the whole action rather than just the ball, and the natural variation in length means you can't premeditate your selection.

So, stick to throws or bowlers while you work on this skill.

Next, break your session down into overs. Have an over in the net, then walk out and do a selection drill. Once you have done six balls, go back in. You can alternate with another batsman to keep the bowlers going.

One of the best drills is this one from Chris Nash. It's simplicity means you can do six reps, then go back to the nets and keep repeating the loop.

If you are having a longer hit with no break, another drill is to focus on what you are looking at. Look at this from Mark Garaway to find out more. Don't be afraid to experiment and compare results between the two methods.

Still having issues?

The above drill should make a dramatic difference in a short time. Sometimes you find a player who needs even more granular help. What if you try over a few session and still see little improvement?

Sam Lavery, top coach and member of the PVA Cricket Show team, gave me a more detailed drill for the hard nut to crack.

Break down the feeds even further: face balls that are not only short and full but also different lines. You will find performance is better in different areas. You can then focus in on the specific problem length.

At first, just develop a technical solution for dealing with your weaker areas, then bring decision making back in. So, if you find you struggle with the full ball on leg stump, you can hone your on drive. Then you can get feeds that are either very full or very short on that line. As you pick up confidence, you can adjust the lengths to make it harder. Finally, you can return to more randomised lines and lengths together in an open net.

As always, keep PitchVision tracking your results over time.

If you are suffering from this issue, have heart. It is fixable, even in the most extreme circumstances. You can even sort it out in the middle of the season. So hit the nets win purpose and you will see results.

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What Does Success Look Like?

One of the great coaching questions is "What does success look like?"

Millfield Under 15 managed to get themselves bowled out on Sunday for 75 against Gloucestershire CCC U15s. We had a shocker: 2 silly run outs, 2 players cutting balls on the stumps when the ball was keeping low and seemingly no clue of how to compile an innings on what was a early season slow and low pitch.

At 40-5, one of the Gloucestershire visiting parents told me "I'm supporting your batters today because if they don't buck their ideas up then this will be a complete waste of time for everyone!".

As much as this wound me up inside, he was right.

Assistant coach Josh and I went out and prepared the bowlers as well as we could in a 10 minute break. I then had one minute to speak with the team ahead of them starting the 2nd innings.

I told them word for word what the visiting parent had said in the hope that it would spark some form of competitive motivation within the squad.

This was then followed by asking the question of

"What would success look like in the second innings?"

It was obvious that the chances of a win were remote with only 75 to defend against County Under 15 batting line up, so it was a test to see if the players could set some markers to aim for during the innings.

The response was brilliant:

  • We are going to bowl dead straight at the stumps to predominantly 5/4 offside fields with most of our catchers in front of the wicket.
  • We are going to buzz around in the field, get the ball into the keeper every ball and get through our overs at 17 per hour (remembered from a previous review).
  • We are going to get the ball to Toby so he can keep it in pristine condition for our bowlers.

I then suggested that "success" - in terms of outcome - would be to get Gloucestershire 6 wickets down by the time they knock off the runs. I felt the glare of 11 sets of eyes. Then was told in no uncertain terms that their measure of success in terms of wickets was 10.

Coaching success

I listened to one of our coaches, Dan, work with a left arm spinner today who was struggling with his action and bowling poorly.

Dan asked the bowler the great coaching question and the bowler replied,

"It would be great if we placed a target on top of the off stump and I can then see how many times I can knock that target clean off the top of the stump. I think I can do it 3 times in the next 18 balls. That would be success."

This approach shifted the bowlers focus from his action to an intention. His body self organised, his action improved without any conscious self-coaching and he knocked the small target clean from the top of off stump on 6 separate occasions.

Hang on a minute.

So what did success look like in the game?

  • 74% of the deliveries we bowled would have hit the stumps.
  • We created 6 catching chances, of which 4 were taken.
  • We only bowled 1 wide in 23 overs.
  • The ball was in brilliant condition at the end of the innings.
  • The energy, buzz and support was constant.
  • People had fun trying to meet the targets that they set themselves.
  • It wasn't a wasted day at all in the end.

Oh and yes, Millfield School won by 8 runs!

What do I know about cricket, eh?

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Cricket Show S6 Episode 17: All About Boots

Boots are the most underrated equipment. So, driven by a great question from a listener, Mark Garaway, Same Lavery and David Hinchliffe hit the ground running with some chat about what goes on those "plates of meat" of yours.

Plus, there is a delve into what "brand" of cricket is really about, and there is a listener who can't pull the ball in games, only in nets. Can the team help him through his troubles?

Download and listen now!


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!

Send in your questions via:

Or you can call and leave your question on the Academy voice mail:

  • +44 (0)203 239 7543
  • +61 (02) 8005 7925

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You can also download this show onto your computer by clicking the play button at the top of the article, or clicking on the mp3 to download.


This is show number 308.

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More Run Outs with This Fielding Drill Upgrade

Iain Brunnschweiler has a simple drill upgrade for you to get more direct hits.

Matches can be turned when you complete run outs: Direct hits will result in a wicket.

So it is important that you get your throws as close as possible to the stumps as often as possible. The problem is, when doing a throwing at stumps drill, we often simply use a 'hit or miss' outcome to gauge the success of the throw. This can result in a lot more misses than hits, especially in younger players. It's disheartening.

The good news is there is a simple way of setting more of a gauge to help understand progress and guide development.

Which Action Is Best for Bowling Faster?

Front on?

Side on?



There are many different positions a bowler can get in when he or she hits the delivery stride. Which one works best for generating pace?


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: 357
Date: 2015-05-01