Pitchvision Academy


Last week we told the batsmen how to pick length, so it's only fair this week to show the bowlers how to hit a good length. Once you have gone through both articles you have an irresistible force versus an immovable object.

Then, Mark Garaway talks about playing spin, Sam Lavery gives us the lowdown on how to make better cricket decisions, and we bust another jargon term to take it from coach-blather to practical advice you can use in your next game.

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

How to Bowl Line and Length with This Accuracy Net Drill

Even today, where there are a hundred different types of ball, good old-fashioned line and length bowling is an incredibly effective way to bowl: Hit the spot, do a bit off the pitch or in the air, take wickets. Simple.

Yet it's also a world of pain to do consistently.

Sure, you bowl in nets as much as you can. You put up with slogging batsmen and you take time to work on your action.

Then you get out into a game and bowl two four balls every over, wondering where it all went wrong.

What's going on?

It's not the puzzle you think, but it does take some work on your part. It's easy improve your accuracy (and pace at the same time) with a simple process.


To show you how, here is a session I did last night with my club's 2nd XI bowling group. The drill is based on wanting to get the most from all the seamers, but also allow the batsmen to bat in nets.

Accuracy bowling drill

The drill takes place in a usual net setting, with a batsman (or pair of batters) playing at the other end. The bowlers took turns to bowl, as normal.

The goal was to try and bowl line and length in a realistic environment.

We defined a target area on the pitch. Because we were lesser skilled bowlers (club 2nd XI) I was generous with the target, but also realistic.

Then we bowled and the batsmen batted as they would in a game situation. How the batters played didn't matter to the bowlers, their goal stayed the same no matter what: Hammer length.

So far, so normal. So how is this drill different?

To get the most from a drill, you have to monitor the result. Basically, this drill is all about getting and staying focused on improving line and length bowling, and nothing else.

In a normal net, it's hard to know if you are meeting your goal. You can get a basic sense of things but if you rely on memory you have already failed. To counteract this you need to track the results. You can use hand notation, but we used used PitchVision.

Also, we tracked results as a group. While it's perfectly possible to track individual bowlers, I wanted to give the guys the sense of working together for a result. Let's face it, if you are bowling brilliantly and your mate at the other end is serving up rubbish, you are both going to suffer!

Additionally, was no visual guide for the bowlers. No "bowling at a cone" here. This made the session far more realistic: A batsman and no guide to bowl at.

As the drill went on we reviewed each ball at a time, and thought through adjustments that needed to be made to create an instant feeedback loop.

Drill results

So, how did it go? Here are the results:

As you can see, there was a range of lines, lengths and speeds. In 117 balls tracked,

  • 33% hit the target area(the grey box on the pitch map)
  • 36% were a good length
  • 15% were on the line of the stumps

For this level, based on previous results, I would regard a 50% accuracy rate as a good start. So there is clearly work to do in all areas, but we can easily see that line was the worst area.

For my team, the aim is to bowl to hit the stumps. Early UK conditions mean slow, low wickets so hitting the stumps is your best way of getting wickets through bowled or LBW. With 35% of balls short, that's a lot of wasted deliveries that look good indoors but get creamed on a wet May track in Scotland. Of course, not every ball off the stumps is poor, but every ball on the stumps gives you a better chance of taking a wicket.

That's a huge benefit of using PitchVision here too. You can convert indoor results into realistic outdoor outcomes. You might bowl a short ball indoors that you feel looks great as the batsman struggles. However, when you look at the cold data, you realise that you just bowled a long hop in a game situation.

However, results aside, you can see the benefit of effective tracking. We now have a benchmark to try and improve and a tactic to point to if we bowl badly in our league game on Saturday.

I fed the result back to the bowlers, who can come to the next session with the focus of:

  • Raise hitting the stump line (even if it bounces over on a bouncier indoor wicket) to over 20%
  • Raise target area success to over 40%

With the eventual aim of getting both up to 50%

One extra benefit of this tracking beyond the feedback loop is player motivation. Target bowling is a bit dull but when they can see how fast they bowl and how they are contributing to the pitch map, they bowl with more focus than a normal net.

Drill progressions

This is an adaptable drill, so here are some variations:

  • Run the session with individual bowler tracking, bowling in pairs to reflect overs in a match.
  • Take the batsman out and place a visual target on the pitch to try and hit
  • Add in PV/VIDEO of the bowler's action to see the difference between the action between a good length ball and otherwise.

This might be a subtle difference to look at from the outside, but this bowling accuracy drill makes a huge difference to both the atmosphere of the net and, over time, the skill levels of your bowling group.

For more information on PitchVision at your club, school or Academy, click here.

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Avoid the "Moeen Ali Pickle" and Learn How to Play Spin

The ball spinning into the stumps at pace has always picked up wickets at a faster rate than the ball spinning away from the bat at pace. Wickets fall quickly unless batting methods are developed and honed.

In the England-West Indies Barbados Test, the bowlers foot holes developed quickly and the contest between spin and bat ultimately proved to be the defining factor in the contest.

Moeen Ali was batting against Permaul, the West Indies Left arm spinner, in England's 2nd innings. And as I watched I remembered something my first coach at school had told me.


“You got yourself in a pickle there young Garaway”.

It was said to me when I was trying to work out how on earth I was going to play against spin bowling. As I watched, Moeen was also "in a pickle": The distraction of the rough was causing Ali all sorts of problems.

The world’s best left handers - player like Sangakkara, Lara and Gilchrist - all developed effective back foot movement patterns to cope with the ball missing the rough on the short side yet still spinning into the stumps. They scored safely and freely to this ball. In turn, the bowler was put under pressure on a surface on which they should be the dominant player.

So what could Ali have done differently?

The Indian/Fletcher method for playing spin

I learnt this method from two sources.

Many Indian batters spring back into leg stump, opening their stumps up yet providing themselves with space to hit a back foot drive to a ball coming back into the stumps.

They maximise the distance between ball bounce and ball contact which helps to open up scoring areas and can take the bat-pad fielders out of the equation. Rahul Dravid was incredible at this and would punch Muralitharan through extra cover and cover every time he missed the footmarks of Chaminda Vaas. The risk was minimal and the score board ticked over even on the most difficult of surfaces.

Duncan Fletcher taught a similar method to Andrew Strauss following his embarrassing bowled dismissal in the Edgbaston Test of 2005. Fletcher explained the principle of going back into leg stump as being able to hit,

“back into the spin rather than across it”.

That way, more surface area of the ball was lined up with more surface area of the bat before and at ball contact,

“It’s Geometry, hey!”

This statement was usually followed up with a clip on the top of my head or a jab to my ribs: Fletcher’s way of showing affection! Effectively, this is the same method explained in a different way.

Conventional coaching/Vaughan method for playing spin

Michael Vaughan used a more "conventional" (back and across to off stump) method to play against Muralitharan. His aim would be to get his pads outside of off stump so if it hit him whilst he was playing a shot then he would not be adjudged LBW. Bowled was also difficult to achieve.

He could then clip the ball away on the leg side for runs.

This is easier to set a field to, so it’s important that the batter develops the ability to clip the ball both in front and behind square when using this movement pattern as their method of preference.

Vaughan did this well as a right-hander. Sangakkara does this excellently as a left-hander to leg spin and slow left arm.

Give each method a go to see which one works for you.

Whatever happens, avoid mixing the footwork of Vaughan with the shot intention of Dravid or you will get in a "Moeen Ali Pickle".

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How to Improve Cricket Decision Making

Coach Sam Lavery moves beyond technical help and into helping you develop players who know how to make good decisions.

It strikes me that our most important cricket asset is the ability to make decisions. While we focus on important areas like developing technique, getting fitter, bowling faster, and having more creativity at the crease; decisions underpin it all.


Decisions come in all shapes of sizes: Should I play it or should I leave it? Should I bowl a slower ball or should I hit the batsman's toes?

From a wider lifestyle angle: Do I want to go the gym? Am I ready for the game? What will help me improve? Is this coach talking rubbish, or could this conversation help me improve as a player?

So how do we improve our players as decision makers?

Cricket decision making

For now lets consider cricket specific decisions: The ones that have an immediate and direct impact on the game as it happens. There are a few obvious ways of exposing players to decisions here:

  1. Tell them what they should be doing before they do it, to ensure they never make a mistake.
  2. Allow them to have a go and then intervene when they make what you perceive to be a poor decision.
  3. Allow them to keep having a go until they get it right themselves.

There are pros and cons to all three.

The first option doesn't promote active thinking. Players aren't forced to engage with the match situation, and so despite maybe being successful they’re unlikely to become better at decision making or build a greater understanding of how to play the game. Inevitably they’ll become dependant on others making decisions, planning and ultimately leading. Short term success, but minimal long term gain.

The second will inevitably be more problematic in the short term. You allow mistakes to happen, but then discuss them soon after to prevent ongoing failure. Here your players are able to relate to the issue as they've been through it as a negative experience, and so they’re likely to have a greater appreciation and understanding of the problem and how it was solved.

The third is more long term approach which may ultimately empower your players the most as they work out a method or thought process themselves. However, can you be sure they will actually ever manage to achieve their goal? In the meantime they could be subjected to failure and disillusion they never recover from.

Adding decision making to training

Of the 3 examples above there could be room for all of them to be employed at different times; think about how you fit each method into your sessions as well as your season.

  • Split net time to allow players to review their decisions half way through either with you or their team mates
  • Specify fixtures or blocks of games as development games, which allow players to be creative and make mistakes without the worry of the coach or the result bearing over them
  • Set up sessions or match scenarios where players have to work to a specific plan, to see how they can take instruction

Sometimes it’s true that immediate intervention - or prior instruction - can be a great help, but try to avoid doing all the thinking yourself. After all, not only could it be a more valuable experience for your players, it could also be a learning experience for you.

Ultimately your players need to be independent, self reliant thinkers. So consider how you balance your stream of information: Less can so often be more.

Sam Lavery is Cricket Professional at Portsmouth Grammar School. You can hear him every week on the PitchVision Academy Cricket Show.

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Jargon Busting: Ideal Performance State

I'll be honest, I like to call a spade a spade and not a "vertical foot operated digging device". So why the heck do I like Ideal Performance State (IPS)?

Honestly, I think the term is clunky, but what it describes is something all cricketers can use to play better. That's where it gets interesting: It's where the spade hits the dirt and starts making a hole.

So, putting aside the term, what exactly is IPS?

Quick Tip: You're Doing It Wrong

One thing I have noticed a lot in cricket is the "you're doing it wrong" culture.

Be it techniques, tactics, or anything between, the easy comment is to explain how someone has got it wrong. It makes you sound intelligent and straight talking. It gets something off your chest. It might even, on the surface, be helpful.

You really only have the best interests at heart of the person you are criticising. You just want to raise the standard.

But does it really?


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: 358
Date: 2015-05-08