Pitchvision Academy
Hi, This may be the greatest ever newsletter. I don't say that lightly, but have a look at the quality this week: Graham Gooch gives us a batting drill, Mark Garaway shows us how to make a difference in 10 seconds, Dan Helesfay improves bowling technique and we learn something new from a study about bat speed. What more can you want? Nothing is the answer! So dig in and enjoy this one's a belter. Have a great weekend,


At PitchVision we are huge fans of training with purpose. In many ways it's why we exist. We hate to see practice wasted because people are going through the motions.

PitchVision is part of a set of tools you can use to make sure this never happens to you, but before you need equipment you also need an approach. This approach is discussed in the main articles this week as we look at ways to play with intent, instant feedback and self-review. These aspects create a way of training you can use to smash more runs and take more wickets.

Read on to have a great next session, and a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

Batting Tip: Four Ways to Use Nets to Improve Your Batting Style

Last night at net practice, one of my team was sent in to bat. In one hand was his bat, and in the other hand was a bunch of cones. I had to ask what he was up to.


"I had some trouble against spin in the last game", he admitted, "I want to work on it today. Can we just have spinners bowling and I'll mark out my scoring areas with these cones?"

As you know, the idea of mindful - or intention - netting is huge for us at PitchVision. So, I was delighted to hear a player do this in his own way. He wasn't thinking about technique, or body position or "back swing and step": He was thinking about he could hit the ball into a gap.

Even better, he was experimenting with different methods. He wasn't concerned if he got out, he was working on seeing how far he could push it to get the ball into that gap (or over the top). He was learning about his game, bith what he could do, and what he needs to leave behind.

That got me to thinking; what are some intentions you can take into nets to make your plans for the middle?

I'm sure you are already thinking of a few, but here is a list of practices I have tried with players that resonates with their aims when they are facing bowlers in the nets.

1. Open the batting

Your intention is to bat like you are opening the innings; play like you would in the first three or so overs of a game.

  • Take a few balls to judge the ball's pace and movement
  • Leave balls outside off stump
  • Play straighter balls into the less defended on side
  • Drive full balls, cut and pull short ones

Within these rules, experiment with how far you can push it: How tight a ball to off stump can you leave? How close to a good length can you drive when the ball is swinging? How wide on the off side can you hit a ball through mid on or midwicket for a single?

You will make mistakes and you might even end up getting out a few times. I'm sure the bowlers will get after you for that, but nets are the time to experiment!

2. Find the gaps

Like my player above, your aim here is to put the ball where the fielders are not. Pace or spin doesn't matter, but you have to score off every ball.

  • Play conventionally when the ball allows
  • Defend with the aim of dropping the ball for a single
  • Hitting over the top when the field is up
  • Pairing up shots, like the "sweep and roll".
  • Playing more unusual shots to hit the ball into areas where there are no fielders.

Your experimentation here is to see what you can get away with. How hard can you hit a dropped single before it's a run out? How hard do you need to hit over the top the clear the fielder? What shot will frustrate the bowler because it makes him plug a gap that you can exploit? Equally, what just doesn't work for you?

3. One crazy thing

If you don't push you limits, how will you know what you can do?

In this net, you try and face bowlers and only do one thing the whole net. You may fail a lot here, and sometimes you will look plain stupid, but you will quickly learn what works and what doesn't. It's an experiment. You can try anything you like, but here are some popular ones;

  • Walk down the wicket
  • Sweep and reverse sweep
  • Work through the leg side
  • Backloading

With the natural variations in bowling, you will get natural variations in the shot you're trying. It's great fun for everyone, if you can get it past the coach telling you off for "messing around"!

4. Long handle

This option is the most abused by players who want to have a slog in the safety of nets. So, before you do this, ask yourself if "death batting" is the type of situation you bat in a lot, and if you really need to work on it. If you do,

And once you are done...

One last thing.

No matter what intention you went in to try, always finish the session by reviewing how it went.

I like to review with some stats: Keep a score of what you did well and what you did badly (for example giving yourself two points for a good leave as an opener). You can track this with PitchVision or hand notation. Over time you will see your ability improve.

While stats work well, it's also important to think abut how it felt too.

Stats don't tell you if playing that shot to that ball felt right. The chances are that if it feels good, it's the way that work for you and you should stick with it, even if you have an unsuccessful net the first time. So even if you simply chat through your feeling about the session with the coach or a trusted team-mate, you are up on the deal.

This last part is vital because it creates the feedback loop you need to improve. With this loop in place, it's just a matter of putting in the hours in nets and watching your skills shoot up.

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Quickly Become a Better Cricketer with a Review Drill

Train hard; get better. Do your drills. It's a simple mantra, but it's missing a crucial part of the process of practice to improve. Cricketing technique, tactics and mental strength require one more "drill".


By thinking of review as a drill, and reflecting on your practice and games, you will get better faster. You will even get better between practice sessions. It works by giving you a feedback loop that has been proven to boost skills faster than anything else. It gives direction to your training, encouragement that things are working and confidence that you can repeat the right skill at the right time.

Yet, most of us don't bother much with it.


We go to training, hit a few balls and walk away satisfied. Another thought is not given until the next session. Or even worse, some people subconsciously review and let a negative peak end rule cloud their confidence. That road only leads to worse performance, not better.

The solution is as simple as a review drill.

What happened and why did it happen?

So, once your session or game has finished, your "drill" is to find out what happened. For most of us, this is done from memory, but be careful how much you rely on what you remember. It's unreliable. To make sure, use whatever tools you have:

  • Video
  • PitchVision
  • Coach/trusted observer feedback
  • Stats (for example, from the scorebook)

It's vital to get as wide a picture as possible. You might prefer looking at the stats, or you might prefer talking things through with someone you trust. The key point is to have a realistic view on how well things went, what you were strong on and what areas need to be improved.

You can also come up with some ideas as to why things happened the way they did. You know yourself, and you know what you need to give yourself the best chance of success. If you prepared perfectly and things still went badly, what else was happening? If you felt things didnt go right in the session, what could be the reason behind it?

How long will this take?

That's up to you. Some will be satisfied with a five minute chat with the coach, others will go heavy into the stats. Take your pick, but always take that step back and longer view.

How do you move forward?

You're almost done with your review at this point, but before you finish, always make a plan of how to move forward.

Lets say you got bogged down in a one day game and couldn't score quickly. You realise this is because you were not hitting the gaps. What's your plan to improve this area? Simply having a net is not enough, so you need to adapt somehow. Is middle practice the way forward?

Try and be detailed here. It's not enough just to think that you need to hit the gaps. You also need to think what conditions were in place for gap hitting; the bowler, the pitch and the ball age. Will these things be the same the next game, or will you practice hard hitting the gaps against a spinner on a slow pitch only to find you are facing a pace attack on a quick wicket the next game?

And while you are planning, think about how you can turn your strength into a super strength. Are you excellent at bowling yorkers at the death? How about working on getting even more accurate, or putting on a yard of pace with it too?

Make review a drill you can't miss

You'll notice this process is not about beating yourself up after a bad game. It's an extension of every net session and every game. It's just another drill to do. It should be something you do without question because it has such a powerful effect on your game.

Maybe you write it down (journalling is a brilliant way to make your thoughts clear), maybe you chat it through with a coach. Maybe you sit at a laptop and review every ball. With PitchVision it's possible. However you do it, your review drill should leave you feeling clear and focused about how to improve your weaknesses and boost your strengths.

And, when you do it enough, you'll also be boosting your average far more than any other drill you can do.

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How England Smashed my Ashes Prediction for Six

A few weeks ago I predicted a comfortable Australia victory in the 2015 Ashes. Most of the cricketing world, including England Captain Alastair Cook didn't think that his inexperienced side could beat mighty Australia.

How have England beaten the odds? And what can we learn from it?


Innings long swing

This has been especially apparent in the 3rd and 4th Tests. England have looked after the ball wonderfully well. Their 'chief shiners' have had a good foundation to work with. It has helped that the Aussie batters have not built significant partnerships and subsequently not damaged the ball significantly but England have been smart with their shining.

I know I bore you with this, but shining the ball is an art. Taking time to look after the ball to facilitate lateral movement is the key to wicket taking at a fast rate. Fast-medium gun barrel straight bowlers are cannon fodder at Test level. England didn't get the ball to swing at Lords and Australia scored 820 runs for 10 wickets in that match.

England got the ball to swing consistently big in the 3rd and 4th Tests and Australia could only amass 714 runs for 40 wickets: Series over!

Who could be given the role of ball shiner in your team? Who could teach that player the 'art of shining'? Look at the stats above.

You can't tell me that this isn't worth a go!

Swing it in, Swing it out: scramble the batters GPS

The real skill once you have a ball in the right condition is to use it effectively. England did this brilliantly.

Jimmy Anderson was brilliant at Cardiff and Edgbaston at changing the direction of the swing. It's easy to get caught up with your stock outswinger when it's hooping yet the really skilful bowlers tease the batter by making them guess which way the is going to swinging.

Stuart Broad took over that role from Jimmy at Trent Bridge in his amazing 8-15 spell.

The ball swung in or out and - in particular - the right handed batters lost their off stump "GPS signal".

They ended up either pushing hard at 5th stump line away swingers or being squared up to inswingers, of all things. Whilst many have slated the Aussie batters techniques, the quality of Anderson, Broad, Finn, Stokes and Wood has been amazing.

Does your best swing bowler get caught up with their stock swinging delivery? Can he develop an opposite swing to confuse the opposition batters and unlock Aussie-like collapses?

Bowler deployment: Captain Cook comes of age

Broad was the England go to man against Michael Clarke. Take the captain down and the ship will sink. Stokes swung the ball both ways, especially when he goes around the wicket to left-handers.

Captain Cook worked this out and trusted Stokes with more overs against the left handers (Warner, Rogers, Starc and Johnson) to maximise his all-rounder's impact on the game.

Creating chances is one thing, taking them is another.

One of the focuses of the English pre-series Spain get together was to maximise their ability to take chances at slip. If you need to create 25+ chances to get 20 Aussie wickets per Test then there is a good chance that you won't win.

England focused their preparations around their slip cordon. Getting the catching formation right, their stagger correct and their ability to clasp their hands around the ultimate prize; an Aussie edge.

Ian Bell had been their weak link. His indecision at 2nd slip had cost England dear against New Zealand. So, coaches Bayliss and Farbrace worked hard on the combination between Bell at 2nd and Root at 3rd slip. If they built confidence in this partnership then it would be worth three or four key wickets in the series. They are now becoming a great partnership.

To date, Bell has taken six catches, Root eight (seven at slip) and Cook eight (six at slip). The best Aussie catcher has been Voges with four and he has fielded in a variety of positions. The telling stat is that Clarke (1st slip) has taken just one catch to date in the series.

So in effect, England have out-swung and out caught Australia on their way to the Ashes.

Simple things lead to great results.

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Cricket Show S6 Episode 32: When Time Runs Out

Mark Garaway joins David Hinchliffe for half an hour of cricket coaching chat. Captaincy is discussed first, with ideas on how to produce skippers from young players as well as pick the best captain for right now. And Mike Gatting gets a mention.

Then, listeners questions include how to deal with losing focus after getting to a nice thirty and not going on, and bowling leg spin without using much of your front arm. If it works for Badree of the West Indies...

Take a listen at your leisure.

The Secrets of Buying Cricket Sunglasses

Sunglasses are an essential accessory for cricketers at every level. Are they just expensive fashion accessories or an important tool?


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: 372
Date: 2015-08-14