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Back in the mists of time (the 1980's), cricket was played at a more leisurely pace. Think 2 runs an over with Boycott and Tavare at the crease. Yawn.

This week South Africa took us back to those days by batting out a draw against England. This was so inspiring (and so dull) I came up with a couple of articles about how you can play the old fashioned way.

Sometimes you need to in club cricket.

I also posed a couple of questions about your own game. Let me know what you think your own answers are by adding a comment on the article or leaving a post on the forum.

Have a great weekend

David Hinchliffe

What South Africa's epic rearguard defence can teach your club team

Test cricket doesn't throw up a lot of old fashioned 'bat out for the draw' situations these days, but it's something club cricketers face with regularity.

Your team might only need to last 50 or so overs to rescue a draw, imagine how hard it would be to see off 160. The South African second innings in the first Test against England was an education in how to save the game.

What can club teams learn from this masterclass?

It's very hard to bowl out a team hell bent of defence.

England's bowlers are all solid and reliable types. On a flat, slow wicket with no swing or spin Anderson, Broad, Sidebottom and Panesar just didn't have the firepower to rip through a team who's only aim was to potter along at 2 an over.

Let's face it, many greater bowlers throughout history would have struggled.

It's a common dilemma for club captains too. Rarely do you find a club attack with the teeth to knock over the opposition. While the poorer standard of club wickets will help bowlers, there will be times when the weather is set fair and the pitch is a road.

What is the solution as a fielding captain?

Micheal Vaughan would not have risked it in the Test, but you can do the following:

Set a challenging but gettable declaration target.

Keeping the opposition in the game by setting them a target they think they can get has an advantage over racking up a huge total. They play to win.

They will play their shots and (as club players are limited) will be more likely to make a mistake.

This is not an easy thing to get right. Make a mistake and the game is lost. You need to be an expert judge of:

  • The pitch and conditions. What is a par score?
  • Your bowling attack. How many runs do your bowlers need to play with?
  • The opposition's batting. How many players are capable of a match winning innings? (Hint: probably less than you think).
  • The game situation. Who is on target to win?

What if the opposition still go for the draw?

Like England found themselves in the Test, there will be times when the opposition have no chance of winning. Perhaps you misjudged the total or their only decent batter fell for a low score.

Some captains will try their bowlers and cross their fingers.

This is only the start. When things are not happening it's time to really mix up the methods.

  • Vary your lines and lengths. It's not all about pitching the ball up on off stump. Try a leg stump line for a while, or bowl a bit shorter or a bit too full. Get bowlers toexperiment with variations like cutters. Get spinners to throw the ball up.
  • Set unusual fields. At one point England had a 3-6 leg side field and set several unusual positions like a couple of short extra covers or a very straight silly mid on. The wicketkeeper can stand up to add pressure.
  • Use occasional bowlers. Your weaker bowlers (especially the slow ones) can take wickets with bad balls, they can also get a team back into the match enough to bring your proper bowlers back.
  • Be cunning. Stay within the Laws and spirit of the game, but try some really unusual stuff if you have to. It's funny how a star bowler suddenly 'pulling a hamstring' makes a side rethink the score they can get.
  • Stay positive. A confident side knows that sometimes winning a game takes hard work. Confidence is essential to success and lack of confidence is a key element in failure. It's hard to fake, but if your team trust you they will be more likely to win.

Just like Test cricket, club games throw up a number of situations that require some thought and work to get through. Unlike the England vs South Africa game you can force a result with some intelligent judgement.

Photo credit: irishcricketphotos

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Better batting is built on bulletproof concentration

I can't seem to get the South African first Test recovery out of my head. Most comments have been negative: That old fashioned defensive cricket does no good in this big hitting, big money world.

But batting out two full days for a draw requires almost superhuman concentration.

No batter should be without that skill, no matter what the situation they are in. Great innings from T20 to Test are built on the bedrock of solid character.

Why concentration?

The skill of concentration is a cornerstone of run scoring.

Anyone can throw the bat and sometimes they will get lucky. Anyone can defend every ball and try to stick around too, but being able to play each ball with sureness of mind and body is part of the success of great batting.

Even in short format games. You may play evening cricket where you have to get on with it, or afternoon games where you can't hang about too much if you want to put up a decent score.

Unless you have total carte blanch to hit everything, you still have to pick you battles.

  • What is the bowler trying to do?
  • Where are the gaps in the field?
  • What is the match situation?
  • What has happened this over so far?

The situation is constantly changing in the middle. It's certainly more complex than just hitting the bad balls and defending the good ones (or hitting out).

As a batsman your job is to know the answer to these questions at any given moment and act on them in exactly the right way.

For example, if you need a boundary to get back on track, where is it coming from? Are you able to wait for the half volley or do you have to move down the wicket to make a good length ball into one?

Another simple tactic is deciding what to do after hitting a boundary. In most cases its push a single into a gap to make five from two balls. But not always, which is why you always need to be thinking in the middle.

Defeating distraction

While all this is going on in your head, you need to not let it distract you.

If you lose concentration even for one ball you may well be heading back to pavilion. Unlike the bowler, you don't get another chance next ball.

When you have made your tactical decisions, you need to switch your focus onto the next delivery again.

This is easier said than done. Our brains have great ways of distracting us. The wrong negative thought at the wrong moment, or letting your mind wander back to tactics (or other things) as the bowler hits their delivery stride is a recipe for a poor shot and a soft dismissal.

Use your triggers to get into a bubble of concentration (after having decided the best tactic) and stay there until it's safe to relax again.

Trust your technique and learn to concentrate.

Simply getting good at this technique is enough to boost your concentration to Neil McKenzie style heights. Then you will make fewer mistakes, be at the crease for longer and get more runs.

Photo credit: clairet707

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Is your cricket lacking power?

Can power make you a better cricketer?

Absolutely, if you know how to develop these skills in the right way. In fact, having highly functional power at your command is the most important cricket fitness element there is.

Power is the culmination of your cricket fitness: you are able to run faster, bowl quicker and hit the ball longer distances.
Not only that though. Being powerful means you are less likely to get injured or perform badly because your muscles take longer to get fatigued.

If you are weak you are inviting your body to betray you. You might get away with it but why take the risk when the right workout can put your puny muscles behind you once and for all?

Beware the information overload

It doesn't take long to find a basketful of advice on power training. You may have heard terms like core stability, heavy object training and Olympic Lifting. There are a million different methods, trainers and websites ready to help in all manner of ways.

You may even have tried them.

But what works best for cricket?

That information is a bit harder to come by without some serious research (don't worry, I have done it for you)

The hidden secret of cricket power

The secret of power training is that it is almost exactly like playing cricket.

Let’s randomly pick a weightlifting move designed to increase power to illustrate: the hang clean.

A good clean is about the combination of speed of movement, coordination and timing of the body, strength and mobility of the joints.

Just like bowling or batting.

Without that transfer to cricket skills, what's the point?

Or to put it another way, any power training you do needs to have maximum crossover to the pitch. To be functional and make you adaptable, not adapted.

How you do that is the art of good coaching, even if you are coaching yourself.

If you want to find out more about how to do this, subscribe for free updates.

Photo credit: darkpatator

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Is your cricket mindful or mindless?

One difficult piece of coaching advice is this: Play one ball at a time.

It's a simple way to put the concept of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the ability to stay in the moment with your thoughts and actions despite external distractions. In all cricket disciplines this is a skill that is more than handy. You are calm under pressure and less likely to make mistakes as a bowler, batsman or fielder.

What's the perfect body weight for cricket?

From the impressive girth of Dwayne Leverock to the diminutive skills of Sachin, there are few sports than can incorporate the full range of shapes and sizes that cricket does. Nevertheless, there are certain ideal elements that everyone can aspire to.

What are these elements?


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: 4
Date: 2008-07-18