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I was lucky enough to attend a coaching workshop on batting this week. We discussed a lot of coaching issues, including discussing line, length and shot selection. I decided to look more into the traditional view of shot selection and came up with this week's main article: How good batsman deal with line and length.

We also have more of your questions from the International Institute of Cricket Umpiring and Scoring, and a discussion on that old favourite: Do you need new drills or are the old ones enough?

Have a great weekend,


David Hinchliffe

Scoring options: How good batsman deal with line and length

Most coaches and players make the mistake of assuming everyone knows about playing the bowling on line and length. It isn't always as obvious as it seems. A fellow coach who has years of experience with talented younger players has a story to reflect this.

He was coaching a representative level Under 13 side against Somerset. The team were all good players who had been together for a few seasons. They were playing a 40 over match on a difficult wicket. Our coaches side bowled well, restricting Somerset to 160 in conditions where 170-180 was a par score. The openers went out confident of a good start but came up against a left arm spinner opening the bowling. The first 5 overs he bowled were all maidens, every ball on a good length and pushed back defensively.

At that level, even on a difficult pitch, the opening batsman should have worked out quickly that they were tied down and looked to either move out to drive or try to sweep.

This story chrysalises the problem of playing the ball on its merits: Everyone has a different idea to what a balls merits are.

What is line and length?

It should be easy to decide which shot to play. You watch the ball, decide the line and length as early as possible then play the correct shot:

As you can see from the picture, the traditional way of playing gives you a wide range of low risk scoring options. Here it is in table form:

However, the problems start even in theory. You may not agree with everything in this table. Would you automatically pull a long hop on off stump or would you cut it? I have left the sweeps (conventional, slog, reverse) out of the table altogether but for some it is an essential option. It's not always an obvious choice for every shot.

That's also assuming you can play every one of these shots. Most players cant. I am terrible cutter and rarely attempt the shot for example.

So, the idea of playing a ball on its merits is subjective even in theory. This means players have to think about what their game plan is before they head out to the middle. That is something coaches often ignore.

Is line and length the only factor?

Once you get out to the middle you quickly find that the basic theory of line and length can change dramatically depending on other factors. These are:

  • The pitch. The bounce of the pitch will adjust what you think of as a good length. The obvious comparison is the difference in pace between a hard floor indoor pitch and a soft outdoor grass wicket. You may find yourself playing back indoors to the same length as you would play forward to outdoors.
  • The movement of the ball. It's generally less risky to hit a ball with the movement. So an inswing or off spin bowler to a right hander should be hit more on the leg side while an outswing bowler or leg spinner should go to the off side more.
  • The angle of the line. If a right arm over bowls wide of the crease to a left hand batter the ball that pitches in line with the stumps will be well outside off stump when it passes the batsman. This means you will see a different shot to the same ball bowled to a right hander. More on angles here.
  • The state of the match. In our example game above, playing out 5 maidens might have been OK if the match was a 4 day game. In a 40 over match it was not on, even in the opening overs. The game situation dictates how attacking you have to be and you may need to find scoring options to balls you would normally defend.

So it's not enough to know what shot to play to what ball. You also have to plan around what is actually happening in the middle. This is also often overlooked by coaches when teaching players about shot selection.

How to think in scoring areas

If you were to take all the factors and try to put them into a diagram or table like we did above you would get a very large and complex output. To simplify your plan it's easier to think, as the professionals say, in scoring areas.

Let's take an example of an opening batsman playing in a time game. Early in his innings he goes out with a set plan: Perhaps look to play straight as often as possible, sticking mainly to the orthodox line and length shots. He may decide to cut out riskier shots like the cut and hook.

He will also take this time to judge length and whether to play forward or back to the ball. Additionally he will carefully watch the angle and movement of the ball to work out the areas that are safer to score:

  • Off to leg movement: On drive, Flick off the legs
  • Leg to off movement: Off drive, cut

As his innings progresses he finds it easier to time the ball and can expand his range of shots, especially driving at wider balls. He can also look to start working the ball around more: moving his feet or sweeping the spinners. He may try to hit over the top in the air as well as along the ground. He will still be playing the least risky shots, although at this point he may have a couple of options as to what they are.

Finally if he is batting well and the captain is looking to make a declaration he may want to get on with it more. Now he can consider more unorthodox techniques: hitting length balls to leg, standing back in his crease to turn yorkers into half volley length balls and other methods. These shots will be calculated risks in the effort to score quick runs. However, he will still look to score in the safest way under the circumstances (say, playing a lofted on drive to a length ball rather than trying to hit across a slog sweep as he knows he often misses the latter).

Split second decision making

As you have to make these line, length angle and movement judgements in a split second, it's best to follow the example of the better players: Have a game plan before you even head out to the middle, then be prepared to adapt if it is not working.

You (or the players you coach) probably have not got every shot in the book, so develop a method that works for you and run with it. It will end up with more runs through higher percentage shots being played.

Image credit: mailliw


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How to play like an Academy cricketer

Many young players dream of making it as a professional cricketer. How do you give yourself the best chance of making it to the top?

One simple way is to play with the intensity and enthusiasm of a player who is in an Academy.

You see, Academy players know that talent is a flexible thing. You can be born with great natural hand-eye coordination or you can learn how to improve it over time.

Wherever you are on the talent scale, the key is attitude.

Attitude influences ability directly.

The player who works with intensity and enthusiasm will always make better strides forward than the player who wants it all to be handed to them through their natural skills.

At least that's what Gary Palmer, the PitchVision Academy Batting Coach and Director of CCM Academy says. And he should know. Gary was a professional cricketer with Somerset for 10 years before turning to coaching and building up an impressive CV. More importantly he has coached 38 young players into full first class contracts, Academy intakes or age group squads.

How to practice like you are at an Academy

Gary is always looking for talented young cricketers to take into his Academy. Would you be able to keep the intensity up and show you have what it takes?

To help you decide, Gary has agreed to reveal what his Academy sessions are like. If you can keep up with the pace in your own practice you know you are on the right track.

Once you have been selected for the CCM Academy the basic structure is simple: 15 full days of coaching spread throughout the winter, spring and summer followed by a 10 match summer season against first class Academy sides.

The days are very intense. I came along to see the Academy in action recently. Gary and his team of coaches (all former first class or International players) lined up a taxing plan.

All the players start with an hour of fielding drills that covers the range of skills required of a modern professional cricketer: Diving, throwing from your knees, backing up, and hitting the stumps.

This is followed by a batting warm up starting with tennis balls with a bobble feed to get the body moving and groove the muscle memory for key shots. Four bowling machines are then brought out to deliver technical, tactical and mental coaching.

With four or five batters per net, each net sets their machine on a different theme of bowling and through the use of cones placed in specific scoring areas each net tries to achieve a given total. Because this is interesting and competitive the players are lured into batting for long periods of time while remaining focused for every delivery. Each group has half an hour per net meaning the players have two hours of highly intense and focused batting.

As Gary supervised he told me the exercise tests and builds mental strength, and encourages batters to learn to perform a skill well under pressure.

Not bad considering we had not even had lunch yet.

The afternoon saw the group split up. More traditional nets put the specialist bowler's through their paces. Meanwhile a couple of bowling machines had been set up for some one-to-one coaching.

Today, Gary explained, he was teaching the boys how to play different types of spin. One net is for the ball turning away, the other net for the ball turning in. The players couldn't relax as Gary was drilling, coaching and assessing players all the way through.

The day finishes with a tactical game to bring in a more competitive element.

The big picture

It felt to me like a test to the players. They all had the desire to be professional and the CCM Academy was giving them a taste of the experience. However, the problem for most cricket clubs and players is they can't possibly find the time and resources to devote the same attention.

Even if you did have the bowling machine, nets and drills you need, how do you drive yourself on without someone with experience to guide you?

Gary was kind enough to show me his secrets, but to really succeed you actually had to be there.

CCM Academy Intake 2011/12

Gary is starting his selection process for the 2011/12 intake now (starting over Christmas 2011). So now you can be part of the Academy. Players have travelled from all over the UK to attend the Academy held in Hampshire.

If you are interested in finding out how you can trial for CCM Academy in 2011/12 then click here.

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Umpires Corner: Tossing up and overthrow confusion

This edition of Umpires Corner in association with the International Institute of Cricket Umpiring and Scoring covers some more tricky questions of the Laws.

Many times on the pitch (and after the game) we have come to discuss whether a controversial situation should be allowed or not. There are precious few players with a deep enough understanding of the laws for our arguments to be resolved, but many times it's the players who also act as umpires. Now we can consult a team of expert experienced umpires for the answers to those tricky questions.

You can submit your own questions to the umpires here.

Secretary takes charge


"We were all very late arriving at the ground for the game. The only club member who had arrived more than fifteen minutes before the start of play was our Club Secretary, who is also our scorer. When we arrived we discovered that he had given in the team list and tossed up. Is he allowed to do this?"”


Unless League or competition rules say otherwise, the Laws state that, at the latest, the toss must take place fifteen minutes before the scheduled start of play, and after the nominated team list has been given to the umpires. Anyone can do this.

But after the toss, any further decisions can only be made by a member of the nominated team, so I hope your Hon. Sec. didn’t try to decide whether your side should bat or bowl!

Law 1.3 The Toss (Open Learning Manual Page 4)

Overthrow confusion

"Like a lot of players, I often umpire for a short spell while our side is batting. Recently I got very confused with overthrows. The batsman hit the ball and ran. He completed the first run, and had crossed with his partner on the second, when the ball was hurled in to the ‘keeper, who missed it. By the time it went over the boundary, the batsmen had completed their third run. I thought all this should total seven runs. Was I right?"

No. The correct answer here is six runs. In this situation, the overthrows are calculated from the moment the fielder throws the ball, not the moment it crosses the boundary. At the instant of the throw, having crossed on their second run, they score two. Add four for the overthrow to the boundary: Total six.

Law 19.6 Boundaries (Open Learning Manual Page 60)

Remember you can submit your own umpiring and scoring questions here.




Want more tips on how to umpire? Get instant access to The Umpiring Survival Guide on PitchVision Academy. Now with a free bonus 91 page quizbook.



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Is the quest for more drills making you a bad player?
Everyone wants more drills right?

Drills are one of the most popular searches on miCricketCoach. Ask any coach and they will tell you they are always looking for more and better drills to spice up their practices. More drills are good.

Cricket Show 24: What to do if you are a new captain

More audio cricket coaching delights for you download this week. Kevin is trying to keep himself busy while David is run off his feet, especially with coaching.

In the show we cover:


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: 41
Date: 2009-04-10