Pitchvision Academy


This newsletter wraps up the year with a look at bowling at the death of an innings. Apt?

Plus Mark Garaway continues his reflections on 2017.

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

Master Death Bowling with Integrated Cricket Practice

Bowling a few yorkers at the end of nets is no way to prepare for the stress of death bowling.


The secret of high-class death bowling is not tactics or technique. It's the ability to perform when the score is tight, your heart rate is high and you have been out of the attack for 30 overs.

It's no good being able to hit the blockhole or bowl a mean bouncer in perfect conditions because death bowling is never perfect. It's always messy and tough and requires nerve and nous to combine with skill. You need to be streetwise not book smart.

Of course, this is tough to practice. Here's a few ways.

Put something on it

A simple way to start integrating death skills, mental toughness and tactical awareness is by putting some consequence onto training.

Imagine you are bowling at nets against the player in your team who is best at death batting. Play a game with them where you try and get them out while they try to hit out. make up some rules about what counts as "out". You can set a field.

Then set a consequence. Whoever loses tidies up the nets, or buys the post-training drinks. Or dinner. It doesn't matter too much what it is (although avoid fitness based punishments if you can).

You will be amazed how much "pressure" you feel when there is a real consequence, even if it is something very minor. You just made practice more realistic.

Move your death practice

We tend to work on death bowling either at the end of nets or in a discreet session with no batsmen. This is fine, but we want to combine these skills, so lets put death practice in another place too.

Have a session where you warm up, do some intense cardio work or game that gets you out of breath. Then go straight into nets and call the first 20 minutes a death bowling session. The batsmen have to hit from ball one, the bowler's have to hit their lengths while tired and not ready to bowl.

You will see lower standards of course, but you will also learn how to bowl when tired and having not found any rhythm, just like you do in games sometimes.

Recreate critical game moments

Death moments are one of the great parts of cricket, but so hard to recreate. You can do so directly in two ways.

  1. Play short games. Nothing improves your death bowling faster than playing in actual T20 or Last Man Stands matches. The ideal is games where there is less on the outcome so you can focus on developing skills a bit more than performing consistently, but whatever game you can find will work.
  2. Middle practice. Play a 10 over middle practice where the batsmen have to score a good death total for your level. The team I coach would set a target of 70 or 80. Keep score accurately and video the game to ramp up the intensity.

Summary: Learn your response

All these tricks are a way of making death skills both tough and realistic.

This is important because how you respond to critical moments dictates how you how perform in them. So, becoming aware of your response and learning to adapt to it is vital to your success.

A bowler who can feel the stress of a win-lose moment, when tired and still execute a precision yorker is a rare creature. With the right training, you can be one of them.

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4 Ways to Become a High Class Death Bowler

Bowling the last few overs of an innings is like being a Hollywood star. When everything goes well you are adored. Put one foot wrong and your embarrassment could not be more exposed.

For the starlets it's wearing the wrong dress at a premier, for you it's getting clouted for 20 in the final over of the match. Same difference. So how do you avoid the cricketing equivalent of appearing on Perez Hilton?

Master the four balls of death

The secret to good death bowling comes in two parts:

  • Be able to bowl the four death deliveries better than anyone else
  • Know which of the four balls is the one to use

Both skills are tough. Learning to bowl a ball at will takes a lot of practice at creating a repeatable action. Knowing when to use it takes experience.

Let's take a look at each of the four balls and how best to use them.

1. Slower ball

The slower ball's job is to upset the rhythm of the batsman. It can be bowled in a number of ways (and to get the technique for them you should pick up copy of The Fast Bowler's Bible) but the trick is to do it without changing action.

This means the batsman is fooled into thinking the ball is arriving at normal speed and mis-times his shot.

Bowl it just short of a length to keep the pretence up, but avoid bowling it on a length he can play forward to as this gives him greater margin for error.

The danger with this ball is that the batsman spots it early and it just becomes a slow, shorter ball he can pull into the stands. Avoid this by making sure it's well disguised and use it sparingly, even at the death.

2. Length ball

We are taught that the best ball in cricket is the one that is hitting the top of off stump after pitching on a length that has the batsman undecided whether to play forward or back.

At the death this is risky, because the batsman is no longer playing 'properly' and is looking to hit the ball in unorthodox ways. The good length ball is easier to hit with premeditated shots over extra cover or midwicket.

However, it's still a good ball to have available in certain situations:

  • If there is still some movement in the air or off the pitch.
  • If the batsman is struggling to put bat on ball.
  • If the batsman is premeditating to hit everything to leg, bowling it wide outside off stump.

Don't be too quick to write off the good length ball at the death, it has a use if you are clever.

3. Bouncer

If you bowl a good pace on decent wickets, you can use the shorter ball to restrict the batsman's scoring area and with a well set field you will keep the runs down. There are two ways to use the short ball:

  1. Stock ball. Batters who don't play the ball at the ribs well will struggle to score against the ball bowled accurately at chest height. If the pitch is hard and bouncy enough you can set your length so the ball reaches chest height with the yorker or slower ball as variation.
  2. Shock ball. For those batsmen who are better at hooking and pulling (or are sitting on the back foot), the bouncer becomes a variation: Something to stop the batsman premeditating a front foot shot. It's especially good against the player who prefers to go off side in the death as the bouncer forces them to think twice about playing inside-out (i.e. stepping to the leg side to hit the ball through the covers).

With both these tactics, it's important to set a good field. Variations are many, but a deep midwicket, deep square leg and fine leg cut off the boundaries and take catches. Third man is up assuming there are field restrictions:

4. Yorker

The yorker, as we know, is a fast ball pitching at the toes of the batsman, usually around the popping crease, ideally with swing. This is the classic ball for death bowling: Full and straight.

The mantra is: If you miss, I hit.

It's hard to bowl as the margin for error is small. Bowl it too full and it becomes a low full toss and a free hit. Bowl it too short and it becomes a half volley and you will be fetching it from the crowd.

If you can get it right it becomes an excellent stock ball to use at the death. Unless the batsman is very good it can only be hit straight down the ground, so you can set your mid on, mid off, fine leg and third man back and straight to cut off the boundaries.

If you are using it as a stock ball you will need to practice it in the nets a lot both with and without batsmen. It's worth the effort if you know you are likely to be bowling at the end and might suffer 5 overs of the long handle.

It can also be used as a variation if you are using length or short bowling as the stock delivery.

Either way, the mark of a really good death bowler is one who can use the yorker to restrict scoring and take wickets because it is so difficult to master.

With all death bowling the key is not to be average at all four types of bowling, but to become really good at one or two. If you can master all four deliveries you will be unstoppable.

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Mark Garaway's Cricket Year Part Two

This is part two of Mark Garaway's cricket coaching year.

May - IPL Fever

Whilst all of the Millfield Squads were performing admirably on the fields of England, progressing through their respective rounds of the national competitions it was also great to keep an eye on the IPL.

Australians led the way in the individual stat markets with David Warner taking the “Orange Cap” for scoring 641 runs in the tournament as well as sharing the “Most 6’s” award with countryman, Glenn Maxwell. The impressive Chris Lynn playing for KKR had the highest strike rate (180).

In the bowling stakes Andrew Tye walked away with 2 awards picking up Best figures (5/17) and best bowling average (11.75) and Bhuvi Kumar took a magnificent 26 wickets in 14 matches to take the Purple Cap.

Lesson: The IPL project and market their competition wonderfully which attracts interest from people across the world.

The way that they incentivise players to perform better, making the game an even better spectacle, can be easily transferred into our club and school cricket environments.

Having a way of tracking and promoting who has scored the most runs, taken the most wickets, hit the most 6’s and caught the most catches creates interest, rewards performance and gives us something to project out to the masses on Social Media.

Cricket competes with so many different sports and activities nowadays so it’s vitally important that we all learn to keep Cricket at the forefront of people’s consciousness.

At School, Matt Thompson does a great job of keeping the Millfield Twitter updated and produces incredible Newsletters once a term. We also award stunning caps for every 5-wicket haul and 100 scored in the season and have honours boards placed throughout the pavilion to commemorate service and performance of the pupils. We are always striving to learn from the IPL and other excellent promotional sporting events (NBA, Tour de France, Big Bash) about the best and most appropriate ways to project our sport and its players. What innovative ways do you do this in your clubs and schools? Let me know.

June - so near, yet so far!

It was said by some that our season at Millfield ended being a disappointment as we failed to win a National Trophy finishing as runners up in one Final and losing semi-finalists in 3 other competitions.

In fact, one senior teacher at the school told me that Millfield should win every National Cup in every year which I thought was equally as ignorant as it was disrespectful to every other school in the country who play the game. I told him so too!

We all play in leagues and Cup competitions and over the years I have been involved as a player and coach in 54 champion teams in the non-professional game and 15 winning teams in professional cricket so I have an understanding of what it takes to win any competition.

Every team should aim or dream of winning each tournament that they enter and for all those wins I mentioned previously, I have had a number of surprise losses and some near misses too which have not helped me keep my hair over the years!

Winning tournaments takes huge levels of effort, focus, skill, reflection and a fair bit of luck along the way as well. No-one has the right to believe that they only need to turn up to pick up the spoils and to taste the champagne.

Lesson: The incredible Peter Moores, coach of white ball champs Nottinghamshire CCC once said to me “Champions prepare like the number 2 seeded team and play like the number 1”

I love this quote as it keeps you striving and pushing to become better. The most difficult thing to do is to win after winning but if you take on the Moores mantra then you give yourself a good chance!

Could this quote help your team to maintain their success or to knock the dominant rivals from their pedestal?

July - Bunbury Festival fun and friendship

The Bunbury Regional Festival is one of the best Talent ID weeks out there. This year's festival, held at the gorgeous Stowe School was the 32nd edition of Dr David English's brainchild. I played in the 2nd version of the event in 1988. Now that makes me feel old!

Millfield had 2 representatives at the festival who both performed well played major roles in their respective T20 and 50 over trophy wins for their teams. It was lovely to see them competing confidently with the best players in the country.

The best part of the Festival has always been the camaraderie and friendships which develop during the week.

I met one of my best friends at the Bunbury Festival in 1988 and so many of the present England team met whilst competing with or against each other in their specific Bunbury year.

Ben Stokes and Joe Root built their relationship on the foundation of Bunbury as did Freddie Flintoff and Steve Harmison way back in 1992.

Lesson: Cricket has an amazing way of building life long relationships which stand up to all sorts of pressures and challenges over the years.

80% of my guests at our recent wedding were from cricket and most of them have been lifelong friends from my days at Ventnor Cricket Club. So cherish your team mates, learn as much about them as you can as if your anything like me, those guys and girls who you share the cricket field with over the next few years will be the same people who you want around you at the key times in your life.

August - The Only Way is Essex!

Newly promoted Essex upset then apple cart by dominating the County Championship from start to finish after only being promoted into 1st Division the previous September.

Initially aided by Alistair Cook's early season availability and form, a number of unknown Essex players put in some incredible performances to drive their county to their first Championship since the famous Graham Gooch days in 1992.

Jamie Porter (graduate of the Tom Maynard Academy) topped the bowling rankings with 75 wickets closely followed by South African off-spinner Simon Harmer with 72. Their wicket taking exploits were the thrust behind Essex’s domination with Dan Lawrence and Nick Browne scoring consistent runs throughout the summer.

I was so pleased to see Essex’s success. The club had changed direction at the end of 2015 appointing Chris Silverwood as Head Coach with Anthony McGrath as Assistant coach. Both fellas are good cricketing men who have experienced a lot of County cricket with a smattering of International exposure. They have also been quietly impressive as they have gone through the ECB Level III and Level IV programmes. Chris has now gone on to join the England ranks as Bowling coach and “Mags” has been promoted to become the new Essex Head Coach.

Lesson: County Cricket generally promotes from within and often rewards local legends with coaching positions. This works well is some cases but can also be restrictive in others, I benefited from Somerset investing in me after playing my cricket at Hampshire so it’s great to see a County like Essex looks outside of its boundaries when appointing coaches.

It’s often easier to select a safe appointment and promote from within, but are you always getting the best candidate for the role? Are their other coaches who can bring different perspectives and fresher ideas into your cricket environment? It’s a question worth asking when making any coaching appointment? That’s where PV Jobs comes in to help us all scour the coaches market. Click here to find out more.

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Cricket Show S8 Episode 49: Lessons of the Year

In the last show of the series, Mark Garaway, Sam Lavery and David Hinchliffe and Mark Garaway talk about what they learned in cricket this year. Plus we squeeze in two final questions for this series: playing indoor cricket and opening in T20 cricket.

Remember to follow PitchVision Academy for free bonus content.

Listen for the details.

Stories and Stats: PitchVision's Cricket Coaching Review of the Year

This year has been PitchVision’s biggest for cricket coaching. Here are the greatest hits.


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: 493
Date: 2017-12-29