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The big news in world cricket this week is the Ashes battle. Despite it being a two horse race, the importance of the result to the players and the nations they represent leads to high quality cricket under pressure.

That's why this week we look at the Ashes, and in particular dealing with pressure. The key articles focus on Kevin Pietersen's shot selection and how the Ashes squads prepare for big games. All stuff you can learn from to make you a better player or coach.

We also have an important article on injury prevention. At club level particularly, there are many injuries that can be prevented simply by making some postural improvements. Don't wait until you or your team get injured before thinking about injuries: Use miCricketCoach to help you ahead of time.

Have a great weekend,


David Hinchliffe

Avoiding the Pietersen folly: Shot selection against spin bowling

The biggest talking point from day one of the 2009 Ashes was Kevin Pietersen's horrible shot selection to get out when well set. This pdf file from The Times explains the shot in all its gory detail.

If such a fine batsman as Pietersen makes mistakes like this, what chance does everyone else have to get it right? The answer is: More chance that you might think.

Playing the angles

Pietersen is blessed with talent and unfailing confidence. Club players with much more limited skills (and less confidence to go with it) can follow a more conservative approach, yet still find ways to score safely.

This approach is based largely on picking the shots and scoring areas that are least likely to get you out. To find out what they are you need to understand what angles the spinner is using to try and take your wicket.

Let's take a look at each shot and when the best time is to play it.


Front and back foot drives are the safest shots in most circumstances because you are hitting with the full length of the bat rather than just the width (as with cross bat shots like the sweep).

Driving can be done from in the crease, or moving down the wicket to turn a good length ball into a half volley that can be driven.

If the ball is turning in (off spin to a right handed batsman); the best areas to look to score are between mid off and midwicket. If you keep an open body position with your hips towards the target area the swing of the bat can be straight. It's safe because you are accounting for the ball turning back into you (playing with the spin). You can see the scoring area in red here:

Driving wide on the off side is more dangerous because you are playing against the spin. The classic off spin dismissal is 'through the gate' between bat and pad when trying the drive through cover or squarer.

For the ball turning away, the danger changes and so does the scoring area.

Now you would look to drive from straight to cover. The wider the line of bowling, the wider you can direct the ball safely:

It's worth noting you do not want to drive too square unless you are taking risks. The squarer you drive the less of the face of the bat is shown to the ball and the greater the chance of an edge.

Flick and glance

The flick of the legs is really just an extension of the drive shots. You get in the same position, simply closing the face to direct the ball on the leg side. As a result, it's also a safe shot to an over-pitched delivery. The glance is played to a better length ball and so goes finer. The area for all types of spin is shown in red here:

It's easier to play these types of shots to the ball turning in, especially if the line is too straight meaning all that needs to be done is to help it on its way. Balls that are turning away can also be flicked and glanced although to do it well it's important to only play the shots to balls going down a leg side line.

Cuts and pulls

Short deliveries can be cut and pulled as would be done to a medium pace bowler. The shot is cross bat, but is safe if the ball is poor enough.

It's easier to pull the ball that is turning in towards the bat and easier to cut the ball turning away. For example a ball on an off stump line from a leg spinner could be late cut as an improvisation as you are just helping the ball along the line it is going. Late cutting an off spin delivery on the same line would carry a greater risk, especially of getting bowled.


If you are tied down by a bowler and having trouble using your feet the next option is to use the sweep shot. As Pietersen will tell you, it is more risky purely because you are hitting across the line of the ball.

The safest ball to sweep is the one on or just outside the leg stump. You can help the ball turning in on its way with the spin or get inside the line of the ball turning away and strike it square. This shot will usually go finer.

If the ball is straighter you can still sweep but the risk increases, especially with the ball turning away. The more off side the line of the ball the squarer the ball should be hit to be safe.

Anything outside off stump is probably best left alone unless it is turning back onto the stumps and you need to improvise.

If you are hitting out and you need to hit boundaries you can use the slog sweep, getting the front leg out of the way and hitting between midwicket and square leg. This not recommended against spin turning away (especially a wide line; better to go inside-out in this case). However, there is less risk against spin turning in or balls that pitch outside leg stump. Either way, this shot is a calculated risk and carries a high chance of getting out caught.

The scoring areas for the fine sweep (yellow) sweep (red) and slog sweep (green) are shown here:


Decide your best options

The main point of all this is to suggest that every batsman has a number of options against spin. The sensible way to play it is to decide which option is safest and stick to the plan depending on conditions/match situation.

Image credit: www.a-middletonphotograph y.com

Scoring areas images supplied by PitchVision - Coach Edition. Available to purchase now for clubs, schools and cricket centres.


For more technical tips and unique batting drills on playing spin, check out Gary Palmer's interactive coaching courses. Gary is a coach with over 20 years experience teaching players to become first class cricketers. For the first time he has put his drills online, only at PitchVision Academy.


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Ask the readers: What would increase your mental toughness?

How often do we hear of top players with ability but without the mental strength to fight through?

To me, this demonstrates how cricket, at every level, can be a game of confidence. Technique, talent and fitness are important, but without the ability to ride success and shrug of failure it's all worthless.

With that in mind my question to you is:

How mentally tough are you and what would you like to learn about to improve it?

In my own experience as a club player, I used to have very low confidence on the cricket pitch. I pride myself on my technique and performance as both a batsman and a wicketkeeper. I wanted to play the perfect game every time I pulled on the whites. If I made a mistake (even a small one like missing a ball down the leg side) I would consider than game 'tainted' by my imperfection.

As you can imagine, this only made me play worse. It wasn't a technical issue, it was a mental one.

Then I learned two simple techniques to put mistakes out of my head and start focusing on my success. The improvements in self-confidence also lead to a dramatic jump in my consistency, particularly in my wicketkeeping.

I ended up as player of the year for my club 2nd XI.

Now I want to know your experiences. Have ever had similar issues on the field? Are you experiencing them now? What types of problems are stopping you from reaching your potential as a cricketer?

If you reveal your problems, I promise I'll do my best to help you solve them. I have been through it myself, have helped others in similar situations at club level and covered sport psychology in my degree course so I should be able to at least point you in the right direction.

How to leave your mental toughness story

You can participate and get assistance (if you need it) by leaving comment in the box at the bottom of this article. If you are reading the article in an email or RSS feed click here to go to the comments box.

If you prefer, you can email your comments by going here and filling in the comment form. These comments will come directly to me and remain anonymous.

Finally you can send your comments to me via twitter. You can DM or @micoach me.

I'm fascinated to hear the experiences club players in their mental game, whichever way you prefer to contact us.

image credit: www.a-middletonphotograph y.com


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5 Ways to deal with big match pressure as well as Ashes cricketers

Is there anyone in cricket with more pressure on them than the players of Australia and England at the start of an Ashes series?

It's certainly far more stress than you or I have experienced as cricketers (unless you happen to be MS Dhoni). However, even club players feel pressure situations: Finals (maybe even on TV), league deciders and even the local derby where you play out your own mini Ashes-style rivalry.

What can club players and coaches learn from how the Ashes cricketers deal with pressure?

1. Don't leave it to the last moment

One really common mistake with big games is to fail to think about them until the days before the match. Dealing with pressure situations starts long before that.

As you will learn, the best players all deal with pressure by knowing what is best for them. This may well vary a great deal: Graham Gooch was the eternal net and fitness man while David Gower could score runs without a jog or a net.

The only way you can know what works for you is by trying things out. You may find a net before the game focuses your mind for example. Some people need 10 hours of sleep a night to feel rested, others can get by on 7 or less.

All this means thinking ahead. When are you likely to have a high pressure match? How far back can you go to start laying the foundations of feeling calm under pressure?

2. Do be ready

Once you know what works for you (something that can take months or years to establish), the next step is to start preparing as soon as possible.

For most of us, we need to practice. Club cricketers with jobs or school rarely get enough time to practice fully, but every session you put in becomes an investment in the 'bank'. That training is usually skill based (either developing new ones or honing existing ones). The key is not to waste preparation time by just 'going through the motions' like having a hit in the net and going home.

Some people need less preparation than others. They may feel ready without a lot of practice as they are more confident in their skills. For example, a player who has just retired from first class cricket but has decided to turn out for a local team on Saturday to keep a bit fit. They would have little fear of the opposition and a lot of confidence in their ability to perform with the minimum of practice. For them the investment was made years ago at a higher level.

It's also important to remember the 'support' preparation too:

  • Suitable nutrition
  • The right amount of sleep
  • A fitness plan suitable to your needs (including recovery work like foam rolling and swimming)
3. Do work under pressure

Assuming your preparation has gone well in the months and weeks before your big game, you can start your build up to the match by simulating some pressure in practice.

The easiest way to do this is to bat in the nets under a game situation. Have a normal net but with the following changes:

  • Set the game situation. It could be any point in the game, don't automatically set a slog target (12 runs in 4 balls).
  • Bowlers set their field and bowl in 6 ball overs.
  • Someone acts as an umpire and judge of runs scored/wickets taken
  • Keep score and find out who 'wins'

Extra pressure can be added by forcing players to run when they hit it, putting close fielders in (if the net is double sized) or saying 'when you are out, you are out'. You can also incorporate practice games (in set scenarios) instead of nets with enough players

4. Do focus on success

Our minds are wired in funny ways. It's been proven that thinking about success makes you more likely to be successful than thinking about failure.

That may seem obvious, but we tend to think and worry about failure more than we focus on success. Our imaginations often think about what could happen if it all goes wrong. To counter that it's important to consciously spend some time thinking about success.

One really simple way to do that is to write down exactly what is would be like to have outstanding success.

If you were an Ashes captain you might write a fake newspaper report detailing how your team won 5-0, every game by an innings. Sure, it might not be realistic, but the higher the success you think about the more likely any success will come about. So even if you end up winning the series on the last day in a hard fought 2-1 win, you still have reached your aim of winning.

The point is not to try and plan for a massive victory, but just to imagine it. The more positive thoughts you have the less negative ones you have time for.

4. Don't ignore your tension

Coaches all over the world tell their players regularly to relax; don't try and bowl too fast or hit the ball too hard. The reason is that trying too hard make you tense up and instead of hitting or bowling better, you get worse.

Under pressure this tension is even more likely to come out in hunches shoulders, gritted teeth or a tighter grip.

When this happens to you, take a moment to let the tension out. If you are a bowler stand at the top of your run and make an effort to relax: face and shoulders especially. As a batsman you can try the technique outlined here. This conscious effort will let the tension out and allow you to focus on smooth, flowing movements that are efficient rather than leaking energy through tension.

5. Know your role

Finally, it's important to know what your job is on the day of the big game. If you are unsure speak to the captain to find out.

If you are a bowler the captain may turn to you when you have a lot of runs to play with and tell you to get the wickets at whatever cost. On another day he might want you to keep it tighter. Batsmen may be told to stay in and build a platform or increase the run rate.

It's important to remember that your role be something you don't like: Bowling into the wind uphill or reigning in your attacking batting to save a match. Nevertheless, as long as the team benefits you must try hard to ignore your ego and work hard for the team. A good captain will always pat you on the back if you did what he needed. Sometimes a bowling analysis 1-36 can be just as important to victory as 5-67, even if it doesn't look it.

image credit: Hopkinsii


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How to reduce injuries by improving posture

What's worse than having a bad cricket technique?

How about a dangerous technique?

Chances are you know someone who plays with niggles in the shoulder, hip or back. Chances are it is caused by improper technique. Injury rates are up massively in recent years but it's not because players have stopped trying to bat and bowl with proper technique, it's because their bodies are not letting them.

Cricket Show 36: Your questions extravaganza!

David reports on another victory and finally nabs a victim while Kevin does his best after being crook all week. We dedicate this week entirely to your questions on cricket coaching this week including:


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: 54
Date: 2009-07-10