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I think middle practice is one of the great underused ways any team can improve. But its rarely done by anyone except elite teams.

That's a waste as far as I'm concerned, so to help club and school teams make the most of middle practice we have dedicated 2 articles to the subject this week. Let me know if you found them useful.

Speaking of letting me know, we have spruced up our facebook page so if you are on the mighty fb, click here, become a fan and leave a comment.

Meanwhile in the rest of this newsletter we look at the IPL, head position in batting and lose an episode of the PitchVision Academy Show under the sofa.

Have a great weekend,


David Hinchliffe

How to use middle practice to improve your cricket

Middle practice is a far better way to improve your tactics and game plans than nets will ever be.

That's because nets lack context. There is no pressure of the game or fielders.

But to learn how to play under pressure you have to practice under pressure. And middle practice does exactly that.

For players wanting to realistically practice the skills of their specialist role in the team, there is nothing like middle practice.

It also incorporates fielding practice into your batting and bowling sessions, something which is easily missed out on.

So good coaches and captains look to middle practice to bridge the gap between netting and playing.

What is middle practice?

Middle practice is exactly what it sounds like: A practice session played on a wicket with fielders instead of a net. It's designed to feel as close to a real game as possible.

Although it's traditionally been first-class and Academy teams who do middle practice, with a bit of creativity any side can do it: Club, school, village or University.

As long as you have access to a field with a wicket (turf or artificial) you can do middle practice.

Once the session is ready to go, the coach or captain sets a match scenario: A realistic game situation to help players practice tactics.

Making the most of it

If you are limited to your resources you can customise the scenarios:

  • Not enough fielders. Some practice sessions will not have the required 11 fielders (plus 2 batters and 2 more padded up). To combat this place a net on the leg side and estimate runs scored when it is played through that area.
  • Short time.If you only have an hour or two a week total practice time you need to take some shortcuts to speed things up. Use 3 batters rather than two and bowl from one end (the spare batter acts as umpire). Have the next batters ready to come in straight away.
  • Lack of interest. Players, especially younger ones, can easily get bored during middle practice. Keep it interesting by setting exciting game situations, encouraging a competitive element and allowing everyone to be involved (change fielders around, use lots of bowlers, make everyone have a go at captaining, discuss tactics with fielders and batters).

Discuss tactics and plans to make better players

It's important to make time in all scenarios to discuss with the players how they will approach the situation. Ask batsmen how they are looking to score and in what areas. Ask fielders to work out what field is best for that type of bowling. Ask bowlers what line and length they want, and which variations they are planning on using.

This discuss helps develop tactical awareness in players of any age, so is a crucial part of the process.

In the final part part we look at 5 middle scenarios you can use whatever level you play. Click here to go to part 2.

image credit: emmettanderson


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5 Middle practice scenarios to make cricket training more realistic

In part 1 of this series we looked at why middle practice is so important and how to deal with the problems of running a middle practice session. Today we are looking at what types of scenarios you can set up, and how to keep them interesting to everybody, even the guy stuck at third man.

1. Reach a target

Everyone has played some version of this game, usually in the nets when you have 6 balls left to hit anything from 10-30 (depending how mean the coach is).

In this version you are out of the net but the principle is the same: To win the game you have to score a set number of runs. The captain sets the field and each pair attempt to make it over the target before time runs out.

Give the batting pairs 3-5 overs to get to the target. If you are pushed for time have a third batsman padded up acting as umpire. If a wicket falls he goes in. If a second wicket falls the attempt is over.

As the batsmen are hitting out, you might want a few spare balls to keep the game going!

2. Set a target

In this scenario you are batting first, so have no set target to reach apart from 'as many runs as possible'. Set the current score and over number and tell the pair they have 3-5 overs to score as many runs as possible to allow for a declaration (or for the death of a limited overs game).

If you are feeling tough you can say once a wicket falls the next pair is in. If you want to make it fairer you can give each pair 1-2 lives, or say a wicket means -4 runs and the pair bat on.

You can also say that the pair must hit 1 boundary in the first over, 2 in the second, 3 in the third and so on until they fail and their innings is over.

To make it interesting, add a competitive element by saying the pair with the most runs wins.

3. Rotate the strike

In this scenario you are in the middle section of the game. Spinners or medium pacers are on, the ball is old and the field is less aggressive. It's the pair's job to rotate the strike and score as many runs as possible without taking too many risks. The fielders have to try and frustrate the batsmen.

You could play it straight and keep it as a pure game situation (100-4 after 30 overs for example, each pair gets 5 overs the pair with the most runs and least wickets wins).

If you want to focus on running rather than boundaries you can ban fours and sixes, telling the batsmen they can only play tip and run. This is great fielding practice too.

Another version of this scenario is to tell the pairs they can bat as long as they like but must score 1 run in the first over, 2 in the second, 3 in the third and so on. If a wicket falls or the target is not reached the attempt is over. Whichever pair gets the most overs is the winner.

4. See off the new ball

Get your opening bowlers to bowl to your top order batsmen with a new ball in this scenario. The aim is to reflect the opening overs of a match.

How you set up this scenario depends on the format you play and the wicket you are on:

  • Encourage the openers to be aggressive by telling them they have to hit a boundary every over to stay batting.
  • Get the openers to see off the new ball by giving them 2 runs for leaving the ball outside off stump and an extra run for every run scored to a defensive shot.

You can again get players to bat in threes rather than pairs to save time and add pressure by making a wicket mean something.

5. Save the game

The aim here is to simulate an epic rearguard action to draw a match when you are batting last. Although it's not nice to think you will be in this situation, if you play declaration cricket there will be games where it happens. If you are thorough you need to practice it to improve your chances of survival.

Pair a tail-end batter with a more accomplished player and set the situation up where the pair has to bat out the last few overs (usually 3-5). If either player is out, the attempt is over.

Although, if you are feeling generous, you can give a life or have teams of 3.

In all these scenarios, the key to making them work is to make it count for something. It's very easy to drift into 'having a hit', but if you make it competitive with players trying to achieve something over other pairs (or threes) then they will stay focused through the session.

Plus it's a fun way of keeping practice interesting.

More cricket coaching, tactical and playing tips soon. To stay up to date get the free newsletter from PitchVision Academy.

image credit: Wolfram Burner


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Coaching the IPL: Why Twenty20 is a game for the old heads
Too technically correct.
Too slow scoring with the bat.
To slow and predictable with the ball

Critics had wondered why older players with Test pedigrees like Kallis, Vaas and Tendulkar were even bothering with the IPL. Maybe for the money, because their games are not built for the crash bang format.

It's a situation many older club players can relate to as well.

Every team has had the dour opener looking to see off the new ball and reduce the run rate to a walk rate. The creaky medium pacer who has relied on line and length as the main weapon for years is never far behind.

But as the seniors in IPL 3 have proved; with a bit of work you can have success in the autumn of your career:

  • Tendulkar scoring a technically perfect 71 to win easily against KKR.
  • Kallis hitting 283 runs in the first 5 matches with just one dismissal for Bangalore.
  • Retired metronome Vaas making the new ball sing when he had been written off for lack of pace and not enough variations.
  • Anil Kumble going at 4.5 an over against Mumbai

If these old boys can do it, so can any player with the right motivation.

It's just a matter of working hard on the right things.

So what should you be working on in the nets to reflect the success of the IPL oldies?

Twenty20 batting like Kallis

Kallis (and Tendulkar for that matter) started IPL 3 so well because he didn't change his technique to the game; he played the same way just looking to score off more deliveries. He did that by:

  • Hitting length balls with a straight bat. Kallis is adept at getting his hands high so he can hit length balls on the up with a straight bat. As this is simply and adaptation of an existing safe technique it's much easier to learn. You can find out how to learn it here.
  • Taking responsibility to bat through. The Royal Challengers strategy was to let Kallis score at a slower rate while his partners gave it the long handle. This way he could take less risks and increase the average runs per wicket for his team.
Twenty20 bowling like Vaas

Vaas also played to his strengths to have success. He knew top order batsmen were looking to come after him and adapted by:

  • Being subtle. Vass varied his pace and length and swung the ball enough to deceive batsmen who felt they could go after his pace. His experience was vital in knowing when a batter was looking to attack and making a slight change to upset his rhythm.
  • Being realistic. Vaas also was happy to have the keeper stand up as his pace was down on his peak years. He knew 145kph inswinging yorkers were not for him. The tactic allowed Deccan to squeeze at the top of the innings and take crucial wickets by applying pressure.

But what these tactics and methods are really about is doing as little as possible to adapt to a new format. Slight adjustments are far easier than trying to change everything. You still need to get in the nets and practice of course, but not for as long, which is handy when you are in your 30s.

image credit: SJ Jagadeesh

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Use your head and become a better cricketer (part 2)

This article is part two of a series from Laurie Ward of the Complete Cricketer Academy. To go to part one click here.

In the last article we looked at head position in bowling and fielding. Today we look at head position in batting.

Arguably the most important area of the game to be aware of your head positioning and balance is batting.

Cricket Show update: The lost episode

There will be no official cricket show this week, but we do have a little something for you.

Although we recorded as normal, there was a problem with the recording and the show was lost to the world.

Only Kevin and I know how brilliant it was (and it was brilliant).

But how could I leave you with nothing to listen to?

I'm not that cruel and I would feel far too guilty.


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: 91
Date: 2010-03-26