I don't have many 'pet-hates' but remarkably my biggest one concerns a cricket shot that gets warm applause when executed well
I hate this shot with a passion!
What is it? Read on.
Back in 2008, we decided to do some analysis on batsmen around the shots that they played, their shot-specific strike rate, average, frequency, runs per Shot, chance per shot and dismissal rate.
It was a brilliant process which resulted in some good subsequent coaching interventions for our own guys and more targeted planning around opposition batters.
What came out as the worst shot in cricket?
The shot that came out with the lowest SR, lowest Runs per shot (attempted) and worst average across the board was the late cut.
The late cut makes my SUDS rocket!
SUDS is an acronym for Subjective Units of Distress Scale. This scale runs from 0-10 and the late cut fires me up to a peaky 8.5 when one of our players tries another late cut.
And another dot is added to the scorebook!
On occasions, I have toyed with banning the shot all together.
Then I am reminded that I have been lucky enough to work with a few players - only a few mind - who have been excellent players of the shot and had completely different stats for the late cut.
Bell and Trescothick: Late cut legends
Ian Bell is by far the best late cutter I have seen at close quarters. Belly plays the shot very naturally and often took the ball out of the keepers gloves as he let the ball pass him before making contact.
Marcus Trescothick plays the shot with more of a straight bat rather than the horizontal bat of Ian Bell. He also makes contact with the ball very late and relies on having a very soft grip at point of contact to allow the ball to release off of the bat face and down to 3rd man.
This is a shot Marcus plays more against seamers than he does against spin bowlers.
In recent years, there have been two young professionals that I have worked with who both play the shot well and at the right times. So the first lesson here is to encourage people to get good at the shot before playing it in games.
How to practice the late-cut
Both Marcus and Belly are excellent trainers. They bat long and both focus hard on their drills.
A drill that can help a player to develop a late cut is to kneel down on the floor, get a mate to underarm feed the ball up from an appropriate length with the batter concentrating on their upper body, arms and hands to guide the ball past the keeper.
If you do this into a walled corner area (in a courtyard for example) then the ball will roll back to you or the feeder enabling cyclical practice.
Progressions for drill can be:
- The same kneeling drill with a bouncing ball thrown into the appropriate length.
- Standing in the contact position (reverse chaining) and concentrating on the contact against the moving ball.
- Getting someone to bowl as you move from stance into the end position and play the ball away (throwdowns).
- Targets can be introduced to add pressure, precision and points scoring.
- Finally, practice hard against bowlers to challenge you decision making, as well as execution skills. When you have layered up through these progressions and mastered the shot in nets then you are ready to go in a game.
Another way of practising is to become your team's "nick man" for slip catching practice. If you can run the ball to slips in catching practice at will and then you can run the ball into gaps past the keeper in matches too!
You help your mates get better at catching whilst developing your own game!
Sharpening decision making
We often see the frequency in late cut attempts increase as pressure rises against spin.
Often, this comes when the field that is set does not lend itself to the shot being played at all.
At this point effective decision making has gone out the window. The shot is often a reaction to pressure rather than an educated and well practice option being played appropriately.
Encourage your players to identify when the shot is on from the sidelines. For example, when there is no slip in place and there is only one person behind point on the offside.
Going back to Ian Bell, he was great at getting these shots away for two or more, which then led to the opposition captain moving an on side fielder into the short third man position to bolster the behind square defences on the off side.
Those sideline conversations have a huge impact upon match play decision making.
When 'Belly' moved that fielder you would often see him target the square leg or fine leg position that had just been vacated. That is brilliantly appropriate thinking.
Now how not to do it.
In contrast I see many young players trying to late cut spin when their is either a slip and a backward point in place or even worse, when there are two men behind square on the off side.
Dot ball city!
There were a few examples of this at the brilliant Bunbury Under 15 Regional Cricket Festival this week at the beautiful Radley College. It will be interesting to see if those same players have either learnt to play the late-cut better or smarter when I next see many of them play at the ECB Super 4s Regional Festival in a couple of years.