This is part of the specialist fielding series of articles, for the full list of fielding positions covered click here.
Fielding at gully is like being a goalkeeper saving a penalty.
A lot of close catchers prefer this position as, unlike the slips, it’s a matter of reactions. You either pull off a brilliant catch or it whistles past you and you can’t be blamed for missing it.
So although the gully is often lumped in with the slips there are specialist skills needed.
Why have a gully?
Like slip, gully is an attacking fielding position behind the wicket on the off side. He stands squarer and deeper than the slips.
The position is in place to both take catches and save runs. Gully is in the game is when a batsman is cutting off the back foot. If the ball is mishit a catch is on. If it is played down the gully is there to save the boundary with a reaction stop, often requiring a dive.
Shared skills with slips
Slip and gulley have a lot of similarities so there is some interchange between the positions. The stance and catching techniques are identical.
Concentration is also a crucial shared skill, although unlike slips the gully usually has more warning that the ball is coming as the batsman shapes to play a cut early and the fielder can ready himself.
For this reason you watch the bat and the batsman as the bowler is delivering the ball.
Where to stand
The ball comes off the face of the bat when hit through gully meaning it travels faster than it typically does to the slips. This means that the orthodox gulley can afford to be deeper than the slips.
On slow wickets the ball will not travel in the air as high or as far so you have to show bravery and get closer than you feel is comfortable. On fast wickets you can be a long way back safe in the knowledge that the ball will carry.
How square you are will depend on where the batsman is likely to hit the ball. A good rule of thumb for the position is to stand in line with the on-side corner of batter's popping crease to middle stump towards the slip cordon. Like this:
Ways to practice
Don’t use this as an excuse but as a reactive position you can get away with less practice as gully than in other close catching positions.
That’s something handy to know for captains with players not keen on fielding practice. You may have found your specialist gully.
But like any fielding position, the more you practice the better you get, so having a specialist who practices gully catches at every practice will help your side.
Simply getting someone to hit throws off the face of the bat to you is an excellent way to practice the position.
Then double up with slip practice as you may be required to move into 2nd or 3rd slip in certain situations.
Finally, general work on improving your reactions will help you get into position earlier.
image credit: sheldonmarlboroughcc