I watched a fascinating period of play in the 3rd England vs Pakistan Test Match from Headingley. James Vince was being forensically investigated by the excellent Panistani left arm seamers.
James Vince has a stellar cover drive, his signature shot, and this has catapulted him from county cricket into the Test team this summer. The Pakistanis had elected to bowl after winning the toss, had a new-ish ball and fed the ball into Vinces' strongest area.
Vince left 4 consecutive 5th stump 1/2 volleys before being teased into a drive and slicing an airbourne shot wide of gully. It could have easily gone straight to the waiting catcher. It was a great bit of cricket thinking using a tactic that is too rarely used in modern day cricket.
Bowling to a batters strength.
So can bowling to someone's strength work for you too?
If you consider subtle elements such as overhead, pitch and ball conditions, the batters form and ego, and ground size. Here are some historical examples of Batters Strengths becoming coming their weakness.
The leg side trap
David Gower was a majestic batter, so classy.
He had this flick off his pads and hip that was sublime. He scored thousands of runs for Leicestershire, Hampshire and England.
The Australians of 1990-91 turned the strength into Gower's nemesis by asking Merv Hughes to bowl outside of Gower's pads with the intention of inducing an edge down leg side to Ian Healy, the keeper, or to flip the ball to the waiting Dean Jones at deep square leg
'Big Merv' would bowl conventionally for a few balls then slip in the outside leg stump half-volley. Gower's eyes would light up and he was dismissed four times in the series with this mode of dismissal.
The World's most powerful cut
Robin Smith's cut shot was feared all round the world. He absolutely smashed it! Robin went to number one Test batsman with a game built around his tremendous antidote to the late 1980's and early 90's West Indies pace battery.
Towards the middle of his career, Smith would look to go to his fabled cut shot more and more, especially in times of need.
Smart captains and bowlers picked up on this and instructed their bowlers to bowl dry at Robin, keeping his strike rate down before going wide on the crease and angling the ball back into his cut shot.
Effectively, bowlers would tie him down and then deliver a wide of the crease long hop.
Robin would see the ball short and wide and the jackpot signs started to go off. By the time the ball reached the contact zone, the angle of delivery meant that it was closer than he first thought.
Often, Smith would get tucked up and feather a catch behind or mistime his cut to gully or point.
Sometimes your strength can over-dominate your shot selection as a batter: This is a prime opportunity for a bowler to take advantage.
The happy hooker
There are lots of batters - at all levels - who see it short and instinctively hook the ball away. This is great and I was very much in this camp as a batter many moons ago.
Where I and many others have come unstuck is when a captain bowls to that strength.
With two men out behind square on a long boundary that can't be reached (or into a strong wind that holds the ball up for the waiting catcher) your fate is sealed.
Know your opposition
By keeping a simple log of your opposition batters dismissals and tendencies you can build up a dossier which can inform future tactics against them.
- Grab a drink in the changing room after the game (very important).
- Limit your discussion to 1 minute on each player
- Someone writes down information on their phone and the record created is there to retrieve and send out to players ahead of the next fixture against that particular team.
- By the end of season two, you should have at least four entries on each player in your league.
- Tactics can be developed remotely via text using this info.
- Think about how boundary lengths, pitch history both home and away, wind strength can all build into your tactics.
My final piece of advice is if you are going to use a "Strengths into weaknesses" tactic then please get it in early.
The Vince passage of play yesterday came at the very start of his innings.
Don't let the player settle as his ability to perceive threat and adapt will improve as the his innings develops.
The early bird catches the worm after all!