The key to batting early on is more about the shots you don’t play more than the ones you do.
From the opposition’s point of view, bowling with the new ball at new batsman and not making them play is wasting the chance to get wickets.
So as a batsman you must forget what shot to play next, and just consider what shots you aren’t going to play.
Preparation is the key; before you even face your first ball of the innings you must decide to play it safe, at least to start.
The attacking option is to take every chance to hit balls: all shots that rely on you picking up the line and exact length quickly.
The safer option would be to play in the V.
Because you are only playing at balls full of length it gives you more time to read the delivery; including its line.
On really good wickets the batsman can leave balls on the length alone, even if they are straight. On most club wickets this isn’t advisable as not all clubs can afford covers, a heavy roller and a grounds man; but if the ball is short enough to leave, you can always play it safe and play the simple back foot defence.
Balls that are full and wide worth leaving early on, even if you have to get off to a flyer because you always have more time than you think.
Giving your wicket away like this wouldn’t leave you on your captain’s Christmas card list and probably worst of all, hand your wicket to the bowler for bowling an awful ball.
It’s much better to play yourself in and accelerate at the back end of an innings than go for it early and end up back in the hutch.
That doesn’t mean you have to block everything, but only go for the really bad balls to punish early on. You will get plenty.
Finally, practice your leave. I’ve been ridiculed a few times for practicing my leave when doing a few loosening shots when I am due in next. But the leave is just as an important shot as the forward defensive. A forward defensive has the potential to get you out in all the standard ways, but a good leave and only see you dismissed from a severely cutting ball; something that can only be deemed as a good ball.
For more tips on playing yourself in, get Keep Calm and Smash It, the online coaching guide from Kevin Pietersen.It contains a whole section on building an innings as a destructive batsman.