Picture the scene: A gloriously sunny day with a warm breeze rustling through the trees; Perfect cricket weather.
Walking out to the middle to examine the playing area, the bowlers take one look at the pitch and hang their heads while the batsmen rub their hands in glee. It's a bowler's graveyard: Hard and flat with short boundaries and a fast outfield.
This exact situation happened to my team last year. A game we ended up losing because we missed out the most important part of building an innings (in any conditions).
Why urgency is the difference
To find out why, let's go back to our match.
We batted first in a 50 over game, knowing 250 would be the minimum score after overhearing the opposition captain saying he would be happy to restrict us to 5 an over.
We started well, scoring at a lively rate against defensive, one day style fields. The first dozen overs saw over 70 on the board for the loss of a single wicket.
As the field spread more our star opener got bogged down and the rate dropped. Boundary shots were going for one with sweepers out.
Nobody thought to play tip-and-run.
Why would you? This was a pitch for majestic boundaries.
Our opener was sucked in to the mentality and ended taking far too long going from 50 to 100 when he could have taken more risks knowing we had a strong and free scoring middle order to follow him in.
The middle order did get in and opened their shoulders in the last 10 overs to rescue us from our slow down.
But we only managed 250.
It wasn't enough on that pitch.
The experienced opposition knocked it over with 7 overs to spare.
The difference between the sides was about 40 or 50 runs.
But those runs weren't boundaries. We scored plenty of those in our innings and would have found it hard to score more considering the defensive bowling and field settings.
But we could have scored 50 more runs by taking an extra quick single per over.
Defence is never defence
And that's more than possible if you stop thinking about defence as defence.
Recently I was talking to a former First-class batsman who now plays club cricket and he told me that the big difference in batsmen between the levels is how they deal with defence.
Club players will push a good ball back to the bowler with a textbook defensive shot and get ready for the next ball.
First-class players will defend the ball and instantly look to turn it into a single.
Not by playing a reverse-reverse sweep or switch-hitting. Just by being aware that a ball trickling to cover's left hand will always be a safe single if both batsmen go instantly.
No big technical changes, no speed work, no long practice sessions trying to work the ball into gaps using cones.
Just have a bit more urgency.
Try it and it will get you more runs, and make your team that bit closer to First-class.
image credit: ~Duncan~