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We’ve all heard it before, runs are currency. Runs get you picked, score more runs and you will play higher.

The most frustrating aspect of this though is the fact that many players feel like they are hitting the ball really well and then all of a sudden they go out and get that dreaded “start”.

You know what I’m talking about, the 20’s or 30’s. Feeling great and then all of a sudden, boom! Wicket and you're out for another score in the mid 20’s.

This is a common occurrence that I hear on the daily, not just in junior cricket but a lot in senior cricket too. Tying to shake it can become the hardest part of a batters game.

When a player comes to me with this issue, the first thing I say is that it’s not always a technical flaw.

Many player's look at their technical side to find the error which is normal, but in my time as a player and now coach, there are many other contributing factors as to why you have yet again not turned your start into something bigger.

More times than not we use the technical deficiency as the outcome, but you have to look a little further back in the chain sometimes to find out why. Why did you play that particular shot, or what brought you to make that decision which resulted in an error in skill.

Below we take a look at 5 key reasons why you might be missing out on those bigger scores....

1.  Your Limited Ability to Focus Over Long Periods of Time

Some of you may have what we call, the “shiny light syndrome”. I find that many players are only capable of concentrating for a certain amount of time/balls.

After that, they are mentally fatigued and find it hard to make the right decision.

The key to this is to make sure you are using your focus and mental energy in a better way. Your ability to switch off between balls is key here so as that you are not expending so much energy when you don’t need to. Save it for when you have to hit the ball!

Think of your concentration levels as a jug of water, if there is a hole in the bottom that leaks all your concentration and focus out.

If you can plug that hole when you don’t need to expend it, it’s going to last much longer than if you let it all just flow out in one big gush for a certain amount of time. That’s basically what you are doing when most of you bat.

If you are on 100% of the time, all of the time, with so many things happening in your brain you will tend to fade much faster.

🔍 How To Improve 🔎: Look to develop a between ball routine/process to ensure that you can switch off and on between balls/overs. This allows your focus to be more concise when you are looking to bat as the bowler is coming in and relieves you of the mental stress that you feel in your downtime between balls.

2. You Haven’t Developed Transition Plans for Different Game Phases

This is quite a common one that many batters don’t think they have an issue with. Some players find it tough to move into their next phase of the game.

For example, you spend a lot of time getting in, face a lot of balls and then all of a sudden the pressure to start scoring is put on yourself.  You end up throwing it away to try and go big and hit a boundary to get out of your run of dot balls… Sound familiar?

You need to learn how to transition from each phase of the game so it makes scoring runs much more natural.

If you can develop plans around each stage of the game off the field (early in the innings, middle of the innings, end of the innings), you will be able to execute these much easier when you are out in the middle.

The key to this is to make sure you are able to transition clearly from getting in, to upping your strike rate (run a ball) and then when you are really seeing them well, how to capitalise on that and score greater than a run a ball.

🔍 How To Improve 🔎: Sit down and identify 3 of your strengths as a batter. These 3 key strengths form the basis of your innings. Early on practice ways of being patient and only scoring in the 2 biggest strength areas. From there start to identify how you can transition and take a few more risks to up your run rate. Your boundary options are your 3 strengths, and then train ways to find singles off other balls.

3. You Have Trouble Reading Different Stages of the Game

In my opinion, this is one of the biggest factors in what leads to you losing your wicket in these scenarios.

If you have trouble identifying the stage that the game is in then your plans will not match these and you will find it builds unnecessary pressure that leads you to making critical errors at important times.

This takes time to learn and making errors and reviewing them afterwards is the traditional way for most people to develop a greater understanding of this.

However, we don’t have that much time! I don’t want the light bulb to turn on all of a sudden when you are 23 and played over 100 senior games. There is a way to fast track this.

We use a little framework called the traffic lights. Red light (defend) , yellow light (contain), Green Light (Attack).

Your game plan (Reason No.2) should be dictated partly by what stage of the game you are in. If you read this wrong then you find that your batting methods can be a catalyst to losing your wicket at the wrong time.

Example -  you're 14 off 50, you start to panic because you’ve been bogged down and need to score quick runs now because you are under 50% strike rate.  The pressure is on for quick boundaries to make up for all the dot balls you've taken. See how it can escalate so quickly?

In that situation being 14 off 50 isn’t the end of the world, it's actually a great platform! But instead of going from Red Light  to Green Light and being ultra attacking, maybe let's look at ways we can slowly build up your strike rate and look to be a little more busy at the crease?

That middle phase is called the Yellow Light; building that solid base and then progressing into slightly more attacking mentality, while still having an understanding that you need to contain and not lose your wicket.

Low risk, high reward shots are key in this stage and it helps you create a slightly more attacking mindset while not throwing the kitchen sink at everything.

🔍 How To Improve 🔎: Spend time at training batting in these different situations. Put a runs and balls value on them e.g. First 7 minutes no wickets lost for Red Light, Yellow Light might be 10 off 12, with the Green Light being 14 off 12. Have fields set out so you can see where you can score as this brings Reason No.2 into the equation (making sure you have a set plan in place).

4. You Aren't Fit Enough

Some cricketers take fitness for granted. Put simply, being physically fitter will mean you tire less quickly.

How does that affect your batting? Well easy…

The fitter you are the less tired you become over a longer period, which means that your brain also doesn’t become fatigued as quickly.

If your brain isn’t fatigued you have more clarity in decision making and judgement. If you have better clarity and judgement you won’t play that rash shot or chase a wider ball and knick it like you may do if you are starting to feel the signs of mental and physical fatigue.

As I said, many people underestimate this but cricket is a tough game played in the summer in harsh conditions. If you can meet the physical demands of this, it becomes much easier to bat for long periods of time.

🔍 How To Improve 🔎: Look to invest in a strength and conditioning coach.  Learn how interval training can influence your performance and incorporate this into your batting training. Rather than just standing at the striker's end and lacing balls into the net, actually have intent and run between the wickets. After 10 minutes you will work up your heart rate and find that these areas of your game are more tested because you are having to use them at training now.

5. You Haven’t Batted for Long Enough

One aspect that many don’t think about is that you may not have batted for an extended amount of time before.

If you expect to score 50’s and 100’s you will have to face 100 - 200 balls. If you’ve not scored that amount of runs before then you actually don’t really know what to do and how it feels facing those amounts of balls in one go.

If you only bat for 10 minutes in a net a week, you probably will find it hard to face more than 30 balls consistently on a weekend.

In order to get better at batting for long periods of time, you have to do it more often outside of a game.

10 minutes of nets mean facing maybe 30 balls. If you want those big scores and bat for long periods of time, you have to eventually learn to do that at training as well.

Don’t be happy with just one hit at training for the week. Learn to bat for long periods of time and what comes with that as well. Learn that after batting for 10 minutes your mind starts to wander and you get a little hot and dehydrated. This is where it's good practice to start constructing your innings and use all the tips we've been over in this article.

The reason why you get out in the 20’s is likely because you haven’t trained to bat any longer than 30 or 40 balls.

🔍 How To Improve 🔎: Bat, bat, and bat some more! Sometimes you might want to find someone to go down the nets with and create an innings. What I mean is actually go down and face 70 balls in a game style situation. Learn to build your innings and bat for long periods of time with the game situations in mind by setting fields etc. If you are out, start again and only take drinks after facing an hour of balls. All of that will help you learn and put into practice all of the 4 reasons before this one.

Naturally, you can’t do this at training every week but even just having a hit outside of your allocated net during training will help.

Hit balls with a purpose if you aren’t a bowler, get to training early and work with a mate. All of these things can help you become better at this.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the issue that players have when they say they are getting starts but not going on with it can come from many different areas of their game.

The question you need to ask yourself is which of these areas is most likely your downfall?

If you can answer that straight away that’s great! If you can’t that's okay as well.  It may take time to tinker with a host of these different areas to make sure that you turn that start into a big score!

The biggest takeaway message here, however, is that scoring big scores takes effort and you cannot just expect them to happen. Work hard and be diligent in your preparation and the rest will take care of itself!

Good Luck!

Author: Joel Hamilton - ACI Co-Founder and Head Coach

Joel Hamilton

 

It’s quite a common occurrence…

We have so many players in our Academy Programs that come to us and tell us that they struggle to bowl and restrict their opposition in the dying overs.

“They just got away from me”, or “no matter what and where I bowled they just seemed to hit boundaries off me!”.

Bowling at the death is a very, very different skill set to bowling earlier in the innings.

The earlier many players can understand that they need to bowl differently in different stages of the game, the better off they will be.

The better and more effective you become at it, you will be the star of the side and someone that your captain will throw the ball to, over and over again.

With that said, I’ve compiled 5 reasons many bowlers struggle to bowl at the death and a framework to help you become the death bowling legend you hope to be!

1. You Don't Have A Set Plan Before You Bowl

A very common one, where bowlers become flustered and often find that they lack the necessary clarity under the pump in the heat of the situation.

A simple way you can avoid this is to take some time to think about what your plans will be before you start your spell.

This may be before the game or during the overs preceding to make sure that you have some idea of what and where you are going to bowl.

The other reason for having a plan before you start bowling is it gives you the confidence to execute. You feel better prepared and more confident to tackle the batters movements.

This plan is very dependant on who is batting, the dimensions of the field, your strengths as a bowler, and the state of the game.

HOWEVER! If you can take the time to actually sit back and spend a few overs to think about what plan you are going to start your spell with you are going to be much better off!

2. Your Field Doesn’t Match Your Plan

Obviously this comes from a lack of clarity.

Meaning, you need to understand the ball you are trying to execute first, so you can set your field accordingly.

Many players set their field and just leave it through the over/s. This is probably the worst thing to do while bowling at the end.

Remember your aim in these final overs is to reduce as many runs as possible and build pressure to force the batter to make the mistake.

From a batter's point of view, they want boundaries and or twos/three’s. If you can starve them of that and take one a ball or dots then you will build pressure naturally which will hopefully bring wickets.

To do this you need to plug the holes in the field where boundaries may occur from the types of line and length you may bowl.

Think of it this way…

If you are bowling full and straight, where are the areas you're likely to get hit?

Answer: most likely straight back past you right? Or at the very least, in front of square. Setting your field to bowling full and straight at the death with 4 or 5 fielders covering - deep cover, normal cover, long-off, long-on, deep mid-wicket and mid-wicket etc. gives the batter a 1 or maybe 2 if they get it into the gap.

Now try thinking about bowling a bit shorter... Most of your fielders will be behind square or just in front on the leg side.

Why? Because if you execute they are certainly not going to be able to drive the ball so you are potentially (or more likely) taking the boundary option away from them.

Again think about what ball you are trying to bowl, what is the most likely shot they are going to have to play.

If you have your fielders there defending boundaries they are going to have to take higher risks, aren’t they?

3. You Haven’t Trained To Execute Bowling At The Death

A lot of the times many players find that they haven’t practised bowling under pressure.

Not confused with being tired, more so when batters are in that mindset to look to score quickly and are batting overly aggressive.

A really key ingredient to you improving your death bowling is to actually put yourself in that situation as much as you can.

This is where you learn from mistakes, whether that be field settings, types of balls to bowl or even just how to execute the types of deliveries.

Bowling in blocks of 6 to try and hit a shoe or cones away from batters is also something that will help you progress with your death bowling.

Allocate some time (12 or 18 balls) to just try and nail yorkers, slower balls etc. during your net session so you can become accustomed to it.

📝 *PRO-TIP*  📝

Don’t always just blatantly practice the one ball over and over again. Once you feel confident bowling yorkers or slower balls try to mix it up and execute it first go.

After all, you don’t normally get 2 chances to bowl them in a game.

You will get much better if you can nail your change-up or yorkers first go.  Keep practising because it will take time to develop this skill.

4. You Are Too Predictable (No Plan B)

Being adaptable is the key to performing well in this period of the game.

You need to have the ability to shift your plan or fields/lengths dependant on what the batter comes back with.

This may be based on two batting styles the current batters have. You may need to set a certain field or bowl a certain way to one batter, but totally different to the other.

You see a lot of players set in their ways and end up making the shift a little too late.

1, 2 boundaries later and then the change is made. If you find at this stage of the game that what you are doing isn’t working then you have to change it up.

This doesn’t have to be for the whole spell though, a simple change in pace or length can be something that gets you back and helps build pressure.

📝 *PRO-TIP* 📝

Each ball is a contest in this stage. If you have to change your field for one ball to match the delivery you are bowling do it!

It’s one thing for the batter to know what may be coming, but it’s another for them to execute and hit it clean enough.

5. Lack Of Communication With Skipper

This is crucial during the final overs.

You need to make sure you are clear on what your plan is, based on what the captain wants or needs you to do.

It’s crucial to stay on the same page or at least understand clearly what needs to be done.

I suggest asking 3 simple questions during your conversation;

  1. What is our aim for this over? - It may be to get the set batter off strike, or to get them to hit to the longer boundary etc.
  2. How do we go about doing this? - Is there any changes to the field needed or my bowling plan. Communicate what you were planning to bowl.
  3. Agree on a plan of action. Re-iterate what it is you are going to do to make sure that the captain understands your intentions and the plan that you’ve both just agreed upon.

This is something that doesn’t happen with everyone but I have personally found this very beneficial.

It allows you to have common ground with the captain, come to a solution together and communicate the final plan so there is no confusion between bowler and captain.

If there is an uncertain feeling or anyone is unsure they can re-iterate and confirm what is happening.

So there you have it, a fairly simple yet effective framework for bowlers to make sure they are bowling their best, come the end of the innings.

Learning these skills are crucial and will definitely help you go a long way to improving your death bowling!

Author: Joel Hamilton - ACI Co-Founder & Coach

The time used between balls by many players is not used very effectively by many players.

Cricketers come to the Australian Cricket Institute with a common problem. “ I get bogged down after a few balls and then play a silly shot and get out” or “ I have trouble bowling the ball where I want to consistently”.

For some, and to the naked eye, that’s a technical deficiency, which most likely is a contributing factor.

However the other side of it that hardly any people explore or consider is what is going on between their ears.

Cricket is a game of stop, start, hit a ball, stop and have some down time then only to be going back to getting ready to hit the ball again.

In this down time, most players use their time negatively or not at all. Your ability to be consistent and achieve the desired outcome over and over again is technical yes, but the time you spend in between balls is just as crucial.

Using this time well can help with staying in the moment. Thinking about what you need to do right now.

Too many players think about what has happened or what is going to happen. e.g. “ What if I play and miss again” or “I just bowled a wide, don’t bowl another!”.

If you can overcome your mind and use this time effectively the benefits are there to see.

Your concentration levels last longer, you make better decisions, you are not affected by the situation of the game as much and as a result you can make clearer decisions.

Below I’ve listed out 5 different things you can implement into your between ball routine that can help you from drifting away and putting pressure on yourself.

1. Positive Self Talk

A very simple one to start off with but sometimes quiet hard to master.

The important think with this is to realise that you are always going to have negative thoughts or reactions when you do something wrong or under pressure.

The important part is trying to wipe that as quickly as possible and turn those thoughts into a positive.

This can be practiced and done on any occurrence.

Instead of thinking “this bowlers too fast here, I don’t want to get hurt!” You could go down the path of “his pace is going to make it easier if I use that to my advantage, wait for the full overmatched ball but the rest I can use the pace and run it down to third man”.

2. Quick And Non Bias Self Review/Reflection

A lot of players spend so much time in between balls sweating about what shot they’ve played.

How many times have you seen a player hit it straight to a fielder and drop their head back in annoyance?

Or keep playing the same shot that they wanted to for the whole time between balls and then face back up?

I’m not saying you can’t practice the shot you wanted to play, but a lot of people spend too much time worrying and sweating on that ball and what they did wrong.

What you can do is really simply review and reflect on your shot and move on to something else as quickly as possible.

It could be as simple as a rating out of 10 and then what you’d do differently.

Short. Sharp. And finally,  wiped clean so you don’t spend the next minutes or balls thinking about it.

 

3. Breathing

This is a relatively simple one.

It’s been proven that when you are under pressure or stress, your heart rate will go up.

The easiest way to lower that is by controlled breathing.

If you can actually focus on your breathing you’ll find that not only will it help you get your breath back and decrease your heart rate, but it will also then take your focus away from the game and other thoughts!

Try in for 5 or 6 and out for 7 or 8.

Allocating some time between balls to do this will help you get your levels back to even and you’ll be able to make better decisions.

4. Anchors to Distract You Away From The Pressure

Many elite players use certain actions or sequences of movements to help them switch off or take themselves away from an uncomfortable environment.

These pressures and distractions can look like the 'yappy' annoying slips cordon, concentrating on certain parts of the environment, scoreboard pressure and of course those negative thoughts we spoke about previously.

By having certain actions that take you outside of the situation, this helps you clear your mind and use that down time in a different way not thinking about those above pressure.

Some of these look like:

  • Walking out to square leg
  • Signing a song between balls
  • Staring out of the field of play and switching off from the contest
  • Watching people out on the boundary or those not involved in the game
  • Undoing gloves

As mentioned these “anchors” or whatever you want to call them, help players take them self outside of the contest and the stresses.

I’m sure you may even do some of these already.

5. Visualisation

Finally another tool you can look to use is visualisation.

This is a very underestimated and yet quite an effective way to help players feel confident and problem solve during their time on the pitch.

The power of visualisation is quite influential.

Visualisation during your innings or while your bowling can help you settle yourself into your role or give you the confidence to replicate during your innings.

Using some of your time in between balls to see yourself playing that correct shot or bowling that ball in the right area.

When visualising, go deep into it. How does it feel, what does it look like, what does your body have to do in order to execute that shot or particular ball.

The more you can replicate how real it is and the exact movements the more realistic it is and will transfer into your mechanics of what you are doing.

It may be you visualising playing the ball confidently, or getting into a powerful and balanced position when playing your shots. Alternatively from the bowling perspective, it may be you coming and bowling a great length ball hitting the batsmen bat high on the splice as they are coming forward.

You can play out any scenario in your head before you’ve done it and it will fill you with the confidence to execute this in real time.

So there you have it, these are some techniques you can implement into the time you spend in between balls.

My advice is not to just copy and do all of them, find a sequence of events that is comfortable to you, but more importantly works.

The whole point of this is to use your time effectively in between balls and take your thoughts away from the negative things and elevate the pressure that players put on themselves.

How you do this is ultimately up to you, these are just some techniques you can implement.

Lastly, this between ball routine has to be repeatable. You cannot achieve consistent results if you continuously randomly do these actions.

It is a method to doing them and there has to be a distinct reason in your routine as to why.

These processes are for you only and as a result can be done however you like in your own way.

Don’t copy Steve Smith or David Warner just because he is a world class player as these will not necessarily work for you.

 

Author: Joel Hamilton - ACI Co-Founder & Coach