Making the Most of Run Out Opportunities
It is a split second decision: bowler or ‘keeper? Get it right and with a good throw you affect the run out. Choose the wrong end and the chance goes begging. There was a fantastic example of a crucial run out opportunity wasted in the India v Pakistan match in the World Cup on Sunday 16th June at Old Trafford. The ball was hit towards deep midwicket and both batters set off for two, as the fielder approached the ball, the batters were thinking of turning for the second run. The striker, now at the non-striker’s end, after setting off for the second run changed his mind, leaving his partner way out of his ground. The fielder, either in panic, or listening to a call from a teammate, chose the wrong end and returned to the bowler, when even an average throw to the ‘keeper would have seen the wicket taken.
The stills below are from the India/Pakistan World Cup match and you can see the fielder has just picked up the ball on the blue advertising mat at midwicket.
The images are stopped at the point where the fielder is just about to release the ball. You can see the batter at the non-strikers end with his arm out sending his partner back. His partner is already committed to running towards the bowlers end for the second run, well on his way to being stranded half way down the wicket.
It is important to remember the context. This was a World Cup match, India v Pakistan and there had been a lot of hype in the build up to the match. It was still relatively early on in the game, so players would still have been feeling the early pressure of the occasion. However, there is a lesson to be learned here. This may or may not have been a match changing moment; we will never know, but being able to affect a run out in your own matches can indeed turn a game for your team.
As a fielder you will sense that there is a run out opportunity. You may have anticipated well and moved quickly to the ball, heard the batter’s call and know you have a chance. In this situation, it is easy to become tense, panic and either fumble the ball, not aim the throw suitably, or chose the wrong end in your rush to get the ball in the air.
Knowing which end to throw to can be something you can work out, or at least, have in your mind from quite early on, even before the ball has been bowled. For example, if it is obvious one player is quicker than the other, and the batters are running a hard two, you will more than likely be getting ready to throw at the end to which the slower batter is running. You can assist yourself here by approaching the ball and getting your body in a position to throw to the correct end.
Another good example of working out which end the opportunity might come at is by watching the shot the striker plays. By playing on the back foot, the batter’s momentum will be need to be shifted from one direction to the other before the run can be started, taking valuable time. The non-striker will already be backing up and therefore at the moment of impact, will have their momentum moving in the right direction, allowing them to complete the run more quickly. For a tight single, the best option will be the bowlers end, and for a two, possibly back at the ‘keeper’s end. You will know from experience, roughly, by how long it takes you to get to the ball, whether it is a tight single, an easy single, a long two or a tight two and be able to respond accordingly. During your approach to the ball you will, in your mind, be working this out and considering what end you are likely to be throwing to based on your mental calculations of time, distance, shot played, batters relative running speeds, etc.
As a fielder, keep an eye on how far the non-striker is backing up. There may be a chance of affecting a run out at the bowlers end if they are a batter who backs up a long way and you field a well-hit ball cleanly. Where a non-striker is backing up a long way, for tight singles, the non-striker will have far less ground to cover, therefore, the striker running to the non-strikers end will be the one who is the potential run out victim.
In the India v Pakistan example, the non-striker was the one who found himself in trouble as he had completed the first run more quickly due to good backing up. Because he turned first, for him there was a second run, but he had not considered the extra time it had taken the non-striker to reach the bowlers end. Had the fielder considered this scenario either before the ball had been bowled or on his journey to field the ball, he may have approached the ball knowing it was always going to be a tight 2, looked first to the ‘keeper’s end, and without doubt affected a run out even with an average throw.
You can give yourself a significant advantage in the field by watching how batters back up, run and even turn for two, working out scenarios before they happen.
PL & WD
Cricket: A Leading Edge for Captains is available as a paperback (£12.99) and eBook (£3.99) from Amazon.co.uk. Books are also from Walkers Bookshops in Oakham and Stamford, and from CM Cricket in Stoughton, Leicester.