Managing the Marked Bowler

However good your bowling unit is, there will always be one bowler identified as the weakest link, and good sides will always try to make the most of these overs. The commentators made numerous mentions in the India vs England World Cup match on Sunday 30th June that Hardyk Pandya was the weak link in the Indian bowling attack. It got us thinking about how the captain can deal with this particular bowler and how can they get the best out of them in the match.

Your weakest bowler on any given day might well be different given the pitch, weather conditions, size of boundary, etc.. In this World Cup, England have not played Moeen Ali in a couple of games in part due to the shortness of one or more of the boundaries. Not all teams have the luxury of resting a player as talented as Moeen, so in school or club circumstances, whatever the conditions, you will generally play the best XI available. The best sides will therefore know which bowlers they can look to get after and unsettle from the start. If the bowler is aware of the situation and has a good understanding of the game, they will also identify that it will be them that is likely to face an aggressive approach from the batters.

A lot will depend on the character of the player in these circumstances, but the captain has a role here to help with confidence and also protect his player as much as possible.

An understanding of the ground dimensions and taking into account the wind direction as a captain is important when deciding on which end your marked bowler bowls. For example, in asking an off spin bowler to bowl into the wind with short straight and leg side boundaries, you are inviting carnage. Give the bowler a little protection with the wind behind them, so the batter is hitting into the wind. Also try to give the off spin bowler the longer leg side boundary for some protection.

When you have identified at which end your marked bowler should bowl, you will need to consider how you can get the necessary amount of overs out of the bowler for the minimum of damage. It may well be that the bowler in question needs to bowl several short spells at low risk moments throughout the innings. For example, if you find yourself in a situation where there are two new batters at the crease, this is a great time to try to get a few overs out of the way. The danger of waiting, though, is that this situation may not arise and you find yourself in a position of having to bowl the bowler the opposition are looking to target at precisely the point in the innings where they are looking to accelerate, which, again, could spell disaster. If your bowler can get a couple of good overs out of the way at the start of the innings, where openers may be less likely to go hard from the first over, you can often get two overs out of the way then. If you spot a slower or more watchful batter and you find them on strike at the start of an over in a relatively quiet period of the game, you may be able to steal another over here. This will be the way throughout the innings, always looking for a good opportunity to get an over or two out the way.

This approach all sounds very negative, and in doing so, it may be that the bowler’s confidence wanes and self-expectation becomes low. In a positive slant, you should try to get the bowler to see that in a batter targeting a bowler, by definition they will be taking more chances and playing with increased risk. If you as captain can work out where each batter is looking to score and set the field accordingly, it will be likely that you create chances. If identified as the weaker bowler, it is important that he or she understands whilst they may go for a few runs, the chances of taking a wicket and breaking an important partnership may well be increased. Always give the bowler your vote of confidence that you think they will be the one to create a chance and give them a boost to their confidence. Every bowler likes to feel that their captain has them in their plan and to know that whilst they may go for a few runs, the belief is there that the chance will come off their bowling. The best part of all will be to see the batters face as they walk off in utter disgust at themselves! Have a look at these, which are evidence that a weaker bowler can induce a rash shot or a lapse in concentration…

AB DeVilliers, Dhoni, Gilchrist as wicket-takers
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xv1y9nU5lwA

AB DeVilliers wicket taker vs New Zealand
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMT45TCGTMY

Michael Atherton gets Graham Gooch
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZnrYYsJnWI

Top order batters breaking partnerships
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-UyoQYFVHiQ

Good luck!

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.

Affecting a Run Out

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.

Good luck!

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.

A Load of Balls

I remember those net sessions, years ago, when I arrived late and had to make do with whatever ball I could find in the bag. I remember that ball was more often than not falling apart, bits of leather hanging off, the quarter seams beginning to separate and forget any chance of shining the ball! The general appearance of the ball was not necessarily the problem, it was normally the fact that it had been hit into the pond a few times and carried around by the groundsman’s dog all summer which had meant the ball had swelled up making it feel like a football in my hand.

As someone who, later in life, had the opportunity to select a match ball from the box of six, I always looked for the smallest, darkest one with the proudest seam, the one that in your hand you just felt was going to do some damage. Bowling with a ball that feels too big in your hand is something that every bowler will tell you they hate.

In my coaching, every year I deal with boys transitioning from U13 to U14 level and therefore trying to come to terms with using a 4 ¾ oz ball to a 5 ½ oz ball. It has to happen at some time and most have no problem at all with the change, so it is not necessarily the age group changing the ball size I am concerned with, more that it is so cut and dried. ‘You are now an U14 cricketer, therefore you have to use a bigger ball’, seems to me to be unfair on those boys and girls who may be developing physically at a slower rate to some of their peers.

Particularly I feel for spin bowlers who, if they are small in stature with small hands and fingers, have little or no chance of gripping the ball to impart appropriate spin or control. I am no leg spin bowler, but I feel young leg spinners of a shorter stature and therefore smaller hands find huge difficulty and are discouraged by lack of success as they move through the age group to U14 and U15. I worry how many give up at this point and therefore how many spin bowlers have been lost to the game around this age?

I would love to see at U14 and U15 level boys and girls having the choice of using a suitable size ball for them with which to bowl their overs. Allow the umpire to have a smaller ball in the middle that can be given to someone who is struggling with the bigger ball due to their size. In my current U14 team, I have boys ranging from 4’11” to 6’2”. I am not at all suggesting that the boy who looks me square in the eye and bowls nicely already with a 5 ½ oz ball be given the choice. I would however, love the boy pushing 5’ and quickly becoming disillusioned with his leg spin to have a 4 ¾ oz ball at his disposal for when he gets the opportunity to bowl.

Whilst catching may become slightly easier for the taller cricketers when a junior ball is being used, I feel that for the development, inclusion and encouragement of shorter players attempting to bowl, this is a fair trade off. It ensures those with some talent for spinning the ball are able to continue their development started in U10 and U11 through U14 and U15 age groups whilst minimising the dip in progress because their hands are not big enough the grip the larger ball adequately.

PL & WD

A Leading Edge is a series of educational cricket books written and illustrated by Patrick Latham and Wesley Durston. Their first book, ‘A Leading Edge for Captains’ written for younger captains looking to find out more about leadership and captaincy is available on Amazon as well as in a range of independent bookshops around the UK. ‘A Leading Edge for Bowlers’ is due for release later in 2019.

Catching the ‘Speccie’

Unless you’ve been living under a stone you will have seen Ben Stokes’s stunning catch at the Oval last week vs South Africa and you’ll continue to see it on the highlights reel of this World Cup. Simply put it was special. In this article I want to explore the steps it took for Stokes to be able to take ‘that’ catch.

https://twitter.com/ICC/status/1134221041679720449

In his own words he panicked as he was a little out of position, but he had the presence of mind not to panic before performing that magic moment. His athleticism is very high, he trains hard like all modern cricketers. Stokes is a tall man with big hands and in this situation that helps him as he’s able to counter jump backwards whilst maintaining eyes on the ball and he also knew to take it with his inside arm as it would give him more reach, but what’s stopping men or women, boys or girls, county or Saturday club cricketers from taking a very similar catch in the future.

I played cricket on Saturday and during our fielding warm-up one of my teammates asked me to hit him a high catch so he could take a catch like Stokes had done. I thought yeah that would be funny to watch but I also feared he’d leap high and bust a finger or land in a crumpled mess, dislocate his hip and we’d have to play with ten players! Ben Stokes (and others who have taken ‘worldie’ catches) don’t just ask the coach to hit a few so they can practice those type of catches. He will have spent hours a week since he was at school on basic catching techniques, the ‘boring’ stuff and got good and confident at those. The type of catches that you don’t drop. Of course, there will be times when they test themselves in training but that comes after thousands upon thousands of easier takes.

Ben Stokes doesn’t drop many catches as he’s very confident, he knows he’s done everything in training and in the warm-up before he enters the field. His concentration is very high therefore he’s totally prepared to take the routine catches during a match. As a result of this he’s also prepared for the magical catch. What I’ll say to anybody trying to emulate Stokes’s feat is that sure you may take 1 in 100 attempts at it but unless you’ve done all the practice don’t be too disappointed if you can’t do it in the vital moment during a game.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bcwXfUIM3A

WD

A Leading Edge is a series of educational cricket books written and illustrated by Patrick Latham and Wesley Durston. Their first book, ‘A Leading Edge for Captains’ written for younger captains looking to find out more about leadership and captaincy is available on Amazon as well as in a range of independent bookshops around the UK. ‘A Leading Edge for Bowlers’ is due for release later in 2019.

Success at The Old Club

It was with regret that neither of us were able to attend HQ last Saturday (25th May) for the Royal London One Day Cup Final between Somerset and Hampshire. With Somerset playing such a large part in our lives it would have been fantastic to be able to be there to watch this talented group of players lift the last One Day Cup trophy at Lord’s.

Happily, we have been able to get involved in a different way, and over the weekend whilst contemplating the huge achievement by the Somerset players after our school speech day and lifting a small glass of cider in appreciation, a blackbird landed on the roof and sang out loud. I had seen the celebrations and rendition of the Somerset CCC version of the Wurzels ‘Blackbird’ song down in front of the Edrich and Mound Stands at the Nursery end at Lord’s and it got me thinking about the blackbird singing from one of the highest points on the ground. That Somerset had finally achieved their moment at Lord’s, being able to celebrate with huge emotion and pride with a band of travelling West Country support on the biggest domestic stage, where every cricketer in the country would love to have been.

What then, could be an image that would sum up the weekend for The Club? Something simple that included reference to Lord’s, Somerset and the victory. We came up with this, which seems to have been received well. Thanks to Somerset & Somerset County Sports, this image will be seen by far more Somerset fans than we could have hoped to get it in front of, and, in agreement with SCS, there is something exciting coming your way involving this image!

 

We are both so pleased for a club where we both have very happy memories and a lasting strong connection. We hope The Club can go on from here this season with this great group of players and continue to do well in the Championship and also in the Vitality T20 Blast later in the season. Keep an eye out at Somerset County Sports for your chance to get hold of our image!

Enjoy the rest of the season!!

PL & WD

Over or Round?

Over or Round?

When working with younger bowlers, we often see them bowling over and round the wicket with little or no idea why they are doing it, or how this can affect their opportunities of taking a wicket. Whilst experimentation amongst learners is great to an extent, we wanted to look a little more closely at this and illustrate to younger players how by bowling round the wicket, particularly as a right arm bowler bowling at a right-hand batter, can reduce the chances of taking a wicket.

If we look at a right-arm away swing bowler bowling at a right-hand batter, under normal circumstances the bowler would bowl over the wicket. Under these conditions, the bowler will be looking claim the wicket in a variety of ways. By swinging the ball away from the bat, and with slips in place, a catch behind the wicket or in the slips cordon is likely. Plan A – caught. In an ideal world, (and in all away swing bowlers’ dreams) the ball starts off on a middle and leg stump line, swings away on the bounce and hits the top of off stump as the batter is turned around trying to hit the ball through mid-wicket: Plan B – bowled. For a seasoned away swing bowler, the pads can also be a target. To a batter who plants the front foot down the line of the stumps and allows their head to fall outside the line of the front foot, a ball pitching on the stumps and straightening with the swing is a threat as the bat inevitably travels across the line of the ball. Plan C – LBW.

The LBW dismissal is of interest to the away swing bowler, particularly later in the game maybe when the ball has stopped swinging quite so much. The ball delivered with an upright seam may nip around a little depending on the surface, so a delivery swinging away and darting back in is, again, slightly dreamy for the bowler; particularly if it beats a defence or drive to sneak through between bat and pad, but the front pad it definitely a target for the bowler.

If we look at the path of the ball bowled over the wicket, we can see that with some swing, all three dismissals are a possibility. Caught, bowled and LBW. Take this same delivery around the wicket and suddenly we can see that in order for the ball to hit the stumps, the ball needs to pitch outside the line of the leg stump, immediately ruling out the chance of LBW. Bowled is also far less likely around the wicket with the batter’s pads now being in the way of the stumps.

In our second book, ‘A Leading Edge for Bowlers’ (due out in summer 2019), we look far more in depth at the circumstances and reasons for bowling over or round the wicket. For younger bowlers, as a coach, I would generally encourage them to bowl over the wicket, developing some degree of consistency and control from one side of the wicket. Discourage them from bowling round the wicket and ask them to think about why they are doing it. Ask them to think about how they are planning to get the batter out, and then work out if bowling over or round will give them the best chance of achieving their goal. The reasons why right arm bowlers bowl round the wicket to right hand batters are varied, and in most cases not appropriate for bowlers learning the game. Whether left arm or right arm, encourage over the wicket as the standard. The complexities of bowling round the wicket can come later on.

Good luck

PL & WD

A Leading Edge is a series of educational cricket books written and illustrated by Patrick Latham and Wesley Durston. Their first book, ‘A Leading Edge for Captains’ written for younger captains looking to find out more about leadership and captaincy is available on Amazon as well as in a range of independent bookshops around the UK. ‘A Leading Edge for Bowlers’ is due for release later in 2019.

Getting the Field Right

It is not only junior players that find setting a field tricky. Quite often at club level you see basic errors in field placing which can result in unnecessary runs scored against the bowler. Setting the right field for your bowling will depend on a number of factors including the state of the game, the batters and their intentions, how much the ball is swinging or turning, the weather conditions and even the length of the grass on the outfield can all have an effect on how the bowler and captain position their fielders.

In our book, ‘A Leading Edge for Captains’, we look in depth at factors affecting field placing. Also included are typical field settings for each type of bowling including attacking and defensive fields for both right and left-handed batters. The purpose of this article is to draw attention to some of the basics and encourage bowlers and captains to think about where they might best position their fielders for their type of bowling and the match situation that they are likely to be involved in.

As a starting point, consider which way the ball is heading as you deliver it. If you are an off spinner or in-swing bowler bowling at a right handed batter, the ball is heading towards the leg side. A leg spinner or away swing bowler will see the ball moving towards the off side to a right-hander. You should get more of your players on the side into which the ball is moving, for example for a leg spinner to a right handed batter, generally five fielders on the off side and four on the leg side.

From this point on, consider where, if you bowl the line and length you intend to, where is the batter most likely to hit the ball. Take a 90° section of the ground where you are expecting the ball to go, and use this as the area of the ground where, if you bowl accurately to your plan, the ball is most likely to go. As an example to illustrate this, take a fast opening bowler aiming to swing the ball away from a right-hander in a longer format game. This bowler, on a quicker pitch, will be expecting the ball to go in a 90°arc between the slips and ‘keeper and square on the off side. It is no coincidence therefore that we see two or three slips, a gully, possibly a 3rd man and a cover point in this area for a bowler such as Dale Steyn or Jimmy Anderson. A total of six of the nine available fielders are placed in this area. This bowler might use the other three fielders at fine leg, midwicket and mid-off. Cover is likely to be left open encouraging the batter to drive into what will be seen as a big open space where easy runs can be scored. The batter who chases runs in this area runs the risk of edging through to the keeper or slips. The plan!

By contrast, the off spinner bowling to a right-handed batter will be expecting the ball to go into the 90° arc between straight mid-off and square leg. This bowler might employ fielders in the following positions: mid-off, mid-on, midwicket, square leg, deep square leg and short fine leg. Again, six fielders placed in the area where the ball is most likely to go. The remaining three positions could be point, short 3rd man and, depending on the state of the game and the amount the ball is turning, the last fielder may be positioned at slip, short square leg, silly point or cover. If the ball is turning, the bowler might leave a tempting space at cover to encourage the batter to drive at the ball, increasing the chances of bowling them between bat and pad. If the bowler is able to bowl an arm ball and balls that are turning, (attacking the inside and outside edge of the bat), a slip would be in the game. A batter who is poking forward with ‘hard hands’, i.e. pushing hard at the ball in defence rather than allowing the ball to come to them and playing it softly down into the ground might be a candidate for a silly point or short square leg.

The above examples are just two of many variations of fields that can be set. The key to setting a field is to consider where the bowler is trying to bowl and what the ball is doing, the state of the game and where the batter is looking to hit the ball. Also consider, are you trying to take wickets or defend the boundaries to give your team some control. It might be that for one batter you are looking to attack but for the other you are more defensive, allowing this batter a single to be able to bowl at the less accomplished batter.

With some thought, it is possible, without even knowing the names of the fielding positions, to get your players in roughly the right place. Before your game, plan out on a piece of paper where you think your fielders should be for a left or a right-hander. You should know if you will have the new ball in your hand, or if you are likely to come on in the middle overs, potentially against set batters. Come up with a plan for the situation in which you are likely to bowl, so that when your captain asks you what field you would like you are able to reel off the six main positions for the 90° arc, and you can place the other three based on where is best for the conditions.

Good luck!

PL & WD

A Leading Edge is a series of educational cricket books written and illustrated by Patrick Latham and Wesley Durston. Their first book, ‘A Leading Edge for Captains’ in which setting a field and field plans for all types of bowling are discussed at length is available on Amazon as well as in a range of independent bookshops around the UK.

Bowlers: Finding the Right Line

The contents for our book ‘A Leading Edge for Captains’ came about through our personal observations of events in school and club cricket, with the catalyst for writing coming from a session where it became apparent that an U15 boy had no idea of where he should place his fielders.

Today at training, it became apparent that some of our U14 age bowlers were struggling to adjust to find the right line. ‘But it would have hit the stumps, sir’, was the general response to the leg stump in-swingers that the batters easily tucked into the leg side for what would, in a game situation, be frustrating strike rotating singles.

In asking the bowlers to hit the top of off stump, unsurprisingly, this becomes the area of focus for them and although the ball leaves the hand on the right line, the bowler is not allowing for the movement they (often unknowingly) get through the air. The result, in the case of the left arm over seam bowler in question today, was that he constantly saw the ball thud into the thigh bad or disappear down towards fine leg.

In practice sessions, it is so important that the bowler tinkers and make small adjustments in his or her technique, assessing the results to find out how they can further improve their competencies. For example, a seamer who adjusts how far forward the ball is held in the fingers and how tightly the fingers grip the ball will find difference in what happens to the delivery. It is a matter of trial and error, and if they try enough, the will hit on something that works for them.

In finding the correct line, the bowler needs to appreciate how much the ball is moving in the air. When the movement is understood, a suitable target at the far end can be located and the ball set off on this line allowing the ball to swing to end up on or around off stump. In the case of the left arm over bowler today, in releasing the ball on off stump, the delivery was hitting or just missing leg stump at the far end. The adjustment necessary is made based on this information, and with the ball and conditions today, the bowler settled on a target of the wicket keeper’s right glove (to a right handed batter).

On another day and with another ball, there may be more or less movement. In identifying the difference between where you are aiming and where the ball ends up, you can quickly find a suitable target. When located, put the stumps and batter out of your mind and set the ball off aiming at the identified target, allowing the ball to end up on off stump where, ultimately, you will cause the most problems.

Good luck

PL & WD

A Leading Edge is a series of educational cricket books written and illustrated by Patrick Latham and Wesley Durston. Their first book, ‘A Leading Edge for Captains’ is now available on Amazon as well as in a range of independent bookshops around the UK.

Looking after the Ball

One of the main reasons that encouraged us to write our book, ‘A Leading Edge for Captains’, was our observation of the amount of control the junior coach has over the game, reducing the input the named captain has on the field.

Bowling changes, field placing, batting order, etc. largely seem to be organised by the coach of the side pushing the learning and understanding of the roll of the captain further down the road. This meant that the captain’s roll is rarely addressed in the younger age groups.

It is perfectly understandable though, as the limited amount of time we get to coach players means that sessions are spent on batting, bowling and fielding skills in the main. Situations that arise during games that are great learning opportunities are difficult to address in the moment and often detail/feeling/emotion is lost by the end of the game. The added pressure of parents wanting to take players away quickly at the close means that trying to address coaching and captaincy points then is both unwelcome and unproductive.

Whilst we identified captaincy issues as being a required area for development, as a bowler who relies on swing to be effective, it frustrates me to get my hands on a junior ball after 5 or 6 overs to see the state it has been allowed to get into. Why am I surprised? Again, how much time do we spend teaching young players how to shine and look after the ball?

Sadly, the lack of understanding of the importance of looking after the ball is not a problem reserved for junior cricket. Right through the leagues, the care and attention paid to the ball can hold a team and individuals back. Whilst we need to accept that in a number of cases, the quality of the ball in some leagues is not as good as those at the higher levels, more can be done to maintain some shine through looking after the ball in the field. Remember, you only get one – look after it!

Those bowlers with shorter run ups who require the ball back in their hand sooner leaves the team less time to work on the ball between deliveries, but this cannot be an excuse for a team to neglect the care of the ball.

At the top level, teams will identify a player who has a knack of being able to get the best out of the ball and he or she will receive the ball to work on after each delivery. At this point, I feel it important to draw your attention to the law surrounding ‘changing the condition of the ball’. There are plenty historical instances of players using foreign objects to alter the condition of the ball. Most recently three Australian test players were banned from cricket for being involved in altering the condition of a ball using sandpaper in South Africa. In 1994, the England captain was found guilty of using dirt from the pitch to rub into the ball in an attempt to alter the condition. Other players on the world stage have been suspected of using bottle tops, Vaseline, sweets, sun cream, hair products and other substances to help change the condition of the ball; all of which are illegal according to the laws and sprit of the game.

Law 41.3: https://www.lords.org/mcc/laws/unfair-play

The condition of the ball will deteriorate naturally over the course of the innings. How fast the ball deteriorates will depend on a number of factors. Most importantly will be the conditions of the wicket and outfield. In early season, the grass on the outfield will be long and lush, the square will be practically untouched with no dry and dusty used wicket ends and the playing surface itself will generally be soft, all meaning the ball will deteriorate more slowly.

The fielding side will therefore have a better chance of maintaining a good hard shiny ball for longer in the innings. Later in the season when the outfield is baked hard, the grass is burnt and short, the square has been largely used with plenty wicket ends for the ball to become scuffed and soft, the ball will deteriorate much more quickly.

Some bowlers will automatically favour one side over the other, assuming one to be the shiny side. For me, for some subconscious reason, when taking the new ball, I have always assumed the gold printed side to be the rough side. Some bowlers will wait for a few overs to see if any significant damage occurs to one side or the other, which may prevent the maintenance of a smooth sheen on that side. A seamer or swing bowler who can deliver the ball with an upright seam will land the ball on or close to the seam, which means less damage occurs to either surface.

The ball can be worked on from the start, rubbing the assumed shiny side to generate some heat in that side and also to start taking the lacquer off the ball to access the leather underneath. Again, personally I have always felt that generating some heat through friction in the shiny side helps the ball to move in the air, but I have no grounds to confirm this – but even a placebo effect can help the confidence!
Start looking at the ball closely from ball one.

If you find a scuff mark, use some sweat or spit on the end of your finger to apply to that spot and begin to work on that art of the ball, trying to return it to as good as new as possible before the next ball. Sometimes the scuff mark will take several deliveries to shine out, but keep working hard on any spots on the shiny side that appear. With the new ball bowlers, the person charged with maintaining the ball will have a little bit longer to work on it. Get the ball to that player as quickly as possible so that he or she can get to work. When applying moisture to a scuffmark, avoid adding too much. Soaking the shiny side makes the leather hard to polish.

The shining process is in different parts. The hard polishing being carried out on the back of the thigh or somewhere where pressure can be applied when polishing the ball. Often you will see Joe Root pulling his sleeve over his hand and twisting the ball into his sleeve with the other hand to generate the pressure and friction. When rubbed more gently on the front of the trousers, the ball is given a final polish generating a glossy sheen.

When spinners are bowling, due to the shorter run-ups, there is less time to care for the ball. It is important that the spinner is allowed to maintain his or her rhythm and tempo, receiving the ball back when they prefer, however the ball needs to continue to receive the care. Throughout the spinners over, there will not be much opportunity to work on the ball, so just keep an eye on it.

You will need to slow things down occasionally to repair damage but generally, work is done on the ball between overs when the spinner is on. Unless the umpire calls for the ball, which they may do between overs from time to time, get it over to your designated shiner and let them get to work as the field moves around.

Do what you can to make your ball last as long as possible. Work on the scuffmarks, shine and polish them out carefully where possible. The longer you have a nice hard shiny ball, the more effective your bowlers will be.

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

To Move or Not to Move


“All trigger movements are different, but some are more extravagant than others..”

Almost all elite cricketers have a pre-delivery movement or a ‘trigger’ movement but why do so many feel it’s the correct thing to do rather than simply standing still? If we look at the benefit of having that movement it may answer that question. Many players believe that by having the trigger it gives them some momentum into their secondary movement and to be balanced at the point of release. I believe that the fundamental reason is to buy the batter more time or at least give the illusion of that. This is fine providing the player can regularly practice the trigger, because the timing of this is vital. Imagine doing something for half an hour in training and expect it to become second nature immediately.

If the trigger is performed early the batter may feel they are too stationary and if they perform it late, they reduce the time available to move again. Inconsistencies of movement size can put the players feet in the wrong position which can bring problems with balance. This could lead to the head falling to the off-side blocking off the leg side or restricting the batter’s movement toward the ball. If you as a player find yourself ‘short’ of the ball regularly this could be the reason. Try then to make your movement sooner.

Another major factor to consider is the type of bowler that you are facing. Generally, the rule of thumb is back and across with the trigger vs seam and forward pressing against spin. The main reasons for this are the illusion of time that you create. By moving backwards slightly and into a consistent position the player will have created an extra split second of time that the ball must travel, this in turn can bring confidence to the player. Against spin the batter generally will be moving forward onto the front foot or even advancing down the track, so the initial forward movement creates momentum into the primary step. Other forms of trigger movement are to widen the stance by moving your back foot back and your front foot forward slightly to increase the size of your base, this can however lead to feeling stuck at the point of delivery. If you’re not looking to move but to feel some momentum some players will chose to tap both feet on the spot in order to ready yourself for clear footwork.

Whatever you decide to do it needs to be consistent. Consistent timing, size and direction of movement to reduce the variation in head position. After all the head needs to be still at the point of delivery with your eyes level. If you can’t perform this movement the same every time in a way that benefits you and you are still struggling, then go back to basics and try standing still.

WD & PL

A Leading Edge is a series of educational cricket books written and illustrated by Patrick Latham and Wesley Durston. Their first book, ‘A Leading Edge for Captains’ is now available on Amazon as well as in a range of independent bookshops around the UK.