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.

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.


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!!


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


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!


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


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:

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.


Cricket: A Leading Edge for Captains is available as a paperback (£12.99) and eBook (£3.99) from 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.


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.

New Season, New Dressing Room

In our book, ‘A Leading Edge for Captains’, we look at the issues associated with entering a new dressing room and how a new player to a club or even a team within a club will need welcoming in and made to feel part of that team.

At this time of year, there will be a large number of cricketers starting out on the next part of their cricketing career having moved clubs, stepping up from junior cricket to adult cricket or even from 2nd XI to make much anticipated debuts in 1st XI teams. Whatever level of cricket you play, when you are new to a dressing room there is plenty to consider! In this week’s article, we bring these thoughts to everyone’s attention in an attempt to help make the transition into a new dressing room as smooth and as easy as possible for the player, which in turn will make the team perform more efficiently both on and off the field.

However confident you are as a person, entering a new dressing room for the first time can be nerve-wracking stuff. By their nature, dressing rooms are full of lots of different personalities; it is part of the beauty of our sport. People from all walks of life will be in there from different situations and age ranges, all meeting up with (at least) one common interest: cricket. There will be the loud, brash in your face ones; the quiet, smiley never say boo to a goose ones; bad tempered ones and the jovial prankster ones. There will be those who are trying to make it somewhere in their cricketing careers and are constantly looking to impress and be noticed. This person may be changing next to someone who is perfectly comfortable with the level of cricket they have achieved and are content in themselves with where they are. Everyone is in there for their own reasons with their own personal aims, competencies, shortcomings, confidences and insecurities as well as the common aim of hoping to help the team succeed on any given day and over the course of the season.

In their personalities, some people are simply far more welcoming than others and will go out of their way for a new player, bringing them in, showing them around and making introductions to the team. It is important to remember as a new player that some people in the dressing room, who may appear aloof or cold on a first meeting may just be shy or lacking in confidence in these situations. The likelihood of them actually being as unwelcoming as they first appear is slim, so give them some time, don’t write them off and above all don’t think that you have done something wrong and let it prey on your mind. Conversely, as an established player in the dressing room, the biggest confidence boost you can give to a new player is to go out of your way to say hello and help to show them around. After all, the new player’s very first task is fraught with danger – where do they put their kit! Cricketers, being superstitious creatures, will normally have their own space in which they like to change. Some may even have been in residence in a particular corner of the dressing room for decades. The last thing you want to do as a new player is to dump your stuff in the old stalwart’s corner, thereby upsetting the applecart at the first hurdle!

In any team, there run ongoing in-house jokes, which may revolve around nicknames, antics over the off-season or arising from a recent team night out. With such a large amount of down time, confined to the pavilion balcony, tea table or dressing room for much of the day, the cricketing environment is perfect for in jokes to take root, grow and evolve. Trying to tune into and work out in jokes as a new player is almost impossible. Try not to worry though, as these jokes move apace and there will be much material to work with even after the first session in the field! The informality of cricket clubs means that there will be some established players amongst the team who have only ever known fellow players by their nickname, having no clue of what someone’s actual name is. On some level, therefore, you are as up to speed with things as a new team member as some of the regulars!

It is important as a new player that you get your feet under the table as quickly as possible. As you progress through the levels, you will find that some teams will be able to exploit newcomers to their own gains. By attracting attention to a new player in front of the opposition you are potentially giving them the upper hand when it comes to the new player’s turn to perform with bat or ball. Your efforts in making new players feel part of the team, treating them as an established player or simply making sure they have a team shirt, for example, will go a long way to giving that player every chance of contributing to the team’s performance.

It is a very exciting time as we head into the first league games, having been able to see and draw inspiration from the first round of Championship matches. All club and school players will be looking forward to that first opportunity to get out with bat or ball and put all their hard winter work into practice in the middle. It is a time to consider the new players, make them feel part of their new side, give them an opportunity to find their place in that side and encourage them as a regular member of the team. You can guarantee that they will be trying their level best to impress and perform, so the more you can do to put them at ease to relax them in the dressing room and on the pitch, the more chance they will have to succeed for you.


Cricket: A Leading Edge for Captains is available as a paperback (£12.99) and eBook (£3.99) from Books are also from Walkers Bookshops in Oakham and Stamford, and from CM Cricket in Stoughton, Leicester

Early Season Bowling for Seamers

Here we are already! The clocks have gone forward, the first Championship matches are about to get underway, schools are breaking up and children and adults across the country are chomping at the bit to get outdoors and start their own first games on grass!

All the hard work done indoors over the winter, grooving actions and finding some rhythm suddenly seem a long time ago. When you get the ball in your hand and you stand at the top of your mark to run in for the first few deliveries of the season, the feeling is very different. Suddenly it all counts! The wides, the no balls, the short balls and half volleys you feel that you got away with indoors will now go against your figures and, more importantly, against the team.

How can you give yourself the best chance of picking up wickets in what, traditionally in early season, will be bowler friendly conditions? Try not to let the expectation take over your thoughts. The batters will take one look at the emerald surface and the comments will start to come your way. ‘A few easy wickets for you then?’, ‘Nice day to be a seamer!’, ‘Over to you!’ and so on. In these circumstances, it can be very easy to get wrapped up in the expectation and try too hard, getting frustrated when wickets do not come ‘easily’. Relax, and aim to get the ball full and on off stump. Keep it simple!

Indoors, you will have been used to getting the bounce and pace from back of a length. The same length outdoors will generally be too short. This will allow the batters the opportunity to see movement, the ball will sit up giving the batter all the time in the world to pick exactly where they want to dispatch you through the leg side. Get the ball full of a length, giving it a chance to swing, and encourage the batter to come forward. As much as possible, you need to ensure that the batter is playing you off the front foot, as they are more likely to mistime a drive leading to catching opportunities in the off-side ring. On softer early season wickets, the ball is more likely to move laterally as well as stopping in the wicket slightly. Don’t forget that the batter is used to indoor conditions where they will have been able to throw their hands through good length balls with little risk! If they do this and it comes off a couple of times, keep going, the batter’s suspicions in the surface will reduce, confidence will grow and it will only take one delivery that stops, or cuts a little and you will be in business!

A suitable length varies from early season to late season
© 2019. A Leading Edge

From the diagram above, you can see that there is far less margin for error, particularly on length in early season. These lengths will vary from wicket to wicket and as you progress through the season as the wickets harden up through July and August.

As a bowler, it is your responsibility to work out as fast as possible, the correct length to be bowling on any given pitch on any given day. These lengths will vary from bowler to bowler and from wicket to wicket. Taller faster bowlers are able to bowl fuller and still extract bounce due to the angle of trajectory of the delivery. Shorter skiddier bowlers will find a good length, with the ball hitting the top of off stump, slightly shorter than a taller bowler.

Bowlers of differing heights extract different bounce from the same length
© 2019. A Leading Edge

On a damp early season wicket, it might well be the slightly slower skiddier medium pacer that enjoys more success with deliveries kissing the surface and moving sideways off the pitch and through the air. The taller bowlers who hurl the ball into the pitch will extract more of a tennis ball bounce, which whilst maybe less penetrative can prove harder for the batter to time and therefore scoring runs can be difficult. If the length is too short, however, this type of bowler can find that they go the distance!

When you have found your length, stick to it and tie the batter down giving them little opportunity to score. Try to get yourself in a place where all that exists in front of you is you, the ball and whatever you are aiming at, be it the top of off stump, the spot on the pitch or the wicket keeper’s right knee. In your mind, nothing else should be there and you need to try to find the length that works, and replicate the same delivery time after time. Don’t get bored!

Getting your fielders in the right place is crucial to bowling dot balls and creating the pressure necessary to take wickets. With your early season default length being on the full side of a good length, you will need to have your field set straight as you are expecting the batter to hit down the ground with a straight bat. It might be a good idea to have a short cover for the one that stops on the batter as an uppish drive will go at catchable height through here. There is usually some lateral movement wither through the air or off the wicket or both so reliable slip fielders will need to be ready. In the diagram below, showing a possible field for a seamer, five players and the bowler can take up the positions in the 90° arc in front of the bat. Always put most of your fielders (and your best ones!) where you are expecting the ball to go.

Potential field setting for a seamer on a soft early season wicket.
The aim should be to bowl as full as possible, getting the batter to hit down the ground.

Points to remember

– Bring the batter forward by bowling full and straight

– Don’t offer any width

– Set your field straight

– Be patient and stick to your ‘top of off stump’ line and length

– Create pressure from your end by bowling as many dot balls as you can. Your 10 overs 1 wkt for 15 runs may not make the match summary, but you can guarantee that you will have done a fantastic job in heling the bowlers at the other end get their wickets through the pressure you put on the batters to score off someone else.

Have a great season! Good luck


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.

The Run up and the Pain of No Balls

The Run Up and the Pain of No-Balls

You mention the name ‘Whispering Death’ to any cricketer worth his salt over the age of 40 and they will be able to conjure up the image of one of the most fearsome sights for a batter in the 1970-80s. The great West Indian fast bowler Michael Holding gliding silently in to the wicket off his extended and rhythmical run up was a thing of beauty, balance and harnessed power.

Sir Ian Botham, in a career spanning 16 years and 114,532 deliveries, never bowled a single no-ball. Not one! It is an incredible statistic. There are others on the list too, including Kapil Dev, Imran Khan, Dennis Lillee and Lance Gibbs. A single run penalty at the time seems fairly inconsequential. Add the extra ball and any runs scored from it, especially in games where the free hit rule is in play, other no-balls your team mates bowl and particularly at school level your team can find themselves bowling an extra two or three overs, giving away 12 to 18 free runs at the very least. There is a very real likelihood that bowling no-balls can cost your team the game on their own, so it is important for bowlers to get their run ups right.

The importance of a repeatable and reliable run up for a young bowler is paramount. During your winter training, how many no-balls do you see bowled in the indoor nets? Getting the front foot right indoors is so important, whether you are able to approach off your full run or not. The habits you are building by bowling no-balls indoors are very difficult to get out of when you head outdoors and take the ball in the first games of the season.

Generally, indoor facilities will have at least a front foot line and a stump as reference points for the bowler. In bowling no-balls indoors, you are subconsciously training yourself to approach and take off using the stump as a reference point. Outdoors, the stumps and front line will be an identical constant, as will your take off point due to your subconscious awareness of the location of the stumps ahead of you. That you bowl no-balls and then struggle for rhythm for the next few weeks is hardly going to be a surprise. Indoors, always try to have an umpire standing to help you identify where your front foot is landing. The presence of an umpire will also help as you are training yourself with a further reference point which you will also have outdoors. Indoors, make sure that you have your umpire stand where you would expect him/her to stand when outdoors. As the bowler, you are very much within your rights to ask the umpire to stand closer or further away from the stumps (within reason), so find out where you are happy with the umpire standing and make sure that this is a constant. It is important to emphasise the positive relationship that you need to forge with the umpire, so in asking him or her to adjust their standing position, always do so politely!

In our new book out later this year, ‘A Leading Edge for Bowlers’, we look in detail at ways in which we recommend you build your perfect run up. If you are able to relax, not consider your run up and focus completely on the intended outcome of your delivery there is significantly more chance of success. It is frustrating to see talented your bowlers turning to start their run up from a different place each delivery, stuttering half way through their run up trying desperately to spot their stride and then either bowling way behind the popping crease or way over. It is not just young bowlers with this problem, in the 1990’s there was a fast bowler at Somerset who had the most random ideas about a run up. Andre van-Troost was a Dutch quick bowler and one of the most frightening bowlers to face. a) you never knew when he was going to turn and run in to bowl so you always had to be ready and b) when he bowled, not only was he very quick, but he had absolutely no idea where the ball was going! In early season, when the ground is quite soft, as a bowler you will be able to see how god your rhythm is by the consistency of your foot marks in the turf. For a bowler coming off a longer run, it is both satisfying and reassuring to see, after 4 or 5 overs, the footprints ahead of you that you have made as you stand at the top of your mark.

Spend time both indoors and outdoors in the early season getting a reliable run up right. The benefits of time spent on this, you will find, are incredible for your confidence in your approach to the crease and the consistency of your bowling will improve. Good luck!


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.