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.

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