The game of cricket can be difficult, especially run scoring. In order to score lots of runs, a batsman must have good hand-eye coordination, a high level of concentration, be physically fit and strong and have a thorough knowledge of cricket tactics and strategy. However, the bottom line is, good batsmen know how to play cricket shots, and how to play them well.
As discussed in my previous post, Cricket Batting Shots, there is a variety of orthodox and unorthodox shots in a batsman’s repertoire. In this article, I will discuss exactly how these shots should be played and which situations to apply them in.
Firstly, decide whether to defend the stumps with a block or play an attacking stroke. Certain factors will help with this decision: the line and length of the delivery, the speed (pace) of the delivery and the length and rules of the format of the game being played. Shorter formats, played with a white ball and containing fewer overs will involve more attacking strokes, as there are fewer opportunities to score, and less to lose when given out. Longer games with the red ball, like test matches that go on for five days, tend to involve more defensive shots.
Use footwork to move into the right position. Front foot shots are effective against fuller length deliveries where the ball arrives between ankle and thigh height. Back foot shots are employed against shorter pitched balls, which arrive above the batsman’s waist height. Once you have ascertained where you think the ball will arrive, move forward or backward during the delivery to be in the right position to play the correct shot.
Keep your eye on the ball the whole way to determine the line the ball is going (outside off stump, straight or down leg), the length (short, good, full or yorker) and the pace (fast, medium or slow).
The batsman’s job is to score runs, but you must also avoid being given out. When moving into position, be conscious of the ways you can be given out. Make sure you prevent the ball from hitting the stumps but don’t get trapped in front of them. If struck on the pads in front of the stumps, you risk being out leg before wicket (lbw). Don’t give away catches to the fielders and avoid edging the ball into the wicket keeper’s gloves.
Play defensively if necessary. To be a great batsman takes practice and patience. Just play the easy ones, hit the ball precisely out of the middle of the bat with timing and strength to take the ball over or past the fielders and as far as possible.
Playing on the Front Foot
Not every shot in cricket is a scoring shot. The forward defensive shot is a block played on the front foot designed to avoid being given out. Move forward with the front foot while keeping the back leg straight. Place your head and shoulders forward and bring the bat down in a vertical swinging motion to make contact with the ball as it passes just below the head. The bat should be alongside the pad and you should not follow through.
The drive shot is most effective against a full delivery pitching on middle and off. The variations of this shot are square drive, cover drive, off drive, straight drive and on drive. Step forward with the front foot, placing the head and weight over the front knee, which should be bent. The back foot should be on the toe as the bat is swung down vertically to make contact with the ball just below the eyes. Follow through with the bat in a vertical arc, keeping the bat straight.
Against spin bowlers, the sweep shot can be very effective. Low bouncing balls going down leg side should be struck with this shot. Stride forward with the front foot, bending the knee and dropping the back knee to the floor. Swing the bat across the body in a horizontal position to make contact with the ball in front of the pad. Rolling the wrists will help keep the ball down and avoid a catch. Follow through with the bat all the way around.
If the ball is delivered at a fast pace and going towards leg stump, you may consider a leg glance. This shot relies more on the speed of the delivery than the batsman’s strength and requires a degree of timing and dexterity. Shift your weight onto the front foot and lean forward with the head and shoulder. Play the bat with a straight vertical motion but angle the bat face toward leg side. Strike the ball in front of the front pad and ‘flick’ the wrist to steer the ball away on the leg side.
Playing on the Back Foot
If the ball is delivered at a fast pace but short of a good length, your safest bet might be a backward defensive or block shot on the back foot. Step back with the back foot, keeping the back foot flat on the ground and your head forward. Bring the front foot back toward the back foot with the toe pointing forward. Keep the back foot inside the line of the ball and swing the bat down vertically with your weight on the back foot, making contact with the ball just below the eye.
The back foot leg glance shot is often a good choice against balls that are delivered on the leg side. Turn your body square on to the bowler and move both feet back, keeping your back foot in line with the ball. Bring the bat down vertically and angle the face slightly towards leg side, making contact with the ball in front of the body. Roll the wrists to angle the ball down.
One of the most powerful run scoring shots in the game of cricket is the square cut. This shot should be played against balls delivered short and outside the line of off stump. Step back with the back foot and place it across off stump. With your weight on the back foot strike across the ball with a horizontal bat, making contact with the ball just as it goes level, but not passed you. Follow through with the stroke and roll the wrists over the top of the ball to keep it down and away from the fielders on the off side.
If a fast delivery is pitching short and on the leg stump, a pull or hook shot can be attempted. These are both risky shots as they play the ball in the air, are difficult to control and run the risk of being caught. However, if pulled off correctly can go for lots of runs, even sixes. Step back and across with back foot. Keeping your weight on the back foot, open your chest to be square on with the bowler. Swing your body round, arcing the bat in a horizontal plane with the arms outstretched to make contact with the ball in front of the body. Roll the wrists over the top of the ball to keep it down. Follow through with the shot. The pull shot is played at a ball that is between waist and chest height, the hook shot is played at a ball that is between chest and head height. The execution of the two shots, however, is identical.
Unorthodox Batting Shots
The reverse sweep is a difficult shot to play and should only be selected after much practice. Against an overpitched slow ball that is heading for the stumps, switch the hands around to reverse grip the bat, turn your body so the back foot becomes the front foot and bend the now front foot, with the now back foot kneeling on the ground, and sweep the ball across in a horizontal arc. The ball will be struck on the off side, which is the opposite to that of a conventional sweep shot
And finally, why not try a switch hit shot? In 2008, England batsman Kevin Pieterson played this shot for the first time. Since then the legality of the shot has been confirmed. During the bowler’s run-up, the batsman switches his stance around and swaps his top and bottom hands around on the bat handle, changing from a right-handed stance to a left-handed one (or vice versa). Thus the batsman becomes a mirror image of his handedness, which catches the fielding team off guard since there is not time for them to reverse all the field positions.
Batting is a difficult art to master with many shots to learn and considerations to take into account when out playing. Patience and diligent practice are the keys and if you put the effort, in time you could be playing at a very high level.
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