Coaching Corner2 - Off drive and forward defence.

In the last “Coaching Corner” we looked at the basic grip and stance.

Now we’ll look at “length” and the shots to be played at balls of a full length off the front foot.

So, what is length?  Put simply, it is the place where the ball lands after it has been bowled.

A “full length” means that the ball lands where the batsman can reach it before or just after it bounces.

A ball which is “short of a length” is one that the batsman can play if he moves backwards rather than forwards.

A “good length” ball pitches in such a position that if the batsman moves forward he cannot play it before or just after it bounces, but the ball does not pitch so short that he has time to play it comfortably by moving back. 

Bear in mind that a good length will vary somewhat according to the speed of the ball, the pace of the pitch and the reach of the batsman, but a “good length” should cause the batsman most hesitation as to whether play forward or back.

See diagram below:

Attacking forward strokes: the off-drive.

The shot is played to a half-volley pitched on or just outside the off-stump.  It is one of the most productive and elegant shots in the game.  Main points:

•    As for all shots, a stable base to hit from is vital, so with a high backswing, move the head and front shoulder towards the line of the ball.

•    Make sure that the head is kept steady and the eyes are level. (Remember what we said in Coaching Corner 1 about the head being your camera!)

•    Make a positive but comfortable stride towards the ball. (If you have taken the head towards the ball, this should happen naturally).  Transfer your weight fully to the front foot.  This will give you the firm base that you need.

•    The front leg should be slightly flexed, and you should aim to hit the ball with the full face of the bat after bringing it down quickly from the backswing to provide power.  (See Coaching Corner 1 on the importance of grip and backswing) with the point of contact under the eyes.

•    After contact, the balance and weight remain forward.  The shot isn’t finished yet!
•    Keeping your head and eyes steady, follow-through with the bat and wrists finishing high and in the direction of the shot.  For greater control, check the follow-through when the bat is about head high, keeping the wrists locked.  This is known as the “check drive”.  Once this has been mastered, you can then work on a full follow-through.

Common faults

•    Not transferring the balance fully forward and not moving head forward, resulting in the point of contact being too far forward and the ball consequently hit in the air.
•    Not bringing the bat down straight, because the left hand twists.  Remember – the left hand controls the shot, the right hand provides the power.
•    Not keeping the back foot grounded, or moving it towards the leg side.
•    Not following-through.

Now, what do we do if the ball is not pitched far enough to drive?  In other words, what do we do with a straight good-length ball that we can’t attack?  We have to defend.

Forward defensive stroke.

Probably the most used stroke in cricket, perhaps as a result of the traditional maxim: “If in doubt, push out!”

The shot is played to a good-length ball pitching on the stumps or just outside the off-stump.  Main points:

•    The set-up is as for the drive, i.e., again lead with the left shoulder and head.

•    The front foot moves forward, just inside the line of the ball

•    The weight is transferred forward, and the left knee bent so that ball is played down and any gap between pat and pad (“the gate”) is closed.

•    The back leg is extended, with the foot grounded on the inside of the foot.

•    There is no follow-through.  The front elbow is high and bent at about 90O.  The bat is firmly gripped in the left hand, but the grip of the right-hand is light – just use thumb and forefinger.  This is necessary if the ball is to be played down and “killed”.

Common faults

•    Pushing too hard at the ball and not angling it down.
•    Not getting the head over the ball.
•    Not keeping the back foot grounded, or having it grounded on the ball of the foot.  Grounding it like this rather than on the inside of the foot will result in the right shoulder being brought round so that the bat does not come down straight but from the slips towards the leg-side.  Playing across the line of the ball like this makes it more difficult to hit.

I hope you find this useful.  If there is anything that is not clear, please ask your coach, who will be pleased to explain or demonstrate further.

As ever, if you wish to make any comments or suggestions for improvement, please contact the website.