It’s cold outside…or what to do when you can’t get into the outdoor nets

The senior Club finished indoor nets before Easter, and the 1st XI has been champing at the bit to get into the outdoor nets.  So the news that the planned (and very necessary) refurbishment could not be completed until early May sparked a round of emails and conversations – what can we do for pre-season?

We know that the pros will barely use net practice (going into the nets, with all and sundry queuing up to bowl) at any stage in the season.  If they do bat in the nets, it will be against bowling machine or sidearm/throwdowns, to groove a shot or to plan how best to handle a particular bowler (faster/slower/taller/skiddier than normal).

So not having the nets might be seen as the opportunity to adopt a more constructive pre-season plan, rather than a hindrance.

And the fact that April has blown in so cold means that the prospect of spending an evening  waiting to bowl in the nets is not exactly an attractive proposition.  We need to keep everyone involved, and engaged.

The plan, now is to run a series of activity “stations” each evening (batting, bowling, fielding drills), then have the players rotate around the stations, so no-one stands still for too long and gets cold, and no-one spends their evening doing the same skill.  Variety and involvement are the key words.

Perhaps two batting stations, one bowling (fielding for wicket-keeper and non-bowlers), one fielding, 10 minutes per station, 10 minutes warm-up and time for a 5 minute cool-down.  Aim to work hard for one hour, then anyone who is keen can do a couple of laps of the field afterwards.

Quite deliberately, we have not suggested stand-alone “fitness” stations.  No-one really wants to get fit (rather, if they do, they will get out on to the roads or into the gym for themselves).  But by providing a variety of skill drills and tactical challenges, everyone will be moving in a “cricket-specific” style.

Even after the nets have been the nets are refurbished in May, we are recommending that the 1st XI squad continue to run the “stations” at each practice session, then go straight into a one hour (focused/competitive) net.

We will see how long this regime lasts…

For the first few weeks, we have come up with the following activities.

Range hitting (hitting the ball as far as possible) is a good confidence booster early season, and also provides fielding practice. Record the longest hit for each batter, and make the session competitive.

  • One batter, one feeder (might need to be coach), 2-3 fielders, 50-60 yards from bat (deeper, if needed); designated target area (long-on to wide mid-wicket – perhaps 20-30 yards wide)
  • drop feed OR underarm, knee high full-toss from 10m OR Sidearm/throwdown from 20 yards (only if feed is accurate and batting surface reliable);
  • 4 hits each, record the longest hit in designated arc (to where it lands, or where it is caught);
  • Repeat if time allows.

Encourage firm base and correct weight transfer – this is NOT slogging. – see ECB CA’s Howzat! dvd on the slog sweep, or Matt Homes & Darren Talbot’s “Twenty20 Cricket: How to play, coach & win

One-hand one-bounce – played on the outfield (with a cricket ball and protective gear, or with a softball), this becomes a real challenge even for seniors (hand-eye, soft-hands…just like batting in a match, in fact).

To make this competitive, count the number of balls faced (but set a limit – 18 balls, say – or you might end up with someone batting all day.

  • One batter, one feeder, two (or more) close catchers, no closer than 4 yards when ball delivered
  • Overarm feed from 10m; introduce target – 2xwickets (6xstumps) so feed has to be straight
  • Batsman to defend wicket – bowled is OUT; struck on legs is OUT (anywhere – does not have to be “lbw”)
  • Strokes carrying more than 10 yards are OUT
  • Catches taken with two hands on the full, or one-hand one-bounce are OUT
  • Count balls successfully defended or successfully left alone.

Soft hands, quick runs – a variant on “block and run”, with a pair of batters playing against fielding team, positioned facing away from the batter when the ball is played – requires 6-8 players.

  • Two sets of stumps, 22 yards apart, batter at each end;
  • co-operative feed (batting team or coach) 10 yards from bat;
  • fielders 10 yards from bat, backs to batsman, plus wicket keeper (who remains behind stumps at all times)
  • batter to play forward defensive with soft hands and must call and run every time they play the ball; shots carrying more than 20 yards – NO RUNS ALLOWED.
  • fielders must not turn until call; attempt to run-out non-striker at wicket keepers end;
  • each pair bat for 8 balls; swap after 4 balls if no runs taken;
  • one run for each completed run; minus one for each run out.

Target bowling – set targets appropriate to bowling style(s); highest total wins. Ideally, in a net; failing that, with a back-stop/net for this, or a willing retriever stood well back.

  • Full length pitch;
  • each bowler to deliver 4 consecutive balls;
  • next bowler to keep “score”; others to retrieve balls from back-stop;
  • points for hitting targets (spot on pitch, stumps);
  • repeat, and aggregate scores.

Fielding – close fielders and wicket keepers
5 minutes (intense) on CrazyCatch
5 minutes chase and retrieve

for non-bowlers – replace bowling challenge with fielding (any of the numerous fielding drills can be run) – yes, that might mean that a non-bowler will do two fielding stations.

Published by Andrew Beaven

Cricket coach, fascinated by the possibilities offered by the game. More formally - ECB level 2 cricket coach; ECB National Programmes (All Stars & Dynamos Cricket) Activator Tutor; Chance to Shine & Team Up (cricket) deliverer; ECB ACO umpire.

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