Last man standing – another game for the coaches’ kit bag

One of the games we play with the Colts at our Club is ‘Last Man Standing’ (not to be confused with Last Man Stands). It’s a lot of fun, with batters and fielders fully engaged, and in spite of the very simplistic rules there are a number of learning opportunities embedded in the format.

Batters come to the crease in rotation (as in racing/relay/carousel cricket) – if they get to the bowler’s end without being dismissed, they return to the line of waiting batters to have another go; if they get out, they join the fielding team; Last Man Standing is the winner.

Players quickly come to appreciate that there is more to batting than a perfect forward defensive or a reverse sweep.

[aside – no, I don’t directly coach either stroke.]

  • Placement into gaps and fast running are as important as technique, very often more so.
  • Players have to develop (and refine) tactics – do they block and run, or hit out for the open spaces? The latter can work well early on, when there are fewer fielders; less so as the outfield fills with a dozen or more of their team mates plus coaches and parents.
  • The game introduces competition (and can be brutal – we generally play ‘if you are out, you are out, no ‘first ball grace’, no ‘three chances’).
  • Fielding can be especially fierce – fielders enjoy trying to dismiss their teammates, and, with no penalties for overthrows, players are encouraged to (try to) throw down the stumps from any angle.

Making Last Man Standing even better

It is important to remember that the game is for all of the players, not just the Last Man Standing. Anyone who is dismissed early on needs to be integrated into the fielding effort – perhaps they get to bowl, or go in as wicket keeper (both roles normally better filled by coaches or more able players, to keep the game flowing); the coaches need to enthusiastically celebrate all successes in the field, and make sure fielders are rotated around any ‘hot spots’ to keep them all engaged.

The most unrealistic element of the game is the ‘stolen run’ or ‘bye’, where the batter receives a delivery that is so wide that they do not have to play it and the keeper struggles to gather the ball, and the batter subsequently reaches the nonstriker’s end safely without being run out.

We could insist that the batter must hit and run, rather than running on every delivery, but that can lead to a stalemate between a canny batsman and a less accurate bowler.

It would also lose one of the more important elements of Last Man Standing – the excitement (and challenge) of a game where something happens every ball.

Possible refinements

  • Insist on hit-and-run, but allow the batter to leave wide deliveries (up to 2, perhaps) before they are obliged to play a shot and run (or run, anyway, in the hope of a misfield by the wicket keeper) – encourages stroke selection, with a possible diminution in the pace of the game.
  • Use two sets of stumps (or, at least, add an extra stump or two) at the batter’s end – to force the batters to actually play more deliveries.
  • Batters need to reach halfway before the keeper breaks the wicket at the striker’s end to avoid being run-out “before they have even crossed” – to discourage the more blatant ‘set off while the ball is still in the air’ tactics adopted by some players; this could also introduce players to the tricky Law 30.2 – which is the batter’s ground?
  • Batters run in pairs to avoid ‘sacrifice’ runs where the non-striker has been sold down the river by a suicidal call from the striker – striker to be dismissed if the non-striker is run out.

Other options

  • Fielders to bowl ‘until the batter gets a bye’ – to encourage the bowlers to attack the stumps.
  • Introduce target zones for ‘safe passage’ – hit the ball to a specified area (‘back over the bowler’s head’, or link in to a stroke that has been practiced earlier in the sessions), and the batter has immunity to walk to the non-striker’s end, and cannot be run out on that delivery.

Last man standing is great fun, for players and coaches – along with jailbreak, it is one we get regular requests for – and helps to teach the game.

Not perfect, but it can very often be a great activity to round off a session.

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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