In the nettles. And other thoughts on backyard cricket rules.

Telephone call with the manager of one of the junior sections I coach. Two close games at the weekend, but in both we had lost by narrow margins after missing out on a lot of legside singles.

I received a lot of interesting replies to this tweet — targets to hit in drills, incentives for playing a stroke, penalties for not playing a stroke.

My own preference is to utilise some form of games-based approach, but with constraints for the players to adapt to.

So — the Teesra presents “the legside single game” aka “in the nettles”.

The legside single game

A variant on the “battle zones”/open wicket practice. Batters, in pairs, vs. bowler & fielder.

Imagine a “wildlife friendly” back garden, which features a large patch of nettles at backward square leg — hit the ball in there, and no-one is going to rush to get it back, so you will get 2 every time you can hit the ball into the nettles.

And a well tended flower bed on the offside, into which the ball must not be hit, on pain of instant dismissal.

  • Restriction on legside fielders — “no-one in the nettle patch” behind square on legside fielders
  • Bonus runs (x2) for all legside singles

Depending on the abilities of the bowlers, the feed might be a “live” bowler, a coach (throw or Sidearm), or even a bowling machine — the line needs to be consistently on and just outside leg stump, to challenge decision making and shot selection.

Alternative (environmental) constraints

“1 for you, 4 for the team; 4 for you, 1 for the team

I really like this idea, from Phill O’Brien, but fear the maths might challenge the players…and me.

  • the team benefits every time the batters score a single, but the batter still gets to stay in longer.
  • batters who persist in hitting out reach their personal retirement score quicker than those who take singles.

Move the ropes

To encourage legside hitting, set the pitch much further from the boundary on the offside. Let the players work out where the high return strokes are, then get on with finding a way to hit to leg.

Car trouble

Suggest to your Club chairman, or visiting local politician, that he parks his BMW or vintage Bentley at mid-wicket, and see the batters take aim.

[Car park imagery courtesy of Craig Gunn (@c_gunny73) & Simon Hancock (@simonhancock_uk)].

Environment Design Principles — the constraints-led approach to creating games for learning

“In the nettles”, the modified game described above, is a relatively simple format, but on closer inspection it fits quite well with the environmental design principles proposed in “The Constraints-Led Approach: Principles for Sports Coaching & Practice Design”, by Renshaw, Davids, Newcombe & Roberts.


CLA sessions are not just modified games. There must be performance- or outcome-based intentions, which define appropriate constraints and game modifications.

The game is designed to encourage players to (a) take more singles and (b) play more strokes to legside deliveries. Two things that have consistently not been good in games.


Constraints and modifications should offer, invite or encourage learners to explore the opportunities for action; these opportunities should be related to the session intention.

Hits to legs are facilitated by restricted field placing, and/or rewarded by bonus runs.

Representative learning design

Make sure that the cues players receive in practice mimic those seen under match play conditions.

The open wicket practice is as close to match-play as possible; batters receive cues identical to those in the game, and have to place scoring strokes into gaps; fielders compete to run out the batters.

Repetition without repetition

Top players do not play like robots, with pre-programmed movements deployed against machine-like opponents. So why try to develop “perfect”, repeatable movement patterns in practice?

Because of the vagaries of the feed (best delivered by peers; second best by a coach; last by a bowling machine set to random mode), the batter needs to adapt an “ideal” response to the specific challenge provided by each delivery.

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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