WBBL thoughts (2) — is the 23m fielding ring too small?

I watched quite a bit of this year’s WBBL, and a question kept coming up.

The off-side field is packed, but the ball keeps getting hit through to the cover boundary. Why aren’t the fielders stopping the ball?

Are the batters really striking the ball so well, or are the fielders too close to the bat to react, and often too close to each other to move laterally.

I am told, by Raf Nicholson (who knows about this sort of thing), that the fielding circle is currently the same ratio of circle to minimum boundary size for the men and the women (55%).

So 23m it is.

But is this too close?

Is the 23m fielding ring too tight?

  • fielders “on the ring” seem to be beaten frequently by a hard hit, with little time to react; even a line of four fielders spaced across just 20-25m in the covers can’t stop some shots that only just roll over the boundary (so we’re not talking about stopping bullets);
    • extreme example: Thunder v Sixers, game 48; Elyse Perry bowling with five fielders in the covers, from wide mid off to backward point, and the batter still got it through, on the ground, a couple of times;
  • mis-hits seem to carry just over the heads of the fielders inside the ring — there is a skill in chipping the ball just out of reach and watching it run on to the boundary, but this should be a controlled stroke, not a bloop off the toe of the bat.

Note added “in proof” — I first noticed this after watching highlights of the final round of matches played at the Sydney Showground. The “porous covers” phenomenon was much less noticeable in the last group matches at the North Sydney Oval, or indeed in the semi-finals or the final itself.

Could it be that my observation was an artefact of slower pitches at the Sydney Showground? Batters able to line up their strokes forward of square on the off-side to give the fielders less chance?

That said, I do recall watching earlier in the competition as square (and backward of square) drives repeatedly beat cover, backward point, short third, and a third man (third woman? Harriet Lime?) on the line. Greater pace in the pitch just saw the ball going squarer, and backward of square.

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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