Simple net game, revisited

I have been delivering an after-school club this term. As happened last year, we have been evicted from the newly built sports hall to accommodate exams. Unlike last time, we have been able to carry on with the weekly club, but in the much smaller and very crowded old sports hall.

So small and crowded, in fact, that the only safe option has been to roll out the nets to keep the players away from table tennis tables, rowing machines, badminton nets, benches and other clutter.

Rather than a basic net session, I wanted to utilise the simple net game format, with a points system designed to reward specific behaviours beyond just “having a hit”!

But, as I can’t resist tinkering with games, the points scoring system was modified, in an attempt to make the practice a little more realistic.

Phases

At its simplest, each batter gets 1 over at each level, but obviously this can be adapted depending on the time available.

Probably never more than 6 balls at “Start the engine”, however — there aren’t many formats below FC where batters can chew up more than an over before they at least try to score some singles.

The balance between the other two phases can be tweaked to suit the match format you are preparing for — if it’s 40- or 50-over, probably more time can be spent in the “acceleration” phase, but for T20 you might want to step up to “foot to the floor” pretty quickly.

It’s still a points game, but bowlers are also looking to score (rather than just preventing the batter from scoring). It does complicate the scoring (and can be ignored – just credit/debit the batter, as appropriate), but I like the idea of keeping the bowlers more engaged in their own performance, not just reacting to the batters.

Start the Engine

Batter tries to “get in”; bowler strives for an early wicket.

  • Bat: score 1 for every ball “not out”; +1 for ground shot into net (must touch the ground before it hits the net)
    • points encourage the batter to “have a look” when they first get to the crease but still to look for safe scoring opportunities; could have nominated scoring zones to indicate “gaps” in the field.
  • Bowl: score 4 for every wicket; -4 for every WIDE
    • encourage bowlers to attack the stumps; also to emphasise the advantage of taking wickets in clusters (lots of cries of “one brings two”!)

Acceleration

“Starting to motor” — batters now looking to rotate strike and score more freely; bowlers trying to prevent easy scoring opportunities.

  • Bat: score 1 for every ground shot; +1 “down the ground” (e.g. between markers placed against the net on either side, halfway down the pitch, ball must touch the ground before reaching markers, so no “over the bowler’s head”…yet)
    • no more runs for simply staying in; incentives to play conservatively and keep the ball down, plus extra for hitting straight (probably a good thing most of the time, and a good source of singles “back past the bowler”).
  • Bowl: score 2 for every wicket; 1 for every “dot ball”; -4 for every WIDE
    • bowlers have less incentive for taking wickets, but “a dot ball is a good ball”, now.

Foot to the floor

“as many as you can get” — in T20 mode

  • Bat: 1 for ground shot; +2 “down the ground” or nominated target; 4 “back over the bowler’s head”
    • emphasis now on hitting the gaps often — define 3 or 4 target areas, and have the batter nominate their preferred target.
  • Bowl: score 2 for every dot ball; +2 for a wicket; -4 for every WIDE
    • at this stage, dot balls are gold, but a wicket ball is worth more, hence 2+2.

Outcomes

We only had a couple of weeks with this, and I couldn’t claim any immediate success (although some of the players were checking on the rules, often, so they did at least “play the game”). It will be interesting to see how it plays out if I get to see them play over the summer.

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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