Working this term with a group of u11s, with the transition to hardball cricket in the summer firmly in mind, so I want the batters to become more confident when facing a short(er) pitched bouncing delivery. They will have done plenty of pull shot games and practice (bread and butter in soft ball cricket) but quite possibly nothing on the off side. Hence the theme for last week’s session was “back foot, off side”.
The plan below is an idealised version of what actually transpired on the day. The practice and game both happened, but some of the additional constraints only came to mind mid-game, and I decided not to complicate the game by changing the rules half-way through. Next time, though…
Back foot batting, off side
Scoring runs from short-pitched deliveries on and outside off stump
- Lord’s game (batter vs. fielders), off side (30 mins)
- Game: back foot, off side — (20 mins)
Lord’s game (batter vs. fielders)
Bounce feed, with tennis ball, to reach the batter between waist & chest height. Distance from batter & speed of delivery need to be adjusted to give the batter a chance of playing a realistic stroke — not so fast as to rush the batter, but not so slow and loopy as to make a cut stroke inappropriate.
Fielders set up 10-15m from batter on off side.
Each batter gets 4-6 deliveries to score as many runs as possible:
- 1 for hitting the ball;
- +1 for hitting into the cordon (counter-intuitive, but see below);
- +1 for getting the ball beyond the fielders (over or through the cordon;
- +1 for hitting the ball into the ground before it reaches the fielders;
- +2 for bouncing the ball over the fielders’ heads.
Batter goes out to field, next fielder becomes batter (anyone making a catch or stop bats next, to reward fielding effort).
When everyone has batted, CfU (“what were we trying to do?”; “what strokes are we trying to play?”), talk through the challenge, modify the game if required, and repeat.
Game: Back foot, off side
Carousel cricket set-up — batter & runner, others batters in line behind batter’s wicket to replace (a) batter if dismissed or (b) runner, who returns to the end of the batting line.
Batters can score anywhere in target zone from immediately behind the keeper (allow byes!), around the covers, and behind the bowler to mid-on.
Batter gets 3 chances to get off strike (“3 strikes and you’re out”). Out if bowled, caught, or run out.
No score simply for hitting the ball, but other bonus runs as per batters vs. fielders, above.
Fielding team to bowl in rotation (1-4 deliveries each, depending on numbers — with more players, rotate sooner so no-one waits too long for a bowl). Leg side deliveries heavily penalised — “4 for a wide”.
N.B. Replace bowling with coach feed if the batters don’t get to play many off side strokes.
Fielders to occupy off side cordon, from extra cover to back stop.
For anyone not familiar with the Lord’s game, it is a simple batter vs. fielders set up.
This was a staple component of ECB Coach Education when I qualified (2009, 2011) — perhaps the only game we were actually taught — hence the name, but I’m sure it is known by other names — wherever a coach throws a ball to a batter, and fielders try to stop it.
Coach feed to allow a specific stroke (or, at least, encourage hitting in a specified direction — towards the waiting fielders, so counter-intuitive). Batters hit and run, and/or score runs for hitting target zones — front foot drives, pulls, sweeps, off side/leg side etc.
It is used here to allow the batters to face lots of deliveries in a short space of time. The bonus points on offer are intended to encourage hitting the ball in the desired direction, hitting the ball downwards, and hitting the ball down hard — cutting, not patting the ball!
Rewarding fielding effort can help to retain engagement in what is otherwise a batting exercise. The fielding cordon could even run like “king of the hill” — make a stop and move up a place; take a catch and move straight to the head of the line; king of the hill bats next — but that might see a weaker fielder not get a chance to bat.
The back foot, off side game continues the theme of having some sort of batters vs. bowlers+fielders activity in every session.
Batters are incentivised to hit into the off side, but can also score (into unguarded areas) with straight drives and back foot forcing strokes. If you can hit a gap, why stick with the “text book” stroke?
Accurate bowling can be a challenge in this game, and it might be necessary to replace bowling with coach feed if the batters don’t get to play many back foot, off side strokes.
The coach can emphasise “bowling to your field”, but the 4-run penalty for a leg side wide focuses the bowler’s attention, as do the open spaces from extra cover to mid on! And over-compensating away from the leg stump does tend to produce more short, outside off deliveries for the batters to practice their cuts and back foot forcing strokes!