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Batting with a plan

You're next/first in to bat. There are a few nerves. You're preparing for your innings. What's going through your head? What's your plan?

The precise plan is going to differ according to match situation but, based on the tools and skills you have in your locker, there are going to be some fundamentals that will remain in place.

There are a few basics: -

1. What's the pitch like and what's it doing out there? If you're opening up in the first innings that's going to be harder to know but for most of us we will have had a chance to watch others batting and bowling so you should be able to work out if it's quick or slow, spinning, seaming, swinging, fast or slow outfield, etc. There are so many clues we can soak up before we go out there.

2. How long do you have to play yourself in? The nature of nerves for most of us means that the first few balls are going to be more challenging than the rest so we need to get over that hump so we can settle in to our innings. Most of the time you are going to have a few balls to settle down. First ball - survive! Nothing worse than a golden duck! Next, get your first run. The sooner that happens, the quicker the nerves settle down. Next target is getting to 10 runs, 20 runs, all within the parameters of what the team needs from you.

3. What are my shots?

Where are you hoping the ball is going to pitch?

For most of us, we have some shots we are confident about and others we are less so.

I always struggled with short balls that had no width. If it was wide of off, I could cut well. If it was wide of leg, I'd probably leave it. When it was straighter, I was less confident so looked to defend or leave. What I wanted was something full and straight so I could drive the ball. I was confident I was going to score runs in that area. I had a plan. In fact, I had a plan for EVERY ball. Providing adrenaline didn't get the better of me, I knew I had a shot for every ball. Do you? Write down your plan for a ball in every area. Wide of off, outside off, on the stumps, on your legs, wide of your legs, short of a length, back of a length, good length, full, yorker. What is your plan?

4. Where are the fielders?

By now, you've got a pretty good plan. Where are the fielders placed? In fact, more importantly, where are the gaps and how do they relate to your batting plan and scoring areas? A good captain will have a plan for every batter, either based on knowing them from previous games or from watching them in the current game. Fortunately, at younger levels, captains don't tend to be good at this, but as soon as you get to under 14 and above, good captains can block scoring areas quickly. But you can play the captain before they block you. You want to put pressure on the fielding team, not vice versa. Push the ball into gaps in the field. Eventually they are going to look to plug that gap which opens up opportunities elsewhere. You're in control.

5. Reading the game

What does your team need from you and how good is your maths?! Are you batting first? What's a "par" score? Assuming it's junior T20 game, anything over 100 is usually a defendable total. Over 120 and it should be a winning score. What do you need from here to reach that? If you're chasing a total it's clearer. You know what you need. Always be on top of what you need so you can play each ball with a plan.

6. Fully understanding how to hit your target

You need 6 an over. To many young cricketers that seems to translate as "we need boundaries!". You don't. It's 1 run every ball. You can afford to have the odd over of 5 runs at 6 an over. Don't forget at junior level you're going to get some extras. Wides are generally top scorer of most junior innings, but you need to be batting to get those. Getting all out is going to cost you around 2 runs per over in extras based on most junior games. If you lose by 10 runs with 5 overs to go, you're going to be kicking yourself! Play Pocket Cricket regularly to get a feel for what you need to do. If you choose the conservative, less risky, shots and placing the ball into gaps to pick up 1s and 2s, you are far more likely to win a game then it you keep trying to slog every ball.

There's lots to work on here and it can be done from home, ready for whenever the season starts. Get out in the garden with one of your family members feeding. They don't need to bowl, a throw down works just as well. Set an imaginary garden field (you can use plant pots/chairs, etc. as fielders). Practice your plan.

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