For many batsmen this weekend, it is either the last innings of the season, or the first innings of the next phase of the season – finals. Different scales of importance but with potential impact. Time then to reflect and remember the important elements in “Starting an Innings.”
Many seasons ago (06/07) when the author embarked upon a coaching career at Premier level with very little pedigree or direct experience at the level, the immediate confrontation was a diabolical batting list based on the previous season performance.
Last on the ladder, 1 win & 15 losses. Batting runs per wicket @ 19.61 with only a single century. Bowling runs per wicket @ 38.57 at a rate of 3.93 per over from 17 games. Variance in runs per wicket huge and the quality gulf beyond a yawning chasm. Hawthorn-Monash University CC in the post Peter Roach era did not have much going for it. Entirely self inflicted though.
Thankfully the opportunity arose to pilfer the brain belonging to one of the all time greats to find inspiration. The need to uncover the secret in having the upper order take responsibility and start the innings with conviction and intent that would flow into something of substance.
Warren Ayres was extraordinarily generous and completely open with sharing knowledge gained from 46 games for Victoria in an era batting amongst some extraordinary talent, but more importance to the author and the immediate issue, on the path to 380 games of Premier Cricket.
One of the many conversations that we had was focused on how to begin an innings. What were the vital elements that he was willing to share. A record surpassing Jack Ryder, that included 41 centuries offered expertise and wisdom. Over his career at Premier Cricket in 396 innings comprising 20 years at Melbourne CC and Dandenong CC, there was a 28% probability that he would pass 50+.
Kindly take a moment and fully consider the magnitude of sustaining such a performance.
Please enjoy the recollection and reflect upon how it may be of value personally or to others that need guidance.
Batting – Starting An Innings
The most difficult part of an innings is arguably the first forty minutes, if you have got this far (40 minutes) you have probably become used to the conditions and the bowlers to a degree and progress from this stage is more about continuing to apply the skills that have got you to where you are. That is after the first 40 minutes you are more likely to get yourself out by a mistake than by having the bowlers knock you over!
In contrast the first 40 minutes of an innings is more about dealing with uncertainty in terms of factors such as the bowlers, the pitch, your nerves and the game situation. It is fair to say that this is a fairly anxious, stressful and difficult time that requires a lot of skill to survive and thrive. The positive in this situation is that it presents a great challenge that will give you a lot of satisfaction and if you can be successful it will also set you up to make a big score. Below I have detailed a few thoughts for your consideration on starting your innings.
Keep it simple, have a simple plan, my plan is defend on the stumps, leave the width until I want to hit it (when I’m ready). When I execute this plan I remove caught behind, lbw and bowled (the most likely ways any batsman can get out), which pressures the bowler to try other deliveries that create run scoring opportunities for me.
Bowlers will have their tails up when they have just taken a wicket and you have just come in, keep your expectation low at the start of an inning, play straight, leave width and relax is my thought process at this stage. There will be plenty of time for stroke play later when the bowlers are more tired and you are better set.
Play straight, this means to me if the ball is on the line of the stumps hit it back down the pitch where it came from, it is difficult to get out playing straight.
Get balanced, the most difficult time to pick the ball up is when you first come in, give yourself your best chance by being as stable/balanced as possible at all times.
Relax and enjoy the challenge, deep breathing helps me to get calm and even though its stressful I find enjoyment in the challenge, nothing worthwhile (including making runs) comes easy, you will have to work and fight for every run and also if you enjoy something you will do it well.
Warren Ayres – Melbourne, Dandenong, Victoria
• 380 1st XI Games – 396 1st XI Innings
• 15,277 runs @ 42.43
• 41 Centuries
• 73 Half Centuries
• Probability of 28% that his innings would be 50+ over career spanning 20 years
Footnote: The knowledge did assist with a positive start to the season in 06/07, some of the names make interesting rumination upon what came next. Another post for another day: