Monday, July 23, 2007

Provoking a batting collapse - a possible "set piece"?

As Ed Smith notes in his excellent book Playing Hard Ball: the batting collapse is the biggest catastrophe in test match or four-day cricket.

A batting collapse is the main way in which the fortunes of a match can be reversed very suddenly and irrevocably.

The terrifying momentum of a batting collapse derives from the element of positive feedback. Positive feedback is when each increment of change tends to lead to further change in the same direction.

In a batting collapse each wicket that falls brings a new batter to the crease (and new batters are at their most vulnerable) and - what is more - a worse batter than the one who has been dismissed. Therefore it gets easier and easier for the bowling side to keep taking wickets; harder and harder for the batting side to stop the serial fall of wickets.

All of which makes it hard to understand why so little attention appears to be devoted to the tactics of batting collapses. The response to en emerging collapse appears to be left-up to the players on the field; who look to be improvising tactics with varying degrees of assistance from the captains.

Yet surely it would make sense to plan for batting collapses - so that batters are instructed how to bat and what to aim for; and even more so that fielding captains have plans ready for perpetuating a batting collapse.

Bowling sides should have a set of pre-determined plans about how to initiate *and maintain* an incipient batting collapse: which bowlers will be used in what order, what will be their role, what field settings are most helpful, optimum rate of overs, the psychology of inducing 'mental disintegration' among the incoming batters etc.

Initiating a batting collapse should be approached as a 'set-piece' - like taking a corner or a free kick in football - by deploying smoothly rehearsed sequences selected from a pre-determined repertoire.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree with some comments in this post.
Firstly that in a batting order the quality of batting gets worse and worse.
Quite often sides will aim to have their best player at 4 with the top order bats being those who temperament and technique is best suited to opening the batting.

Also in relation to have preplanned "bowling orders" takes away from the mystery that is cricket.
One day the ball will swing, one day the wicket will turn. The next week the opposition won't be able to play your left armer.

The next week you decide to change your bowlers ends and your part time spinner turns it square and takes two wickets.

I appreciate this article must it does not take in to account the external varibles involved in cricket and make cricket cricket.
However I do think you have a point in explicitly informing and practising how to play if a few wickets go done cheaply

1:18 AM  
Blogger Bruce G Charlton said...

Well, I agree that there are many random factors in cricket - but it is likely that some bowlers will be better at provoking a batting collapse than others.

Probably these are the same bowlers who have a record of many hat-tricks or similar multiple wickets in a short-space of time.

Hat trick bowlers usually seem to be those with very good control, expecially accurate, stump-to-stump bowlers who make the batsmen play at the ball.

So, to continue a batting collapse it might be better for a captain to pull off his wild strike bowler, and insert his slower-paced stock bowler?

2:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

can you really plan for a taking three wickets in three balls?

In reality if every time you took a wicket you turned to your strike bowler for another he would only for a year before retiring with injury.
Ultimately hattricks are freak, rarely happening and must have some luck involved.

If you examine recent test hatricks against sides that aren;t the minnows.
They tend to be your strike bowlers be it spinners or seamers.

11:09 AM  

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