As the shorter formats of cricket like 50 over cricket and T20 continue to increase in popularity, batsmen are finding themselves under a lot more pressure to score their runs quickly! Because of this new pressure, a lot of batsmen are wondering how they can improve their strike rates and score more runs in a shorter period. By doing this, they can take pressure off themselves and apply it to the fielding side. This is exactly what ‘strike rate’ means when it comes to batsmen. It is a measure of how quickly a batsman scores runs; therefore, a high strike rate shows that a batsman is scoring runs at a fast rate. If you’d like more information on that then feel free to click here to check my post that will tell you all you need to know about the term strike rate!
In this post I’m going to take you through several tips that you can use to improve your batting strike rate. If you can apply these tips and think about them during your training, and then take them into matches, you’ll definitely see a difference in the pace of your innings!
Here are my tips on how to improve your batting strike rate:
- Don’t Worry About A Slow Start
- Develop A Wide Range Of Scoring Options
- Dedicate Practice Sessions To Power Hitting
- Use Movement To Get Inside The Head Of The Bowler
- Use The Pace Of The Fast Bowlers To Your Advantage
- Assess The Field Placings & Learn To Pick The Gaps
- Practice Against Spin Bowlers Just As Much As Fast Bowlers
- Don’t Just Focus On Boundaries
- Improve Your Speed Between The Wickets
Don’t Worry About A Slow Start
As a batsman, sometimes you have to accept that sometimes you’re going to start slowly. The bowler you’re facing might be bowling particularly well. The pitch you’re playing on might be a challenging one. Whatever the reason for the slow start, you have to be prepared to start slowly, and make sure you don’t panic. If you do start slowly, you can’t increase your strike rate by getting out! Therefore, it’s best not to play a rash shot and hit the ball straight up in the air immediately!
Instead, if there’s enough time available, take a few balls to get used to the pace of the pitch and how the bowler is bowling. Try to work the ball around into the gaps and play slightly lower risk shots when you first arrive in the middle. It is much easier to increase your scoring rate once you’re in and have gotten comfortable at the crease after facing a few balls!
If you get a bad ball right at the start of your innings then you should always be looking to smash it to the boundary, but don’t feel too guilty if it takes you 5 or 6 balls to get off the mark.
Develop A Wide Range Of Scoring Options
The most effective batsmen in international limited overs cricket have high strike rates because they are innovative players who can hit the ball in unorthodox areas of the cricket field. Two of the most devastating limited overs players in recent history are Jos Buttler and AB de Villiers. Both of these two are known for their ability to hit the ball anywhere in the 360-degree arc that makes up the cricket field! They both have fast hands and are able to strike through the ball powerfully and hit it down the ground for 6, and they also have the ability to stay back in their crease and hit the ball over the wicketkeeper’s head using shots like the ramp and the uppercut. To put it simply, it is incredibly hard to stop these batsmen from scoring quickly. If we can copy these players and use some of the shots that they play, then we can raise our strike rate.
Most players know how to play the cover drive, the straight drive, the square cut and the pull shot. These shots are pretty orthodox and most batsmen will practice these regularly. However, if we want to maintain high strike rates in limited overs cricket sometimes we need to think outside of the box a little and play shots that are a bit less common. I’ll take you through a few of these now.
The Ramp Shot
The ramp shot is an excellent scoring option in limited overs cricket, and no one plays it better than Buttler. The ramp allows you to hit the ball behind square on both sides of the wicket. It is played to deliveries that are of a good to full length, but it can also be played to deliveries like full tosses or yorkers as long as you intercept the ball before it bounces. It’s definitely worth working on this shot during your practice sessions. It takes a lot of practice to be able to play the shot well but once you perfect it, it is a fantastic scoring option. If you want to know how to play the ramp shot then I talk more about it in my cricket shots post here, as well as my guide to hitting yorkers post here!
The Sweep/Reverse Sweep Shot
The sweep and the reverse sweep are another couple of excellent options that you can use to put pressure on the bowlers. These are shots that are usually played against spinners, but they can be used against fast bowlers too if you’re brave enough! The sweep is hit into the leg side, and usually targets deliveries that are aimed towards our body or the leg side. The reverse sweep is hit into the off side and is traditionally used to target deliveries that are on the off side of our body. The great thing about sweep shots is that they can be played softly (this is often called the dab sweep or the paddle) and hit very fine down towards fine leg or third man. Or, alternatively, they can be hit very hard with the intention of hitting the ball for 6 over the mid-wicket/cover region (This forceful sweep is usually referred to as the slog sweep). These are shots you should definitely consider adding to your game! If you want to know a little more about how to play them then click here to read my cricket shots post where you’ll be able to find more details!
The Release Shot
All batsmen need a shot with they can use regularly to take a single and rotate the strike. This can be any kind of shot, as long as it’s effective. Joe Root and Kane Williamson are two players I always think of when it comes to this. They are both experts when it comes to glancing the ball off the face of the bat down towards the third man region. They use this shot to deal with good deliveries that are just outside the line of off stump. A lot of batsmen may choose to just defend this kind of delivery, but Root and Williamson see it as an easy way to rotate the strike. Basically, because not many fielding captains have a slip fielder in place in limited overs games, playing this shot and nudging the ball in that region can get a batsman plenty of runs, and it’s an easy way to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
You can work on gliding the ball off the face of the bat down towards third man, or alternatively you can do other things like walk across to the off side and nudge the ball into the leg side for a single. Steve Smith is a batsman that is very good at this, and it gets him a lot of runs. If you can hit a good ball for a single by playing a shot like this, then that is much better than just knocking the ball back to the bowler! Practice developing these shots in the nets and see what you can achieve.
Adding any of the shots I’ve mentioned above to your game will make you a better limited overs batsman, and allow you to improve your strike rate as a result. Perfecting the shots all comes down to practice! The more time you spend playing the shots in the nets, the more comfortable you will be when you try them during a real cricket match!
Dedicate Practice Sessions To Power Hitting
A great way to improve your strike rate is by hitting fours and sixes regularly. If you want to be able to hit boundaries more often, then you’re going to have to practice your power hitting! I often advise batsmen who play a lot of 20/50 over cricket to dedicate entire practice sessions to developing this skill. If you’re batting in one of these sessions you will have one job; to strike the ball as hard and as far as you can!
If hitting the ball forcefully does not come naturally to you, I’d recommend starting off with the basics as follows:
- Start by getting one of your coaches/a partner to throw a tennis ball towards you underarm. Tell them to make sure the ball bounces 1-2 metres in front of you. The slower speed of the ball should allow you to easily hit it with power.
- Once you’re comfortable with step 1, get your partner or coach to throw the tennis ball towards you overarm, again aiming to get the ball to bounce 1-2 metres in front of you. Throwing the ball overarm increases the speed slightly, meaning you will have to time your shot a lot better if you want to hit the ball for 6.
- Next, you can switch to a cricket ball instead of a tennis ball, and get your coach/partner to throw the ball overarm with a bit more force. Switching to the cricket ball will change how the ball bounces, so you will have to adjust to this change if you want to keep hitting the ball long distances.
- Once you think you’ve perfected step 3, you can try facing a real fast bowler off their full run up. Regardless of where they bowl the ball, do your best to strike it for a boundary. If they bowl a short ball, you can play a forceful hook/pull shot, and if they bowl the ball on a good length you can attempt to hit it powerfully back over their head or over mid-wicket!
These types of practice that I’ve outlined above are incredibly fun. Plus, they can be done in the nets or out in the middle on a real pitch. Just make sure you have a partner and plenty of balls available!
Use Movement To Get Inside The Head Of The Bowler
Some bowlers are great at bowling challenging line and length deliveries that make it hard for us to score. Bowlers like Glenn Mcgrath, Shaun Pollock and Vernon Philander all have reputations as being very accurate fast bowlers that routinely bowl deliveries that will hit the top of off stump. This is one of the hardest deliveries for batsmen to attack as they are not sure whether to come forwards or play on the back foot, and they’re also not sure whether they should be defending instead! Yorkers are another very dangerous delivery that are hard to attack. Guys like Lasith Malinga and Jasprit Bumrah are known for bowling excellent yorkers that are really difficult for batsmen to hit for boundaries.
So, what should you as a batsman do to combat bowling like this and keep your strike rate high? One solution is to shift your position on the crease just before the bowler releases the ball, and get your body into a better position to hit the ball for a boundary. In general, there are 4 movements we can look to make. These are:
- Take a step back away from the bowler towards the stumps
- Walk down the pitch towards the bowler
- Move sideways across the crease by backing away towards the leg side
- Walk across your stumps towards the off side.
Any of these options can be effective, and it’s up to you which one you choose to do. Backing away from the bowler can help you turn full deliveries like yorkers into half volleys, and turn good length deliveries into shorter balls that can be cut away easily. Walking down the pitch can help you to turn yorkers into full tosses and good length balls into half volleys. Walking across to the off side or backing away to the leg side can open up one side of the field for you, which is useful when a fielding captain has either a heavy off side or leg side field in place. Plus, moving your position like this can make a bowler incredibly paranoid, unsettling them and affecting their lines/lengths in the future.
If you’re going to change your position on the crease in one of the ways I outlined above, then there are a couple of things you should remember:
- Don’t move too early – this gives the bowler enough time to see your movement and gives them extra time to adjust the delivery they’re going to bowl.
- Try to make sure that you’re still as the bowler delivers the ball – The aim should be to shift position quickly and then get your feet set so that you’re balanced. Also, try to make sure that your eyes are level. If you’re still moving a lot as the ball is in the air then you will often be too late to play an effective shot!
Use The Pace Of The Fast Bowlers To Your Advantage
It can definitely be scary facing fast bowlers! However, they also offer us a lot of scoring opportunities! Sometimes the slower, medium pace bowlers are a lot harder to hit for boundaries.
With medium pace bowlers, if you want to hit a six square of the wicket then you will probably have to do a lot of the work yourself, by swinging the bat very hard and getting your hands through the ball quickly. However, if you’re facing an extremely fast bowler bowling at an express pace, you can simply use your bat to guide the ball where you want it to go. The pace that has already been applied by the bowler will likely take it to the boundary.
This is where shots like the ramp shot and the uppercut are so useful. If a fast bowler bowls a quick, short ball outside the off stump, you can simply use the uppercut shot that I’m demonstrating in the photo below to guide it over the infield for 4. You don’t even have to try to hit the ball hard to do this! Give it a try for yourself in the nets. You can also use the ramp shot in the same way. Simply place your bat in the path of the ball and angle the face slightly to get the ball past the wicket keeper! The pace applied by the bowler will help to propel the ball to the boundary.
Assess The Field Placings & Learn To Pick The Gaps
If you want to improve your strike rate, it’s important to hit boundaries. And if you want to hit boundaries, it’s important to be able to pick the gaps between the fielders.
If you want to get better at this I’d recommend that you start doing two things:
- Prior to each delivery, make sure you have a good look around the field to see where the opposing captain has placed their fielders. As you do this, think about shots that you should definitely be avoiding, and which ones would get you runs. For example, if there are two fielders behind square on the leg side boundary, you may want to avoid playing the hook shot and hitting the ball in the air. If the fielding captain has left a large gap in the cover region, then playing the cover drive may be a great option!
- In practice, place some cones around you while you are batting. Place some a few metres away from you in the direction of the cover fielding position, place some behind you in the direction of fine leg and place some in the direction of mid-wicket (you can also place them in more areas if you want). Once you have the cones in place, have a bowler send some deliveries down at you and try to hit the ball towards the cones. This type of practice helps you to practice picking certain types of gaps in the field. Move the cones around slightly every now and then, so you have to adjust your shots to hit them!
Practice Against Spin Bowlers Just As Much As Fast Bowlers
When I was younger the main type of bowling that I faced during practice sessions was quick bowling. This was because so many more of my team mates were fast bowlers! It was a lot harder to find good quality spinners to practice against. As a result of this, I was a lot less confident when it came to attacking and scoring runs quickly against spinners during games of cricket. I was a lot less assured in my movements and my ability to hit boundaries.
Spin bowlers are hugely effective in shorter formats of cricket. Primarily, they aim to bowl a tight line and length, and draw the batsman in to making a mistake. You will often see batsmen in limited overs cricket try to play big shots against spin bowlers and either a) misjudge the ball completely and get bowled/stumped or b) mistime their shot and get caught by one of the strategically placed fielders on the boundary! Spin bowlers thrive on the fact that batsmen will be wanting to play big shots against them. All they have to do is get us to mistime or misplace a shot slightly and they know we will be on our way back to the dressing room! This is why it’s so important to practice batting against spin just as much as you practice against fast bowlers. You need to be sure that you have what it takes to score runs quickly when you are up against a quality spin bowler in a game situation.
If there are no spin bowlers in your team or your age group, ask your coaches if you can practice against a spin bowler in a different age group, or alternatively, ask your coaches if they can bowl some spin at you once practice is over. It’s always a good idea to practice against both types of spin too, so if you can find an off-spinner and a leg-spinner, then that will be even more useful!
When practicing your batting against spin, focus on two things:
- Manipulating the ball and picking gaps in the field – this is the easier part, and requires you to get creative with how you use your wrists. When playing limited overs cricket and batting against spin bowlers, there will be a lot of gaps in the field and it is your job to exploit these. I like to try to get at least 1 run from every ball in this situation and maintain a strike rate of at least 100. You may need to learn to play unconventional shots to achieve this, so work on using your wrists to pick gaps in the field, and practice shots like the sweep and the reverse sweep. Using these shots effectively makes it incredibly hard for the opposing captain to set fields against you
- Range hitting – This is the hardest but most important aspect of practicing against spin bowling if you want to be a deadly batsman in limited overs cricket. If you can’t hit the ball over the top of the fielders and hit the ball for boundaries consistently, then the opposing captain is more likely to set tighter fields to you and dry up your flow of runs. To avoid this, dedicate some practice sessions to range hitting. You can start by getting a partner to throw some balls underarm towards you, while you try to hit the ball as hard and as far as you can. Once you get more comfortable striking the ball in this way, ask your partner to throw the ball overarm with a bit more speed. Continuing building it up like this until you actually face a spin bowler in the nets. Once you’re facing a real spinner, set up a challenge between the two of you where you are trying to hit big shots, and they are trying to stop you from doing so! Practice like this really helps improve your batting during game situations. If you want to hit 4’s and 6’s during a match then you have got to do it during practice!
Don’t Just Focus On Boundaries
I think a lot of hard hitting batsmen sometimes forget that there are more ways to score runs than just boundaries! Everyone loves hitting the ball for 4 or 6, but you don’t want to become so dependent on that that you forget to rotate the strike and take singles.
As I explained earlier, the best batsmen in the world are the ones that are capable of scoring runs off the really good balls, as well as being able to accelerate and hit boundaries. Taking a single or running a two will help you maintain a strike rate of 100. Whereas, if it takes you 6 balls to receive a delivery that you are capable of hitting for 4, you will have a strike rate of 80!
Basically, when bowlers are bowling well, 1’s and 2’s might be the best you can do! Don’t let this dishearten you. Take the 1’s and 2’s for now and when the weaker bowlers come on, you can take full advantage!
Improve Your Speed Between The Wickets
This tip will be beneficial for a lot of players. If you can improve your speed between the wickets and turn 5 of the singles in your innings into a 2, or turn some 2’s into 3’s, this could potentially be the difference between your team winning and losing the game! Limited overs matches are regularly won or lost by less than 10 runs, so improving your ability to run can definitely make an impact.
If you want to improve your speed between the wickets, take note of the following things:
- Practice running with full batting gear on. It can feel unnatural at first so practicing running like that can help you get used to the feeling.
- If you feel that there may be a chance of running a 2, always run the first run hard. That means you should be sprinting towards the other end of the wicket on your first run. Once you get there, you can assess whether the 2nd run is acceptable.
- When you reach the other end of the wicket, use your bat to reach over the line of the popping crease. As long as you get your bat over the line, you can get your body in the position I’ve shown below and push off quickly to start your next run.
- Pay attention to the fielders. If you hit the ball slightly to either side of a fielder then you know that it is likely that there may be a run on offer. If you notice that one of the fielders has a particularly weak arm, you may have time to get an extra run as they pick the ball up and throw it in!
Feel free to let me know what you think about these tips in the comments below! They are quite basic, but implementing them will help you to improve your strike rate considerably, and that’s a great thing for all batsmen. At the end of the day, if you want to score faster in games of cricket then you’re going to have to practice it a lot and get used to doing it in the nets. Once you are comfortable doing it against net bowlers, you will know what you are capable of achieving in a match situation. Get to work and let me know how it goes!