Good length balls are some of the most testing deliveries that us batsmen have to face. They test our decision making, our patience, our judgement of line and length and our technique as a whole! There’s many different ways we can choose to deal with a good length ball, and all batsmen will do it differently. But regardless of the type of batsman that you are, it is important that you have a plan of how you are going to play them before you go out to bat. In this post I’m going to share several of my favourite tips for batting against good length balls with you! Following these tips and adding them to your game will make you a much more complete batsman, and should give you the tools you need to attack and defend against good length deliveries more consistently.
If you want to learn how to play the good length ball a bit better, there are a number of things you should try to do:
- Pre-Meditate Some Of Your Shots
- Stand Outside Of Your Crease
- Commit To Playing On The Front Or Back Foot
- Advance Down The Pitch
- Learn To Judge The Line Of The Ball Early
- Use The Game Situation To Determine Whether You Should Go Hard Or Softly At The Ball
- Build A Wall With Your Defence
I’ll now take you through each of these in more detail…but first…
What Is A Good Length Delivery?
I thought I better give a quick definition that explains what a good length delivery is, as there may be some of you who aren’t familiar with the term!
A good length delivery is a ball that pitches 6-7 metres away from the batsman’s stumps. The ball doesn’t have to be on a specific line, but ideally the bowler will look to bowl the ball towards the off stump. Usually when a ball pitches in the good length zone it will go on to strike the top of the stumps. This makes it a very challenging length as the batsman could be left confused as to whether they should play on the front or back foot!
Obviously, playing on harder and bouncier pitches could lead to good length deliveries consistently bouncing over the top of the stumps, but as a general rule, we say that the ball will hit the top of the stumps. If you look at the diagram below you’ll be able to see the good length zone highlighted yellow!
Pre-Meditate Some Of Your Shots
If a bowler is hitting a good length consistently, then a pre-meditated shot is probably a safe option for you to use as a batsman!
Pre-meditated means that the batsman will decide what shot they are going to play before the bowler has bowled their delivery. This is incredibly effective against very accurate bowlers who do not vary their length a lot.
If you think there’s a good chance that the next ball is going to be on a good length then you should probably consider one of the following approaches:
- Clear Your Front Leg & Look To Strike The Ball Hard – I’m guessing you’ll all have tried this at some point in your cricket career, but it’s still an amazingly simple method that allows you to put pressure on the bowler when executed properly! To do this, you should move your front leg slightly to the leg side just before the bowler releases the ball. This movement of the front leg gives you the room that you need to free your arms and hit the ball hard through the off-side or leg-side. It also allows you to hit the ball in the air or along the ground. To decide this, you should take a good look at the gaps in the field before the bowler runs in and try to target the open space. Hopefully this technique will help you to disrupt the rhythm of the bowler! When you do this, don’t move your front leg too far towards the leg-side. This could cause you to become unbalanced, making it harder for you to adjust and play a different shot if the ball you receive is not on a good length! The aim is to get in to a position from which you can adjust your shot quickly if the ball is not where you thought it was going to be! If you’re interested in this topic, and you’d like some more tips on how you can learn to hit the ball further, then click here to read my post that will take you through it in a lot more detail!
- Play The Ramp Shot – The ramp shot is fantastic for disturbing the length of a bowler, and it’s perfect for using against good length deliveries. To play the ramp shot you should move your feet just before the bowler releases the ball and get yourself into more of a ‘front-on’ position, with your chest facing directly towards the bowler. You should then crouch down slightly, getting closer to the ground so that you can get your bat underneath the ball. As you crouch down, extend the bat out in front of you with the bat face pointing upwards. Your aim now is to allow the ball to glance off the face of the bat, sending it over the wicketkeeper’s head. You can also flick your wrists as you make contact with the ball if you want it to travel further, but this isn’t 100% necessary.
- Move Across To The Off–Side Or Leg-Side – By choosing to back away towards the leg side you can create extra room for yourself to free your arms and hit powerfully through the off-side. This is an excellent option if the bowler is bowling a tight off stump line on a good length. The movement doesn’t have to be too large, it is just usually one pace backwards! And again, the movement should occur just before the bowler releases the ball, giving them very a little amount of time to react to your new position on the crease. The same is true for a move across to the off-side. This kind of movement makes it easier for you to hit the ball through the leg side!
Stand Outside Your Crease
I like this tip a lot because it’s so simple! It doesn’t really require you to do anything drastic and it can change things significantly! This tactic is commonly used by professional batsmen against slightly slower bowlers who bowl a consistent line and length.
Basically, by choosing to stand outside your crease you are automatically positioning yourself a little closer to where the ball pitches. Therefore, this adjustment in your batting position automatically transforms a good length delivery into a slightly fuller length delivery. This may mean that the delivery will now become much easier to drive and hit down the ground, as we can get our front foot a lot closer to the pitch of the ball! Also, standing further away from your own stumps in this way means it is harder for the umpire to give you out LBW!
However, if you choose to use this method there are a couple of things you will have to watch out for! Many fielding teams will try to stop batsmen standing outside of their crease by bringing the wicketkeeper up to the stumps. If the fast bowler is not too quick, and the wicketkeeper is skilled enough, then the fielding side may decide this is a good response to you standing outside the crease. This means that if you miss the ball and the keeper collects it, you can now be stumped very easily! It is for this reason that I would suggest moving your back foot back behind the line of the crease if you see the wicketkeeper move up towards the stumps.
Also, even if the wicketkeeper does not come up to the stumps, be aware that other fielders can run you out after you have hit the ball. For example, let’s say you hit a shot straight to the fielder at square leg and don’t choose to run. That fielder can now run you out unless you move backwards and get a part of your body or your bat behind the line of the crease. Be aware of these things if this is something you want to do!
Commit To Playing On The Front Or Back Foot
Positive foot movement is key to batting. No batsman wants to be caught in two minds while they are playing shots, wondering whether the shot they have chosen is the correct one! This is definitely true when facing good length deliveries. These are deliveries that are designed to put doubt in the mind of the batsman, to make you unsure whether you should be striding down the pitch to play the ball on the front foot or moving backwards and playing off the back foot.
Often when we doubt ourselves in this way, it leads to us not moving our feet much at all. Instead of going forwards or playing back, we just sort of…stay in the middle. This is the worst position you can get yourself in to! It leads to us doing all sorts of things that are technically wrong, most notably we will often fail to get our head over the line of the ball and this leads to us lunging at the ball with our hands! This is especially true when the line of the good length delivery is outside the off stump!
So this tip focuses partly on your mentality while batting, and partly on your technique. In my opinion, you should be looking to get forward to all of the good length deliveries that you face. Inject a bit of intent into your game and move your front foot towards the pitch of the ball. There isn’t really any need to be playing off the back foot against these deliveries unless you’re playing on a particularly bouncy pitch or if you’re not that tall.
Advance Down The Pitch
This is another kind of pre-meditated movement, but this tip involves you advancing a few steps down the pitch towards the bowler just before they release the ball. This is probably my favourite tip because it can benefit you in so many ways!
Firstly, it’s massively off-putting to some bowlers! When they see a batsman advancing down the pitch towards them sometimes they will panic and as a result the delivery they end up bowling may be off target. Secondly, if the bowler does bowl a good length delivery, we have now moved ourselves a lot closer to the pitch of the ball! This makes it a lot easier for us to hit the ball straight, either aerially or on the ground! Thirdly, you only have to do this once for it to have a lasting effect on the bowler. A movement like this will stay in the back of the bowler’s mind, and they will always be aware of the fact that you could choose to do it again! This could distract them from the deliveries they are trying to bowl. Lastly, when you execute this properly, it looks really good, and makes you feel great as a batsman!
If you want to start doing this yourself, I would recommend the following things:
- Begin your movement a couple of seconds before the bowler releases the ball. Timing is the most important thing when moving down the wicket in this way!
- When you are advancing, go straight towards the bowler. This helps to cover your stumps.
- As you are moving, make sure your head and your eyes are level at all times. This is very important if you want to be able to watch the ball properly and play a good shot once the ball has been delivered.
- Only take 2 or 3 steps down the pitch. I find that anything more than this usually takes too long! 3 steps down the wicket is the maximum I would consider taking.
- Lastly, make sure you practice this extensively in the nets or at home before you try it in a game! This is the only way you’ll get used to the timing of the movement and hitting the ball afterwards. If you’re intimidated by trying this against quick bowlers in the nets, get someone to give you throw downs or try it against some of the slower bowlers to build up your confidence!
Learn To Judge The Line Of The Ball Early
If you want to be an elite batsman you have to know when to leave the ball. You don’t have to play at every single delivery! Now obviously if you’re on a team batting second chasing a huge total, you may not want to leave too many deliveries, but when playing longer forms of the game it is a great option for dealing with tricky balls outside your off stump.
When experts talk about leaving the ball they generally talk about two things: Leaving the ball based on its line, and leaving the ball based on its length. Good length deliveries are very hard to leave based on their length alone. A good length delivery that is on the line of the stumps is very likely to hit them, so we have to play a shot to these balls. However, leaving a good length delivery based on its line is an excellent option for dealing with them! Anything that is outside the off stump we can leave alone with no threat to our body or our wicket.
Knowing when to leave the ball comes through experience. So, practice is key! The more deliveries you face from fast bowlers in the nets and in game situations, the better you will become at doing this. Leaving the ball early in your innings and watching it closely as it goes past you is a great way to get yourself in, helping you to get used to the pace of the bowler and the pitch.
If you do choose to leave the ball, just remember to get your hands well out of the way of it. You don’t want to accidentally allow the ball to flick off your glove or the bottom of your bat and pop up a catch to a fielder! This is one of the worst ways to be dismissed trust me!
Use The Game Situation To Determine Whether You Should Go Hard Or Softly At The Ball
Certain situations in cricket require batsmen to play in different ways. Therefore, sometimes you may want to assess the situation of the game before you decide what your approach is going to be towards good length deliveries.
Playing The Ball Softly
For example, if you’ve just started your innings and there is a lot of time left to bat, you may not want to attack the ball as hard as you would if you’d been at the crease for 5 overs. Batsmen often need to play themselves in and get used to the pitch and the speed of the deliveries before deciding to attack! When you’re in this period of your innings, I’d recommend playing the ball with ‘softer hands’. This means that you don’t push the bat out towards the ball as forcefully! Playing in this way will mean that if you edge the ball, or get a bad contact, it will be much less likely to carry to a fielder and give them the chance at a catch!
Another reason you may choose to play with softer hands is if the ball is swinging around a lot. The swinging ball can be incredibly dangerous at the start of an innings and this may mean you choose to play with a bit less aggression from the start of your innings. Once you have seen a few deliveries and know how much swing the bowlers are getting then you can begin to launch your attack!
Going At The Ball Hard
Obviously, there are some situations when you can’t afford to play defensively! If you are new to the crease but there are only a couple of overs left, and your team still needs another 20 runs to win, then you will need to start attacking from your first ball. If you do have to play aggressively to good length balls, then make sure you ‘flash hard’ at the delivery. Flash hard is a phrase in cricket which basically means that when you’re trying to be aggressive, make sure you throw all your power behind the ball. This means that if you do edge the ball or get a bad contact, there is a good chance that the ball will go over the fielder or past the fielder very quickly!
Some bowlers can routinely hit a good length, and will test you by bowling the ball there over and over again. Batsmen in the past regularly targeted great length bowlers like McGrath and Pollock by being ultra-aggressive against them in the hope that this would disrupt their rhythm. This is something that you can do too! Playing with intent and throwing your hands at the ball when the bowlers have settled into a comfortable length can turn things in your favour.
Build A Wall With Your Defence
When batting there are always times when it is better to defend than to attack, and that is why you need to have a solid defensive game against deliveries like this.
As I’ve already mentioned, I would always recommend playing good length deliveries on the front foot, therefore it’s necessary for you to practice your forward defensive shot. To make sure you’re playing this shot in the correct way, try to follow these steps:
- Take a step forwards with your front foot towards the pitch of the ball. The stride should be a comfortable length, not too big that it puts you off balance. Ensure that your front leg is slightly bent at the knee, and try to get your head over your knee. Head position is vital for batsmen.
- Bring the bat through straight and present the face of the bat to the ball. Angle the face of the bat slightly downwards towards the ground so that the ball does not pop up in the air.
- Try to keep your bat alongside your front pad, with not much of a gap in between them. Leaving a gap between them can lead to the ball going through that gap and hitting the stumps.
- When defending, play with soft hands. Don’t lunge at the ball. Let the ball hit your bat rather than using the bat to hit the ball. As I mentioned previously, playing in this way means that if you edge the ball it will be much less likely to carry to a fielder.
I hope you guys enjoyed this post, and I hope it’ll help you to cause bowlers a few more problems. If there are any other Cricket topics you’d like me to cover in depth like this, leave a comment below and I’ll try to get to it in the future!
Lastly, if you enjoyed this post, then you’ll definitely enjoy reading my essential batting tips post too! Click here to check it out. In there I’ve included all of the information I think is vital to becoming a great batsman at senior level!