The powerplay in a T20 match lasts for the first 6 overs of the innings. What happens during this period has a large say in the outcome of the match. If the fielding side can bowl well, take a few wickets and keep the number of runs that the batting side scores during this period to a minimum, it will put a lot of pressure on the opposition. Conversely, if the top order batsmen in the batting side can get their team off to a flyer in the first 6 overs and score a lot of runs at a fast rate, they can ease the pressure on their middle order to score runs later in the innings when there are more fielders on the boundary.
Keeping batsmen quiet and limiting their scoring options during the powerplay is one of the toughest tasks for bowlers and fielding captains. This is partly because the batsmen are looking to attack a large percentage of deliveries, and also because of the fielding restrictions that are in place during this phase of the innings! In this post, I’ll be giving you several recommendations for field placings that may help you in your quest to take wickets and keep scoring rates down. The field settings that I recommend will be specific to the types of batsmen in the middle, the bowlers that are operating, and the situation of the game! Let’s get started!
In my opinion, the best field setting you can use at the start of the powerplay for a fast bowler is the one shown below. There is a slip fielder in place to take advantage of any early movement that the bowler gets, and the two boundary fielders are behind the batsman, at third man and deep fine leg.
This is quite an attacking field and will usually be used while the bowlers are on top and the batters are getting comfortable with the pace and bounce of the pitch. When batsmen are in this phase of their innings, it’s likely that they will get a few inside/outside edges. Therefore, the fielders at deep fine leg and third man are in place to stop these edges going for boundaries.
The rest of the fielders are arranged in the 30-yard circle (the light green circle on the diagram) and will be used to cut off the main scoring areas for each batsman. Because there will often be a bit of movement through the air and off the pitch for the bowler early in the innings, it may be best for some of these fielders to be square/behind square of the wicket in case the bowler forces the batsman into some false shots/edges. If the batsman gets in to a good rhythm from the beginning and manages to time their shots well, they will simply have to find the gap between the fielders in order to get a boundary.
Lastly, you should note that the diagram above (as well as all the rest of the diagrams in this post) are drawn as if a right handed batter is on strike. If you want to know what the field placings look like for left handed batters, simply flip the off side and the leg side and you’ll have your answer!
In the sections below I’ll take you through some different scenarios that can present themselves during the powerplay and look at some different fields you could set during these moments! First though, we should probably cover some of the fielding restrictions that are in place during the powerplay in T20 matches so you know exactly what the fielding captains have to deal with!
What Are The Fielding Restrictions In The Powerplay In T20 Cricket?
During the powerplay there are several restrictions that the fielding side are under. They are as follows:
- During the powerplay (overs 1 – 6) there are only 2 fielders allowed to stand outside the 30-yard circle. These two fielders are usually placed on the boundary
- A maximum of 5 fielders are allowed to be placed on the leg side of the field.
- A maximum of 2 fielders can be placed behind square on the leg side of the field
If you’d like a more in-depth explanation of these rules, including what the penalties are for breaking them, click here to read the detailed post I put together on that topic!
Scenario 1: The Ball Is Swinging Excessively
When the ball is moving around a lot more than usual at the start of a T20 innings, the fielding side need to do their best to take early wickets. The best way to do this is by having the bowler bowl a tight line outside the off stump and having fielders in the slips/behind the wicket ready to take a catch. Hopefully in this scenario a batsman will play an aggressive shot, misread the amount of movement on the ball and edge it to a fielder behind the stumps or the keeper. The diagram below shows a field you may consider using in this scenario…
You can see in the diagram that two slip fielders are in place to take advantage of any outside edges that the batter gets on the ball. Deep fine leg is in place to cover any inside edges or bad deliveries by the bowler that the batsman can tuck off their pads. Deep backward point is in place to cover any thicker edges or strong shots that the batter plays through this area. The rest of the fielders are arranged in the 30-yard circle. If the bowler is bowling a particularly disciplined line outside the off stump and making it hard for the batter to hit the ball into the leg side, the captain could move the fielder at square leg into the off side instead to protect that area further.
Scenario 2: The Ball Doesn’t Swing
When the ball isn’t swinging, it’s much harder for the bowlers and the fielding team to get on top of the batsmen at the start of the innings. When the batter picks up the initial line and length of the ball, they can be sure that the ball will continue along that trajectory until it reaches them. Therefore, the batsman can play aggressive shots confidently, knowing that the ball is probably not going to move late and beat the bat.
In situations like this the fielding team needs to adopt a more defensive approach than the one that was shown in scenario 1. When the ball isn’t swinging the bowlers will not find the edge of the bat as regularly, and as a result having fielders in the slip cordon is not nearly as beneficial. Instead, these fielders should be used to cut off the main scoring areas of the batters. Below is a field I would consider using if the ball wasn’t swinging at all during the powerplay!
This is a pretty basic field, with 7 fielders neatly arranged in the 30-yard circle trying to cut off as many scoring options as possible. When trying to defend in the powerplay, the most important field placements are probably the two boundary fielders – and in this example I’ve placed one at deep cover and one at deep fine leg. However, this could change depending on the strengths of the bowler and the batter that is on strike. For example, if the batsman on strike does not play shots behind the wicket like the ramp shot, the deep fine leg fielder could be moved into the 30-yard circle and another fielder could be moved out. This is an in-game decision that will need to be made by the captain and the bowler.
Scenario 3: Batsman is Very Strong Through The Off Side
Some opening batsmen love to stay on the leg side of the ball and hit powerfully through the off side. They know that if they can pierce the ring of fielders on the off side, they are likely to score a boundary. Two opening batsmen that are experts at this are Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy. Bairstow will often take a leg stump guard in T20 cricket, which means more of the deliveries he receives will be on the off side of his body.
In this situation, fast bowlers should be aiming to bowl a tight off stump line. If the batsman is really backing away to the leg side, they could even adjust their line slightly more and bowl a middle & off stump line instead. This makes it slightly more difficult for the batter to free their arms and strike the ball through the off side. In combination with this, the field should be set to protect the main scoring areas on the off side as much as possible.
By bowling this tight off stump/middle & off stump line and protecting the off side, the bowler will be forcing the batter to re-think their approach. Plus, if the batter tries to manipulate the ball into the off side and misses, there is a high likelihood that the bowler will hit the stumps. Here’s a field I would think about setting if the batter was strong through the off side…
To stifle a batter who is strong through the off side, a bowler needs to avoid bowling wide deliveries outside off stump to them. This leads to the bowler bowling a lot straighter, so a balanced field is required to protect the necessary areas.
It is quite possible that when faced with this field, the batter retreats towards the leg side and creates their own width, or simply hits the ball over the top of the off side field. If the batter is doing this or has a history of doing this, the square leg fielder could be moved into the ring on the off side to strengthen that area. Additionally, the fielder at third man could be brought inside the 30-yard circle, and the square leg fielder could be used as a boundary rider on the off side. Again, this is a judgement the captain and the bowler must make during the match.
Scenario 4: Batsman is Very Strong Through The Leg Side
There are many batsmen that you’ll come up against who much prefer hitting the ball powerfully through the leg side rather than the off side. Against these types of players, it’s probably not a good idea to bowl at their body and try to protect the leg side. As we discussed earlier, you’re only allowed a maximum of 5 fielders on the leg side in T20 cricket, and this isn’t really enough to sufficiently protect that side of the field! A good player will always be able to pick the gap or go over the top on the leg side. Plus, by bowling on the line of the batsman’s body, you put yourself at a higher risk of bowling wides.
The best option against players who are strong through the leg side is to bowl wide of the off stump on a 5th/6th stump line and not feed their strength. By using this plan, the only real way that the batsman will be able to hit the ball through the leg side is if they change their position on the crease or the bowler bowls a ball that isn’t outside the off stump! By combining this bowling method with a strong off side field like the one below, you should stand a better chance of keeping these players quiet for longer.
If the bowler can bowl a reliable line and length outside the off stump, then this would be a decent field to use against batters that are remarkably strong through the leg side. The two boundary riders are positioned at deep extra cover and third man, with three fielders inside the 30-yard circle between cover and backward point in order to cut off the shots that the batter will inevitably play in those areas as a result of the type of bowling they’re receiving.
If the batter begins walking across to the off side in order to hit towards the leg side, then the bowler should consider mixing up their pace so that there is a higher chance of the batter mistiming their shots. Additionally, it may be worth moving one or two extra fielders on to the leg side and abandoning the wide line altogether.
Scenario 5: Spin Bowler Spinning The Ball Away From The Batsman
It is quite rare that spin bowlers will bowl in the during the powerplay, but it is an approach that many teams like to try – especially when they have an elite spinner in their team. Many batters in particular struggle against the ball that spins away from their body, because it is a lot harder to hit these kinds of deliveries into the leg side – where the majority of batters like to hit their boundaries!
When these kinds of bowlers are bowling in the powerplay, you usually see them try to bowl a tight, off stump line or just outside, at a pretty quick pace. This means that once the ball spins it should be comfortably outside the off stump and hard to hit into the leg side. They should also be aiming to bowl the ball on a good length, bringing the batter forwards to the ball. There is very little margin for error for a spin bowler during this phase of the game, so achieving good line and length is critical! Here is a field that may help the spin bowler build some pressure…
Given that the majority of the deliveries this type of bowler bowls will be on the off side of the batter, it makes sense to position a majority of our fielders on the off side too. The two boundary fielders are in place at deep point and deep extra cover, but these can easily be changed to a deep backward point or a third man if the batter is particularly skilled at reverse sweeping over the top of the infield. There are only three fielders in place on the leg side, so the bowler will have to avoid bowling onto the batter’s pads as much as possible. If they can’t reliably bowl outside off stump, or the batter regularly moves across their crease to hit into the leg side, it may be time to abandon this field and pursue a different one.
Scenario 6: Spin Bowler Spinning The Ball Into The Batsman
For spin bowlers who are spinning the ball in towards the batter who is on strike, bowling in the powerplay in a T20 match is even harder. As I said in the previous section, it is much easier for batters to play aggressive leg side shots against deliveries that are spinning in towards their body, because they are almost ‘helping the ball on its way’ towards the leg side. In the powerplay, this type of spinner will need to bowl a perfect line and length and mix up their speeds and trajectories effectively if they want to avoid being hit for multiple boundaries.
Ideally, this type of spin bowler will bowl the ball on a 4th or a 5th stump line (just outside the off stump), which will allow the ball to turn back in toward the off stump. Once again, the ball should be bowled on a good length, bringing the batter forwards. If you’d like to see a field that I recommend using for this type of bowler in the powerplay, have a look below!
Because the deliveries bowled by this type of bowler are spinning towards the batter (and towards the leg side), it makes sense to place the majority of fielders on that side of the pitch. Deep fine leg is in place for the sweep shot – which a lot of batters like to play. We also have a deep mid-wicket in place as this is a favoured hitting zone of so many batters. The rest of the fielders are arranged in the 30-yard circle. I’ve left a gap square of the wicket on the off side (between extra cover and backward point) to try and lure the batter into playing the cut shot. This shot is very dangerous to play against a ball that is spinning in towards you.
The powerplay is a hugely consequential part of a T20 match, so for captains and bowlers it’s incredibly important to have some field settings in mind before you get into that phase of the game. No captain or bowler wants to be heading in to the powerplay with no clue as to how they’re going to try to defend the ground or take wickets! This post was a small glimpse into the sort of thinking that goes into selecting a field that is appropriate for the situation as well as the types of batters and bowlers that are operating!
If you yourself are a captain or a bowler and want a much more in depth explanation of what kinds of fields to set in every type of cricket, for every type of bowler and in a huge variety of match situations, then I’m currently in the process of putting together a hugely detailed Ebook that will walk you through the entire process. If you’re interested, keep an eye on the site until it releases!