Another unusually warm day - must have been around 19 degrees centigrade again - blue sky and sunny - very commendable. So another practice session was on the cards. As with yesterday I thought I'd warm up first (off the pitch as such) just outside my house. I went into the garage and got the stumps and as I stood there in the garage I noticed a piece of hardboard about 4' long and 3' wide. Looking at it I thought if I was to cut the board into a strip 4' long and 1' wide I could use it as the target onto which I must pitch the ball. So if I placed this in line with my stumps Diagram A this would serve as good practice for my line and length. So I set it up and gave it a go.
The idea is the piece of board is positioned 17 yards from where I bowl from and if I can pitch the ball onto the board it's the equivalent of pitching the ball 4-5 yards short of the stumps e.g. a length that is drawing the batsman out of his crease.
If I can practice this and land the ball consistently on the board it's also an accurate line that if left would go on to hit the stumps or the pads (LBW). Normally the stumps are another 4 yards beyond where the board is, but it's just nice to have the stumps there and see the ball hitting the stumps when you get it right! I gave this a go and did quite well - pitching the ball on the plank quite frequently and knocking down the stumps which is very satifying.
There's a couple of other pictures here that show you where I practice. Diagram B Is directly outside my house and the stumps when they're here are suspended from a screw in the wall so that they don't fall down but make a satisfying clatter when you hit them. If you look closely the board is just in front of the stumps and it's the same thing - I bowl the ball 17 yards pitching onto the plank (I actually have to bowl over the wall to left next to the B because the path curves round a corner just behind where the picture's been taken). This practice area is good because if I bowl wide to leg the ball flies off down the pathway which is most annoying, so it kind of forces you to get it right.
Looking in the other direction is the other area I practice diagram C. So as you can see I'm resourceful and completely obsessed with being good at this and just practicing just about anywhere where there's a bit of open space that's 25 yards or so long!
I don't know what the neighbours think, but it helps that I've got two boys who are 6 and 9 and they get out there with me every now and then and practice, but the majority of the time it's just me - they probably think I need psychiatric help!
Anyway back to today. After throwing a few balls in the places you can see here I then had some lunch and then went over to the local football pitch (The one that I rolled and mowed all winter and spring) and set up my stumps, but this time took the plank and placed in the 4-5 yrd zone in front of the stumps. I then bowled 120 balls, all top spinners and wrong Uns trying to pitch the ball onto the plank e.g. in line with the stumps and at that awkward length. I did so with relative success again. Of the 120 balls 30% landed on the plank and went onto hit the stumps. 23% were wides and 40% were balls that only just missed the plank.
Because of the plank the success of my bowling is now being measured in a different way. In future I'll be using the plank and the catergories to be recorded will be
1. Good Balls; This will be any ball that hits the plank irrespective of whether it goes on to hit the stumps or not.
2. Wides; This will be any ball that lands more than a foot wide of the plank
3. Indifferent; These will be balls that don't hit the plank and are slightly wide, long or short.
Ideally all the balls will fall into the Good Balls catergory as these will be the ones that are pitched that line and length that will cause the batsman concern. I'm looking primarily to increase the good balls and decrease the wides. Todays practice saw another improvement on yesterday.
Wides Sat - 23%; Today 21%
Wickets Sat - 14 Today 17
Indifferent Sat - 47% Today 40%
So that all looks very promising. What I will do if I get better is make the plank narrower. Currently it's 12" wides so there's a 1.5" extra either side of the stumps (9") but if this all works out well I'll rreduce the plank to 9" wide. Hopefully by the summer I'll be able to consistently pitch the ball onto the plank 66% of the time?