Kent captain and classical bat Sam Northeast has had a prolific season at No.3 in T20 cricket. Here he offers his insights on the art of batting in the shortest form.
From a mental point of view, fear of failure has to go out of the window – you have to back yourself.
You never want to get behind the rate. I’d rather get 30 or 40 very quickly rather than ‘get myself in’ in the traditional way, be two off six and suddenly be under pressure to score quickly. If you get off to a flier, then everything becomes a lot easier and you can afford a few dot balls if you have to.
If it’s in my area then absolutely I’m looking to hit a four or six. That’s the intent. If it’s not there, then it’s a single, but if it’s there to hit, it’s going, and then the bowler’s on the back foot straight away. I try to do that at the beginning of overs as well – get a boundary early on in the over and you’re ahead.
DISRUPTING THE BOWLER
If you look at where opening bowlers bowl in T20 cricket, it’s almost always back of a length because that’s quite hard for players to score off. My response has been either to go back and try to cut or pull off that length, or to go at it on the front foot – to make it a good length ball for me. You’ll see Brendon McCullum run at the bowler, to take him out of his comfort zone and try and take them off their length.
MANIPULATING THE FIELD
Sometimes knocking the bowlers off their plan can bring a change of field – maybe they’ll bring up third-man or fine-leg and put someone back straight. That way you’ve got the potential for a sweep or a lap. Otherwise they might bring the keeper up, but when that happens you know you’re going to get it in your arc more often than not (because they won’t bowl much short with the keeper up to the stumps).
Practising all the new shots (laps, sweeps etc) is crucial because it allows you to have those options. Options are so key: if someone’s bowling good yorkers, what’s your game-plan? Can you sweep, reverse-paddle? It’s an absolute nightmare as a captain when someone comes in with all the options all the way round the pitch.
ADAPT TO CONDITIONS
It’s a massive point of discussion in our changing room – adapting to the wicket and varying your striking zones according to the pitch. The slower the pitch the harder it can be to hit straight, so you might have to play a few more sweeps and score a bit squarer on a slow pitch. You haveto pace your innings a bit differently. If there’s a bit more pace and you can really trust the bounce then you can go for your shots a bit more. But it all comes back to having the options – practising the different shots you might need and then picking the right options on the right day.
If you’re practising boundary-hitting, really try to get your hands as high up as possible in your backlift, to maximise your swing.