It's common in cricket journalism to say that an inexperienced bowling attack cannot maintain pressure. Is this double-speak for "bad bowling", or is there something more to the idea that experience improves your ability to tie batsmen down in the middle overs of a limited overs?
Personally, I think experience has a huge influence, but it is not obvious at first glance.
The key to the power of experience in bowling is linked to a skill that batsmen are desperate to develop: picking line and length.
Picking line and length: Not just for batsmen
One of the most important differences between elite batsmen and lesser players is their ability to pick line and length. It's a topic that we have discussed often on PitchVision Academy, and have even sought out the advice of one of the best shot selectors of all time, Michael Bevan.
With much practice, the batter learns to subconsciously read the signals from the bowler and respond to the bowler, rather than wait to pick up the ball from the hand.
But experienced bowlers also have a version of this ability.
If you talk to a bowler who has played from many years, he will confidently speak about a 6th sense: The ability to know what a batsman is about to do based on some kind of a hunch. He just "feels" something is about to happen.
Except, it's not really a hunch at all. It's the result of years of experience of bowling to batsmen and learning how they react in any given situation.
Sure, there are variations of reaction, like there are variations in bowling cues and clues, but the more you bowl, the better you get at reading the reaction before it even happens.
Use experience to maintain the stranglehold
The experienced bowler senses this, knows what to bowl next and how to change the field accordingly: The wild swing to leg countered by 5th stump away swinger, the sweep countered by a fuller, quicker ball that slides straight on, or the batsman with fast footwork set up for a leg side stumping by bowling wide down the leg side.
These tactics are all logical and simple and a bowler of any experience can come up with the idea.
The difference is that the experienced bowler knows exactly when to bowl the right ball based on the batsman's reactions.
When you are skilful at this, you are much more able to tie down good batsmen in limited over cricket based on your hunches.
Sometimes, simple is effective too
However, experience is just one factor. The better the player you are bowling at, the more you need experience to counter his skills.
However, sometimes you will be in a situation where you don't need to be clever at all. You can bowl an over at the top of off stump and walk away with a maiden no matter who is at the other end.
You can bowl an over of yorkers and go for 5 runs or less at the death.
So there is no need to try and get too cute with experience. Simply try to bowl well, work on your accuracy with deliberate practice and develop a useful variation. This will see you well.
But also bowl a lot in matches, and mindfully try to learn how batsmen handle the pressure you build. As you move up in experience - you get the "aha" moments of your career - you will find that your ability to tie batsmen down improves.
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