Ben Foakes, on debut, batting at number 7 for England against Sri Lanka raises his bat for his Maiden Test match century. What makes this even more remarkable is the fact he walked in at 103 for 5. 202 balls later he is dismissed as last man out for a “match winning” 107, the score, 342 all out. Let’s do the math, the bottom order for England scored 205 runs, and James Anderson only faced 4 balls, remaining unbeaten. Talk about a wagging of the tail! This however is by no means a coincidence. For this England team, it has become a regular occurrence, an extremely valuable one.
Prior to this current match, In Tests since 2016 at home, England’s batsman 7-11 have averaged 28 runs each, scoring 3359 runs off 5503 balls. Included in this is 18 individual fifties and 4 centuries. Maybe what may even be a more worthwhile statistic is 36 scores of over 30. To put this into perspective, the next closest team to them is India with 2088 runs. Despite playing fewer games New Zealand’s record is the only one to rival these stats in terms of average. So how does this compare to their bottom order contribution away from home?
Very similar reading, ahead of the pack in terms of run scored, fifties and hundreds. South Africa’s bottom order seems to be firing in the opponent’s conditions with the leading average of 22,8 per batsman and those runs coming at the quickest strike rate. So what is the secret to maximising runs from the lower order? Is it the personnel or is it pride?
Not surprisingly, an Englishman sits at the top of both run scoring charts, home and away. Moeen Ali averages a handy 45 and a contribution of just short of 1000 runs in the UK within this time frame. Away from home the king of the castle is Jonny Bairstow ahead of the pack with a whopping average a decimal short of 50 with 2 hundreds to boot. This however is not an individual effort, it is collective of batsman who are all pulling their weight. Woakes, Buttler, Broad and recently Curran and Rashid are all very capable with bat in hand. They have complimentary styles and a synergy which makes for partnerships that not only score runs and bundles of them, but also occupy the crease, further frustrating opposition bowlers (and batsman).
It seems the often neglected “rats and mice” are becoming the important cogs of the team in the modern era and this is extending from test cricket into the white ball formats with teams opting for high quality primary skills and an above average secondary skill to add value especially in regards to lower order runs. As players we need to have awareness of this fact and schedule adequate time for the development of these skills. As coaches, we need to put systems in place which account for the time, expertise and effort for these players to contribute with the bat. This may mean some extra time in the nets but when your number 8 digs you out a trouble or your number 11 strikes the winning runs. It will all be worth it!
Coach Ed powered by Gary Kirsten Cricket has a dedicated module to batting and included in this content are specific topics related to developing lower order batsman along with strategies, game plans and drills to improve your team. Navigate to https://garykirsten.com/coach-education/ for more information.