Role: Right-hand middle order bat with a cool head for a finish and his own line in paddles and scoops; promising stumper
Stand-out Twenty20 performances: Showed an appetite for the big occasion by smashing 55* off 23 balls to take Somerset to the domestic Twenty20 final in 2010 and repeated the trick last year, making 32 from 16 balls to overcome Hampshire in the semis.
Can you describe your approach to a Twenty20 innings?
It’s a game where you can really showcase your skills. There’s not much pressure as you’re expected to score quickly with big shots and you’ve got a bit of a license to go out with a free spirit sort of mind-set. As you’ve got a free role you can go out and really enjoy it. Obviously there are times when you have to be quite responsible depending on the game, but it allows you to showcase the type of shots you can play.
Which shots do you particularly enjoy showcasing?
If there’s a gap at mid wicket against a spinner I’ll look for the sweep shot and you can use that to manipulate the field. The scoop over the wicketkeeper is something that is a huge part of my game; not only being able to do it, but the fact the bowlers know I can do it stops them bowling yorkers and hopefully they will bowl a length that I can get underneath. I’m trying to score boundaries whether they’re bowling slower balls, bouncers, or even slower ball bouncers. Yorkers are probably the hardest to get away, but with the scoop shot I’m confident I can get it fine enough and past fine leg. I try and premeditate when he’s going to bowl the yorker and you get a good idea of what kind of ball a bowler is looking to bowl with the field that’s set. That involves doing a bit of homework on those bowlers.
What are the key fundamentals in playing your scoop shot?
My version is a bit different to a normal sweep where a guy might just try and paddle it. I’m trying to get it over the keeper, so I get very square to the bowler, facing directly down the wicket, change my grip so my lower hand is further round the bat, and present the full face of the bat. It’s all about trying to get the ball to land on the bat so the direction isn’t changed and it’ll go straight over the keeper. I stay quite low and trust myself to watch the ball.
It sounds like there’s a fair amount of premeditation involved?
In longer forms of the game you react more to what the bowler does but in Twenty20 it’s different. There’s a huge amount of premeditation involved with these sweeps and the scoop over the wicketkeeper, but if the ball’s not quite right you have to adjust.
In terms of more conventional boundary options, what are the key points to remember when you’re trying to hit the ball out of the park?
I think a lot of people get out trying to over-hit the ball; if you’re looking to hit straight down the ground it’s just an extension of the normal drive, but with elevation. The basic principles are exactly the same: get a good strong base, a clean swing and emphasis on watching the ball. Don’t get too caught up thinking about the shot; really watch it and hit through the line. I pick my hands up a lot more when I’m looking to hit boundaries, take a step back and then try to come back into the ball again – almost baseball-like, just to get momentum and force through the ball.
And a strong, stable base is crucial?
Yeah you need to be stable with both feet on the ground. You need that contact to be able to hit strong shots. You watch people like Chris Gayle and he’s in a brilliant position when he’s striking the ball. He doesn’t have one leg in the air; he’s in a very strong, stable position. With the bats nowadays, if you get a clean strike on the ball they’ll generally sail away.
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