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The importance of tailenders

Posted in ECB Coaches Association

How the days have changed from just being a bowler and fielding at fine-leg to mid-off, or in some cases fine-leg to fine-leg.

Having watched cricket in all formats and in particular Test cricket of late, I believe fundamental cricket development and emphasis should be based on developing the skills of lower order batters from an earlier age.

I have seen many good examples of tail-end partnerships resulting in a match winning or match saving contribution. You only have to recall the partnership between Monty Panesar and Jimmy Anderson during the Ashes to give you an understanding of the impact of developing the skills of tail-enders in defending their wickets.

More recent examples have come from the Test between Pakistan and Australia at Lord's which highlighted the importance of producing quality tail-enders.

Pakistan's tail-enders contributed a total of 24 runs in 12.2 overs. This was in complete contrast to the Australian innings which witnessed a more modern display of tail-end batting from Ben Hilfenhaus, Tim Paine and Doug Bollinger, who all recorded their highest Test scores to add a vital 120 runs.

A simple lesson of application, decision making and patience proved to be the keys to success.

How can we develop? As coaches, regardless of our level of cricket, we should be making sure we have a development plan for all our squad players and in particular the tail-enders.

One way of putting this in place is through the setting of realistic match scenarios which can be developed by either using bowling machines or using individual bowlers from your side.

Shane Watson & Danish Kaneria

Shane Watson celebrates another wicket - had Pakistan's tail-enders scored more runs the outcome at Lord's might have been different

This will develop realistic match situations and train the mind to handle pressure at critical moments and more importantly making the right decisions when doing so.

This should be done every other session with specific measures to compare the results. This is a great way to develop death bowlers and identify who is mentally tough enough to handle the pressure.

Often I hear about tail-enders not being able to bat as they have bowled their socks off and often when it comes to their turn to bat nobody is around to bowl.

One suggestion I would encourage is for the top order batters to pair up with tail-enders and work as a unit to develop their skills and decision making. This would utilise your in-house resources, take pressure away from the coach to focus on more collective objectives and also develop a great bond within the team.