Is there any better sight in cricket than watching a ball come cleanly off the bat, soar through the sky and clear the boundary rope for a stunning six runs? It’s a moment in a game that stops players and spectators in their tracks and will give the batsmen who has dispatched the bowler for a maximum, the upper hand in their tussle at the crease.
In this day and age of big hitting and big scoring, it is the sixes that spectators pay their money to see, and that often win games. The better players in the world have moved cricket on so much with their style of aggressive batting, that sending the ball for six has become something that all batsmen should have in their armoury to be that stand out player, what ever level they are playing at. Some players, like Chris Gayle, Jos Buttler, and Ben Stokes, make hitting a six look effortless, but it is a technique that is far harder to get right than many of us watching might think.
Technique and timing will help you hit big
To hit sixes, being powerful does help, but it is the application of some basic cricketing techniques that is key to hitting big boundaries. Having a stable batting stance, keeping your eyes on the ball, moving accurately in the crease, and timing your connection with the ball is what will make you a batsman to be feared, especially in tight games.
How many matches have you been involved in when the run-rate has started creeping up and you need someone you can rely on to start hitting big to keep you in the game? Well, we’re going to cover some tips so that with practice, you can try to become that hero batsmen every team is looking for.
Planning early and preparing your stance
Sometimes we can find ourselves in a position during a game when only a six will do, or where we have the opportunity to capitalise on a poor delivery to punish the bowler with a maximum. In either scenario, having a balanced stance is crucial to give you the best opportunity for clearing the boundary.
Adopting a wide legged stance will give you the room to adjust your position to adapt to any delivery that comes your way. Place your feet shoulder width apart and try moving them around slightly, shifting your weight about until you find a position that you feel comfortable with and that is firm and balanced.
Breathing is important for concentration
Once you’re in position, think about your breathing to keep calm. Steady breathing will help you to focus not only on the delivery that is coming your way, but to ignore everything else that is happening around you. By focusing on your breathing and maintaining a calm state of mind, you can block out any sledging or comments coming from the wicket keeper and nearby fielders. Rather than fast and shallow breaths, breathe deeply and slowly from your abdomen, repeating a mantra if that helps you to focus.
Keep your eye on the ball and head in line with it
Keeping your eye on the ball might sound obvious, but we mean right from the moment the bowler begins his run up, until the ball is making contact with your bat. And of course, watch where it goes when you’ve hit it!
Watching the ball out of the bowler’s hand on to the bat might sound impossible, especially if you’re facing a particularly fast bowler, but with practice, it can be achieved. One trick some of the best batsmen in the world do is when they see the ball leave the bowler’s hand, they quickly move their eyes to where they think it will pitch to give themselves a split-second advantage to react to the ball better. This is obviously easier said than done and is not recommended until you feel you are an accomplished batsman.
You also need to keep your head in line with the ball as it comes to you. This will help you to keep your eyes on it and better judge the speed of the delivery and whether there might be any swing or spin. When facing a fast delivery and attempting a six, one of the most common reasons for being caught behind by the slips is misjudging the line of the ball and playing a miscalculated shot – something we want to avoid. The same is true when facing spin and being caught behind by the wicket keeper.
Stay on your toes in the crease to adapt quickly
When we need a big six to stay in touch of the run chase or even to win the game, the pressure is as much on the bowler as it is on the batsmen. For a bowler to be accurate with all six balls of his over is a very tough ask, so when they make that slight mistake, we need to be in a position to capitalise on it.
Your balance is key to the power you can generate in the shot. If you are not balanced or you haven’t transferred your weight correctly, you won’t get the necessary power to clear the boundary rope and could fall foul to a catch in the outfield.
By staying on our toes, you are giving yourself the best chance to adapt to any delivery heading your way by moving your feet quickly or shifting your weight appropriately.
Perfect your swing
Spending hours in the nets perfecting our swing is the right approach and practice will always pay dividends in the end. If you have a high back lift, you might need more practice getting your swing right as there is a further distance for your bat to cover before it makes contact with the ball. However, a high back lift is what helps to generate the power to play those lofted shots over the boundary.
To enjoy the perfect swing, hold your bat tightly with both hands, making sure your non-dominant hand is tightly holding the bat’s grip with your lead hand below it. Keep your shoulders straight, back straight with a slight bend in the knee. It is important to shift your weight according to the oncoming shot, so, if you want to play an attacking shot and hit it long, shift your weight to the back foot.
Timing the connection is also crucial, especially if you are not the most powerful person. Trust in your technique by staying balanced, perfecting your swing, and working on your timing to generate sufficient power to hit the ball for a maximum.
Try not to overhit the ball
If you are trying to overhit the ball, you can lose your timing and shape, which could end up in you hitting it high in the air to a fielder, rather than long out the ground for a boundary. It is always important to focus on your technique and timing, as this will help you to generate the sufficient power needed to find the boundary. It is also a mentality worth adapting to stand you in good stead for playing any other shots too.
Attempting to overhit the ball could also give the opposition the impression that you haven’t worked out the pace of the wicket and you are overhitting your way out of trouble to compensate for that. Try to never give the bowlers any suspicion you might be struggling.
Always use your dominant hand to hit through the line of the ball, making sure your motion is a swinging one, rather than a punching one, as this will achieve a longer drive. Try to stay as still as possible when you connect with the ball by using a wide stance, as this will make the contact more firm and solid.
The importance of practice to hit big sixes
As always, practice is important for getting your technique correct, but when looking to hit bigger shots, practicing them will help your body learn how much force is necessary to strike a lofted drive to the boundary.
You can build your strength in the practice nets, as well as in the gym, but remember to focus on your technique because until you have mastered that, you won’t be hitting sixes no matter how strong you are. For any cricket shot you will need some strength in your arm, core, and legs. The legs and core help you to have a stable base at the crease, while strength in your lower arms, especially, will help you get those extra yards out of your shot.
Practice will also give you the confidence of trying to hit a six in a proper game. Once you know you can get there with a big shot, you’ll know you can easily get there again.
Whilst these tips will help you to think about how a six can be achieved and what you might need to focus on in your technique to do it, it is important that you don’t become too eager to always hit big shots, as this can have a detrimental impact on the rest of your natural game.
Sometimes we do need to clear the boundary, and sometimes we’ll be presented with the opportunity to do so. This is where you need to learn about your shot selection and to consider the risk of the shot.
That said, hitting sixes is a wonderful feeling and has become an important part of the modern game, especially since the invention of T20 cricket; but remember, it is just another option for scoring runs.