Paul Nixon column – Batters beware: A team can fold any time

It’s been nice to see wickets falling in the County Championship now after batsmen dominated the opening few weeks, but there were wickets falling almost too ­occasionally at a few grounds.

Derbyshire and Leicestershire were both all out without passing the hundred mark this week, while Warwickshire, Nottinghamshire, Surrey and Northants also had struggling times with the bat.

These collapses, such as the one we saw by Leicestershire where a total 43 was their lowest since being bowled out for 34 by Essex in 2011, can be hard to explain but a lot of it is to do with mindset, just like so many other aspects of cricket.

It’s a strange time. It feels like everything happens too quickly and you’re out in the middle before you know it. You can get a decent ball when normally you’d play and miss, but this time you feather it.

You have a little hour or two where everything goes against you. The bowler has his tail up or all of a sudden there’s a bit of green in the wicket. Sport is all about fine margins and you can play and miss or you nick it.

These type of things tend to happen after a break or if conditions suddenly change. People’s minds just wander and focus is lost marginally. You’ll be sitting there watching the opening batsmen rack them up and be 100 without loss, then half an hour later, you’re strolling to the crease on 110-4. You just think, what is going on?

People start thinking that the game is too easy if you’ve seen a pair rack them up, but it’s never easy for a new batsman. Mentality is key and you always have to get yourself in. Collapses happen very quickly so as a player you need to make sure you keep your guard up. It’s a horrible place to be and you just can’t believe it. Most guys try to forget about it, as I’m sure Leicester coach Andrew MacDonald will want to do after the brilliant start to the season that his team has had.

These little lulls can be handy, though. They give you a kick up the backside and you want to make sure it never happens again. You feel like you’ve let everyone down; you just feel gutted.

Resilience is a huge part of sport and you have to be strong. You need to trust your technique and believe in yourself. Yes, these things happen, but they happen to every team.

Not much gets said during a collapse. There’s a constant flow of players in and out of the changing room and the match tends to be over pretty quickly once it’s done anyway.

You start questioning yourself and in good teams, players will always look in the mirror. In bad teams, fingers start being pointed.

I remember Adam Hollioake came out at Canterbury when his Surrey side were struggling and he just absolutely smashed a brilliant hundred. We couldn’t bowl to him. He decided that was the best way to play the situation, and it came off for him.

Everyone has their way. Kevin Pietersen would play a similar way to Hollioake but the likes of Michael Atherton and Alastair Cook would dig in and play fewer balls. It’s about your preferred option. Some coaches will talk about it, but others will throw it in the bin and pretend it’s never happened.

This piece originally featured in The Cricket Paper, Friday May 27 2016

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