In-Focus

In Focus: What makes a perfect No.3 in Test Cricket?

Although flying colors of shorter formats have dramatically influenced the game of cricket, the challenge involved in Test cricket is getting inflated by every Test Series.

Especially the art of batting in Test cricket demands strong character along with the excessive skillset from the players.

Right from walking into the middle with the responsibility till contributing for the team’s win, the Test batting involves many hurdles.

But the flat wicket trend in Test cricket, to bring in more runs and spectators are making it easy for the batters.

Despite the fact that Test cricket is being converted in favour of the batsmen, the pressure that loops around the top order batsmen remains the same. To be frank and honest, the challenge has only become even harder.

Mainly the one down batter who is the spine of the batting order is meant to face the greatest challenges in the longest format of the game. More than anything, the No.3’s responsibility of being the core of the engine room adds more burden.

Batting at No.3 requires the most precious wit more than anything. Apart from this, there is a lot to speak about the one down batting role.

We found out that it will be exciting to acknowledge the unsung heroic role of one down batting and the hidden responsibilities buried over the shoulders of No. 3 in Test cricket. This article will answer most of the question that a cricket viewer has in his/her mind, especially the below mentioned few:

  • What is so significant about the No.3 batsman in Test cricket?
  • Why do a few of the best batsmen in Test cricket like to bat at No.4 than No.3?
  • What is expected out of a No.3 batsman from the team’s point of view?
  • What are the qualities that the best No.3 Test batsmen possess?

What is required of a No. 3?

1. New ball batting

The new ball effect in Test cricket is the tenacious weapon that favours the bowling side. When the opening batters fail to survive the new ball effect, it is the job of the first drop to pull the innings from the front.

The chances of getting in the middle can even be in the second ball of an innings. So it is prior for a No.3 to be afoot to step in at any moment right from the beginning. That makes the ability to bat in the new ball effect, the foremost prerequisite of a one-down batter. The one downer must have the adjusting bat swing for the inscrutable new ball swing.

Furthermore, the driver seat role requires good listening skills and the first drop must be able to comprehend the swinging directions of the red cherry.

Unfortunately, it is the current-gen one down batsmen, who are getting in early of the innings so often because of the bewildered openers of now.

Even though there are many good tacklers of the new ball, a decent opening partnership is rare currently.

This, in turn, has tightened the role of No.3s.

2. Defensive technique

The first few minutes for a No.3 in the middle will be highly testing–he has to approach the vibrant bowler who would have just warmed up with a wicket.

The rhythm of the bowlers would automatically be at the utmost tone once they scalp the first wicket of an innings. So be it the searing inswingers or the edge finding away swingers, the Number 3 batsman ought to have the soft hands defense and good shouldering arms to face them both.

Besides, the bemusing straighter deliveries that don’t show any movement by sticking with the line must also be identified with the flow.

Speaking of defensive technique, no better batsman can defend like Rahul Dravid.

This is what Andrew Flintoff had to say about Rahul Dravid’s defensive batting technique: “His nickname is ‘The Wall’. He does take some getting past, doesn’t he? He is a great example of how to play. And the tempo of his innings, he doesn’t change at all. He loves batting and goes on and on. We have to persevere and get past the big bat of his.”

As a consequence of having a reliable defensive technique, every opposition bowler will have separate plans to break the defense wall. So the first drop must be flexible to face any attack from the bowling side. Eventually, it is the defensive technique of a batter that could make a batter into a Test match batter.

3. Typical Test cricket shots 

According to the unique field setups in Test cricket, you could find packed slips and two or three leg and offside fielders, leaving the mid-off or mid-on empty. This is to make the wicket-taking opportunity higher.

So the shots that are made down the V region for a batsman is the smarter choice of fetching boundaries.

Consequently, the shots that come under the requirements are cover drive, straight drive, and flick through the mid-wicket region.

On the other hand, these shots bring down the bat in a vertical angle, which is a safer way of surviving in the toughest batting conditions. Every cricketing one down batter would be strong with these shots because these are the regions where gaps were found in abundance.

Since fast bowlers used to bowl over pitch deliveries by mistake of length or on the urge to take wickets, the right execution of these typical Test cricket shots to the downtown regions provides the run-scoring opportunities for them.

As bouncers and yorkers have become the usual weapon, the pull shot against the bouncers and good judgement of yorkers got added to the must elements of a one-down batsman.

In terms of types of shots, Ricky Ponting and Brian Lara had all these shots in their kits. Especially Brian Lara’s range of shots are comparatively higher than what is expected from a No.3.

4. Good player of spin

It is a well-known fact that Asian tracks are the spinners’ paradise.

Thus dealing with the spin attack becomes an essential requirement for a No.3 batsman in the Asian subcontinent. So facing the spinners accompanied by slips and fielders with headgears nearby is a challenging task.

Even if a No.3 survives from the new ball spell from the fast bowlers, the spinners will come in with treacherous spells as the innings move on. That is the reason why the non-Asian batsmen struggle in Asian conditions. They will have to face the quality spin bowling on the tracks that aids in drifts and turns for the spinners.

Speaking of comfortability on batting the spinners, many batsmen in the past were good against spin.

Even though the Asian batters are well known for their dominance against the spinners, many non-Asian batsmen were naturally good at this job. Notably, Brian Lara had his own comfort zone in playing against spin bowlers. His sweep shots, powerful cover drives, and lofted straight drives made him take over the lead on spinners. Addedly, his steady defense technique bolstered his dominance over spin bowling.

In the Asian region, the one down batters Rahul Dravid and Younis Khan, had the reputation of being the exponents in facing spin bowling without difficulty. Dravid’s long stretched front foot habit and Younis Khan’s sweep shots set them apart from others.

So being the anchor of their team’s batting, the one down batters must have their own notes of taking on the spinners.

5. A reader of the pitch

The No. 3 batsmen have the considerable task of showing his team members how to play on a pitch.

Rahul dravid test batting

The one downer must be quick to learn from the openers’ behavior towards the pitch and his own experience in the midst. Especially his understanding of the bounce that the pitch is providing helps the first drop to survive in the middle.

6. Own style of approach

The responsibility of No.3 batters changes according to the needs of the team. If you look at India, it was Rahul Dravid then and Cheteshwar Pujara now. This is because the Indian management prefers a defensive batter to absorb the pressure and ease it off from the No.4s (Sachin and Virat).

The same goes for South Africa, who was using a player like Jacques Kallis at the position and then felt it was good to have a defensive player to the particular slot, and hence Hashim Amla was brought in at No.3 later.

Meanwhile, Ian Chappell of England and Kumar Sangakkara of Sri Lanka were unique with their approach. They played according to the situations of the match.

“I batted a lot of my career there but I think it’s the best place in the order to bat.” says Ian Chappell on the No.3 slot.

Contrastingly Australia’s Don Bradman and Ricky Ponting, West Indies’ Vivian Richards and Brian Lara, who were the dominant exponents of this slot, followed their style of aggression.

But at the same time, they had strong defensive techniques to manage the odds of Test cricket.

“I personally like the idea of the best batsman coming in at No.3 and setting the tone. Ricky Ponting, he’s someone that did it for Australia, coming in at No.3 and playing nice, positive, aggressive cricket, sending a message to the opposition but also reassuring everybody else in the batting order that it’s not too bad out in the middle. “ says Michael Hussey, former Australian cricketer about Ricky Ponting’s one down batting.

7. Adaptability

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The No. 3 can have any situation when he walks in, unlike the openers who would be only asked to get a proper opening partnership.

But the one downers have to come in to face the dangerous shiny red cherry with conditions applied.

  • It can be when a dominating opening partnership would force the first drop to keep on the momentum.
  • Or it can be the job of repairing the early opening wicket by holding an end.
  • Or it can be a situation where a partnership is necessary to lay the route for a sizeable total.

Therefore, one downer must be ready for any type of challenge. Be it the conditions they are playing or the situation they walk in the midst; they got to make use of their technicality and temperament to lift the team-up.

Responsibility of No.3 in Tests

  • As mentioned earlier, the No. 3 slot is well crafted for the anchoring role.
  • With the technical mind and temperament, No.3 has the massive responsibility of pulling the team towards the destination.
  • Simultaneously, the performance of the one downer has a bigger impact on the mentality of their team’s batting line up.
  • When a No. 3 stays in the crease for a long time, he could also help the team in run-scoring by aiding the other batsmen to score. He can be more helpful in terms of guiding the batsmen on the other end.

“I never felt I was an instrumental, solid part of the team until I got the opportunity to bat at No.3. It was up to me as the No.3 batsman and the captain to try and save the game for my team.” – Ricky Ponting after scoring historic 156 to save the third Test match against England in the Ashes of 2005.

Rahul Dravid plays this role exceedingly well. And what Sunil Gavaskar, the former cricketer of India had to say about him is :

“Rahul Dravid brings serenity to the crease that is so good for the nerves in the dressing room. He also helps ease the tension away by the way he plays.”

Wrapping up with a question:

Is No.3 slot the toughest position to bat in Test cricket? 

Yes.

Of course, it is the most robust position to bat on. But that doesn’t mean the other slots are easier to bat. Every slot in the batting order has its challenges and responsibility.

Adapting to the precious number three slot is like walking on the rope. You should have the utmost balance of every quality in batting. That is why only the greats could be on the particular slot for a long time in Tests.

These players defined the first drop’s role; they had a separate approach for this slot, but what was found more common among them were the factors that we have mentioned under the requirements of No.3 batsman.

Legends who excelled in this particular slot are Don Bradman, Vivian Richards, Rahul Dravid, Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara, Younis Khan, Hashim Amla, Ian Chappell, and Kumar Sangakkara.

With the best among the current crop No.3 being Kane Williamson, Cheteshwar Pujara, and Azhar Ali, there is no doubt that many youngsters will come up getting inspired for this slot.

In my opinion, the No.3 batting slot in Test cricket is an excellent opportunity to come in front to face the hardest challenges that come against your team.



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