Fours is the ultimate test for a bowls team. To get 4 players playing “as one” is extremely difficult – not to mention the limit on the number of bowls each, and how that affects each player’s approach.
Whilst it seems crazy to think that your 2 bowls can make a difference in each end, you need to consider that the team as a whole has 8 shots – that’s more than enough to build a head and convert good positions into shots.
So how does each player fit into the gameplan? And what should you be doing in your Fours team to help? Lets take a closer look.
Firstly, lets look at the different ways a Fours game can be played.
Every other team game in bowls has different formats. Normally this is down to how many bowls each member of the team has, and is usually dependent on what level the game is being played at. For example a triples team at club level will have 3 players with 3 bowls each, whereas at county and national levels you only get 2 each. But this is not the case with Fours.
Regardless of the level being played a Fours team is made up of 4 players with 2 bowls each.
Roles Of A Fours Team
Seeing as each player only has 2 bowls, the roles of each player become more distinct, and the responsibilities are more defined. Lets look at the different roles, and what each one does to influence the game.
As with any team lawn bowls game, the lead is in charge of placing the mat, and rolling the jack. This has a huge impact on how, and where the game is played, therefore they are integral to the execution of the game plan.
Once the jack has been rolled the lead will play draw shots to get as close to the jack as possible.
The lead not only controls how the game is played, but they also set the platform to allow the rest of the team to build the end.
The number 2 works with the lead. They must work well together to build the head. By building the head they will get bowls in good positions, not only close to the jack, but also in good positions behind it too.
A successful lead and 2 will more often than not get 1 or 2 shots close to the jack, and will also have good positional bowls covering any potential danger provided by the opposition.
The number 3 should be the first player to really play any aggressive shots.
They need to convert the good platform provided by the lead and number 2 into large counts, or if they have failed the number 3 needs to either win back the shot, or play an aggressive shot to change the head.
The skip is the eyes and ears for the rest of the team. They must relay their plan effectively so the team know what it is trying to do.
The skip (as they do in every lawn bowls team) will guide the lead on what jack lengths to bowl, or what mat positions to set.
Finally the skip has the greatest responsibility as it is their job to bowl the final 2 shots for the team. The skip will likely play the greatest variety of shots, as different heads will require different approaches. Therefore the skip must have a good all-round game.
General Principles Of Fours Tactics
Fours is the ultimate test of a team. A game plan must be simple enough so that each player can realistically play their part.
The ability to only have 2 shots each means the time available to adjust and correct is very limited, so roles and glam plans need to be simple
Planning a Fours Game Plan
A game plan for a pairs team can be simplified to:
- Mat positions
- Jack length
- Shot tendencies
- Building position
Let’s look at those in a bit more detail.
This tactic isn’t quite as common as in pairs. The communication required to plan this is tough, and isn’t an option for most club bowlers.
It’s often best to build the team around bowlers who share a common mat position – or at least select a team for a season so they can get used to the lead’s placement of the mat.
The placement of the mat is often overlooked as a tactic in most formats in club bowls. The placement of the mat affects the view the bowler gets and can affect how they judge the length of the jack and how they choose their aiming points.
Familiarity is the key, and a consistent mat position (wherever that may be) will help the team in the long run.
Having a preferred jack length can be an advantage. Each player in the team will have a preferred jack length, whether that be short, ¾ or full length. If you all share a similar jack length then this can be your “default”.
This is trickier in triples, as getting 3 people to agree on anything will be hard!
As a rule of thumb if the lead and number 2 share a preference, then this should be the default of the team. The lead and number 2 are your main draw players, the skip is more likely to play weight, making the jack length less of a concern.
The shots required for the lead and skip are often pretty limited in Fours. The lead will draw and the skip will play with a bit of extra weight.
The tactic of the team will often be driven by the number 2 and 3. If either are a strong draw player than “out drawing” the opponent will likely be the gameplan when converting shots. However if they prefer to play weight then firing shots and creating movement in the head will be best.
The skip should know their team’s strengths and shot selections should be driven from there.
As there are so many bowls in play it is common for the jack to move, or for shots to be removed from the head.
It is therefore imperative that good position is built through the end. What is “good position”?
Good position is when you preempt what might happen.
Common questions are:
- If the jack moves, where is it likely to go?
- What happens if our shot bowl is removed? How many could we be down?
- Where would be the worst place the jack could move to?
These questions will lead you to where you need to place bowls to cover any eventuality.
Fours is the ultimate team game in bowls. It is a test of a bowler’s technique and ability – as you only have 2 shots, you need to make them count.
Hopefully this guide has given you the start you need to understand your role, and how you can best influence each game.