Cricket (Steel, Lyttelton)/Chapter 14

Cricket  (1888) 
Chapter 14

CHAPTER XIV.

SINGLE WICKET.

(By the Hon. R. H. Lyttelton.)

It is necessary in any work which professes to treat of cricket generally, that the laws and regulations of single wicket should be discussed, though the subject is not of much importance in these days; for, as far as first-class cricket is concerned, the game played with only one wicket has vanished altogether. Some few years ago, if an ordinary three-day match were over early, a scratch single-wicket match was sometimes improvised; but the effect was generally depressing.

Few people now take the trouble to read through the rules which govern single-wicket matches, and the almost total disappearance of such games may be mainly attributed to two circumstances: (1) The great increase in the number of three-day matches; (2) the diminution in the number of fast bowlers.

In the days of Alfred Mynn and Fuller Pilch matches practically never took more than two days, and first-class contests were in number about one-half what they are at present. A professional of the front rank, such as Lohmann or Barnes, now has to play two matches a week, and if a match is over on the second day, he is only too glad to have a rest before banning again elsewhere, it may be more than a hundred miles away. The public also have the opportunity of seeing such a quantity of first-class play, that there is no demand for single-wicket matches.

In the second place, the rules of single-wicket cricket make it essential that driving in front of the wicket must be the staple stroke of the batsman, and for this reason, because the second rule provides that, to entitle the striker to a run, the ball must be hit before the bounds. Now the bounds are placed twenty-two yards each in a line from the off and leg stump, and there must be bounds unless there are more than four players on each side. The third rule compels the striker at the moment of hitting the ball to have one of his feet behind the popping crease and on the ground. These two laws contain the essence of the game of cricket as played with a single wicket. It is not sound cricket to play any bowling that may be called slow in the widest sense of the term with your right foot absolutely fixed. In the chapter on Batting the young player is advised to go out of his ground to slow bowling of a certain length and drive. But at single wicket the batsman may not move even an inch in front of the popping crease, to get a lob, for instance, on the full pitch. So the effect of bowling slows in a singlewicket match is that a batsman must abandon what may be called the orthodox and correct method of play, and merely wait till he gets a ball far enough up for him to drive it without getting out of his ground.

No correct player can ever drive slows, unless they are right up, without going out of his ground, and a great many would be so cramped that they would be at a disadvantage altogether, and obliged to play an ugly pokey game. If a slow bowler with perhaps two or three fields were bowling to Mr. Webbe, who plays slows as well as anybody in England, that gentleman would find himself obliged to abandon his natural game, stand still, watch the ball carefully, and play it gently, till he got a real half-volley or outrageous long-hop, off which he could score. But if certain skilful bowlers were on, the batsman would very likely have to wait the best part of an hour before such a ball came; and it would be sadly dull to watch such a game.

If five play on a side bounds are abolished, the slow bowling may get hit behind the wicket, and so the game comes considerably livelier. The run consists of touching the bowler's stump with the bat and getting back to the popping crease. Thus one run at single wicket is exactly equivalent to two at double wicket. To get three runs in one hit if there are two fields is almost an impossibility, though it has been done. There is no wicket-keeper, and nothing can be scored by byes, leg-byes, or overthrows. To run a man out, it is necessary that the bowler run to the wicket and put it down, unless of course it is thrown down. The fieldsman must return the ball so that it shall cross the ground between the wicket and the bowling stump, or between the bowling stump and the bounds; and three are scored for a lost ball.

In very ancient times five players a side used often to contend at single wicket, and in this sort of match there are no bounds, though the batsman must have his right or left foot on the ground behind the popping crease when the ball is hit.

Single-wicket matches were once very common. Indeed, during the last century they were played nearly as often as double-wicket games, and we will briefly notice some of the most famous.

In the year 1772 five of Kent with Minshull beat five of the famous Hambledon Club by one wicket, but in 1773 the same five men of Hambledon vanquished five men of England. Happy village of Hambledon that could thus defeat All England, a deed that at double wicket no county could accomplish now! With the redoubtable Lumpy given, the same village in 1781 beat England by 78 runs, hve players on a side. In the following year six of Hambledon beat six of Kent,, and the Duke of Dorset, Privy Councillor, Knight of the Garter, and Lord Steward of the King's Household, played for the village against his own county, for what reason history telleth not. John Nyren says that this nobleman 'had the peculiar habit, when unemployed, of standing with his head on one side.' He is also celebrated in verse:

Equalled by few he plays with glee.
Nor peevish seeks for victory.
His Grace for bowling cannot yield
To none but Lumpy in the field.
And far unlike the modern way
Of blocking every ball at play,
He firmly stands with bat upright
And strikes with his athletic might,
Sends forth the ball across the mead,

And scores six notches for the deed.

The Duke must have been the first who conceived the idea of international cricket; for while ambassador in France he wrote to Golden, of Chertsey, to form an eleven to play at Paris, Unfortunately, when they had got as far as Dover, they met his Grace, who had to flee the faithless Frenchmen in consesequence of a revolution, and the match was abandoned.

Six of Hambledon again beat six of England in 1783, but six of Kent defeated the village in 1786. This was a famous match, though seeing T. Walker batting for nearly five hours for 26 runs must have been a trifle monotonous. A Kent player named Ring went in when 59 runs were wanted to win and two more wickets to go down. He made 15 overnight, and Sir Horace Mann promised him a pension if he carried out his bat, and, we presume, won the match. He failed to do so, but got out when 2 runs were wanted. Aylward then went in and played 94 balls before he made the winning hit. We hope Sir Horace Mann gave the pension to Ring, for he must have deserved it.

Six of Hampshire twice beat England in 1788, and in 1789 a drawn match was played between six of Kent and six of Hants. In this match betting at the start was 5 to 4 on Hants, but David Harris was seized with the gout, and the betting, therefore, stood at 5 to 4 on Kent. David Harris used sometimes to walk to the ground on crutches, but bowled splendidly, we are told, when he got warm.

In 1806, three of Surrey—William Lambert, Robinson, and William Beldham—beat three of England—Bennett, Fennex, and Lord F. Beauclerk—by 20 runs. This was the famous match when Beldham, father of thirty-nine children—none, so far as we know, cricketers—took a lump of wet dirt and sawdust, and stuck it on to the ball, which developed an extraordinary twist and bowled Lord Frederick out. His lordship was of an irritable disposition, and must have been very angry at this, for he had made 30 runs and was well set.

In 1814, Osbaldeston, Budd, and Lord F. Beauclerk beat three of England—Sherman, T. C. Howard, and Lambert. The famous Squire Osbaldeston clean bowled all his rivals in each innings for 19 runs only. The Squire, whose reputation as an all-round sportsman still survives, was the fastest bowler of his day. In 1818, so great was his fame and that of Lambert, that they challenged Budd, Humewood, T. C. Howard, and George Brown; but the four won in one innings, which so provoked the Squire that he withdrew from the M.C.C.—another irritable man.

The celebrated William Lambert alone beat two accomplished cricketers. Lord F. Beauclerk and Howard, by 15 runs. The Squire was too ill to play, so Lambert played them both, and drew the stakes, 100l. Up to 1827, wides counted for nothing, and Lambert bowled wides on purpose to Lord F. Beauclerk to put him out of temper. They were a choleric race in those days. The fame of Lambert is tarnished for selling a match at Nottingham, and he was warned off the ground at Lord's for ever.

Mr. Budd in 1820 played a fast bowler called Brand, the match ending most disastrously for the latter. Mr. Budd went in first, got 70 runs, knocked his wicket down on purpose, and bowled his opponent out for o. Budd then got 31, again knocked his wicket down, and again bowled his rival out for nothing. Mr. Brand ended his days in a lunatic asylum; we hope the malady was not brought on by this match, which was got up by Mr. Ward, who backed Mr. Brand.

The two brothers Broadbridge, one of whom was called 'our Jem,' beat George Brown and Tom Marsden of Sheffield in 1827, but were beaten in the return match. In 1832 Alfred Mynn played his first important single-wicket match against Thomas Hills, Mynn winning with his wicket standing. Hills said that Mynn bowled at least 50 wides, which seems to prove that the chief bowlers of that day must have been slightly deficient in accuracy. Why in this match the wides were not reckoned is not clear, the rule scoring against the bowler having been put in force some few years before. A return match was played, and Mynn again won, this time in one innings, and Hills retired, satisfied, we suppose, that in Mynn he had found his master.

In 1833 Mynn and Pilch were perhaps the two greatest allround players, and Marsden of Sheffield in this year challenged the immortal Pilch, who won in one innings and 70 runs. Pilch was not a great bowler, neither was he fast, but Marsden's style was fast underhand, and Pilch's bat was too straight for such bowling. In the return Pilch got 78 runs in the first innings and 100 in the second, and won the match by 127 runs. The supremacy of Pilch over Marsden was fully asserted by these two matches, and Marsden must have returned to Sheffield somewhat crestfallen.

Next Marsden may come, though it here must be stated
That his skill down at Sheffield is oft overrated.

But the Yorkshiremen, we know, are always proud of their countrymen. Pilch was a great batsman, and we do not feel surprised that he scored so largely against fast underhand bowling.

The ground ought to have been now cleared for a match between Mynn and Pilch, and great would have been the interest if such a game had been played—Voltigeur and The Flying Dutchman would have been nothing to it. The two men belonged to the same county, so probably there was wanting a sufficient motive; but together they would probably have beaten any three other cricketers.

Mr. Mynn next heavily defeated James Dearman of Sheffield twice, in the first match by 112 runs, and again in one innings and 36 runs. Mynn scored 46 in the last innings off 46 hits, which sounds strange, but then, as is recorded naively in the 'Scores and Biographies,' Mynn was always a great punisher.

Mr. Felix next challenged Mr. Mynn, and he must have been of a sanguine temperament to have done so; for, though perhaps a better bat than Mynn, he was a left-handed lob bowler, a delivery not suited for single-wicket matches. The first game Mynn won in one innings and 1 run, only 9 runs being made in the whole match. In Felix's second innings Mynn bowled 247 balls for 3 runs. Single-wicket matches had already begun to get out of favour; this was the most important that had taken place for some time, and Squire Osbaldeston was a spectator. In the return Mynn won by one wicket, and this was a small scoring match. Mynn now was left unchallenged, having won all the single-wicket matches in which he was engaged alone. In 1847 Wisden beat Sherman twice. Thomas Hunt of Chesterfield was a great single-wicket matchplayer, and beat Chatterton, Dakin, Charley Brown, and R. C. Tinley.

Single- wicket playing has been practically dead since 1850, though Hayward, Carpenter, and Tarrant played two matches about the year 1862. The subject possesses only an historical interest now, but in old times it created enormous excitement, and no doubt the pride of the men of Kent in Alfred Mynn was largely owing to his single-wicket prowess. If such matches were played on the smooth wickets of modern times, the fortunate man who won the toss might never be got out all day, and the game would become a burlesque on cricket. Eleven fieldsmen, and not one bowler merely, are now required to get out Mr. Grace and Shrewsbury, and but few wickets are bowled down as compared with the days of fast bowling and rough grounds. When the All England elevens used to tour about the country under the management first of William Clarke and then of George Parr, some of the best bowlers in England were to be found in their ranks. Jackson, Willsher, Furley, Tarrant, and others used often to play, and occasionally when the regular match was over one of them would earn a cheap sort of notoriety by challenging eleven of the natives at single wicket. Eleven straight balls were sometimes found sufficient to get the eleven out, and one run by the England player gave him the victory. Such matches are absurd, and it is not a matter of regret that they are played no longer.

However, it seems right that a notice of the famous contests of old should have been written, on account of the interest they formerly excited, and on village greens, where eccentricities of ground are to be met with, they may still perhaps be played. But they are a relic of the past.