Cricket (Steel, Lyttelton)/Chapter 2
(By the Hon. R. H. Lyttelton.)
HE great and supreme art of batting constitutes to the large majority of cricketers the most enjoyable part of the game. There are three especially delightful moments in life connected with games, and only those who have experienced all three can realise what these moments are. They are (1) the cut stroke at tennis, when the striker wins chase
Fig. 1.—The champion.
After what has been said in the foregoing chapter we shall here only touch upon the cricket of the past in so far as seems necessary to make this dissertation on batting tolerably complete, and shall then proceed to discuss the principles and science of the art as it now exists.
The shape of the bat in the year 1746—which may be taken as a beginning, for it was in that year that the first score of a match was printed and handed down to posterity, at any rate in Lillywhite's 'Scores and Biographies'—resembled a thick crooked stick more than a modern bat.
From the shape of the bat, obviously adapted to meet the ball when moving along the ground, one may infer that the bowlers habitually delivered a style of ball we now call a 'sneak.' How long this system of bowling remained in vogue cannot exactly be told. The famous William Beldham, who was born in 1766, and lived for nearly one hundred years, is reported by Nyren to have said that when he was a boy nearly all bowling was fast and along the ground. As long as this was the case it is probable that the bat was nothing but a club, for if the ball never left the ground the operative part of the bat would naturally be at the very bottom, as is usual in clubs. The renowned Tom Walker was the earliest lob bowler; he probably took to the style late in life, or about the year 1800, and several bowlers, notably the great E. H. Budd, raised the arm slightly; but it is believed that the first genuine round-arm bowlers were William Lillywhite and James Broadbridge, both of Sussex, who first bowled the new style in 1827. That year was from this cause a year of revolution in cricket, and the shape of the modern bat dates from that period. As a rule, up to the year 1800 the style of batting was back. William Fennex is supposed to have been the inventor of forward play, and Beldham reports a saying of one Squire Paulett, who was watching Fennex play: 'You do frighten me there, jumping out of your ground.' The great batsmen of the early era of cricket were Lord Frederick Beauclerk, Mr. Budd, Beldham, Bentley, Osbaldeston, William Ward, Beagley, William Lambert, Jem Broadbridge, W. Hooker, Saunders, and Searle. The great skill of these players when opposed to under-hand bowling was what determined the Sussex players to alter the style of bowling, and indeed it is generally the fact that too great abundance of runs raises questions as to the desirability of altering rules.
After the year 1827 the shape of the bat became very like what it is now, but it was much heavier in the blade and thinner in the handle, which seems to indicate that the play was mostly of the forward driving style, and the great exponent of this method of play was the renowned Fuller Pilch. Anyone who has the opportunity of handling a bat of this period will find that its weight renders it inconvenient for cutting, but suitable for forward play. The change from under-hand bowling to round-arm having been effected by slow developments makes it probable that the style of play was generally forward until the under-hand bowling was altogether superseded by round-arm. Some bowlers followed the new order of things by changing from under to round-arm. Round-arm bowling was at first less accurate than under-hand, and consequently all-round hitting greatly developed; and we find Felix, the father of cutting, who began play in 1828, chiefly renowned for this hit. Scoring greatly diminished when round-arm bowling was thoroughly established, and increased again as grounds got better.
Judging from the scores of that day, the best bat in England from 1827 to 1850 was Fuller Pilch, and his scoring would compare favourably with that of nearly all modern players, with the exception of W. G. Grace. He was a tall man, and used to smother the ball by playing right out forward.
The principle on which his whole play was founded was evidently to get at the pitch and take care of the ball before breaks, bumps, and shooters had time to work their devilries. In order to carry out this method, he used frequently to leave his ground, and consequently the famous Wm. Clarke always found Pilch a harder nut to crack than any of his other contemporaries.
Clarke's slow balls, tolerably well up, were met by Pilch, who left his ground and drove him forward with a straight bat. His master appears to have been the great Sam Redgate, who was fast and ripping, and who on one occasion got him out for a pair of spectacles, while, on the other hand, twice in his life he got over 100 runs against Wm. Lillywhite's bowling, considered in those days to be an extraordinary feat. After Pilch, Joseph Guy, of Nottingham, and E. G. Wenman, of Kent, were considered the best; but several—C. G. Taylor, Mynn, Felix, and Marsden, for example—scored largely, and they all passed through a golden age of bowling, namely, about 1839, when Lillywhite, Redgate, Mynn, Cobbett, and Hillyer all flourished, to say nothing of Sir F. Bathurst, Tom Barker, and others.
From the year 1855, when Fuller Pilch left off play, to the year 1868, when W. G. Grace burst on the world with a lustre that no previous batsman had ever approached, there was nevertheless a grand array of batsmen—among professionals, Hayward, Carpenter, Parr, Daft, Cafiyn, Mortlock, and Julius Caesar; and among amateurs, Hankey, F. H. Norman, C. G. Lane, C. G. Lyttelton, Mitchell, Lubbock, Buller, V. E. Walker, and Maitland. These are a few of the great names. They are, however, surrounded by several almost as renowned, such as Stephenson, T. Humphrey, Hearne, Cooper, Burbidge, Griffith, and others, who, we think, made this era of the game productive of more exciting cricket than has been known since. It may seem odd, but the overpowering genius of W. G. Grace after this time somewhat spoilt the excitement of the game. His side was never beaten. Crowds thronged to see him play, all bowling was alike to him, and the record of Gloucestershire cricket, champion county for some time through his efforts, is the only instance of one man practically making an eleven for several years. The other Gloucestershire players will be the first to acknowledge the truth of this. Gloucestershire rose with a bound into the highest rank among counties when W. G. Grace attained his position amongst batsmen, a head and shoulders above any other cricketer. It rose and flourished with him, and at the present time shows symptoms of falling with him. To return to the period between 1855 and 1868: the greater equality of players made the matches more exciting and established a keener because more evenly balanced rivalry. The grounds were not so true as those of to-day, and the matches were not so numerous; consequently cricketers were not so frequently worn out by the wear and tear of long fielding and days and nights of travel as they are now. The long individual scores having been less in number and at longer intervals, the few great innings were more vividly stamped on the memory, and it is doubtful if even the modern 200 runs per innings will survive as historical facts longer than Hankey's famous innings of 70 against the Players on Lord's, Daft's 118 in North v. South on the same ground, and Hayward's 112 against Gentlemen also on Lord's.
The bowling during this period was generally fast or medium, varied by lobs, but of genuine slow round, like that of Peate, Buchanan, and Alfred Shaw, there was hardly any in first-class matches. To fast bowling runs come quicker than they do to slow; consequently the game was of more interest to the ordinary spectator, and there was none of that painful slowness, in consequence of the extraordinary accuracy of modern slow bowling, that is so common now, and helps to produce so many drawn matches. The professionals had literally only two genuine slow-round-arm bowlers in those days—George Bennett, of Kent, and Buttress, of Cambridgeshire—and of course this fact accounted largely for the batting style of the period. Wickets being often rough, the most paying length for fast bowling was naturally that length which gave the ground most chance, and prevented the smothering style of play—a little shorter than the blind spot, compelling back play over the crease, instead of forward play. The best batsmen were great masters of this style of play, with which the name of Carpenter is strongly identified. To modern players the sight of Carpenter or Daft dropping down on a dead shooter from a bowler of the pace of George Freeman or Jackson was a wonderful one; but it is rapidly becoming a memory only, for in these days a fast shooter is very rarely seen, and when it does come it nearly always gets a wicket. The reader must always bear in mind that fast bowling cannot be so accurate as slow; it is therefore a certainty that all-round hitting in the fast-bowling days was more common than it is now, in first-class matches. There is one hit in particular that in these days is very seldom seen—that is, the smite to long-leg with a horizontal bat, and much nearer the ground than a square-leg hit. During the entire progress of a match nowadays, between Notts and Lancashire, or Yorkshire and Notts, the unhappy batsman will hardly get a single ball outside his legs to hit. So great is the accuracy of the bowling, that over after over will go by, and not even a ball on his legs will soothe his careworn and anxious brain. This accurate bowling has caused another change in the way of batting. As no ball is bowled on the leg side at all, so it consequently follows there is no fieldsman on the on side except a forward short-leg and a deep field. There is not much to be gained by continually cracking the ball straight to a row of safe fieldsmen on the off side. What, then, does the modern batsman do on a smooth wicket? He waits till the bowler slightly overtosses a ball—whether pitched outside the off stump or on the wicket he cares not; he sweeps: it round to square leg, where no fieldsman stands, and he makes four runs by the hit. In other words, he deliberately 'pulls' it. Twenty years ago, on seeing such a hit, the famous Bob Grimston would have shown his emphatic disapproval in a characteristic manner. But the match must be won by runs; to attain this object the ball must be hit where there is no field, and it is useless to waste energy by hitting the ball to every fieldsman on the off side. W. W. Read, H. V. Page, and A. J. Webbe, are all masters of this stroke, which revives the drooping attention of the crowd and relieves the monotony of the scorers. We do not wish the reader to infer from these remarks that we think the batsmen of to-day are a whit inferior in hitting power to their predecessors. If the welcome sight of a fast bowler being put on is seen now, the hitting becomes at once a joy to behold. But there is little doubt that batsmen of the real 'sticking' type are now more numerous, because the bowling is much straighter, and therefore far fewer balls are bowled that are easy to hit.
Bowling having been in former days generally fast, the cut was a hit largely in vogue, and the perfection to which some players arrived with regard to this stroke has never been surpassed by later batsmen. It is, of course, as will be explained later on, much easier to cut fast bowling than slow, and the heroes of the cut in those days were numerous. The champion cutter of his period, by universal testimony, was C. G. Lyttelton, whose hits in the direction of point are remembered by spectators to this day. Tom Humphrey, of Surrey, was another great cutter; and there was a player, not of the first rank, who was famous for this hit—namely, E. P. Ash, of the Cambridge University Eleven, 1865 and 1866. The four champion bats of this era—1855 to 1868—were, in the opinion of the writer, Hayward, Carpenter, Parr and Daft, and the first two, both from the town of Cambridge, were a little superior to the others. The scoring of Hayward and Carpenter between 1860 and 1864 was very large; both excelled on rough wickets, and it is on these wickets that genius exhibits itself.
In all times of cricket, until the appearance of W. G. Grace, there has been a large predominance of skill amongst the professionals as compared with the amateurs. We are talking now of batting; in bowling the difference has been still more to the advantage of the professionals. The Gentlemen won a match now and then, but their inferiority was very great. W. G. Grace altered all this; and from 1868 to 1880 the Gentlemen had a run of success which will probably never be seen again. It was entirely owing to him, though the Players were astonishingly weak in batting from 1870 to 1876; but nothing could stop the crack, and his scoring in the two annual contests was simply miraculous.
We will now attempt to lay before our readers a more detailed exposition of the principles which ought to govern sound batting, and a careful observance of which is found in the method of every sound player. The first consideration is the choice of a bat, and as to this each individual must determine for himself what is the most suitable. It is probable that a strong man will prefer a heavier bat than a batsman of less muscular calibre. In any case the style of play is an important consideration.
At the beginning of this century, when the bowling was fast under-hand, the bat used was of a style suitable for meeting such balls—namely, a heavy blade with great weight at the bottom; for, as already mentioned, the bowling being straight and frequently on the ground, driving was the common stroke, and for this a heavy blade is best adapted. So now, if a player finds that his is not a wrist style of play, but a forward driving game, he will probably choose a heavier bat than the wrist-player; for a forward drive is more of a body stroke—that is, the whole muscular strength of the shoulders and back is brought into use, and the ball, being fully met, gives more resistance to the bat than a ball which is cut. This, perhaps, needs a little explanation. Just consider for a moment, and realise the fact that a tolerably fast ball, well up and quite straight, has been delivered. Such a ball is just the ball that ought to be driven. The batsman lunges forward and meets it with very nearly the centre of his bat, just after the ball has landed on the ground, at the time, therefore, when, if there is any spin on it, it is going at its fastest pace. Obviously, therefore, when the pace and weight of the ball are taken into consideration, there is great resistance given to the lunge forward of the bat. The heavier the blade of the bat the better is it able to withstand and resist the contrary motion of the ball. As a rule, players are not equally good both at the forward driving and the wrist-playing games. Some few excel in both, but usually batsmen have preferences. Now let us examine the cut— of course we are now discussing a ball on the off side of the wicket. A wrist-player will cut a ball that the exponent of the driving style would drive, and therefore meet with the full, or nearly full, bat. The cutter does not meet the ball, for the ball has gone past him before he hits it. Take a common long-hop on the off side. The driver meets it with a more or less horizontal bat, and hits it forward between cover-point and mid-off, or cover-point and point, thereby resisting the ball and sending it almost in an opposite direction to its natural course. He hits the ball some time before it arrives on a level with his body, while the cutter, on the other hand, does not hit the ball so soon; in fact, he hits it when it is about a foot in front of the line of the wicket, sometimes almost on a level with the wicket. He then, with his wrist, hits it in the direction of third man. He does not meet the ball at all, but he takes advantage of the natural pace of the ball and, as it were, steers it from the normal course towards long-stop, in the direction of third man. The whole essence of the distinction lies in this fact, that in driving the ball is met directly by the bat; in cutting this is not so; but the ball is, as it were, helped on, only in a different direction. The faster the bowling, the harder, therefore, will be the cut. The reader will at once see from this that the wrist-player will probably prefer a lighter bat than the driving batsman, and a bat that comes up well, as it is called, or is more evenly balanced.
We will now suppose a batsman properly equipped in pads and two gloves (both of which we consider quite essential) and with a bat to his taste; our next inquiry must be as to his position at the wicket. He must remember that, after having chosen one position—the most natural and convenient to him—he ought to adopt that position invariably; not alter it from day to day. You never see any material alteration in the position of any great player, and if anyone takes the very necessary trouble to find out the easiest position, he will be a foolish man who varies it, as any change must be for the worse. There is an old engraving, often seen, of a match between Surrey and Kent about the year 1840. Old William Lillywhite is about to bowl, and Fuller Pilch is about to play. The attitude and position of Pilch were taken by the author of 'The Cricket Field' as a model; and there is no objection to be raised to the position: it is a fair assumption that it was the natural and most convenient position for Fuller Pilch himself. The author, however, goes on to say that this is substantially the attitude of every good batsman. To this we can only rejoin, that out of the thousands of batsmen who have played cricket, it would be difficult to find two who stand exactly alike. To begin with, some stand with their feet close together, others have them apart; some indeed so far apart that it almost seems as if they were trying to solve the problem of how much length of ground can be covered between the two feet. Some stand with the right foot just on the leg side of a straight line drawn between the leg-stump of the batsman's wicket and the off stump of the opposite wicket; others stand with the right foot twelve inches or thereabouts from the leg-stump in the direction of short-leg. Players who adopt this position run a risk of being bowled off their legs, one would think; but they ought to know best; we should not, however, advise a beginner to adopt this attitude. W. G. Grace faces the ball, and there is no intervening space between his hands whilst holding the bat and his legs. If you look at the position of Pilch, you will see a considerable interval of distance from the back of his left hand and the right leg. There were three notable batsmen—namely, A. N. Hornby, W. Yardley, and F. E. R. Fryer—who used to throw their left leg right across the wicket so as almost to hide it from the view of the bowler.
Mr. A. J. Webbe stoops very much in his position, while some players stand almost at full height; notably is this the case with W. G. Grace. There are, as far as we know, only three rules which must be observed in taking up a position. The first is—(1) stand so that no part of the right foot is in front of the wicket or outside the crease; (2) stand in the attitude most natural and convenient to yourself; (3) do not place the toes of the right foot nearer the wicket than the heel. The first rule is essential, for the good player never ought to move his right foot to fast bowling. If, therefore, any part is in front of the Fig. 2.—W. G. Grace ready to receive the ball. wicket, he runs a risk of being leg before wicket when the ball beats the bat; if his foot is outside the crease, he is in danger of being stumped; and if the toes of the right foot are nearer the wicket than the heel, he will find himself in a very awkward position—unable to get over the ball. Subject to these rules, the batsman takes any position he pleases. The bat should be held firmly with the right hand and loosely, or comparatively loosely, with the left; neither hand should be tightly clenched. The late Mr. Wm. Ward spoke the truth when he told a sculptor who had made a statue of a batsman at guard that he was no cricketer—the wrists were too rigid and hands too much clenched. It seems that most players lift their bat from the block-hole while the bowler is running prior to delivering the ball, and fig. 2 shows W. G. Grace standing just before the ball leaves the bowler's hand. His whole position is changed from what it was a few seconds before. His first position, before the bowler has begun his run, is given in the sketch at the head of the chapter. The figure here shows him to be standing almost at his full height, his bat suspended in the air, and his weight if anything thrown rather on his right foot. Most players, however, take up a position and stick to it, except that they raise the bat slightly just before the ball leaves the bowler's hand. Nature is the best guide. Let every player therefore find out the easiest attitude and always adopt it.
We will now consider the manner in which the bat should be held by the hands. This varies in a few trifling particulars with different players: but in very rare instances is there any substantial difference. The muscles ought not to be in a state of rigidity, and whilst the batsman is standing in position waiting for the ball the bat should be held firmly, but not by any means tightly. The batsman cannot depend on any particular ball coming to him; consequently, while the ball is in the air, his mind has to be made up; he has then to set himself for a stroke determined absolutely by the pace, length, and direction of the ball, and there are only a few seconds for him both to make up his mind and make the stroke. There is, no doubt, a scientific, anatomical reason why quickness of hand and muscles is incompatible with rigidity of muscle, but quite practicable when the muscles and sinews are in a natural and easy state of elasticity; but any man will find this out for himself if he begins to play. Hold the bat, then, loosely with the left hand, nearly at the top of the handle, with the back of the hand turned full towards the bowler, the fingers folded round the handle, and the thumb lying easily between the first and second fingers. The right hand is fixed exactly contrary to the left as far as the back and fingers are concerned, for the back is turned away from the bowler and the fingers are turned towards him. The thumb lies across and rests on the top of the first finger, touching the finger about a quarter of an inch from the top on the inside. When any sort of hit or block is made the bat at that instant is held tightly, and both thumbs are slightly shifted so as to lie on and clutch, not the fingers that hold the handle, but the handle itself. Whether the hands are high up on the handle or low down near the blade depends very much on the style of the player. There is no rule on the subject, but we think the old motto, 'In medio tutissimus ibis,' is good to observe, and the middle of the handle is, on the whole, the safest. Some players, however—notably Mr. Frank Penn, in his day a tremendous off-hitter and altogether a grand bat—hold the-bat with the knuckle of the first finger of the right hand almost touching the top of the blade; and big hitters, rather of the slogging order, as a rule hold the bat higher up, with the left hand almost on the top; in fact, they adopt what may be called the 'long-handled style.' In holding the bat, however, follow the precept given before—namely, ascertain the most natural method, and cling to it for your cricketing life.
The actual position at the wicket is the same for both slow bowling and fast, with perhaps this trifling difference, that the batsman ought not to stand so firmly on the right foot to slow as he would to fast. The reason of this will be explained hereafter, when we consider the right method of playing slow bowling. At present we will confine our attention to playing fast bowling, and let us assume that the batsman has taken his natural position with his right toe clear of the wicket and that a fast right-handed bowler is bowling with hand raised above the shoulder and over the wicket. This is the method of bowling most in vogue in these days; in fact, the strict round-arm bowling round the wicket, with a curl from leg, is for some inscrutable reason now comparatively rare. Why this is so nobody can tell, and we believe that some of the present gigantic scoring is partly owing to the absence of this sort of bowling.
However, the popular method will be the first we shall try and instruct the batsman to meet successfully, and we will suppose that the wicket is fast and true. We will begin with laying down one or two rules that must rigorously be observed by every player if he wishes to become a first-rate cricketer, (1) Never move the right foot when playing fast bowling except to cut. Nobody will ever become a first-rate player if he does not strictly observe this rule. The spot of ground on which the right foot rests is the vantage-point from which every batsman has to judge of the direction of the ball, and if he shifts away from this, all sorts of faults will crop up, chief of which will be an inability to play with a straight or perpendicular bat. He will also, if he moves his right foot towards short-leg—which is the commonest form this vice takes—find that he will drive balls with a crooked bat, when from a proper position he would have hit them to leg. He will also find himself further removed from the off side, and quite unable, therefore, to play with a straight bat on the off stump. These are a few of the faults that come from not keeping the right foot still. All coaches know that this habit of moving the right leg is the fault most commonly found in young players, and it is most difficult to remove. This arises from the fact that the ball is a hard substance; the beginner naturally dislikes being hit anywhere on the body, and his first and most powerful instinct is therefore to run away. But many instincts are base in their nature, and the young cricketer must realise in this, as in other cases, that the old Adam must be put away and the new man put on. He will find, as he improves, that in these days of true wickets he will not often get hit; the bat will, as a rule, protect him, and if he is hit anywhere on or below the knee the pads will perform a similar function. If he does get hit, well, he must grin and bear it, and try to emulate the heroism of some giants of old in ante-pad-and-glove days, of one of whom, the famous Tom Robinson, we read that he used to rub his bleeding fingers in the dust, after the Tarrant of those days had performed a tattoo on his fingers. (2) Never pull a straight fast ball to leg. If you miss it, you are either bowled out or else you run a great chance of being given out leg before wicket. This also is a common fault, and the fact that often on good, true wickets it comes off is no justification of the practice; for it is a bad hit, and even a ball that would not actually hit the wicket, but just miss the leg-stump, should be driven past the bowler and mid-on, not hit to leg. The bowling of the present day is so accurate that in a first-class match we seldom see a long or deep square-leg, and batsmen often get impatient and go for a pull. But it is a bad stroke, and cricketers ought not to attempt to make four runs by such a hit, but content themselves with a safe drive forward for one or more runs. (3) Never slog wildly at a ball well outside the off stump, but of a good length. This hit also may occasionally come off, but there is no trap more frequently laid by modern bowlers. Attewell, for example, bowls it so frequently, that 'the Attewell trap' is becoming a stock phrase, and a little consideration will show how dangerous a stroke it is. A good length ball is one that it is impossible to smother at the pitch, and if it is outside the off stump it has to be played with a more or less horizontal bat, if the slog is attempted. What must be the consequence? The ball is not smothered, consequently any break, hang, or rise that the bowler or the ground may impart to the ball must almost inevitably produce a bad stroke, frequently terminating in a catch somewhere on the off side. The proper way to play such a ball will be discussed later on, but under no circumstances must the ball be hit at wildly at the pitch. (4) Keep the left shoulder and elbow well forward when playing the ball. It is more important in back play than forward, because in forward play the ball is, or ought to be, smothered at the pitch, and the value of the left shoulder being forward is that you are much more master of the ball if it should happen to bump or shoot; besides which, the bat cannot easily be held straight unless this rule is observed, neither can the full face of the bat be presented to the ball In the case of the shooter, or ball which keeps low after the pitch, the movement of the left shoulder towards the left or leg side will inevitably make it more difficult to ground or lower the bottom of the bat.
The art of defence—which is the style of play adapted to stop the ball, as distinguished from the offensive method, where the object is to hit the ball so as to obtain runs—may be roughly divided into forward play and back play. The object of all forward play is to smother the ball at its pitch; that is to say, the contact of the bat with the ball must be almost simultaneous with the contact of the ball with the ground. The player must reach out with a straight bat as near to the pitch of the ball as is possible. It stands to reason that a tall man will reach out much further than a short man, and a bowler, if he is wise, will bowl shorter-pitched balls to a tall man than he will to a short. Let anybody take a bat and reach forward as far as he can, keeping the bat, when it touches the ground at the end of the stroke, slanting so that the top of the handle is nearer to the bowler than the bottom of the blade. There comes a distance when this slant cannot be maintained, and the bat has either to be held in a perpendicular position or with the handle sloping behind the blade and pointing towards the wicket-keeper. Here, then, we come to an invariable rule, viz. never play forward to a ball so that you are unable to keep the bat at the proper slant, with the handle of the bat further forward than the blade. Also, let every player remember that the left foot must be placed as far forward as the bottom of the bat, and all play, whether forward or back, is really between the two feet, or, more strictly speaking, in forward play the bat must not be put further forward than the left foot, and in back play not further back than the level of the right foot.
Some old players may very likely not agree with this precept, and players of the date of Fuller Pilch constantly had their bat a great deal further out than the left foot, which used not to be thrown out so far. Mr. C. F. Buller, again, in his day a magnificent bat, used to play forward in the same style. But let anyone take a bat and throw out his left foot to the fullest extent; he will find that the bat ought not to go any further if the proper slant be maintained, and he will find also that he has greater command over the ball in this position than in Fuller Pilch's. Look at the position in fig. 3, and you will see that the bat has come down strictly on a level with the left foot. That a greater command is obtained by this method cannot be proved in writing, but anyone who tries the old and the new style will find that the new is preferable as far as command of the ball is concerned. We are not implying that the great players of the old style were bad players because they played in the contrary way, for great players rise above rules and play by the force of their greatness; but we are chiefly concerned with the ordinary mortal, and our advice is, throw the left leg right out and play to the level of the left foot. Some good players maintain that, as the shooter comes so seldom nowadays, it is wasting power to ground the bat when playing forward, it being sufficient if it is placed according to circumstances,
varying with the state of the ground. It is certain that shooters are far less frequent than they were; still, unless a man's bat be grounded, a shooter will inevitably bowl him, so he raises his bat at his own risk. Fig. 3 illustrates grounding the bat in forward play, and fig. 14, at the end of this chapter, illustrates playing forward without grounding.
The ball which is too short for the player to play forward to with his bat at the proper slant must be played back and not forward. To be a good judge of a ball's length is a source of strength in any player, and a strictly accurate player seldom makes the mistake of playing forward when he ought to play back, and vice versâ. In cricket, however, poor human nature is apt to err oftener perhaps than in most walks of life, and the question may now be asked, What is the batsman to do when he finds himself playing forward, but unable to smother the ball at the pitch? He has made a mistake; how is he to get out of the difficulty? Let it be remembered that we are at present only concerned with a fast and true wicket, the play on a slow tricky wicket being so different that it will be noticed separately.
Let us assume, then, that the batsman is forward in the position here shown, but that he finds he cannot reach far enough to smother the ball at the pitch. On a fast wicket there is no time to rectify the error by getting back and playing the ball in the orthodox manner; and yet the batsman must do something or he will be bowled out. There are three courses open to him. (1) He may trust to Providence and a good eye, and take a slog, or adopt what a humorous cricketer once called 'the closed-eye blow,' in which case, if hit at all, the ball will probably be propelled into the air, but perhaps out of harm's way, or, as is quite as likely, into a fielder's hands. The famous E. M. Grace, who is blessed with as good an eye as any cricketer, frequently plays this stroke with success. (2) He may adopt what lawyers would call the cy-près doctrine; in other words, though he ought to play forward and smother a ball, he may at the same time play forward and not smother the ball, which may hit the bat nevertheless. The dangers of this play are obvious to every cricketer, for it leaves him at the mercy of the ball that bumps, hangs, or turns. Modern grounds are so good that this stroke is far safer than it used to be; for in the majority of instances the ball comes straight on, and only the experienced observer sees that the batsman comes off with flying colours owing to the excellence of the ground rather than to his skill. (3) He may, after he has got forward and perceived his error, effect a compromise and perform what is sometimes called a 'half-cock stroke.' This stroke does not require a violent shuffling about of the legs and feet, which are placed as they would be while playing forward, but, instead of the arms and hands reaching forward, they are brought back so as to hold the bat quite straight over, or a little in front of, the popping crease. This position and style of play may be observed in fig. 4, and it is worth a careful examination; for, in our opinion, it is the proper way for a man to extricate himself out of the difficulty he has been led into by misjudging the length of the ball. Nobody can play Fig. 4.—'Half-cock' or over the crease play. a ball in this way more skilfully than W. G. Grace, and the figure shows him in the act of thus playing to a ball which is on the blind spot—that is, either adapted for forward or back play, and therefore eminently qualified for over the crease play, a compromise between the two. The merit of this style of play is that it gives the batsman time to watch the ball, and if it should bump or turn he may alter his tactics to meet it, whereas by the second method his play is fixed and cannot be altered, and the awkward hanging, bumping, or twisting ball beats him. Practise by all means this half-cock stroke; on fast grounds it may be found more useful than even the orthodox back play; for in back play, unless the ball is very short, the pace of the ground may beat a man, especially when he first goes in and has not got accustomed to the pace. The golden rules to guide the beginner in playing forward may be very briefly stated, (1) Play forward when the ball is fairly well pitched up, but remember that the faster the bowling and the faster the wicket the more frequently will forward play be the safer style of play. (2) Keep the bat quite straight and the left shoulder and elbow well forward. (3) Get as near to the pitch of the ball as possible. (4) Do not put the bat further forward than the level of the left foot, which ought to be thrown right forward.
It is often a doubtful question whether a straight drive forward is what is technically a drive or hit, or mere forward play. Of course, when the batsman is well set, he may hit as hard as he can to a straight half-volley; but there are many players whose forward play is so powerful that it practically amounts to a drive. Alfred Lyttelton's forward play frequently makes mid-off tremble, and the same may be said of Bates, Ulyett, and several other players.
But to the beginner again: until you are well set, do not let all your strength go out to any straight ball; if you do, you will lose more than you gain. On Lord's, for instance, a hit over the ropes can only realise four, the same as a hit under the ropes; you will very likely, therefore, score as many for a straight hard bit of forward play as you will for a regular swipe.
When the art of back play to fast bowling is discussed, the converse of what has been said about forward play is true, viz. that as the faster the ground the more balls ought to be played forward, so under the same circumstances will fewer balls be played back. As a general rule, it may be observed that strong-wristed players play more back than batsmen who play chiefly with their arms and shoulders. A weak-wristed player playing back on a very fast wicket will frequently be late, and either miss the ball altogether or else half-stop it, in which latter case it may dribble into the wicket. The value of a strong wrist is that the batsman can dab down on a ball and do the feat in a far shorter space of time than a shoulderand-arm player. The difference between a strong wrist and a weak wrist in playing back is a little similar to what is observed in an altogether different line. Look at a great underbred carthorse with a leg like a weaver's beam, and then look at the real thoroughbred with its slim proportions; at first sight it appears that a kick from the cart-horse will inflict much greater damage than a kick from the thoroughbred. People who are learned in horses, however, inform us that the contrary is the case, and the greater weight of the leg of the cart-horse is more than counterbalanced by the far more rapid and sudden movement of the thoroughbred. The bat wielded by a player with a strong wrist goes through the air like lightning, and comes down on the ball far quicker and harder than a ponder ous stroke from the arms and shoulders of the batsman with no wrist action. Perhaps the champion back-player of the century was Robert Carpenter, of Cambridgeshire and United All England renown, whose back play on Lord's to the terrific fast bowling of Jackson and Tarrant will never be forgotten by those who beheld it.
A back style of play does not smother the ball at the pitch, but plays at the ball when its course after contact with the ground is finally determined, and a careful watching of the ball is therefore of the highest importance. It is bad ever to assume that, because a ball has pitched on a line with the off stump, therefore you are safe if you protect the off stump only, on the assumption that the ball is going on straight. The ball may break back, and in order to ascertain that it has done so, and to shift your bat to guard the middle and leg stumps, you must carefully watch the ball. Apart from breaking or curling, the ball may shoot or bump; in either case the batsman has only his eye to guide him, and the wrist has to obey the eye. Fig. 5 represents 'back play' to a bumping ball. Sometimes a ball may be so short that if the batsman has got his eye well in, and is thoroughly accustomed to the pace of the ground, he may by a turn of the wrist, keeping the left shoulder and elbow well forward, steer the ball through the slips. The beginner, however, must be careful to attempt nothing but the orthodox forms of play; he is not W. G. Grace or Shrewsbury and such-like, who, in their turn, do not attempt exceptional feats until they are well set. The ball ought to be met with the
full face of the bat, and under no circumstances ought the ball to be allowed to hit the bat, which must be the propeller, not the propelled. Mind to respect and carefully follow out the two great commandments—never to move the right foot, and to keep the left shoulder forward and left elbow up. The number of hours that a youngster has to be bowled at before that fatal right foot can be relied upon to keep still is prodigious; but the bat cannot be straight if the body is gravitating towards the direction of short leg while the ball is in the air. To a very short ball different methods of play may be adopted. The one alluded to above, the steering of the ball through the slips, is not often attempted, and a safer method would be to try and come heavily down on the ball and force it past the fields for two or three runs. This is a safe stroke, much safer to adopt than the other. The bat must be straight, and it is wise not to let your whole strength go out, for one or two contingencies may arise for which the player ought to be prepared. In the first place, the ball may shoot, and the crisis must be met accordingly. Now, if the whole of the strength and all the faculties of a batsman are bent towards the carrying out of one particular stroke, there will be no reserve left to provide for any other contingency, for the muscles will be wholly set for one stroke, and one stroke only, and the player will infallibly be late if the ball should shoot or even keep a little low. Of course, on a great many grounds in these days the chances of such contingencies are reduced almost to a minimum on account of the excellence of modern wickets; but still we have to inform the reader what may happen, not only what happens commonly. Some few players rise superior to grounds, and though of course they can get many more runs on easy wickets, still they show good cricket when the wicket is in favour of the bowler.
The prevalence of easy wickets is not, in our opinion, an unmixed blessing. You may go and watch a match when the ground is as hard as iron and as true as truth, and see a magnificent innings played by some batsman. The same player on a bowler's wicket is not less uncomfortable than the proverbial fish out of water. A man may be a lion on a lawn, but a mere pigmy, when the ground is not a lawn. There are a great many of these lions on lawns in these days, and to hear them all with one consent begin to make excuse when they have been bowled out on a crumbling wicket is very amusing. The ball hung, or it kept low, or 'broke back a foot, I assure you, dear boy. W. G. in his best days wouldn't have been near it.' In his best days, and almost in his worst, Mr. Grace would have often played it, and so would Steel, Shrewsbury, and one or two others—planets among the stars, to watch whom getting thirty runs out of a total of eighty on a difficult wicket is far more enjoyable to a skilled spectator than to see the hundreds got on A B C wickets. But this is a digression, and we will return to our subject. The chances that on a hard smooth wicket the very short ball will do anything abnormal is, nowadays, reduced to a minimum. But still it may happen, and it is therefore wise to have in reserve a little strength and a little elasticity. You can play very hard, nevertheless, and for this hard forcing stroke off a short straight ball W. Yardley, the late B. Pauncefote, and H. C. Maul, who still plays for Warwickshire, have never been surpassed.
The ball most to be dreaded for the forcing stroke is the hanging ball, which stops and does not come on evenly and fast to the bat. The batsman will fail to time the ball, with the almost certain consequence that the bat will go on and the ball will be hit from underneath, and up it will go. The advice that has been given to keep a slight reserve of strength to provide against such contingencies as the hanging ball has the same force now. If you have not altogether let the whole force go out, you will have a better chance of doing the correct thing to a ball of this description—namely, to drop the bat and allow the ball to hit it, the exact opposite of your original intention. This is an exception to the general rule that the bat should hit the ball, and not the ball the bat.
In all cases a quick and correct eye will enable its owner to come out of the difficulty with flying colours, and any rules that may be laid down will be utterly useless to him who puts his bat just where the ball is not, but where his inaccurate eye thinks it is. If a youth with the best intentions, but with a false and crooked eye, after reading and thoroughly comprehending every rule directing how every ball ought to be played, stands up and tries to play cricket, what will be the result? He may even have courageously learnt to pin his right foot firmly to the ground; but, notwithstanding this, the result of his efforts will be that, though all proper and necessary postures may be assumed, he will be bowled out, for the bat, except by a lucky chance, will always be in the wrong place, though held quite straight. If cricket could be played with no ball, the careful eyeless cricketer would shine; but the introduction of that disturbing element dashes all his hopes to the ground.
There is a ball that in these days more frequently than any other succeeds in bowling people out, and that is the familiar 'tice' or 'yorker.' This is nothing else than a ball right up, that pitches in fact near the block-hole, but is not a full pitch. This ball ought to be met by the bat just when it touches the ground, and the bat ought to come down very heavily on the ball. It is a little difficult to understand why this ball is so frequently fatal, as it comes straight up and only requires a straight bat and correct timing. Probably most batsmen hope that the eagerly-looked-for half-volley has at length come; this induces them to lay themselves out for a smite, and when they see their mistake it is too late to alter the tactics. Others, on the contrary, think that a full-pitch is coming, and advance their bat to meet it; the result is, the ball gets underneath it. In fact, the length of the ball is not correctly judged, and the batsman is caught in two minds. A bowler who is in the habit of sending down yorkers is fond of doing so the first ball after a new batsman comes in, and if a batsman is known to be of a nervous temperament there is no better ball to give in the first over. It may be here said, however, that it is next door to impossible to bowl a 'yorker' to some batsmen. W. G. Grace, for instance, seems always to be able to make a full-pitch of this ball, and a fourer often results. It is obvious that if a ball pitches near or on a level with the block-hole when the batsman is standing still, it ought to be easy to make it a full-pitch by stepping out to meet it. Mr. Grace does this even to fast bowling.
Having endeavoured to the best of our ability to enunciate a few principles as to defensive tactics, we will now try and discuss offensive tactics, or hitting. A curious feature of the present day is that new hits have come into existence. These have not sprung up because they were not occasionally brought off in earlier days, but formerly when they were the batsman used to apologise to the bowler for having wounded his feelings, and a sort of groan used to be heard all round, as if there had been some gross violation of a cricket commandment. The grounds have improved to such an extent that bowlers have had to resort to new tactics to effect the grand object of all bowlers—namely, to get wickets.
They cannot bowl the first-class batsmen out, so they must place the field accurately and bowl for catches. In order to do this with success the bowling must be accurate to a degree, or rather the bowler must learn to pitch the ball to a nicety on some given spot. He must carry out a predetermined plan likely in his judgment to tempt the batsman to a false hit, having previously arranged his field also in accordance with the same plan. But this extreme accuracy is only compatible with slow bowling, and it is owing to this fact that fast bowling is now at a discount. It is because of the smoothness of the modern wickets, and for no other reason. On rough wickets a wise captain will put on his fast bowlers, if he has got them—not by any means always the case—for they will get wickets at a less cost; the rough ground makes the ball bump, and a fast bumping ball frightens the batsman. He cannot run out to fast bowling; therefore balls of a certain length are never smothered at the pitch as slow bowling sometimes is; consequently the bump, shoot and turn may come, and frequently do come. On such wickets, at the present day, Barnes is the best bowler in England; and Lohmann and Barnes, if they happened to be on the same side, would begin the attack. But on smooth wickets you would see Peel at one end, and perhaps Bates at the other, with eight fields on the off side, and three balls out of four pitched on the off side with good length. The result would very hkely be that the unwary batsman would send a catch to the field, or at any rate that his labour would be in vain, and the good hits would only be stopped. Obviously the best chance of making runs is to hit the ball where there are no fields. Nearly the whole of the on side is open, and if one of the off balls is suitable, either by being bowled a little short or too far up, the batsman will sweep it round without a moment's hesitation. Unorthodox this may be, but he will have accomplished five great and useful feats—he will have delighted himself, added to his score, disconcerted the fields, enraged the bowler, and set the opposite captain thinking. At the same time it is not a graceful stroke, but is one of the many instances of deterioration of style, regarded from a purely aesthetic point of view, which, we find, has taken place in comparing modern cricket with that of bygone days. So great must be the caution used in playing this extraordinarily accurate slow bowling almost entirely on the off stump, or on the off side of the wicket when seven or eight fields are on the off side, that it is becoming quite a common feature of the game to see balls of a dangerous length on the off side entirely ignored by the batsman, as far as the bat is concerned, while both legs are placed entirely in the front of the wicket in case the ball should break. This is safety play with a vengeance. At the same time the spectators may reasonably be excused if they find looking on at cricket a little dull. When the bowling is fast the general result is wickets or runs, and that was the case twenty years ago. We hear that the Australian spectators in their own country loudly expressed their disapproval when, in a great match, two batsmen were batting two hours, during which time they produced the magnificent result of forty-five runs and wore out the patience of bowlers, field, and gallery. The full discussion of the vexed question of l.b.w. will be found in the chapter on Cricket Reform.
Of all hits, the most fascinating to the intelligent spectator is the cut. This requires a very strong use of the wrist, and, like all wrist strokes, charms the spectator by accomplishing great results at the expense of apparently little effort. Cricket reporters of the present day are very apt to call any hit that goes in any direction between cover-point and long-slip a cut, and thereby make the term include both snicks and off drives. This is a mistake, as nearly every cricketer can sometimes make an off drive, and all can snick the ball, even the worst; Fig. 6.—Gunn cutting. indeed, with some it is the only stroke they seem to possess, but there are many who have hardly ever made a genuine cut in their lives. The real genuine cut goes to the left side of point— assuming that point stands on a line with the wicket—it is made with the right leg thrown over, and its severity depends largely on the perfectly correct timing of the ball. The ball is hit when it has reached a point almost on a line with the wicket, and the length of the ball is rather short; if far up, it is a ball to drive and not to cut. The bat should hit the ball slightly on the top, and the most correct cutting makes the ball bound before it gets more than six yards from the player. Figs. 6 and 7 show Gunn and Shrewsbury in the position proper for cutting. It is a mistake to suppose that the right leg should be thrown over a long way; it is sufficient if the foot be put in front of the off stump. When the player is well in and has thoroughly got the pace of the ground, he very often makes what may be called a clean cut; that is to say, he hits with a bat quite horizontal to the ball, and not over it. This produces a harder hit, as the force is wholly directed towards sending the ball in the proper direction, and not hard on the ground. It is not so safe, because, if the ball should bump, the bat, not being over the ball, may hit its lower side and send it up. Therefore be careful to hit over, and sacrifice some of the severity, if you wish to play a Fig. 7.—Shrewsbury cutting. safe game.
Some careful players would hit over the ball even after they have scored one hundred runs, and we have never seen Shrewsbury, for instance, cut in any other way. In the figure the ball must be presumed to lie rather low, for it is certain that he is following his invariable custom of getting over the ball. In any case we should never recommend the clean cut to any but the best players, and that only on a perfect wicket and when they are well set. If you are in the position to cut and the ball should bump, it is wise to leave it alone, for the danger of being caught at third man is very great. We have seen lusty hitters get right under a bumping off ball and send it high over third man's head, but it is a perilous stroke, and is not correct cricket. If the ball, on the other hand, keeps a bit low after the pitch, it is a most effective stroke to come heavily down on it; if the force is put on the ball at the right moment it will go very hard, and may be called a 'chop.' Mr. K. J. Key, who is a strong player from every point of view, excels at this stroke, and he hits the ground at the same time as the ball with a great power of wrist. It is useless for anybody to hope to cut well unless he has both a strong wrist and also a quick eye to judge the correct second wherein to hit the ball—in other words, a power of timing the ball; the latter no book can teach, and the former cannot even be acquired by practice, which the second in some instances can.
The question now arises. What is the player with a weak wrist to do with a ball that a strong-wristed man cuts? Some would say that if he cannot cut in the orthodox vigorous way he ought at any rate to go as near to it as he can, and if he cannot make a clean cut for four, at least he should content himself with two. We think, however, there is for such players a more excellent way. In the cut we have been describing the right foot is shifted across: suppose the player now moves his left foot, not across, but simply straight forward to a ball that is in every way suitable to cut; let him then wait till the ball has gone just past his body, and then hit it with the full force of his arms and shoulders and with as much wrist as he has got. The ball will naturally go in the same direction as the orthodox cut, and quite as hard. The player must stand upright, and must especially be careful not to hit the ball before it has passed his body. If he does this off a fast long hop, he will bring off a vulgar sort of stroke, which cannot go so hard as the ball hit later, because there is greater resistance to the bat; in the correct way the bat hits the ball pardy behind it and, as it were, helps it on in its natural course, whereas at the incorrect moment the ball has to be thumped in order to send it in an exactly opposite direction from that in which it is going before meeting the bat.
In our judgment coaches ought to teach all beginners this stroke wherever they find weakness of wrist. The body is put in such a way as to compensate for a weak wrist, and if anyone takes up this position with a bat in his hand he will find that the stroke partakes of the qualities of a drive more than of a cut. Young players are generally rather impatient, and very apt to hit the ball before it reaches the level of the body, and this fault must be removed.
Let us now discuss the leg hit—most glorious of hits— where every muscle of the body may safely be exerted; for if you miss it the ball is not straight, so you cannot be bowled, and the harder the hit the less chance is there of being caught, at any rate in first-class matches in these days of boundaries. Bowling having become slow, or slow medium as the rule, and Fig. 8.—Old-fashioned sweep to leg. (Gunn.)
therefore far straighter and more accurate, there is not half so much leg hitting now as there used to be, and in the present day you hardly ever hear of a batsman known for his leg hitting as George Parr was formerly, as also Mr. R. A. H. Mitchell, and several others.
There are plenty of men who can hit to leg, but in these days they do not often get a chance, and it is a rare event nowadays to see any fieldsman standing at the old-fashioned position of long-leg. There is generally a field, stationed against the ropes to save four byes when a fast bowler is on, who can also stop leg snicks from going to the ropes; but, to carry the illustration farther, as in leg hitting there is no George Parr, so in fielding at long leg there is no Jack Smith of Cambridge. It is rapidly dying out. In a match which we ourselves saw at Sheffield in 1887, between Notts and Yorkshire, for a whole day and a half there was not one genuine leg smack except off lobs, and at no time was a field placed there. This is hard for the batsman, but it is even harder for the spectators who love to see a grand square-leg hit George Parr's leg hit, for which he was unrivalled, was the sweep to long-leg off a shortish ball that many modern players would lie back to and play off their legs. George Parr would extend his left leg straight forward, and sweeping round with a horizontal bat, send the ball very hard, and frequently along the ground. This hit has really almost totally disappeared in these days; why, it is difficult to explain entirely, though, no doubt, it is partly caused by bowling being so much over the wicket and over-hand and so very straight When George Parr played he used to punish terrifically bowlers like Martingell, of Surrey and Kent, who relied on a curl from leg and bowled round the wicket—a most effective style, naturally producing, however, many leg balls. It is all the other way now, and it may be taken for certain that for every leg ball you see now in first-class matches you saw ten or twenty in former days. However, young players in schools are certain to get plenty of convenient balls to hit, so they must remember to throw out the left leg and hit as near to the pitch as possible and as hard as they can. The ball may start in the direction of square-leg, but its natural bias after it has gone a certain distance will be towards long-leg or behind the wicket, and the fieldsman must remember this, or he will find the ball fly away behind him on his right side. Be very careful never to try this stroke to balls that are on the wicket, or even nearer the wicket than four inches at least If it is within that distance it is a ball to drive, and not to hit to leg. Fig. 8 shows Gunn carrying out this stroke, and the batsman may put his left leg in firont of the wicket if he is certain the ball did not pitch straight. This hit ought only to be attempted when the ball is short of a half- volley. If the ball is a half-volley or at any rate well up, the proper hit is in front of the wicket or to square-leg, and with a vertical, not a horizontal bat. In this hit, how fiar to throw out the left leg depends on the length of the ball; the batsman may even sometimes have to draw it back a little and stand upright and face the ball if it is well up. There is no hit that can be made harder than this to square-leg, and there have been many records of gigantic square-leg hits. Some hitters have sent the ball as far by the lofty smack straight over the bowler's head, but more batsmen can generally hit farther to square-leg, and only a short time ago Mr. Key sent a ball right out of the Oval. In years gone by Lord Lyttelton and R. A. H. Mitchell were renowned for their square-leg hitting, as was Carpenter also. There is no very special rule to be observed for this hit, except that the ball must be on the legs or just outside them, and not straight, or within Fig. 9.—Square-leg hit. (W. G. Grace.) four or five inches of the leg stump. If the ball is tolerably wide on the leg the bat will be more horizontal as it hits the ball, which will in consequence go sharper, and vice versâ if the ball is just crooked enough to hit; it will, when hit, go more straight, and be called by the cricket reporters an 'on drive,' though it is a square-leg hit. Fig. 9 is supposed to represent W. G. Grace hitting to square-leg, and the reader must assume that the fieldsman is running to field the ball going on a line or in front of the wicket, and not behind it.
Some players there are who never seem to hit at any ball, but push it all along the ground, and for this purpose they get farther over the ball, and simply utilise the weight of the body, using the arms and shoulders but little.
This is an eminently safe game, but to these players we would only observe that they deprive themselves of the glorious sensation, alluded to at the beginning of this chapter, which comes when a ball is hit with all the force that nature can supply and a fine driving bat can supplement. Cricket is a game; the primary object of games is to give pleasure to the players, and it is quite impossible that the same amount of keen gratification can await the stick who never hits as is realised by the man who, though he may only be at the wickets half the time, yet in that time makes at least ten great hits that will realise forty runs. There is, however, a good length ball on the legs to which this push can be usefully applied if the batsman is one of the numerous class of cricketers who cannot make use of the sweep to leg. This stroke is made by slightly moving out of the ground, or rather, the whole weight of the body being inclined forward the right foot is dragged forward also. This may seem to violate a cardinal rule laid down before—that the right foot should never be moved. It must be remembered that the reasons why the right foot should not be moved mainly apply when the foot is moved in front of the wicket or towards short-leg. It is invariably wrong to go out of your ground when the fast ball is straight or on the off side, for in both these instances, if you miss the ball, even if it does not hit the wicket, you are under the risk of being stumped But to move out of your ground to a fast ball on your legs practically lays you open to no danger of being stumped, for if you should miss the ball you will stop it with your legs. Now imagine yourself utterly unable to sweep the ball to leg as George Panused to do, and receiving a ball that you cannot reach at the pitch so as to hit with a straight bat—in other words, rather a short ball—what are you to do? If the ball is very short you will probably get back, bring your left foot on a line with, and close to, the right, and try either to make the ball glide off your bat to long-leg or play it with a full face for a single in front of shortleg.
Fig. 10 shows W. G. Grace attempting the glide, and apparently he has hardly moved either leg; presumably, therefore, the ball is not very short, but only just too short to hit This is a stroke in which W. G. Grace excels, as indeed he does in most others; but it is a dangerous one unless the left elbow is kept well up, for otherwise, if the ball bumps, you will find your bat sloping backwards and the ball will go up.
We must now think of the proper way to play a ball on the legs that is not short enough for the batsman to play back to in this way, though, on the other hand, it cannot be hit to square-leg with a straight bat. The batsman also, on account of some natural Fig. 10.—'The glide.' (W. G. Grace.), has always been unable to learn the secret of the George Parr sweep. This sort of ball must be played forward, and, if necessary, the batsman may even
leave his ground and push it in front of short leg. As has been said before, if he should miss the ball his legs will save him from being stumped. The ball must be smothered as far as possible and pushed on in front of short-leg, and the reason why it is not hit harder is simply because you cannot quite get at the pitch, and if, therefore, you hit hard at it, you would probably sky the ball. The bat must be kept at the proper slope: as the body is lunging forward a great deal of impetus will be given to the hit by the mere weight of the body, and the ball will frequently find its way to the ropes. This play is most useful when opposed to left-handed bowlers, for then the ball is apt to follow the arm and come straight in the direction of the batsman's left hip. The famous trio of Uppingham cricketers, Messrs. Patterson, Lucas, and D. Q. Steel, were very strong in this stroke, and in an innings of over a hundred which Mr. Patterson played at Lord's in 1876 against Oxford a large proportion of his runs were made in this way. In ancient days many balls on the leg side used to be played by a now practically obsolete stroke called the 'draw,' which consisted of an ugly lifting up of the left leg and letting the ball glide off the bat between the legs towards long-leg. It was as much part of the répertoire of a player of the old style as a cut or a drive, but it has utterly gone out of fashion as a stroke to be learnt, simply because it had no further effect than the glide off the bat as now practised; the modern style has also the additional advantage of being more elegant, and there is less chance of the ball hitting the foot. The famous Jemmy Grundy used frequently to play this stroke, and his mantle appears to have descended on some younger Nottingham players, for at the present day they sometimes use it. It used to be brought off occasionally by the famous Richard Daft, and was in fact the only stroke of this graceful and most correct player that was not elegant. As we have now got on the subject of the draw, we may as well describe the other sort of obsolete draw, which was performed by just touching the ball with the bat quite straight, but with its left side turned towards the wicket-keeper, or what soldiers would call left half-face, held some way behind the body. Tom Hearne used to be great at this sort of draw, but it is even more entirely gone out of fashion as a stroke than the other style. The same effect is produced by what is frequently seen—namely, a batsman only just snicking a ball off the leg stump, or just touching it, leaving the spectator uncertain whether the ball has been played or has hit the wicket. Tom Hearne, who was the last player who used to practise this stroke methodically, was in the habit of jumping with both feet towards short-leg, and leaving the bat in the correct position for the draw; and not unfrequently he was caught at the wicket owing to the ball not being turned sufficiently; sometimes, though not often, if the bound towards short-leg happened to be a little too much in front, he used to be stumped. This stroke necessitated moving the right leg towards short-leg, and it is on this ground mainly that we contend that it is not sound cricket; but, as has before been stated, it is now quite obsolete, and to imagine it you must also imagine yourself in the days of tall hats, pads under the trousers, and braces holding up a curious type of pantaloon, such as the late Mr. Burgoyne, treasurer of the M.C.C., used to wear up to the day of his death. The play shown in fig. 11 is made by drawing back the left foot, coming hard on to the ball, and forcing it in the direction of short-leg. In our judgment, this is the right play for all short balls on the legs, for the ball is near to the body and consequently to the Fig. 11.—Forcing stroke off the legs. eye; you have therefore great facility in placing it, and you have also the bat at a proper angle. It is more correct than the stroke shown in fig. 10, for there if the ball should bump it will run up the shoulder of the bat, and possibly get caught by the wicket-keeper, short-slip, or even point and short-leg, and we have seen several instances of the ball hitting the bat, not in the front but at the side of the bat. In the former play the ball has to hit the bat, in the latter the bat hits the ball, and, according to the fancy of the batsman, can either be hit in front of short-leg or be suffered to glide towards very sharp long-leg. The figure, however, does not quite convey the impression that the ball is being hit hard. The bat may have descended from over the batsman's head, especially if the ball is very short, while the figure only shows the end of the stroke.
The off drive in the direction of cover-point and to the right hand of point is a favourite hit with many players. Barnes of Nottingham plays it to perfection. The ball to hit in this CAUGHT AT THE WICKET way is one well up on the off side, though it need not be a half-volley. The left foot is thrown across, the ball is hit with a nearly perpendicular bat, and the stronger the wrist the cleaner and harder will be the hit. In this and every other hit correct timing is most important, and whatever the beginner may try, do not let him attempt to hit wildly at the pitch of the ball. Let the left foot be put across, and be careful to hit over the ball in order to keep it down, for if you do not, and the ball bumps, it will inevitably go up. The ball should be a foot or so wide of the wicket; the batsman at the moment of striking the ball will be facing cover-point, and will have his left shoulder well forward, as in fig. 12. The bat is well over the shoulder, and is coming down nearly perpendicularly on the ball, which is not a half-volley; if it were, the bat would be straighter and the ball would be driven straighten But the ball is hit after it has gone about a foot from the pitch. If the ball is a foot or two wide of the wicket and well up it would be hit in a similar position, for the bat cannot be held straight to hit a ball at this distance from the wicket; if it should go straight it would be a pull and not a clean hit, and the further the ball from the wicket the further ought the left foot to be moved across. Whatever you do, refrain from hitting a ball when there is reasonable expectation of the umpire calling 'Wide.' You may hit it for two or three runs; you are more likely only just to touch it with the end of the bat and get caught by third man or point; you are still more likely to cover it and not score off it, thereby losing a run for your side.
So completely has the modern method of bowling on the off side for catches established itself, that cautious players like Hall, Shrewsbury, and Scotton have got into the habit of leaving off balls altogether alone. Granted that the bowling is accurate and the fields well placed, county clubs will very soon find out that, if this course is pursued much further, cricket will become a very dull game to watch, and a match will probably seldom lead to a decisive result. It may be done to a good length ball outside the off stump when you first go in, and have neither got a good sight of the hall nor the pace of the ground; but that batsmen should habitually watch the wicket-keeper take the ball while they stand right in front of the wicket, with their bats behind them, is carrying caution so far that some people would call it not a virtue but a vice. We actually saw a Fig. 12.—Off drive.
cautious player receive four consecutive off balls and not make an attempt to hit one. What pleasure can there be in batting if these tactics are adopted? And let such players please think of the unhappy spectators and of the coffers of the county club. The ball can be hit if you will only get your left foot well across and get well over the ball, and even if your energies are chiefly directed towards hitting the ball on the ground, the ball will be hit, and the field may make a mistake; at any rate you have made an effort, and not given up in despair. It is like a timid man running away from danger instead of facing it, as he should, and it is better to try and to fail than not to try at all. Never mind your average; you cannot win a match by such tactics, though you may make a draw of it.
The off drive by cover-point must be always made by putting the left leg across, and not the right; and the old principle never to be departed from, namely, to keep the left shoulder and elbow well forward, must be again emphasised. When you have once got into position you are master of the situation: you are right over the ball, and you may leave it alone if it should bump; or you may wait till the ball has passed you, and then make the cut with left leg over in the way described before. You are not in the most favourable attitude for the cut, because your left leg is too much over, but it can be brought off; and if only a great deal of practice is given to this off drive there will be no necessity for leaving balls alone.
There are several players to whom is denied the ability and capacity to make these off strokes, who are defective in wrist and careful timing of the ball, but who are fully capable of taking quite proper care of a half-volley or balls well up. Such players are under a great disadvantage when they get balls on the off side that are shorter than the half-volley, for they certainly cannot take the same advantage of them. But they have a great many courses open to them, and if they will get the left leg over, and hit over the ball, they will run no risk of getting out, and a casual ball will be well timed and hit accordingly. But they have also the waiting stroke open to them, and this consists of letting the ball get past them, and simply letting it glide off the bat in the direction of longslip. The faster the bowling the more runs will result from this stroke, as the ball is hit at a longer time after it has pitched than it is when the batsman meets it by the more effective method; there is more time to observe its pace and direction; and if such a player is only careful to get over the ball, he will get a lot of runs in this way.
Lastly, there is the hard drive, which partakes largely of forward play, but yet is a hit to which you can open your shoulders. It is made with a straight bat either on the off side, on side, or straight over the bowler's head.
To fast bowling the difficulty arises of distinguishing this stroke from forward play, for so many balls from fast bowlers on hard wickets are played forward that are not by any means half- volleys and yet go very hard. In fact, there are occasions when fast grounds and fast bowling combine to make batting very easy—when, as a well-known Yorkshire fast bowler said, 'If you poke at her she goes for four.' There is no real necessity for ever having a regular smack at straight balls from a very fast bowler; it is practically as effective to play them forward, with the weight of the body thrown on the left foot and the arms and shoulders kept free and loose. But by all means hit as hard as you possibly can at a half-volley outside the off stump; the ball will either make mid-off tremble, or else go straight to the ropes between mid-off and cover-point. You move the left foot slightly forward a little in front of the wicket and you hit at the ball with a straight bat and get well over it to keep it along the ground. Hold your bat tight, for if it should turn in your hands there will be a miss-hit and you will be caught at cover-point or elsewhere. You can hit your hardest at the half-volley just off the wicket, for the simple reason that if you do miss the ball you cannot be bowled, and there is no more chance of missing if you put out your whole strength to it than if you simply drive it forward with a straight bat. So keep a little reserve of strength in all straight balls, but to a crooked half-volley put your whole force into the blow and hit as though you wished to do the ball an injury.
About the half-volley on the on side very little need be said. We have observed before that the ball just outside the leg stump, to within two or three inches of it, is a ball to drive and not hit to leg. It should be hit towards mid-on or between the bowler and mid-on; and to apply what has been said before, hit it as hard as you can, as if you do miss it you will not be bowled. Keep the right leg still and lunge forward on to your left foot, which should be a little thrown forward, and hold the bat tight.
We have now sufficiently discussed the principles that ought to guide the young player in playing fast bowling on a good fast wicket, and if he observes what has been said he will find that he plays a good safe game, assuming that his eye is straight and that he is able to put his bat in the place where his eye shows him it ought to go. The play to fast bowling on slow tricky wickets brings out the batsman's real talent, and he will discover that what was easy on a hard wicket is full of difficulty on a soft. There are no decisive rules to guide the player on such wickets; he must trust to his eye and capacity for watching the ball. The player that can watch the ball carefully is the man who will succeed on slow difficult wickets; and anybody who has seen Grace, Shrewsbury, and A. G. Steel bat under these circumstances will understand what this watching the ball means. If the ground is very fast there is hardly any time for a careful watching of the ball; the player must play largely by instinct, which will tell him where the ball is going, and as the wickets nowadays are so very true the ball will nearly always take a natural course, that is, straight from the pitch. The left-handed bowler round the wicket will come with the bowler's arm slightly from off to leg, the right-handed bowler also round the wicket from leg to off, but these are both the natural courses the ball ought to take. On slow wickets, however, the ball will come slower; it will take all sorts of fantastical turns and twists, it will get up straight, and sometimes hang or stop a little. It will generally be found that very fast bowlers do not shine on slow soft wickets, for they have great difficulty in getting a good foothold. It is the medium and slow bowlers who revel on such ground, as Peate, Barlow, and Lohmann can tell you. The batsman will find that he is bound to play more back and less forward, for it is little good to play forward unless the ball can be smothered, owing to the extraordinary pranks the ball will indulge in after it has pitched. He will therefore be found playing more on his right leg, and the runs will inevitably come much slower. It has been ascertained by experience that hitters are of more value on these difficult wickets than sticks; for the latter, though they may stay in for an hour, will perhaps not get a dozen runs during that period. The hitter, however, if he brings off four hits, does more execution in a quarter of an hour than the stick will do in thrice that time.
The value of three or four hitters in an eleven was never more distinctly shown than in the case of the Australian Elevens of 1882 and 1884. The 1882 eleven had four big hitters—McDonnell, Bonnor, Giffen, and Massie. In the great international match at the Oval in 1882, Massie got the fifty-five runs in Australia's second innings that practically won the match, and to say he hit at every ball is scarcely an exaggeration. There was also a match against Yorkshire at Holbeck, where McDonnell's scores of over thirty in one innings and over forty in the other certainly won for his side. In 1886 Surrey had to go in to get eighty-seven runs to win. Abel was playing for an hour and three-quarters, while Garrett and Evans were bowling, every ball dead on the wicket, and during that time laboriously compiled thirteen runs. The result of the match was really very doubtful after the fall of the seventh wicket, but Jones, a courageous cricketer, seeing what was the right game, went out and hit Palmer over the ropes for four, and the value of this hit cannot be exaggerated. As a rule it may be taken for granted that steady and slow play, useful and good as it is in its way, will not win matches on slow difficult wickets unless there is a sprinkling of three or four hitters in the eleven. By the doctrine of chances you will find that one of the number will come off, and one innings like Massie's may win the match. To the player who has any hit in him we therefore advise the playing of a freer game on slow difficult wickets than on easy ones. In the latter case runs are bound to come if only you stop there, but they will not in the former. You may leave your ground even to fast bowling on slow wickets if you think you can bring off a hit by so doing, and generally hold the bat nearer the top and give her the long handle. The defensive player, if he cannot do this, must play generally back with the weight on the right leg, watch the ball very carefully, take advantage of any loose ball that may be bowled, and try and place the ball for singles to short-leg, or in the slips. The bowlers find it more easy to put on break or curl on soft wickets, so whereas on hard wickets you may almost assume that the ball will play no pranks but come on straight, on soft you may almost assume the contrary. The ball that hangs or stops a bit after pitching instead of coming on is perhaps the most fatal ball that is bowled. If the batsman plays forward to such a ball he will very likely find that he has done playing before the ball has reached his bat; this means that the bottom of the bat goes on and gets under the ball, and he is caught and bowled. So frequently does this ball come that it is well not to play hard on soft wickets, for if the ball hangs at all it must go up on being hit. For defensive play, we think the bat ought not to be held at all tightly, but rather slackly, for you cannot get a run by hard forward play or hard back play on such wickets.
The general characteristics of play to slow bowling such as that of Peate, Watson, Bates, Peel, Flowers and others are so very different that we must make a few special remarks on them. The great amount of slow bowling is a development of modern times; not that slow round-arm bowling did not formerly exist, but it certainly did not to anything like the extent it does now. In the days which we all of us have heard talked about by old cricketers at Lord's, when Mynn, Redgate, Hillyer and Lillywhite flourished, there were some lob bowlers notably the famous Wm. Clarke, but there were few genuine slow round-arm bowlers, and Wm. Lillywhite had a long stop even when the renowned Tom Box was keeping wicket, as may be seen in the well-known engraving of the match between Kent and Sussex played about the year 1840. Coming to later times, from 1860 to 1868, there were, as far as we can gather, but two real professional slow round-arm bowlers, namely, Buttress and George Bennett, and the first had a very short career. In these days every batsman must be prepared to meet more slow bowlers than fast, and the only style among amateurs now appears to be every variety of slow ball, the good ones hardly furnishing a very large proportion.
From a theoretical point of view, to real slow bowling all forward play ought to be banished. If the ball is short, play back to it; if it is tolerably well up there ought to be time to go out and meet it, and drive it at the pitch. There are some quick-footed players who carry this theory into practice, but generally, if you observe first-class cricket, you will find that there are plenty of players who never leave their ground, even to slow bowling, unless they are really well set. This partly comes from the great caution which is undoubtedly exercised more now than it was twenty or thirty years ago, and partly from the fact that the bowling, though some of it very slow, is not tossed up so high in the air as it was by Bennett and earlier bowlers. Peate, for instance, in his prime the best length bowler for the last twenty years, did not toss the ball at all high in the air, nor did the renowned Alfred Shaw, the most accurate bowler that ever lived. But we still think that more running in might be practised, for there is nothing that more completely demoralises a bowler than a player who comes out and drives when the ball is at all over-pitched. We have seen slow bowlers who do not possess much head completely demoralised by a quick-footed player like Mr. A. G. Steel. They preserve their dignity by bowling so short, that though maiden overs might abound wickets certainly would not fall. Let the cricketer, when playing to slow bowling, stand a little easier, in order that, when he has made up his mind to meet the ball, his right foot will not be rooted to the ground, as it ought to be when playing to fiast bowling on fast wickets. Fig. 13 shows Shrewsbury going out to drive, but he is evidently only at the beginning of his jump, and by the time the bat has got over the ball he will be a couple of yards outside the crease. Remember, if you are to be stumped, you may as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb. You are equally out if you are an inch or ten yards out of your ground, so never hesitate to go out as far as you can in order to make the hit a certainty, and if you can hit the ball full-pitch by all means do so, as you ought never to miss a full-pitch. Fig. 13.—Running out to drive. (Shrewsbury.) You can also pull a full-pitch to leg or anywhere on the on side where fieldsmen are scarce, and it is a sign that for that particular occasion the bowler is defeated if the batsman has not permitted the ball to touch the ground.
If you find, on going out to hit a ball, that it is too short, and you cannot get at the pitch of it, you have several courses open to you. If you are a very big hitter, and the field is not very far out, it is worth while to try the experiment of hitting as hard as you can; the ball must go high, and may go over the ropes or out of harm's way; indeed, some great hitters seem to prefer a ball that is not quite a half-volley. Mr. C. I. Thornton, the biggest hitter the world has ever beheld, with the one exception of G. J. Bonnor, has made his longest hits off such balls as these; while Bonnor, who possesses a prodigious reach, seldom leaves his ground at all, and constantly sends the ball out of the ground by hitting short of the actual pitch. If the ball is smothered it cannot go up in the air, and though it is more correct cricket to get over the ball and drive it forward, as Shrewsbury and A. G. Steel do, it is probable that the great hitters would lose more than they gained by playing the orthodox game. There is a golden rule to be carefully remembered in playing slows, and that is, never to run out to a ball that is well outside the off stump. We do not mean to bar the player from running out to a ball which is absurdly over-pitched, and which he is certain to get full-pitch if he goes out; but he should not leave his ground to the half-volley unless it is nearly straight. There is more than one reason for this. In the first place, if you miss the ball, it is the easiest sort for the wicket-keeper to take, and any moderately decent wicket-keeper will certainly have you out. In the second place, an off ball is one that it is impossible to hit or play with a straight bat, and if you run out to slows you ought always to hit thus; and this rule is sound even when you run out to a ball on your legs, for that is generally hit to long-on with a straight bat, and not to leg. It is generally true that you should never leave your ground to any ball that may be called crooked, whether it is to leg or to the off, for in either case you run a serious risk of being stumped; it is only straight or nearly straight balls that you ought to meet by going out of your ground. The modern slow bowler is so very accurate that he very rarely bowls on the leg side at all, and the old-fashioned lobber who used to bowl on the leg side with a twist from leg and have four or five fields on the leg side is gradually disappearing. The ball that in nineteen cases out of twenty you have to meet by going out of your ground is, therefore, the straight ball.
As far as lobs are concerned, you can play them by stopping in your ground; but the really good player to lobs runs out to a certainty when the ball is overpitched, and the famous Wm. Clarke used to say that Pilch played him best, as he used to wait his opportunity and meet him and run him down with a straight bat. If you come to reason out the theory of batting to slows, and think how you can best defend your wicket and best score off such bowling, you will easily satisfy yourself that by playing back and gently forward you may ensure safety for a considerable period, but you cannot score even moderately fast. The ball does not come up to the bat fast off the ground as in fast bowling, and if you play forward hard you run the enormous risk of being caught and bowled or caught at mid off. In other words, while to fast bowling you play forward to get runs, to slow bowling you play forward to defend your wicket. If, therefore, you play the extra-cautious game and stick in your ground, or from some cause or another are unable ever to 'give her the rush,' you will not be able to score except by casual singles, unless you wait and fully avail yourself of a full pitch or an outrageous long hop, relished, and often obtained, when amateurs are bowling, but very seldom delivered in firstclass matches, and practically never by professional players.
This is the state of things that largely accounts for the tedious character of so much of the modern play: slow bowlers deliver ball after ball dead on the wicket or on the off side with good length, there are seven or eight mousetraps in the shape of fieldsmen on the off side on the watch to entrap the unwary, and batsmen, whether from extreme caution or otherwise matters not, are unable to leave their ground and hit or drive. What can the result be but twenty runs an hour? It is difficult to know what to do with the good length off ball. It is much harder to cut slow bowling than fast: greater strength of wrist is wanted, and there are many players who are unable to do more than merely pat the ball towards third man for a single or two runs. Slow bowlers have a great fancy for bowling without a field at third man, and this is to the advantage of the batsman; but even if there is a third man, at any rate he cannot cover more than a certain amount of ground, and you will find that many a run may be got by the pat. Mind and get over the ball, and you cannot then come to grief by being caught at third man or short-slip, and very rarely by the wicket-keeper. The bumping ball ought to be left alone this sort of ball is the only one in meeting which prudence is the better part of valour, and no attempt ought to be made to hit at all. The old Adam within them forces a great many players to try and hit, but it is almost a certainty that if the ball is hit it must be from underneath, and up in the air it will consequently go. On a soft slow wicket any run getting to good slow bowling is extremely difficult, but even on such wickets you will lose nothing and gain the casual single by the pat.
The good length ball on the off side is the modern batsman's bugbear, but it is far easier to play when the bowling is fast than when it is slow. It is easier to cut in the first instance, and there are seldom so many fields on the off side to the fast bowler. But the slow ball can be and ought to be driven along the ground if the batsman gets well over it, times it correctly, and throws the left leg across in the same way as we explained in describing the proper method of making this stroke off fast bowling. It is more difficult to time good slow bowling, when the bowler is continually altering his pace, than fast, and herein lies the difficulty of hitting these off balls. Bear in mind, however, that by keeping well over the ball you practically run no risk of being caught anywhere; sooner or later you will get your eye in, and when that desirable consummation is accomplished, you will be astonished to find how safely you will hit many balls that when you are looking on it seems impossible to hit without incurring considerable danger. But nothing can be gained by leaving balls alone; you run the minimum of risk by hitting at them, if only you observe the two rules which ought to be hung in your bedroom and branded into your brain, 'Put the left leg over,' and 'Get on the top of the ball.' Above all things do not play for a draw.
From what has been said on the principles which govern the proper playing of fast and slow bowling, the reader may be led to think that slow bowling is far more difficult to play successfully than fast. Chacun à son goût is true, no doubt, but we are inclined to think that, to the majority of players in the prime of their play, slow bowling is on the whole more difficult to play, especially on hard wickets. Take the case of W. G. Grace. It was almost a waste of time on hard wickets to put on fast bowlers when Mr. Grace was at his best. The sole advantage to be derived from so doing arose from the fact that it was advisable to distract his eye, and for this purpose a fast bowler was useful. By this we mean that, when slow bowlers were on at both ends, his eye would become more accustomed to the pace of the ground, and in a shorter time than it would have been if a fast bowler had been on at one end. But the fast bowler was on mainly to enable the slow bowler to get him out, and if the reader looks at Mr. Grace's enormous scores of a few years back he will find that Shaw, Southerton, Peate, and Lillywhite got him out a dozen times to the fast bowlers' once. And the runs that came from bowlers like Martin Mclntyre were astonishing; anywhere, cuts, pushes through any number of short-legs, big drives and colossal leg hits—all were alike to the great batsman.
On soft wickets, though many think otherwise, we believe that fast or medium-paced bowling is more difficult. This must be assumed only in the case of those fast bowlers who have power to keep their precision and pace on slow wickets. The variety of wickets, as is shown in the chapter on Bowling, is very great, and on the real mud, farmyard sort of wicket it is generally safe to presume that fast bowlers cannot act. When there is a slight drizzling rain, which keeps the ball and surface of the ground wet, fast bowlers flounder about like porpoises, and the only bowlers who can act at all are the slow, though they are very much handicapped. But on the real bowler's wicket, soft, yet gradually hardening by the effect of the sun, cæteris paribus, the fast or fast medium bowler will, as a rule, be the most deadly. The year 1879 was, on the whole, the wettest year for cricket that the present generation has seen, and it is instructive to turn to the result of the season's bowling for the County of Nottingham. This county possessed in Alfred Shaw and Morley the two best bowlers in England—one slow, the other fast. Here is the analysis of each for Nottingham:—
It will be seen from this pair of analyses that Morley's is slightly better all round than Shaw, with the exception of the number of maiden overs. But maiden overs are not the final goal of the bowlers ambition. They are only means to an end. The true bowler's one idea is to get wickets. The reader will note that Morley, the fast bowler, got no fewer than twenty-seven wickets more than Shaw, which more than makes up for the latter's greater success in bowling maidens. The year 1879 was doubtless a great year for bowlers, but none the less we doubt whether, taking a whole season's work for a county, this record has ever been surpassed by any pair of bowlers at any time, and it is as good an illustration of the truth of our theory that in wet years slow bowlers are not likely to succeed so well as fast or medium-pace.
It has always appeared to us that the reason why real slow bowling is slightly less deadly than fast or medium on slow wickets is simply that the batsman is more at the mercy of the eccentricities of the ground when playing to the latter class of bowling than when playing to the former. He always has the power, if he would only exercise it, of leaving his ground to balls of a certain length from the slow bowler, and smothering them. And again let the beginner lay this axiom to heart: the ground can commit no devilry if the ball is smothered at the pitch. On slow wickets, therefore, to slow bowling leave your ground with even less hesitation than on fast, and argue in this way, that as life against these bowlers and on this wicket is certain to be a short one, therefore it had better be a merry one for the sake of the score.
There are and have been a few great men with the bat who obey no law, but possess that strange indefinable gift called genius, which rises superior to any difficulty of ground or bowling; these batting luminaries may play their ordinary game on slow difficult wickets, and their genius enables them to do what ordinary mortals cannot. But let the ordinary player, who has acquired a certain amount of skill in batting, remember that cricket on hard and fast wickets and cricket on slow are two quite different things, and that he must alter his game to suit the circumstances. The very fast-footed, bookish sort of player is the one who is most at sea on soft wickets; and this last bit of advice we respectfully urge upon him—that one hit for four and out next ball will probably be of more value to his side than twenty minutes' careful defence and no run. It is not on soft wickets that drawn games are played, unless there is rain after the match has begun; it is on dry wickets, with boundaries close in, that the plethora of runs makes the game dull to all except the ignorant spectator and the voracious batsman. Of course, if there is only a short time left before the drawing of stumps and conclusion of the match, say an hour and a half or two hours, it may be of importance to play for a draw; then the twenty-minutes-without-a-run batsman may be the means of salvation for his side, as Louis Hall has proved to be more than once for Yorkshire; but, except under such circumstances, the hitter who runs a certain risk for the sake of a hit is the more valuable man.
A few words now on running. A man is out if run out as decisively as if his middle stump is knocked down; but being run out is more annoying than being bowled, so everybody ought to learn how to run. Some fieldsmen are so renowned for their throwing and rapidity of movement that when such a man is going for the ball the batsman will not venture on a run which, under ordinary circumstances, he might safely make. In any event do not run if you feel any doubt of its safety. The first invariable rule is that the striker calls the run if the ball is hit in front of the wicket. This is simple to remember, and there is no exception. It is also true that the striker should call runs when the ball is hit to third man under certain circumstances. These circumstances refer to the fieldsman himself. If the third man knows his business and throws to the bowler, the striker has to run the risk; therefore he ought to call. If the third man is a player of tradition and always throws to the wicket-keeper, the non-striker is in danger, and he ought then to call. Remember also that the non-striker is backing up, and therefore has start of the other, who is not in a position to start quickly. All hits behind the wicket—except in certain cases as above mentioned—must be called by the non-striker, and the striker must not look at the ball after he has hit it, but at the non-striker. The man who has not to judge the run must have a simple childlike faith in the judgment of his partner, and if he gets run out he may remonstrate gently with him afterwards with good reason. The man who is receiving the ball can easily get into the habit of watching it after it has passed him on its way to the long-stop or if he has hit it to longr slip; but this is a bad habit, and if indulged in will result in the two batsmen holding different ideas as to whether a run can be got or not, on which subject there must be no difference of opinion. If the batsman to whom rightly belongs the call shouts 'run,' and his colleague shouts 'no,' unless one gives way promptly there may be a crisis at hand. Never do batsmen look so foolish as when they affectionately meet at the same wicket, and nothing is so maddening to the supporters of a side as to see a good batsman well set deliberately lose his wicket by the folly of either his colleague or himself. If batsmen will only remember that the decision of the run must rest with one man, and that his call must be obeyed at once, there will not be many runs out. When, say, the third run is being made, and the question whether a fourth can be successfully attempted arises, that batsman who has to run to the wicket nearest the ball ought to call. The reason of this is, that as the ball is a considerable way from the nearest wicket it is almost certain to be thrown there, and the batsman who calls ought to be he who runs the risk. We will give the following rules to be remembered by every cricketer with regard to running, (1) The striker must call every time when the ball is hit in front of the wicket. (2) The non-striker must call every run when the ball is hit behind the wicket, except in the case of hits to third man as mentioned above. (3) Whoever has to shout, let him shout loudly; there is no penalty attaching to g yell, and it is comforting to a man when he knows his colleague's intention without any doubt. (4) If a bye is being run, the striker must run straight down the wicket, as he may be saved from being run out by the ball hitting his head instead of the wicket, for which mercy he ought to be duly thankful. (5) On all other occasions run wide of the wicket so as not to cut it up. (6) Always run for a catch if sent reasonably high into the air; if it is caught no harm is done to you, and to be missed and to secure a run in one and the same hit is a veritable triumph. (7) Run the first run as hard as you can, and turn quickly after grounding your bat within the popping crease, for the fieldsman may bungle even the easiest ball, and it is never safe to assume that there can be no second run.
We hope that we have now explained the true principles of batting to guide the youthful player in his path. One other word of caution. A young cricketer may go to Lord's and watch a great match; he may see the giants of the game perform—W. G. Grace, Shrewsbury, A. G. Steel, and Barnes. He will wonder and admire, but let him beware of imitation, which may lead him into innumerable quagmires. In another walk of life, literature, you will find facetious writers who are fond of imitating the style of famous authors, and very amusing the attempts sometimes are; but it is easily seen that the points they successfully imitate are the roughnesses and eccentricities which are frequently characteristic of great authors. An imitator of Carlyle, for instance, revels in the brusque eccentricities of the great man's style, but he never succeeds in portraying his noble qualities. It is much the same in cricket: genius defies imitation, and is only by poor struggling humanity to be admired. In the prime of his play nothing in cricket was grander than the sight of W. G. Grace scoring two runs off a ball that any other cricketer would have been only too happy to stop. No school coach that understood his business would tell a youth to play certain balls as they are played by Mr. A. G. Steel, who sometimes adopts the most daring methods, and it is not safe to infer that anybody else in the world can play in a like manner. It is so with hitting. Bonnor or Ulyett can hit many balls which the great majority of other cricketers would only venture to play gently forward. Some critics who are great at criticism, but great at nothing else, have been known to shake their heads at some of the methods of great players; but we can assure these gentlemen that real genius admits no more of criticism than it does of imitation. The four never-to-be-violated rules previously mentioned need not trouble the genius at all; no human law need concern him: he is a law to himself, and looks down from a lofty eminence on his weaker brethren. What is the good of telling A. G. Steel not to move out of his ground to fast bowling, seeing that he does so constantly, and gets four runs by a fine hit when he 'gives her the rush'? He will not heed you; and why should he?
Apart altogether from the natural accuracy and quickness of hand and eye, without a proper allowance of which labour will be in vain, a great deal depends on the temperament of each player. Whether failure is owing to health, to inability to recover elasticity of spirits after a few defeats, or to some other cause, it is impossible to say. But let the good player who goes through a whole month, or perhaps even a season, with very bad luck, and comes out in the end with a bad average, comfort himself with this reflection, that not only have good players had these reverses, but even the very best. Mr. W. G. Grace must be accustomed to hear and see his name referred to, but even he has had spells of bad luck, and he will, we are sure, excuse us if we put in full the following figures of innings which were played when he was in his prime:—
|June 15 and 16, 1871.—Gloucestershire v. Surrey.|
|||c. R. Humphrey, b. Street||1|
|June 19 and 20, 1871.—M.C.C v. Cambridge University.|
|c. Ward, b. Bray||4|
|c. Thornton, b. Bray||4 |
|June 22 and 23, 1871.—M.C.C. v. Oxford University.|
|||c. and b. Butler||15|
|June 29 and 30, 1871.—Gentlemen of South v. Players of South.|
|||c. Lillywhite, b. Southerton||4|
These figures show how the mighty do sometimes fall, and this certainly ought to console those in the humbler walks of the cricket world. Some players have shot up like rockets, played for a season or so, and then have been heard of no more; but the county that plays a series of county matches will act unwisely if it shunts a player who has shown that he possesses real batting ability. Of course there are limits to the patience of every club committee, but all committees would be wise if they were to err on the side of leniency in this matter.
It is of very little avail writing any sort of homily on nervousness, which is in the constitution, and cannot be got rid of by much or any reading. It is common to all, in greater or less degree, and if any man tells you that he does not know what nervousness in cricket is, do not believe him. To say that there is no sensation other than a distinctly pleasant one in walking to the wickets is absurd. It is true that nervousness does not appear to affect the play of some batsmen, who on first going in seem to be playing their ordinary game. But the sensation is there, and these are the fortunate men whose play suffers but little in consequence.
Nervous players must try and reason to the effect that they are sometimes in the habit of making runs, and that therefore there is no great presumption on their part if they assume that the chances are they will do so again. They must also remember that, after all, cricket is but a game, and no moral disgrace will attach to them if they fail. These are but poor consolations at the best, but the game is a glorious one, and, as we have before remarked, it is better to try and to fail than never try at all.
It has always been assumed that the crack English Eleven that failed to make the necessary seventy-nine runs against the Australians in 1882 were nervous because they did not succeed in making them. We are not sure that they all were, or that there was more nervousness than usual; but the wicket was difficult, the Australians' fielding superb, and their bowling extraordinarily good. Certainly two or three of the Englishmen were nervous, and no eleven could be got together anywhere to play such an important match without this being the case. But the longer anyone plays the less nervous will he become, and the fortunate men in cricket are those, like the famous Tom Emmett of Yorkshire, who can, as he modestly said, 'bowl a bit sometimes.' The player who plays only because he is a good bat, and never bowls after he has laid his duck egg, has no opportunity of retrieving his character by getting four or five wickets with the ball. The unhappy batsman makes one bad stroke and his wicket is lost, and he has possibly no further chance in the match. But though the bowler may bowl a wide one ball he may take a wicket the next, and we believe that these all-round players find more enjoyment in cricket than the man who only bats. To their credit be it said that at no previous period have the professionals combined the two so much as they do at the time of writing, and we congratulate Ulyett, Bates, Peel, Barnes, Flowers, Barlow, Briggs, Lohmann, George Hearne, Jesse Hide, and Abel accordingly.
The obvious advice to give to players whose success depends mainly on health is to implore them to look after and pay great respect to the laws by which health is regulated. Not to eat and drink too much, great though the temptation may be to do both, is a rule that ought to be observed by cricketers; but there is another, not so obvious, but of great importance, and that is, avoid sitting up late at night. There is such a lot of play in these days that some amateurs and a great many professionals play six days in the week. There is the corresponding amount of travelling to be got through, and a lot of fatigue to be undergone; sleep, therefore, must not be neglected, and long hours devoted to. convivial evenings not only entail loss of health but loss of runs also. It is a curious and unwholesome feature of the present day that it is judged expedient to have enormous meals in the middle of the day, with salmon, forced meats, creams, jellies, champagne, and everything calculated to disturb digestion and pervert the sight. This meal is not only the cause of much indigestion, but also of a gross waste of time. Instead of half an hour being taken up by the legitimate luncheon, a precious hour is stolen from the middle of the day. It must be confessed that on the principal public grounds there is no reason to complain of the luncheons: excess is more the custom on private grounds.
As we have in this chapter implored captains of elevens to be merciful to good players who may happen to be out of luck, so now, in justice to the other side of the question, let us beg the batsman not to be superstitious.
Superstitions abound in most games, but we have no objection to examples of the weakness which cause inconvenience to nobody except the possessor. We have heard, for instance, of a really great player who never goes in to bat in a match with anything new about him, not even a shoe-lace; but such superstitions are harmless. There is, however, the man who has got it into his head, or possibly has dreamt, that it is quite impossible for him to score if he goes in first or fifth, or in some particular place; consequently the unhappy captain, after he has written out, with great care, an order of going in, is bothered and worried by men who begin to make excuse. One is certain that he cannot score if he goes in first, another thinks he ought not to be put so low down as eighth, and so on. Our advice to the captain is to care for none of these things; let him use his own judgment and not consider the absurd whims and eccentricities of nervous batsmen. The responsibility of managing a match is quite enough anxiety and trouble for him without being bothered by a mutinous eleven, and we entreat batsmen to obey without murmuring their captain's orders, and go in without grumbling.
The rules of cricket are imperfectly understood even by some reputedly famous umpires; it may be well, therefore, to remind batsmen how many ways there are of getting out. They know what it is to be bowled out, caught out, stumped, run out, to get out leg before wicket, or to hit wicket; and a great many think that nothing else will get them out. This is a mistake, and it was a comical sight to see, as we saw some years ago, a first-rate professional diddled out in another way. It is against the rules to wilfully hit the ball twice. It is essential, in order to lose your wicket, that you do it in a wilful manner; if you refrain from this, there is no rule, as far as we know, to prevent the ball being hit a hundred times. In the case alluded to. Barlow was batting in a North and South match at Lord's. He hit the ball twice, and, unfortunately for him, started to run. This starting to run proved the more or less wilful nature of the act. There was a roar of 'How's that?' from the colossal throat of W. G. Grace, standing at point; it was a case of 'You'll have to go, Barlow,' and naturally, in a somewhat moody manner. Barlow went to the pavilion. It is absurd to say that there was anything unfair in this; he violated a distinct rule of cricket. A lot of players think that the ball must not be hit twice under any circumstances, and they would as soon think of touching a red-hot coal as hitting the ball a second time. If there is no wicket-keeper and the ball is played dead against the foot, it may save a few seconds of time if the batsman shove the ball back to the bowler with his bat and stand still, thus saving point the trouble of picking the ball up and returning it. The ball while 'in play' must never be picked up by the hand, for handling the ball wilfully loses a wicket as much as having two stumps knocked down. It is an easy rule to remember, and is very rarely broken, but still it is a rule that must be observed. Obstructing the field is another violation of rule for which the extreme penalty is exacted. Of course a witness may tell an untruth in the witness-box, but unless it is spoken wilfully it is not perjury. So it is with obstructing the field. Many hundreds of times has a batsman standing in his ground prevented a wicket-keeper from catching him out; the mere fact that the player's body, being in a certain position, forces the wicket-keeper to run round him instead of straight at the ball will make an uppish ball as unreachable as the sun. The fieldsman is obstructed, but not wilfully, so no penalty is incurred. But if the batsman were to hit up a ball to point, for instance, and either strike at the ball with his bat or wilfully baulk the fieldsman in any way, he would be out, and deservedly so. In this, as in other like matters, the umpire must be the sole judge, and it ought to be pretty plain and easy for him to give a right decision. About twenty years ago the well-known Cambridge University cricketer, Mr. C. A. Absalom, playing for his University against Surrey, was running a bye, and whilst running to the opposite wicket the ball hit his bat, possibly preventing him from being run out. The umpire gave him out; but the umpire was wrong, for the ball came from behind him, and as it was never alleged that he looked to see the course the ball was taking and then interposed his bat, it was obviously impossible that he could have wilfully obstructed the ball: it merely chanced that while running in towards the wicket the ball by accident hit his bat. We do not mean to imply that the batsman ought to run wide of the wicket to a short run in order to give the fieldsman every chance of running him out; on the contrary, if a short bye is to be run, we advise the batsman to run straight down the wicket, for then, as pointed out elsewhere, the ball will very likely hit him and prevent him being run out But he must not deliberately get in the way of the ball or in any way contribute to the fact of the ball hitting him. A case of wilful obstruction ought easily to be detected by any decent umpire.
It is amusing to ask experienced cricketers in how many ways it is possible for a man to be got out at cricket, and it is astonishing to find many who give most absurd answers. There are nine distinct ways of getting out—(1) bowled; (2) caught; (3) stumped; (4) leg before wicket; (5) hit wicket; (6) run out; (7) handling the ball; (8) obstructing the field; (9) hitting ball twice. It is well to know these facts, for the batsman who gets out in an untoward and unusual way feels himself to be a fool, and generally looks like one. Mr. Alfred Lyttelton, when playing some years ago for Cambridge University Eleven against M.C.C. at Lord's, got back to a slow long hop and with his foot just touched the leg stump, the bail of which did not at once fall off. Oblivious of this fact, and only conscious that he had caught the ball in the middle of the bat and sent it far away, off he started for his runs with radiancy on his face and a mocking smile on his lips. No less than five runs were run, and not until then did anyone except the wicket-keeper notice that the leg bail, after hanging on a frail basis for a few seconds, had fallen off. The appeal was made and the facts examined, the deadly verdict was given, and it was a case of a return to the pavilion. The batsman on such occasions as these may look pleasant; but that is only one of the beneficent results of civilisation, for, as a matter of fact, he feels extremely bitter, and there are innumerable swords in his heart. In the case mentioned the unhappy batsman felt hot and out of breath after his exertions in running the five runs, and there was a sad reversal of the pleasant feelings that attend a successful hit—the applause of the crowd was all wasted, the expected increase to the score was not realised, all had vanished, and a melancholy man walked drearily to the dressing-room.
Batting may be called the most enjoyable feature of the great and glorious game of cricket. A man even in full training invariably feels the effect of fatigue after bowling sixty or seventy overs, and fieldsmen go through the same experience during a long outing. But it may with truth be said that the keen pleasure which is realised by every cricketer worthy of the name, while he is actually at the wickets, prevents him from feeling fatigue as an inconvenience until the innings is over. We do not believe, though with bated breath let it be said, that the fine rider on a fine horse in a good position and over a grass country with a burning scent can feel so supremely content with the world and its glorious surroundings while galloping and jumping close to hounds, as does a batsman who feels himself master of the bowling on a good wicket in a first-class match, with a fine day and a large crowd keenly anxious for his well-doing. He is conscious that his side is gaining a glorious victory by his efforts, and life can give him no prouder moments. To the young cricketer let us therefore say, in conclusion, that, as the pleasure is so intense and the excitement so keen, he should strive to attain proficiency by care, practice, and the advice of great masters. Above all, he must cultivate the moral qualities that of necessity must have a place in such a great, glorious, and unsurpassable game as cricket.