Cricket (Steel, Lyttelton)/Chapter 3
BOWLING: BY A. G. STEEL.
'The demon bowler.'
VERYONE who knows anything at all about cricket will at once admit that bowling is, to say the least, as important a feature of the game as batting. The same share of fame has always been conferred on a really good bowler as on an expert at the other great branch of the game; but, though this this been
so from the very earliest days of cricket, there is no doubt that the number of good bowlers whose names figure in the chronicles of the game is much smaller than the number of good batsmen. This would seem to show that the art of bowling is more difficult of attainment than its sister accomplishment, and in face of this supposition, it seems strange that the energy devoted to practising bowling by all beginners at the game should be so greatly exceeded by that devoted to batting. The reason for this may easily be found in the fact that the pleasure derived from making a long score, and the indescribable feelings of delight experienced by every keen cricketer when he has a bat in his hand, seem to offer greater attractions than the more sober, less flashy, and apparently more mechanical duties of a bowler. It is a great pity, in the interests of the game, that at our large public schools and universities more care is not taken to coach beginners in bowling. Hours upon hours are devoted to the teaching of batting, but it is very, very seldom any professional ever thinks of endeavouring to instil into his pupils any of the most elementary rules of bowling.
A question which cannot fail to present itself to the minds of all cricketers, and especially those who recollect some of the heroes of bygone days, is whether the bowling of to-day is as good as it used to be. This particular question—so often put, and answered so differently—seems to me to be one which it is impossible to decide, as the whole nature of the game has altered so much in the last few years. This alteration is due, firstly, to the great improvement in the condition of the grounds; secondly, to the corresponding improvement in batting, for 'the better the grounds the better the batsmen,' is generally a correct saying. Formerly bowlers were greatly assisted by the uneven ness of the grounds; whereas now, on our billiard-table-like wickets, even our very best bowlers know well that their chance of getting rid of a strong batting side for anything under 300 runs is extremely remote. It is impossible to compare the tallhatted old heroes of the ball with bowlers of the present day. In olden days the badness of the grounds caused the best batsman's wicket to be in frequent jeopardy, and fast erratic bowlers were well aware that there would be ample compensation for any accuracy which might be wanting in their delivery in the far from infrequent shooters and abruptly rising balls which so often either levelled the stumps or compelled the retirement of the batsman by a catch in the slips. Nowadays a bowler is nothing unless he is accurate; batting is so good and grounds are so level that the slightest inaccuracy of pitch or direction almost invariably meets with condign punishment. Consequently our best bowlers—and these consist almost exclusively of the professional class—seem to aim not so much at getting rid of a batsman as at keeping down the runs by bowling a good even straight length, and trusting to chance or the impatience of the batsman for his dismissal. As, however, this subject is one which will best be treated later on, and about which there is a good deal to be said, we will leave it for the present, and turn our attention to a short retrospect of bowling from the earliest days.
Round-arm bowling seems to have come into vogue in 1825. It has been generally supposed that Mr. Willes was the first to start it, and the following story is told of the way in which that gentleman found out the advantages of the round-arm delivery. Mr. Willes, being a most enthusiastic cricketer, and not content with the summer months for his favourite sport, used in the winter daily to repair to his barn, and there measure out the proper distance, pitch the stumps, and, with his sister (also an enthusiast) as bowler, enjoy a good practice. Now everyone who has seen ladies attempting to throw a stone or cricket ball will remember that they invariably have a half-round, half-under sort of delivery, and this Miss Willes, in common with the majority of ladies, seems to have possessed. Her brother, accustomed to play against what in those days was the only known style of bowling, viz. under-arm, was somewhat perplexed and worried with this unknown feminine species of ball, which doubtless he found difficult to tackle. How amusing it would have been to have watched this keen cricketer, probably not unconscious of his own merits as a batsman, entirely puzzled by the deliveries of a lady! We are not told whether his feelings of shame at being thus defeated, or of delight at discovering this new style of bowling, predominated, but we are told that shortly afterwards he made his début as a roundarm bowler, and met with (until he was stopped by the conservatism of the crowd) the greatest success.
From the year 1825 down to the present, round-arm bowling has been universal, and it is now quite an exceptional occurrence to come across a fast under-arm bowler of the old style. This is not much to be regretted, as every attribute of good bowling which was obtainable by the fast underarm delivery is much more easy of attainment by the round or over-arm style; and many accomplishments pertaining to the bowler's art are possible to the round-arm which, from the very nature of the action, are impossible to the fast under-arm bowler. Break, spin, and quickness from the pitch are common to both styles, but certainly the two latter are made easier of acquirement by the round-arm style; and with regard to break—an easier matter for the under-arm bowler—the ball that breaks or twists the most is not as a rule the ball that gets the most wickets. To a fast under-arm bowler the variations in flight and pace, so well known to the best round-arm bowlers, are unknown. Slow under-arm bowling, of course, must be excepted from these remarks; later on in this chapter I shall have some thing to say on the subject of this most useful style, which unfortunately in later years seems almost to have died out.
Nowadays all the bowling, i.e. the good bowling, of England is in the hands of professionals, a fact which is greatly to be regretted for several reasons. It is also noticeable that to-day've have barely got one first-class amateur bowler. The falling off in the quality and quantity of amateur bowlers is owing to the great demand there has been in the last few years for professional bowlers at schools. Thirty years ago there was not one professional bowler to every twenty there are now. The large public schools in those days had, as a rule, one professional bowler, who took charge of the ground, coached the boys, and made himself generally useful in various capacities. Consequently, each boy at practice had to bowl. The professional could only bowl to one boy at a time, and so everyone did his very best at practice to bowl straight and well, as a batsman would not care to practise to bowling that was slack and crooked. The outcome of this system resulted in every cricketer becoming more or less of a bowler, and many boys from constant practice grew fairly proficient who otherwise would never have been heard of, and consequently would never have been able to take part in the most fascinating part of the game. To-day our large schools, as a rule, boast perhaps three or four professional bowlers; the boys who have the privilege of being coached by them daily get their half-hour's batting practice from their straight accurate bowling, and then usually their lesson is finished. Perhaps a boy may take a ball and bowl for a short time to a companion at the same net as the professional, but it is generally done, if done at all, in a careless, haphazard sort of fashion, there not being the same inducement to bowl straight and well as there used to be when professional bowlers were more scarce.
What a pity it is that even a tenth part of the care and attention devoted to teaching batting is not expended on bowling! A few words of instruction or encouragement to a beginner might have the effect of awakening in him the interest and keenness about bowling which would eventually cause his development into agood bowler, or at any rate afairish one. Who has not seen over and over again a boy come up to a net where a companion is practising, and picking up a ball, which as likely as not is about half as large again as a match ball, proceed to hammer away at the batsman for about ten minutes or more in all directions, with all pitches, and, what is worse than everything, with different lengths of run? Then, perhaps, getting a little tired, as any bowler will who bowls for long without a rest (which he would get in a match at the end of each over), he exclaims, 'Now I'll give you some of Spofforth's patents!' and then, with a long run and a kangaroo-like bound (but, probably, altogether unlike the famous Australian bowler), he proceeds to hurl the ball wider and in a more erratic style than ever. Then, perhaps, he will say, 'Would you like some of W. G.'s?' and immediately assuming the well-known and somewhat inartistic pose of the English champion, proceed to toss the ball lifeless up in the air. Now this is not the way to learn how to bowl. Bowling, like everything else worth doing, takes a lot of careful practice before it can be expected to meet with success.
There can be no doubt that were boys carefully trained at school in the art of bowling, as they are in that of batting, our universities, from which the ranks of our first-class cricketers are usually replenished, would be continually sending up men who could take the position as leading bowlers now occupied by professionals. But, it may be asked, if we have a supply of fairly good bowlers, what does it matter whether they are professionals or amateurs? There are two answers to this question: first, that the Gentlemen every year play the Players, and are naturally always anxious to beat them; and, secondly, that the more cricket gets into the hands of professional players, the worse it will be for the game and its reputation. Now we wish most positively to state that, while laying down this second proposition, we do not wish or intend to say one word against the personal character of the English professional cricketer; on the contrary, our opinion is that the great majority of this class are honest, hard-working, and sober men. We only say that it is not in the interests of cricket that any branch of the. game should be left entirely in their hands. Let us just take a glance at our professional as we have usually found him. As a rule, he is the son of a small tradesman, or person in that rank of life, and has been born in a neighbourhood where the greatest interest is taken in sport of all kinds, cricket during the summer months being sedulously played. These neighbourhoods are far more frequent in the northern than the southern counties; the sporting tendencies of the people of Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Nottingham being developed to a much greater extent than in the more southern shires. These three counties, and especially Notts, turn out large quantities of young professionals yearly.
A boy who has been born in one of these cricketing districts is sure to devote a fair share of his time to watching the victories and defeats of his village club, and consequently to imbibing that feeling of 'pleasing madness' connected with the game which attacks every cricket enthusiast. The height of his ambition is to bowl a ball or two to the village champion, batsman, and when the opportunity arises to gratify his wish you will see him, hardly higher than the stumps, bowling with an action exactly similar to the crack village bowler, and scorning to encroach so much as an inch over the line of the bowling; stump. And, oh! what sleepless nights ensue from the anticipation of actually seeing with his own eyes on the following Saturday one of the real cracks of England—one who has-positively played in Gentlemen v. Players, or represented England against Australia! No wonder the boy becomes imbued with keenness for the game, when everyone in the village, from, the parson to the old lady who keeps the sweetshop, is continually talking about cricket. As the boy grows older he begins to make his mark in the village club, and when he is eighteen or nineteen, to the delight of his father, mother, sisters, and himself, he is selected to make one of the twenty-two colts of his county that are chosen to play against the county team. After having played in public, and perhaps tasted the pleasures of success, the father finds that his son is restless and disturbed in his trade, and wishes to give it up and become a professional cricketer. So it happens that his name is sent up to the county secretary as wanting a situation, and the young fellow finds himself launched into the world on his own account as a cricket professional.
With regard to the young man's prospect of success on starting in his new life, we are bound to say that, assuming he has only the average cricket ability of the ordinary professional, his chances of even making a livelihood are not particularly bright. He may, and no doubt will, earn as much as 2l. a week, or even more, during the summer months; but at the end of August or beginning of September he will find himself with very little money in his pocket, and seven of the coldest and worst months of the year to face. He may get employment in the winter months—many professionals do, either as colliers or as porters, or some other work. We have known them to do clerk's work for railways in the winter; but all work for men only willing to stick to it for a few months is extremely uncertain, and there can be no doubt that many cricket professionals have a bad time in the winter.
There are, of course, prizes in his profession as there are in every other, but these are only open to a man of conspicuous cricket ability. Even if a young man obtain a regular place in his county team, he can only reckon on earning about 80l. in the summer months, out of which he has to pay his own expenses; as a county will play about fourteen or fifteen matches in the season, giving 5l. a head to the professionals, and 1l. extra if the team wins. There is also a possibility for a man to earn what is called his 'talent-money,' viz. 1l. extra by making fifty runs or over. After a professional cricketer has rendered conspicuous services to his county for a number of years, and generally just before his retirement, he receives what is called a 'benefit,' i.e. the proceeds from the gate, collected at some important contest on his own county ground; and if the man is a favourite with the crowd, it means a good round sum in his pocket, sufficient to keep him to the end of his days, or else set him up in a small way of business. Men have got as much as 1,200l. from their 'benefit,' but, as a rule, a well-known man in a good county will only secure from 500l. to 600l. Should a professional show great merit in his county matches, either as bowler or batsman, he is chosen to play in the great matches, such as Gentlemen and Players; and then, should he establish his reputation as a really first-class player, he will earn almost 10l, a week for the months June, July, and August, there being very few weeks during that time that he does not play two matches, at 5l. and the usual extras. The very best players, however, cannot ensure anything like a certainty, as they know there will come a time, and that not far distant, when their limbs will grow stiff and their eyes less keen. Cricket is a game which requires quickness of eye and of limb, and, as a rule, after thirty-four or thirty-five, either one of the two—the former or the latter, and perhaps both—must begin to fail. Then the professional cricketer is going downhill, and shortly will have to retire and see his place filled by younger and more active men. Lucky for him if he has been an economical man during his years of success, or if he gets some good position, such as custodian of a cricket ground, which, with his benefit money, will suffice to keep him. There are numerous instances of men retaining their place in first-class cricket up to the age of forty, or even more. The evergreen Tom Emmett, of Yorkshire, who probably never bowled better in his life than in 1886, is considerably Over that age, and W. G. Grace, at the time of writing, is close on forty; but, as a rule, there is considerable labour and sorrow connected with a veteran (at cricket) of thirty-eight or forty who fights against nature to retain his place in first-class cricket. The sinews in the calf and the thigh keep going; the shoulder gets stiffer and stiffer for throwing, or even jerking; there is generally more to carry between the chest and the legs, which prevents the alacrity in stooping for which the fieldsman was once so famous; though perhaps (if a batsman), with a warm day, a good wicket, and every condition in his favour, he will still show his former powers by playing an unexceptionable innings.
The preceding remarks about professionals will show that it is a very dangerous profession for a young man to embark upon, unless his merit is so great that his success in first-class cricket is almost a certainty. We should never recommend any young cricketer who came to us for advice on the subject to enter on the precarious life of a professional unless he had absolutely nothing else to turn his hand to, or appeared to be of the most exceptional merit.
The first-class professional cricketer is usually a well-made, strong-looking man, ranging from two or three and twenty to thirty-five, with agreeable, quiet manners with his superiors on the cricket field, the result, no doubt, of being so constantly in their society. He is generally dressed, we are bound to say, in rather dirty white flannels, and always in the hottest weather wears thick woollen drawers, half an inch of which is generally visible above the waistband of his trousers. He is a great favourite with the crowd, and when his side is in may be seen walking round the ground surrounded by a body of admirers, any one of whom is ready and willing at any moment to treat his ideal hero to a glass of anything he may wish for. It is greatly to the player's credit that in the face of this temptation to insobriety he is such a sober, temperate man. I have never seen on a cricket field a first-class professional player the worse for drink, and I have only on one occasion heard the slightest whisper against the sobriety of such a man during the progress of a match. I believe that, as a class, and considering the thirsty nature of their occupation and the opportunities that offer themselves for drinking, there is no more sober body of men than cricket professionals.
Having attempted to give a short, and it is hoped impartial, description of the cricket professional, let us, before resuming the subject of bowling, return to the assertion that the more cricket gets into the hands of professional players the worse it will be for the game and its reputation. At present cricket is perhaps the most popular of all our national recreations; it is certainly the most popular game, and is rightly considered to be the manliest and the freest from all mischievous influences. What these latter are, and what a pernicious and enervating influence they exercise on other branches of our national sports, is known to everyone. I allude to the betting and book-making element which from the earliest days has been the curse of sport. What is the worst feature about horse-racing? To what do English lovers of true sport owe the fact that every racecourse is the rendezvous of the biggest blackguards and knaves in the kingdom? Is it not betting, and the pecuniary inducement it offers to every kind of dirty, shabby practice? The sullying influence has spread to the running-path, and even, if report says true, to the river. Happily there is never the slightest whisper of suspicion against the straightness of our cricket players, and this is entirely owing to the absence of the betting element in connection with the game. It is an unfortunate fact that the tendency of first-class cricket nowadays is to swamp the amateur by the professional. Some of our best county teams are almost wholly composed of the latter class. The time taken up in big matches is so great, owing to their being drawn out by a late start and early finish each day, that the amateur is beginning to realise his inability to give up from his business or profession so much of this valuable commodity. What has happened in consequence? Cricket—i.e. first-class cricket—is becoming a regular monetary speculation. Thousands upon thousands troop almost daily to see the big matches, flooding the coffers of the county or club, which does its very best to spin out the match for the sake of the money. If this continue, our best matches will become nothing better than gate-money contests, to the detriment of the true interests of the game and its lovers.
Bowling is as much worthy of the name of an art as any other branch of sport. The skill, science, and practice which are necessary before a man can throw a good salmon fly, or before he can reckon on bringing down a good average of high rocketing pheasants, are equally necessary for one who wishes to become an adept at bowling. Perhaps bowling does not require the same oneness of hand and eye as batting, but it demands, if possible, more practice and experience, and to a far greater extent the exercise of mental qualities. The object of the bowler is to outmanœuvre the batsman; he has either to hit the stumps or draw him into some incautiousness or hesitation of play, which will result in the ball being caught from the bat or in the batsman being stumped out by the wicket-keeper. This is a wide field, and suggests at once that to become proficient a bowler must think—and think deeply too—not once or twice every few minutes, but before each ball, for none should ever be delivered without a particular object. Every ball must be part and parcel of a scheme which the bowler has in his mind for getting rid of the batsman. The object of every bowler, whether fast or slow, is always to bowl what is called a 'good length'—i.e. to pitch the ball so close to the batsman that he cannot play it on the 'bounce,' or, in cricket parlance, 'on the long-hop,' and yet so far that he cannot play it just as it touches the ground or immediately on the rise—i.e. on the 'half-volley.' There can be no precise measurement of the exact spot on which the 'good-length' ball must pitch, as it is constantly varying according to the state of the ground and the size and style of the batsman. When the ground is 'slow' and 'sticky' from recent rain, the good-length ball will have to be pitched considerably farther than when it is 'hard' and 'fast,' as, of course, the ball will come faster off the ground when it is in the latter state than when in the former. The reason why the bowling of this particular ball is always the object of every bowler is because it compels the batsman to meet the ball with the bat by forward play, and because in so doing he often loses sight of the ball from the moment it touches the ground till it strikes the bat. No one can be called a good bowler until he has the power at will of bowling ball after ball of this sort. It often happens when two batsmen are well set, and every wile and 'dodge' of the bowlers has been tried without avail, that two bowlers will have to go on to bowl, or try to bowl, nothing else but good-length balls, in the hopes of keeping down the runs. If this can be done effectually, a batsman is bound through impatience to make a mistake which in time may cost him his wicket.
Every ball that leaves the bowler's hand has, in addition to the propelling power imparted by the bowler, one of four different motions. The ball as it travels is either spinning from right to left; or from left to right; or with a downward vertical motion; or an upward vertical motion. It is a fact that it is well-nigh an impossibility for a ball to leave the hand of the veriest beginner without having one of these four motions to a certain extent imparted to it.
On these four rotary motions depends how much and in what direction the ball will twist or deviate from its course, and also the speed and height it will assume after touching the ground. One of the arts of a bowler is to cheat the batsman by making the ball pitch in one spot and, after the pitch, suddenly take a different direction; another is to make the ball rise quicker off the ground than a batsman would be led to expect from the ordinary rules of reflection. These arts are accomplished by different movements of the fingers and hand at the moment of delivering the ball; for the reason why every ball has a certain amount of spin on it is because the fingers, being in contact with the ball as it leaves the hand, cause it to rotate (though perhaps so infinitesimally as not to be noticeable) on its journey to the ground.
The spin, or rotary motion, from right to left is gained by grasping the ball chiefly with the thumb and first and second fingers, the third and fourth fingers being placed together round the other side of the ball. The moment the ball leaves the hand the latter is turned quickly over from right to left, and at the same time the first and second finger and thumb, coming over with the hand, impart a powerful twist to the ball, which leaves the hand when the latter is turned palm downwards. There is also at the time of delivery an outward and upward movement of the elbow which gives the arm the shape of a curve, or almost a semicircle. The ball goes on its way spinning rapidly from right to left, and the moment it touches the ground twists very sharply towards the off side of the batsman. This ball, termed in cricket parlance the 'leg-break,' when well bowled is perhaps one of the most deadly of all balls, but it is also the most difficult for a bowler to master. It is always a slow ball, as to bowl it fast with any accuracy of pitch is an impossibility—at any rate, it may be assumed to be so, as no bowler has ever yet appeared who could bowl it otherwise than slow. Palmer, the Australian bowler, was about the fastest ever known at this ball, but his faster ones were very inaccurate in pitch, and he could only bowl them, strange to say, very occasionally. The author, although he has played innings after innings against this bowler, never remembers receiving a single fast leg-break from him. The fact of the hand having to turn over from right to left, and of the ball being delivered underneath the hand, so to speak, causes it to be extremely difficult to attain accuracy of pitch and direction. There are many men who can bowl this ball in practice at the nets, but who never dare attempt it in a match, having no confidence whatever in their ability to bowl it straight, or even fairly straight. It is no uncommon occurrence to see this ball, bowled by one who has tried it in practice, travelling somewhere near to where point is standing. There are some slow bowlers who have become fairly proficient at it, and who have enjoyed at various times, and especially against batsmen they have never met before, a certain amount of success; but it is a style of bowling which should only be encouraged to the extent of enabling every bowler to use it occasionally. If nothing but this ball is bowled over after over, by constant repetition it loses its sting. The batsman gets wary, and when the ball is pitched on his leg side gets before his stumps to protect them, and hangs his bat in front of him, thereby rendering the loss of his wicket extremely improbable; and when it is pitched straight for the middle stump or on the off side, knowing the danger of a hit at the pitch of this ball, he will simply satisfy himself with protecting his stumps with his legs, and with letting the ball pass the off stump without further protest. The trap laid for the batsman in this style of bowling is the danger he incurs by hitting unless he is actually on the pitch of the ball; if he falls into the snare, the ball is perfectly certain to go up in the air, and generally in the direction of cover-point or mid-off. This, of course, is owing to the twist of the ball causing it to hit the side and not the centre of the bat. Should the batsman in the act of hitting miss the ball altogether, as is not infrequently the case, he pays the penalty of being stumped unless he happens to be a fast-footed hitter. Now, of course, these two traps are well known to every good batsman, and consequently it is, as a rule, useless to bowl ball after ball of this nature to him—one might just as well whistle for grouse at the end of November to come and be shot.
This ball, therefore, should only be bowled at intervals, and when according to the bowler's judgment it may have a fair prospect of success. Usually this happens on two occasions. The first is when a batsman has just begun his innings, and is playing nervously and without confidence; a twisting ball then from the leg side is extremely apt to fluster and annoy him, and a catch in the slips or at point, or a catch and bowl, is not infrequently the result. The second is when a hitter is in, and is hitting to all parts of the field. Then the ball may be bowled with a great chance of success, especially if the man is anxious and impatient to hit every ball. He is extremely likely to hit a little short of the pitch, with the above-mentioned result. It is not a good thing for the bowler to worry the batsman with this ball if the latter seems not to like it or to play it nervously; it should at most be used not more than twice in an over. Let the bowler always remember that too much of one particular ball, even if distasteful to the batsman, will frighten and steady him, and perhaps in the end teach him to play it correctly. There are some batsmen, and good batsmen too, who never seem to be at home to this ball, although they may have played it scores of times, and I remember once seeing an amusing incident at a match in which a bowler who had adopted it was playing sad havoc with the other side. The first three batsmen had all rushed out to try and hit the leg-break ball, and, failing to do so, paid the inevitable penalty of being stumped. Their captain was furious at their rashness, especially as they were all three good players; he explained, and rightly, that the proper way to play the ball was either by hitting it on the full volley—i.e. before it touched the ground—or else remaining inside the crease and playing it quietly. He went in himself, intending to illustrate this principle, and, lo and behold! was stumped the very first ball he received. He scraped forward a long way to meet the ball, missed it, and remained in a most elegant Fuller Pilch-like attitude, fondly imagining the toe of his boot was inside the crease. It was, as a matter of fact, a good inch outside it. In that match there were five stumped each innings off the same bowler, and the captain was one of them both times. On another occasion a batsman with rather thin and weedy looking legs kept jumping in front of his stumps every time this ball was delivered. Finally the ball, discovering the weak spot in this gentleman's physical proportions, managed to find (just above the knees) an opening large enough for it to pass through and dislodge the bails. Great was his astonishment and disgust, and as he retired crestfallen to the pavilion he said to the writer, who was one of the fielding side on that occasion, 'It was not the ball or the bowler that did that; it was all owing to my confoundedly skinny legs!' A dodge well worth trying with this ball is to bowl a good length about two feet to the leg of the batsman; he is nearly sure to have a hit, and there is a great chance of the spin on the ball causing it to be a miss-hit, which may go straight up in the air, for the wicket-keeper, point, or bowler to secure; even if it is a clean hit to leg it is nearly bound to be in the air, and long-leg may possibly have a chance. If this scheme is to be practised it will be generally a good thing for the bowler to have his long-leg perfectly square, and bring his long field on round till he is almost in the position of a forward long-leg. This should be done by quietly waving the hand in such a manner as to attract the attention of the batsman as little as possible. It is impossible to lay down any rule for the way in which the fieldsmen should be placed for this style of bowling, as this depends so much upon the play of each particular batsman. A long-leg is, however, nearly always necessary, and ver>' often an extra man out on the leg side, as mentioned already. Two men out in the field for the average batsman cannot be dispensed with. The bowler himself, as a rule, will know how to place his field for each batsman, but on no occasion should he ever omit to have a short-slip. This is such a very likely place to get a batsman snapped up that it should never be dispensed with to any style of bowling, except perhaps to slow under-arm, and not always then. A slow bowler who intends to use the leg-break, let us say, once an over, or even once in two overs, and who relies on this ball as most hkely to secure wickets, may on ordinary occasions place his men thus, but, as we said before, they must be changed to suit the circumstances.
If the ground is hard and fast, as a rule a third man cannot be dispensed with; but if inclined to be slow, he may be brought forward to extra cover-point, between cover-point and mid-off, or else put deep in the field on the on side. The bowler may, however, see that the batsman is wide enough awake to restrain himself from hitting blindly at the pitch of this ball when straight or on the off stump; it will then be advisable to try him entirely on the leg side—a man may refuse the bait on one side but take it on the other. In these circumstances extra coverpoint, and sometimes even cover-point as well, may be brought across the wicket and placed for half-hits wide on the on—i.e. about half the distance from the batsman that a deep field would stand. If the batsman assumes a poky style of play, it is often advantageous, both for saving runs and getting wickets, to have a short-leg a little nearer the stumps than the umpire, and the mid-on as near to the batsman as he can venture consistently with safety. In this, as in every other style of bowling, it is a sovereign rule to make the batsman play to the ball—i.e. to keep it well pitched up, and compel him either to hit or play forward.
A very novel style of this kind of bowling was seen on English cricket grounds in the summer of 1884, when the Australian team of that year included W. H. Cooper, so well known to all our cricketers who have visited the colonies. He bowled round the wicket, and nearly every ball almost a wide to leg. There was more spin and twist on the ball than had ever been seen in this country before (excepting, perhaps, in the bowling of Mr. Stratford, who played for a year or two for Middlesex, but who never made his mark in first-class cricket). The ball seemed to be twisted or screwed out of the side of his hand in the way a billiard-marker will screw a billiard-ball along the table to a certain spot, and then bring it back to him. But, unfortunately for him, he was unable to combine any pace with this tremendous twist. The ball was extraordinarily slow in the air, but directly it pitched it would spin off the ground comparatively quickly, twisting into the batsman on the faster wickets, sometimes as much as a yard or more. All his men except two were on the on side, and he expected his wickets to be obtained by the impatience of the batsman causing him to rush out, miss, and get stumped, or else by wide hitting at the pitch of the ball on the leg side, where there were seven fielders with seven pretty sure pairs of hands waiting for it. In Australia he had met with a fair share of success, especially against some of the English elevens which had been over there. It was this latter consideration which induced the Australian authorities to believe that he would be a useful addition to their team. His bowling was most unsuccessful in this country. Whether this was due to an accident to his hand on the voyage to England, or from the light here being not so glaring and bright for our English eyes as it is in Australia, cannot be said for certain, but I have a strong opinion from my own experience that the reason of his success in Melbourne against Englishmen was owing to the dreadful glare on that ground.
One peculiarity of the leg-twisting ball is that when the ground is soft and sticky it is comparatively of no avail. The ball then, of course, twists to a greater extent than when the ground is hard, but it leaves the pitch so very slowly that the batsman can either wait for it on the long-hop or hit it on the full or half-volley. The leg-break ball on a soft ground, if bowled at all, must be bowled faster than on hard, in order to counteract the deadness of the turf. The best states of the ground for this bowling, as indeed for most, are when the ground has been hard and fast, and has since become crumbly and covered with loose bits of grass and worn turf, and when there has been heavy rain to saturate the ground which is being rapidly dried and caked by a hot sun. In the former state the ball takes plenty of twist, and also leaves the ground very quickly, in addition to sometimes getting up uncomfortably high for the batsman. In the caked state the ball takes lots of twist, and puzzles the batsman by the varied and uneven paces at which it leaves the ground, sometimes coming sharply and high, at others stopping on the ground and, in batsman's parlance, 'getting up and looking at you.'
The 'leg break' ball is usually bowled from round the wicket,
as from this side there is more scope for the bowler to make the ball twist. It is doubtless the best side of the stumps to choose for the delivery of this ball, but every bowler should remember that it is very nearly as good as a change of bowling to change from 'round' to 'over' the wicket, and this is especially so with leg-break balls The ball delivered from round the wicket generally leaves the hand a good foot outside the extremity of the bowling crease; this means that it starts about 4 feet 4 inches from the middle stump of the bowler's wicket, and in its journey through the air, even if pitched in a line with
the leg stump of the batsman's wicket, it has to make considerable way from the leg side of the wicket. This, of course, makes the ball go across the wicket more from the pitch, and, as a rule, means that a leg-stump leg-break ball round the wicket misses the wicket on the off side. A batsman, if the ball is pitched off his wicket, may defend it, as the rule of leg before wicket now stands, with his legs, and consequently the bowler has not much chance of hitting it. When bowled from over the wicket the legbreak ball, being delivered in a direct line with the batsman's wicket, will naturally, if pitched on the leg-stump or between the legs and the wicket, not twist so much, thus making it more likely to hit the wicket if missed by the batsman. There is also a diiect advantage to be gained by bowling over the wicket if the batsman is inclined to get in front of his stumps, as there is always a better chance for the bowler to get an appeal for leg before wicket answered in his favour than when bowling from the other side.
Although, as previously mentioned, there has never been any instance of the leg-break ball being bowled by a fast bowler, some of the best bowlers of the past generation of cricketers used to bowl with a considerable bias from the leg side, and were also of well over medium pace. Martingell and Silcock were bowlers of this class. This old style was very effective, and it is greatly to be regretted that it has almost entirely disappeared from the game at the present day. It diflfered from the slow ball that has been discussed only in the amount of spin; and as there was so much less power expended in spinning or twisting, the pace of the ball was greatly in excess of that which can be got on to the slow leg-break. The ball was delivered round the wicket, at the very extent of the crease, in order to make the angle from the hand to an imaginary straight line between the two middle stumps as great as possible. The hand was very little higher than the hip when the ball was delivered, and instead of the hand and wrist being completely turned over at the moment of delivery, as in the slow leg-break, tKe fingers imparted a right to left spin to the ball. The ball, coming from a great distance round the wicket and with a considerable amount of leg spin, would be gradually working away to the batsman's off side every inch of its journey, both before and after pitching. Catches in the slips and on the off side were numerous from this style of bowling, and it required the batsman's greatest care and caution to guard himself against playing inside the balls, is a great pity we do not see more of this bowling now.
The next spin or twist on the ball which we will discuss is the rotary motion from left to right. This, in cricket phraseology, is termed the 'off' break, and is far more universal than that from the 'leg.' In fact, so common is it, and so easy to learn,
that nearly everyone who has ever bowled in a match knows more or less how to put this spin on the ball. It is, of course, always easier to get spin on to a slow ball than on to a fast one.
When the ball to be delivered is a slow one, the fingers and hand may be twisted into almost any shape, as so little power is required actually to deliver the ball; all the strength of hand, Likely balls; and what may become of them if not correctly played.
a, a likely one for a wild hitter to get himself out on the off side; b and c, likely for a stump, or, if hit with straight bat, a catch to deep field-off; d and e, likely for 'catch and bowl;' f, long-leg and half-hit chances—short-slip and wicket-keeper often get an easy chance this ball.
of wrist, and of the fingers may be utilised for the purposes of spin alone. When the ball has to be a fast one, the power necessary to propel the ball at the required pace prevents so much of the power of fingers, &c, being expended on spin. A slow ball always takes the spin, after leaving the ground, to a greater extent than a fast one, because it is longer on the ground when it pitches, and the spinning has more time to take effect on the turf.
The natural spin on every ball which is bowled is from left to right—i.e. the off break. Even when a fielder throws in a ball from a distance it almost invariably has this spin on it. If you watch the smallest boy in the street throwing a stone, you will find, nine times out of ten, the stone has acquired this spin. It is then no wonder that almost every right-handed bowler relies upon this twist as his principal artifice. The twist depends rather more on the power of the fingers than on the hand and wrist, as in the 'leg-break.' The ball is usually, by a slow bowler, grasped firmly with all the fingers resting on the seam, as this gives more purchase and resistance for the fingers to operate. The latter at the moment of delivery spin the ball, almost in the same way as they would spin a top, and instead of an upward and outward motion of the elbow, as in the 'legbreak,' there is an inward motion towards the side of the bowler. The hand is turned over outwards when the ball is delivered, and, if properly bowled and pitched just outside the off stump, and under good conditions of ground, the ball, after the pitch, will change its course abruptly towards the batsman and the wicket.
Differing from the 'leg-break,' this ball can with practice be accompanied by a great accuracy of pitch—an accuracy which has been attained almost to perfection by some of our best known bowlers. The late James Southerton, the famous Surrey bowler, could bowl in this style for hours with only a very occasional variation from a perfect 'good length.' Alfred Shaw, of Nottingham, though a little passé now, was perhaps the greatest exponent of accuracy of pitch combined with the slow 'off break,' or what is generally termed 'break-back.' This ball should be bowled a good length, and generally about two or three inches outside the off stump.
Of course the amount of twist the ball will take depends on the state of the ground, and this should at once be apparent to the bowler. The danger most to be apprehended by the batsman from the off break is that in playing forward, if not quite on the pitch of the ball, he is very apt, owing to the twist, to play outside, and allow it to pass between his bat and right leg to the wicket. It is never a wise thing for the bowler to use the 'off break' every ball, although there are many who do so. Even if he is devoid of all other artifice, and has no command over the arts of 'change of pace,' 'flight,' or the 'leg-break,' he should often vary his style by a ball without any twist at all, and this should not always be straight. If a batsman has been playing over after over nothing but good-length 'off break,' a ball pitched about the same spot, two or three inches outside the off stump, and without any off break at all, will very often be found to go to hand in the slips, because the batsman is expecting the break and plays inside the ball. The off break.
The fast 'off break' is a most deadly ball; but, owing to the difficulty, as before mentioned, of imparting any great amount of spin to a fast ball, it is but rarely that a bowler can deliver it with any degree of certainty, except when the conditions of the ground are extremely favourable. A slight slope in the ground from the off side is always a great advantage to fast bowlers who try the 'break-back.' This comparatively rare ball, when it does come, is sure to try the very best batsman. Its difficulty arises from the fact that the ball is of such a pace as to necessitate quick forward play, when the sudden turn after the pitch causes it to be missed. For playing 'off breaks' of all paces, it is a great and golden rule for batsmen to remember: Never allow space between the bat and the left leg for the ball to pass through. This rule, which insures the left leg of the batsman being placed well across the wicket when playing forward, if followed, will render it almost impossible for him to be bowled out with an 'off break.' It is an astounding fact that this simple rule, which should be patent to everyone, seems unknown to all our best batsmen with one or two notable exceptions. W. G. Grace has always played with his leg up to his bat, thereby preventing the ball from finding an opening between the two. W. W. Read, of Surrey, is another who plays thus. We do not express any opinion here as to the bearing of this rule on the leg-before-wicket question. It is sufficient for a batsman at present, as the rule now stands, that so long as the ball does not pitch between the two wickets he cannot be given out 'Lb.w.'
The two 'spins,' from the leg and the off, are the chief and most important for all practical purposes. If a bowler by constant practice has acquired the power of twisting the ball from off or leg at will, and can at the same time bowl a 'good length,' he has laid a tolerable foundation for future success. We say tolerable, because, in bowling, twist, as we shall see later on, is not everything; it is an essential
A, B, C, all good ones; D, if the batsman stands with his legs some way from the leg stump, this is likely to bowl him off his legs: but it is a beauty to hit on the on side. element in good bowling, but it is only one of several, all of which must combine together before anyone can earn the reputation of a first-class bowler.
The two other spins which can be put on the ball are what have been called the 'upward vertical' and the 'downward vertical.' By the 'upward vertical,' I mean when the ball spins in its way to the ground vertically, and upwards with regard to the bowler. It may be compared to the spin imparted to the billiard ball in the screw stroke. This is effected by striking the ball low down, which makes it revolve in its course upwards. The effect this upward revolution has is seen when the striker's ball meets the object ball, the former having a decided inclination to stop and return to the striker. In the same way a cricket ball, when made to revolve upwards, has a tendency to stop and go slower off the pitch than it went before it reached the ground.
This twist, as a matter of fact, is never practised; and it is a great pity that more attention has not been paid to it. Of course it is very much more difficult to make the ball revolve in this manner than in either the leg or the off break, but it is quite within the powers of the possessor of a fairly strong set of fingers. The lower half only of the ball should be held, so that the upper half protrudes above the hand and fingers, and at the moment of delivery, which must be from the level of the shoulder or lower, the fingers and hand must impart as much upward spin as possible.
The downward vertical spin is the reverse of this, and is caused by the upper half of the ball being grasped instead of the lower, as in the upward. This spin imparts to the ball a tendency to come quicker from the pitch than the pace in the air would seem to suggest, and is analogous to the 'following up' stroke at billiards. The latter is made by striking the ball at the top, making it revolve downwards and vertically from the striker. Very many bowlers possess this downward spin in their bowling without being at all aware of the fact. They know, as also do those who play against them, that every now and then one of their balls will, in cricket slang, 'make haste from the pitch.' The batsman finds he has mistaken the pace of the ball, which flies past him before he is anything like ready to play it, and when his stumps lie prostrate, as often as not he will come back to the pavilion with the old, old story, 'Bowled with a shooter;' whereas, in fact, the ball has hit the middle or even upper part of his stumps. He has entirely lost the ball from the pitch owing to his misjudgment of its pace, and concludes erroneously that it has shot underneath his bat.
We have now considered the four kinds of spin which can be put on to a cricket ball. Of course there may be combinations of two kinds, as, for instance, the ball may be spinning from right to left or left to right, and at the same time be revolving to a certain extent vertically downwards or upwards; but it would be impossible to discuss the result of every such combination.
The ball may break from 'leg,' and at the same time show by its acceleration in speed after the pitch that it has been revolving downwards as well, and the same may happen with the break from the 'off;' but such variations are beyond the reach of any practical discussion.
Let us now turn to another element of good bowling—change of pace. It does not require any great amount of technical cricket knowledge to understand that, if a bowler delivers every ball at the same uniform pace, his bowling is easier for a batsman to judge and play than when he is continually altering and changing the pace. If a batsman misjudges the pace of the ball he often loses his wicket. If he plays too slow for a fast ball, or too fast for a slow one, he generally makes a fatal mistake. As it is necessary for a shooter to accurately judge the pace of a driven grouse before pulling the trigger, so is it equally necessary for a batsman to judge the pace of the ball before he plays to it. This power of judging pace only comes after long experience; but when it does exist it seems to be exercised almost intuitively, and without any conscious thought—indeed there is often no time for thought.
Perhaps the one thing which made Mr. Spofforth, the famous Australian bowler, superior at his best to all others, and has earned him the reputation of being the best bowler that has ever lived, was his wonderful power of changing the pace of the ball without making it perceptible to the batsman. In his bowling the same run, action, and exertion were apparently used for delivering a slow or medium paced ball as for a fast one. Many a time, especially on his first arrival in England, when this bowling was strange to our batsmen, the ball seemed to dislodge the bails long after the bat had completed the stroke, and was perhaps high in the air. Change of pace, to be effective, must not mean change of action; and the first thing a bowler who wishes to practise this art must understand, is that the slightest variation in style or action for a slower or faster ball will at once put the batsman on the qui vive, and destroy the effect of the device.
When a slow or medium-pace bowler wishes to deceive the batsman by a change of pace, he has, of course, two courses open to him—either to accelerate the speed of the ball or diminish it. When he wishes to bowl a faster ball than usual, he must remember that the object of the experiment is to make the batsman play slower to the ball than he has been doing, and that this result will be far more easily accomplished by pitching a good -length—if anything, a little further than a goodlength—ball, than by a short one. If the latter is bowled, the batsman, although deceived in the pace up to the pitch, has time to discover his mistake before the ball reaches him, and consequently has his bat ready in time to stop it If a ball is, however, pitched a good length, or a trifle beyond it, and up to the pitch is successful in deceiving the batsman, he will not have much chance of stopping it afterwards.
Palmer, another of the famous Australians, sends down the best fast ball that has been seen from a medium-pace bowler. There is no change of action to warn the batsman, no longer or faster run, but the ball comes with lightning rapidity, generally pitched well up, and very often in the block-hole, making that most deadly ball a 'fast yorker,' about which something will be said farther on. The change from slow or medium-pace bowling to quite slow is much more frequently practised than the change to fast, and consequently we may presume it is more easy of accomplishment. There are few slow or medium-pace bowlers who do not try occasionally to deceive the batsman by making the high slow ball pitch a little shorter than the rest have been doing. But although there are many bowlers who endeavour thus to deceive, there are but few who are really skilful in the art.
It is an extremely difficult thing to reduce the pace on the ball without altering the action. Mr. Spofforth, the Australian, as we have observed, excelled in this, as also did Alfred Shaw, of Nottingham, when at his best. For many years Shaw had the reputation of being the best slow bowler in England, and justly sa His most deadly device was, after he had bowled three or four of his ordinary paced ones, to toss the ball a little higher, a little slower, and a little shorter. Unless the batsman detected the alteration in speed at the moment of delivery, he made what was often a fatal mistake. If he hit, the ball would go high in the air, generally in the direction of deep field-on; if he played forward, a catch and bowl was the very likely result. If this ball is bowled without deceiving the batsman, it generally meets with a very heavy penalty, as, if rightly judged at first, it can generally be either waited for and hit almost to any part of the field on the 'long-hop' or bound, or run down and driven past the bowler; but the latter feat can only be accomplished by batsmen who are very quick on their legs.
Some of the best exponents of this ball appear, just prior to delivery, to greatly exert their bodies, and go through their whole customary action, while the arm, dragged slower than usual through the air, delivers the ball when the body is comparatively at rest. This, no doubt, gives the batsman the idea that the ball is going to be delivered before it really does leave the bowler's hand. But it would be quite beyond the capabilities of the writer to furnish any intelligible hints as to how to bowl this ball; every bowler will with practice find this out for himself.
As a rule, good bowlers of the present day bowl with their arms above the shoulder, and it is a rudiment in the art that the action of delivery should be as high as possible. The high delivery is certainly the most successful where the ground is hard, fast, and true, as then little or no twist can be put on to the ball, and the higher it is made to bound the more chance there is of the batsman making an uppish stroke. In addition to this advantage which the high has over the low delivery, the higher the arm is raised above the shoulder, the more difficult it is for a batsman to judge the pitch and flight of the ball.
With regard to the amount of success that slow and fast bowling meet with, at the present time there cannot be much doubt that slows as a rule are most successful. In saying this not one single word is said against fast bowling; it is indeed very greatly to be regretted that there are not more fast bowlers. They are a race of cricketers that, especially amongst amateurs, seems to be dying out— a fact which must cause the greatest anxiety to all who play the game, when it is recollected that no side, however strong in batting, fielding and bowling, is really complete without a thoroughly good fast bowler. But still slow bowling is generally found to be the most successful. It may be that this is partly the result of the numerous wet grounds which slow bowlers have to assist them during the cricket season, or of there being more slow bowlers than fast. But it is also true that slow bowling is more difficult to play than fast. The advantages that it possesses over fast are as follows:—
First.—The slowly delivered ball describes a curved line in the air both before it pitches, and afterwards to the bat; and balls coming in a curved line are far more difficult to play accurately than those which come quick and straight from the pitch. If the batsman properly judged the fast ball, by simply putting his bat straight forward he would always meet and stop it. It is not quite so with the slower ball. The ball, coming on to the ground in a curve, will leave it in a curve, and may consequently go over the shoulder of the bat. Besides, the quicker the ball is, the shorter time the batsman has to play it; his mode of playing must be decided on instantaneously, so he has no time to get into two minds on the subject.
Secondly.—In slow bowling there is always more actual hitting than in fast, and the more hitting the greater chance there is of the ball going up in the air. Fast bowling may perhaps be driven more—that is to say, it may be pushed hard by good for-
ward play in front of the wicket in all directions; but it is not often with this style of bowling that the bat is lifted high in the air, and the shoulders, arms, and whole body combine together for a big hit or 'slog,' as it is sometimes called, whereas slows often tempt the best of batsmen to hit without quite getting on to the pitch of the ball, the consequence being that the ball goes up in the air somewhere.
It is a very common occurrence to see a slow bowler who is bowling really well, and with tolerable success, taken off at once on the advent of some batsman who has earned a reputation for big hitting. He himself may be nervous about the fearful smashing the batsman may give him, and suggest to his captain to put on some fast bowler in his place, or else the captain may make the change himself. What is the usual result? The fast bowler compels the hitter to play a steady game, and then, when the latter has just got his eye well set and fit for hitting, on go the slows again, with the probable result of being utterly knocked to pieces in a few overs. If the slows had been allowed a chance at first, when the batsman's eye had not got settled down to the light, and he himself was still suffering from the nervousness inevitable to every man on first going in, what a different tale might have been told! It is always the best thing to put on slows to a big hitter when he first comes in. His anxiety to begin to hit at once is fostered by the slow, easy-looking balls that give him such time to lift his bat and put his whole strength into the stroke; this anxiety is often helped, too, by his nervousness, which in many instances produces a tendency to hit.
On a certain occasion one of the biggest hitters our cricket grounds have ever seen made about eighty runs without having a single slow ball bowled to him. The captain at last put on a slow bowler out of sheer desperation. As the slow bowler walked up to the wicket to bowl, the big hitter turned to him and said, 'What, are you going to bowl your donkey-drops? I'll hit them all out of the ground.' 'If you keep on doing it I shall have to go off,' was the modest reply. The third ball of the over there was a terrific slog; the bat fairly whistled with the speed it went through the air, and the ball, touching the shoulder, landed in short-slip's hands.
There are only two exceptions to the golden rule to put on slows when a hitter first comes in: the first is when there is something peculiar connected with the condition of the ground which is making a fast bowler at that particular time especially deadly; and the second, when the condition of the game renders it imperatively necessary to keep down the runs at all costs. In the latter case a slow bowler may prove too expensive, as even the miss-hits of a strong hitter are apt to go to the boundary. Thirdly (to resume the consideration of the advantages of slow bowling, interrupted by the anecdote and the statement of the rule and its exceptions).—Slow bowling offers more opportunity to the wicket-keeper for stumping than fast. It is so tempting for a batsman to rush in and drive the slow tossed-up ball that often he chooses the wrong one, misses it, and is left standing still a yard or two out of his ground. Chances to the wicket-keeper are also much easier off slows than fast, and consequently a great many more wickets are taken.
Fourthly.—The very slowness of the ball induces liberties of all sorts to be taken, besides that of hitting mentioned above. The batsman, when his eye is well in, often tries to score by placing balls to a particular spot, which their pitch does not justify. A favourite error that even the best batsmen fall into is that of trying to hit the leg-stump half-volleys too much to the on side, and sometimes absolutely to leg, a stroke which would never enter his head were a fast bowler bowling.
Fifthly.—A slow bowler has much greater command of pitch, pace, and spin than a fast one. The power which is expended by the latter on the pace of the ball is available by the former for these more subtle devices. There is consequently a much wider field for experiment open to the slow bowler. Usually a fast bowler bowls away ball after ball in the hopes of breaking down the batsman's defence by a good-length ball or a 'yorker;' if he fails to do this he retires in favour of the next change. A slow bowler has many devices, of which actually bowling the batsman out is perhaps very seldom resorted to. He should be able to pitch the ball within a few inches of the spot he wishes, and thus, when he has ascertained any particular weakness the batsman seems to possess, he is able to take advantage of it. There are very few batsmen who have, not certain favourite strokes; some may have a partiality for cutting, others for playing on the on side for ones and twos, others for off driving; but whatever the particular penchant may be, a slow bowler's business is to make himself acquainted with it and then take the greatest possible advantage of it. Suppose a batsman shows by his play that he is always on the look-out for a cut, and even goes so far as to cut balls which should be driven or played forward to, on the off side, a slow bowler by his command of pitch and pace may do much execution. A ball pitched a trifle further up than usual on the off side and a trifle faster may, and often does, induce the batsman to try his favourite stroke, at the imminent peril of placing the ball in the hands of point or third man, or of being caught at the wicket. A slower and higher ball than usual pitched on the leg-stump will often induce a batsman to try a favourite 'on side' stroke, at the risk of playing with a cross bat and being bowled or out leg before wicket. In fact, every fault that it is possible for a batsman to possess may be taken advantage of by a slow bowler to a much greater extent than by one of great pace. How often one sees a batsman who has given great trouble dismissed by a slow bowler who seems to have absolutely no merit whatever! The ball is tossed high in the air, with apparently no spin of any sort, and so slow as hardly to reach the wicket, and yet the well-set batsman falls a prey to his overanxiety to play the ball where the pitch of it does not warrant.
Sixthly.—A slow bowler has the advantage over a fast one of having what is equivalent to an extra man in the field, viz. himself. After the ball is bowled he is firm on his legs, ready to run in for a catch and bowl, or to dart to the on or the off side as the batsman shapes to play the ball. No matter how hard the ball is returned from the bat, he has always ample time to get down with the right hand or the left or to jump high in the air; when the batsmen are running he is always able to get behind his wickets ready to receive the ball when returned by the fielder, a golden rule for every bowler which is too often neglected. A fast bowler is generally unsteady on his legs after the ball is delivered; the pace with which he runs up to the wicket carries him on a few paces after the delivery, and he is thus generally unable to exhibit the same activity and sharpness in fielding his own bowling as a slow bowler does. In days gone by, when grounds were bad and rough, slow bowling was not so successful as fast, but the general improvement in the ground has altered this.
bowl, and what rules he should follow in order to attain success. Whilst speaking of slow bowling we shall refer to any pace under that of medium, as the rules and principles of medium are included in what is said on fast bowling. Perhaps the most important thing that every bowler, whether fast, medium, or slow, should realise is, as we have said before, to keep the ball well pitched up when a batsman first comes in. The importance of this rule is manifest, as a short-pitched ball requires no play, whereas one pitched a good length, or even farther, requires steadiness and accuracy of eye to play; because there is a moment after its pitch when it is lost to the vision, and consequently if the eye lacks accuracy the ball will be missed or bungled. An old professional cricketer, one who has made his mark in times gone by both with bat and ball, once observed]to the author, 'Anything rather than straight longhops, sir, when a man first comes in; wides and full-pitches are better,' and he was right; straight long-hops, which, alas! many of our professional bowlers bowl only too often, in order to prevent runs being made off them, do more to get in the eyes of batsmen than any other sort of ball. Often and often one sees a bowler, and perhaps one who has the name of being first-class, send down to a new batsman straight longhops one after the other—balls which it is impossible, or nearly so, to score off, and then at the end of each over walk to his place with a thoroughly satisfied air, as if adding one more maiden over to his analysis had really helped his side on to the ultimate goal of victory. It is always better for a bowler to see a fresh batsman make half a dozen runs from well-pitched balls or half-volleys his first over than to see him stop four straight long-hops.
On the fall of a wicket the bowler should always remember that the new batsman is entirely unaccustomed to the light and not yet warm to his work, and that consequently the pet devices which may have been clearly seen through and mercilessly punished by the retiring batsman are for the present quite fresh for the new one. He should consequently begin by doing all he can to get rid of him at once before he gets 'set' He should in the first two or three overs try every effective ball he knows—and certainly in the first over he should try a 'yorker.' This ball, called in days gone by a 'tice,' an abbreviation of 'entice,' is certainly one of the most deadly balls that can be bowled, if not absolutely the most deadly. We believe that, if statistics could be kept of how every wicket fell during the course of a season, more would be found victims to the 'yorker' than to any other ball We can find no derivation for the word 'yorker,' but are told that it came from the Yorkshiremen, who were fonder of bowling this ball than any other. A story is told of a famous old Yorkshire professional who, on being asked whether he knew why this ball was called a 'yorker,' replied, 'Of course I do.' 'Well?' said his questioner. 'Why, what else could you call it?' was the answer, with a puzzled look and a scratch on the top of his head. The ordinary definition of a 'yorker' is a ball that pitches inside the crease, and this, no doubt, is correct so far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. It really should be, any ball that pitches directly underneath the bat It is quite possible for a man to be bowled out with a 'yorker' when he is two or three yards out of his ground, if he misjudges the ball, and allows it to pitch directly beneath his bat, although the ball pitches as far from the crease as he is standing. The most deadly sort of 'yorker,' however, is the one that pitches about three or four inches inside the crease. One mistake which the batsman makes with this ball is that he imagines it is going to pitch shorter for a half-volley, and gets ready to hit, when he finds the ball coming farther than he expected, and is then too late to stop it. Another grave error which many batsmen fall into is that of lifting their bats up, after judging the pace and pitch of the 'yorker,' intending to come down on it as it touches the ground, which really is at the very last moment. It seems an easy thing to stop a 'yorker' in this way, but it really requires the greatest nicety in timing, and a moment late means that the ball has passed and the stumps are down. Whenever a batsman is playing 'yorkers' by chopping down on them inside his crease, it is as certain as can be that he is not at all at home with them, and the bowler may hope for success with every one he tries. Even if the bat does come down on a 'yorker' in the crease at the last moment, it often dribbles on with the spin, and just dislodges the bails. The only proper, workmanlike way to deal with 'yorkers' is to play them forward. The bat should be thrust forward directly the ball is seen to be right up to the batsman, and then it cannot fail to be stopped. One great peculiarity of 'yorkers' is that it is impossible to bowl such a ball to some batsmen. W. G. Grace hardly ever gets one; directly the ball leaves the bowler's hand he sees its destination, viz. an inch inside the crease; he puts the bat out to meet the ball, and makes it one of the easiest possible, viz. a full-pitch. If there were no such thing as misjudgment on the part of a batsman, there would be no such thing as a 'yorker.' It depends for its very existence on being taken for something else. If every batsman were perfectly accurate in his sight and judgment of pitch, every so-called 'yorker' would be neither more nor less than a 'full-pitch.' However, as every batsman, we are thankful to say, is liable to err in judging the pitch, and as nearly every batsman when first going in is more liable to err with a 'yorker' than any other ball, the bowler should most decidedly try it. A slow bowler should first try a medium-paced 'yorker,' somewhat faster than his usual pace, and then a slower one. It is astonishing how many wickets fall to slow 'yorkers; ' the ball is mistaken for everything but what it really is, viz. a full-pitch—for every ball pitching inside the crease must be playable as a full-pitch.
When a bowler is put on to bowl by his captain, it is his duty to do everything in his power to dislodge the batsman. It is really quite a secondary consideration for him whether many or few runs are being made off his bowling. It is the duty of the captain to tell the bowler when he wants the pace in the run-getting to be diminished, and then, and not till then, must the bowler begin to bowl straight and short with that object. But until certain instructions are given, the bowler must never stop for an instant in his endeavour to get the batsman's wicket. If he has experimented with every one of his arts and is unsuccessful, or even if he becomes too expensive in run-getting before he has done this, the captain's duty is to take him off.
It is a common sight enough to see a bowler put on in a match who simply dare not try the experiments which he has practised with success, for fear of being hit for a four or two and taken off. He is quite content to see ball after ball played full in the middle of the bat straight back to him, knowing well that with such bowling he has not the remotest chance of getting a wicket In the hopes of getting a wicket a slow bowler should often try leg half-volleys; they are, of course, delightful balls for a batsman to hit, but, at the present day, when the old George Parr leg hit is comparatively unknown—viz. to fine long-leg all along the ground well behind the wicket—and the leg hitting off slows is generally high and square, they often result in a long-leg catch, and sometimes one at the wicket, through the batsman hitting too quick at the ball. A bowler who has been sending down ball after ball with the off break on should often try pitching one on the same spot but without the break; the batsman is very apt to play inside this ball, and place it in short-slip's hands. In addition to the change of pace which we have above commented on, it is a most excellent thing occasionally to lower and heighten the action. Alfred Shaw used continually, by lowering his action, to send in a ball which skimmed, so to speak, from the pitch at a great pace, and much faster than his ordinary balls. The raising of the arm higher than usual makes the ball bound higher, which is very often an advantage, especially on rough cut-up grounds. The good-length ball outside the off stump, pitched perhaps eight inches to a foot wide of it, and without any break on at all, is often a most telling ball, especially to eager, excitable batsmen. The ball, not being straight, cannot be met with the full face of the bat, and consequently, unless the batsman puts his left leg right across the wicket, he must, in playing it, lift it up in the air, when it is probably captured by cover-point or mid-off. If this ball can be made to go ever so little from the leg side after it has pitched it becomes more deadly, as then there is a much greater chance of the batsman being unable to get over the ball sufficiently to keep it along the ground.
There has grown up in late years a most deplorable practice amongst batsmen of leaving balls on the off side alone, for fear of risking their wickets. In every match, big and little, one may see batsmen jump in front of their wickets time after time to off balls, allowing the ball to go by unplayed at, or if it twists to hit their legs. We call this a most deplorable practice, because it is not real cricket. The true object of the batsman is to defend his wicket with his bat; let him use his legs as well if he likes, but his bat he should certainly use, and when he holds the bat high in the air and guards his wicket with his legs, and legs alone, in our opinion he goes beyond the limit of legitimate batting. A batsman is perfectly right in refusing to hit or play at wide balls on the off side, but when he remains passive to balls a few inches only outside the off-stump, he not only acknowledges his want of confidence in himself, but also degrades the dignity of a cricket bat by substituting in its place his own usually nervous legs. We remember seeing, some years back, a batsman who had completed his hundred refusing, on a perfectly good wicket, to play ball after ball on the off side. The famous old bowler David Buchanan was bowling at one end, and could not understand how some of his most lovely half -volleys were allowed to pass by unlooked at and despised. The batsman, however, was thoroughly well roasted by his own side and the other for his tame play; and it was satisfactory afterwards to learn that he had given up his weakness for seeing long-hops and half-volleys pass on the off without being first heavily taxed for the good of his side. It is rather a difficult thing for a slow bowler to know what to do when he has to bowl to a batsman of this sort. He might, of course, go on bowling on the off side, and try to tire the batsman out and make him play; but this, in these present days of good wickets and lengthy matches, would take far too long. The best course for a bowler to take is continually to alter his pace, and endeavour by pitching a ball sharper from the pitch and quicker than usual on the off stump to get the batsman out leg before wicket Just the very slightest degree outside the off stump is also a good place for this class of player; he gets undecided whether to adopt his mawkish style of play or not, and in his indecision is apt to make mistakes.
A favourite scheme for a slow bowler to get rid of a batsman is by bowling him off his legs. This is always more easy of accomplishment when the batsman's legs stand some distance from the leg-stump and his bat. When this is going to be tried an extra man should be put out on the on side between long-leg and deep field-on, as the ball which is to be bowled will, if hit by the batsman, generally go in that direction. If the bowler can dispense with a long-leg, it is advantageous to have a short-leg, perhaps a yard or two in front of the umpire, and also a mid-wicket on as near to the batsman as he can with safety venture. The ball should then be bowled with as much off break and as good a length as possible, in a line with the leg-stump; if played at and missed on account of the twist it hits the legs, and so cannons into the wicket. If it is met with the bat there is always a chance of the twist taking it into the hands of short-leg or mid-on. The place on which the ball pitches must depend on the state of the ground and the amount of twist that can be put on to the ball.
Spofforth, the Australian, was a bowler who used this ball very successfully, as indeed he did most others. When he had the ground in a suitable state—i.e. when it was sticky or else crumbled and loose—he used to place a short-leg close in to the batsman about two yards behind the wicket; he would also have another short-leg or mid-on close in to the batsman and fairly straight. He would then bowl about medium pace, pitching ball after ball a good length on the leg-stump, and with as much off break as he could get on, which, of course, would vary with the state of the ground. The result of this manoeuvre was to make the batsman's chance of remaining at the wickets for long extremely doubtful. The pace (medium) would compel him to play forward to all good-length balls; the break-back and abrupt rise or kick then made it very probable that he would either place the ball in the hands of one of the expectant short-legs or else be bowled oflf his bat or legs. The author recollects on one occasioji having to play against the redoubtable Spofforth under the above circumstances. After receiving a few balls he came to the conclusion that it was absolutely impossible to prevent being captured by one of the short-legs, who were both standing ridiculously close, and every ball was rising uncomfortably high. He determined to take the liberty of pulling, and did so once or twice with success, till he paid the usual penalty of the practice on a kicking wicket by being badly cut over. He then tried jumping in front of his wicket and trying to slide the breaking balls off his bat to very fine long-leg. Spofforth, however, was too much for him, and almost immediately bowled a straight middle stump ball without any break on it and rather faster than the others; it kept low, hit the shin, and there was as dead a case of 'l.b.w.' as any bowler could wish for.
A favourite trick of some slow bowlers is to bowl from different distances. Sometimes the bowler will have one leg behind the wickets and the other in front, and sometimes both behind; we have even seen some bowl occasionally with the front leg as much as two yards behind the wicket. The object of this is to deceive the batsman as to the pitch of the ball by changing the distance the ball has to travel. This is doubtless an excellent theory, but in our opinion it is not of much worth in actual practice. We have seen bowlers of all sorts repeatedly try this experiment, but in our experience it never meets with any appreciable success. This is perhaps owing to the fact that the batsman can always see very clearly when the bowler does not come up the whole way to the wicket, and is accordingly on the alert for a shorter pitched ball than usual. The only practiser of this trick who ever seems to turn it to good account is Tom Emmett, the left-handed Yorkshire veteran; he usually bowls his slow wides from some distance behind the crease, and certainly obtains a fair share of wickets with these balls; but even in his case we think that it is generally not so much the difference in the distance that the ball has to travel which causes disaster to the batsman, as the latter's anxiety and impatience to score from slow wide off balls, which look so easy and are really so deadly. However, though our opinion of this bowler's 'dodge' is not particularly high, We still think it is worthy of trial at times by every slow bowler. A slow bowler should try every wile that can possibly be attempted; by adopting slow bowling he has undertaken to use the 'wisdom of the serpent' in the guise of the 'harmlessness of the dove,' and has sacrificed pace to cunning and thought. No slow bowler is worth his salt who merely tosses the ball into the air and trusts to chance for success, even if it has a little spin on it; he must continually think and diagnose every particular case which comes before him, and then adopt the measures necessary for each one. With this object it is the duty of every slow bowler to take advantage of any local peculiarity which the size and situation of the ground may afford. He should almost always have the choice of ends, except on occasions when the captain of the side considers that for some reason his fast bowler is more likely to get rid of the batting side for a small score than the slow, and then, of course, the fast must have the choice.
For example, in the University matches from 1878 to 1881, Oxford was so overmatched by Cambridge that in each of these years before the play began it was considered by the outside public as a foregone conclusion for the latter. The really knowing ones, however, who thoroughly understood the game, were aware that there was one man on the Oxford side who might any day get rid of the best side in England for a very small score. That man was Mr. Evans, the famous fast bowler. He was the only man on the side who, humanly speaking, seemed capable of turning the chances of the game. He consequently chose his own particular end—the one he thought most suited to his style, quite irrespective of any mediocre slow bowler that was on his side; and the havoc he played amongst the Cambridge wickets for those four years may be seen from the old scores. It is, however, an exception when a side depends almost entirely on its fast bowling, and it is only when this exception arises that a slow bowler (assuming him to be one who is competent to judge) must not have his choice of ends. Of course we mean his choice of ends at the commencement of an innings, as after that it is the captain's duty to put any bowler on at either end, and it is the duty of every bowler to obey his captain cheerfully.
As already remarked, every slow bowler should take advantage of every local peculiarity that may offer itself. For instance, there may be a ground where a high tree is behind one of the wickets; the slow bowler, if he thinks this tree will help him at all, should take his measures acordingly. We hope none will think we are advocating anything at all unfair in the game, or anything that is even on the line between fairness and 'not quite straight.' As a rifle-shooter takes advantage of a lull in the wind to pull his trigger, as a deerstalker of every rock and unevenness of ground to approach his game—in short, just as in every kind of sport natural facilities may be utilised—so in bowling every peculiarity of time and place should be enlisted on the side of the bowler in his (in these days of good wickets and good batting) by no means easy task of getting rid of the batsman. If a bowler, who, we will say, usually bowls over the wicket, perceive that by bowling round the wicket he may make his bowling more difficult to see, and consequently more effective, on account of a tree, house, or hedge that is directly behind that side of the wicket, he should most certainly change and make the most of that advantage. An injudicious and talkative batsman often materially assists a bowler by such remarks as, 'I can't see your bowlirig a little bit. When tossed high in the air that beastly tree is right behind;' or, 'When you bowl over the wicket the ball gets right in a line with the dark windows of the pavilion, and I can't see it at all.' Can anyone imagine for a moment that a bowler will not do his very best instantly to make the most of the dark branches of the tree or the windows of the pavilion? The sun, too, often materially assists a slow bowler, especially during the last hour or hour and a half of the day's play. If there are any trees round the ground, the shadows, beginning to lengthen, will often lie right across the pitch, and if there is one anywhere near where a good-length ball should pitch, it is advisable to try pitching one occasionally on it. If the sun is behind the bowler's wicket and getting a little low, the bowler should try by bowling high slow ones to get it in the line of the batsman's vision. Every possible advantage within the limits and spirit of fair play may be considered legitimate for a bowler. Local advantages of ground and weather are certainly within these limits, but any peculiarity of dress or tricks of manner, which are in themselves calculated to baulk or annoy a batsman, is not.
For example, bowling with a long loose and flapping sleeve in order to distract the batsman's attention from the ball, a habit which of late has been seen on our English grounds, is in itself intrinsically unfair and unworthy of any true cricketer. And again, waving the arms behind the ball after it has been delivered, or any other trick adopted in order to worry or harass the batsman, is manifestly unfair. Some batsmen are extremely fastidious, and are distracted by the merest trifle. The writer remembers on one occasion taking part in a match when a batsman objected to a bowler on the ground that he was wearing a stud made of some bright material or stone, which glistened so in the sun that it diverted his attention from the ball. This, of course, sounded absurd, but the bowler at once removed the glittering nuisance, and rightly too.
A slow bowler must bear in mind what has before been mentioned, viz. that it is often almost as good as a change of bowling to change from over to round the wicket, or vice versd, quite apart from the advantage he may gain from any local obstruction to good light. Supposing a slow bowler has been 'on' for some time over the wicket, as a rule the great majority of his balls have been pitched a few inches outside the off stump and breaking in to the middle or middle and leg. The batsman has got thoroughly into the way of playing this particular ball and does not show any signs of making a mistake. The bowler goes round the wicket, and although he still continues to pitch a little outside the off stump, the ball is quite different now from what it was from over the wicket. It is, of course, impossible to get as much 'break-back' spin on to the ball when bowling round as over the wicket, because the ball is delivered several feet from a straight line between the two wickets, but in most conditions of the ground it is possible to get a certain amount on. The change in the direction of the ball, or rather in the spot from which it is delivered, combined with the diminution in the amount of break, makes it often a most effective change and one well worth the trial. In addition there is always from round the wicket the chance of a batsman playing inside a ball which, delivered without any spin at all, keeps going across the wicket, as it is technically called, 'with the arm.'
We cannot omit, when enumerating the different balls of which a slow bowler may avail himself, one which is by no means used as often as it should be, viz. the full-pitch. In slow bowling there are three different kinds of full-pitches—the highdropping full-pitch, which will pitch either on the top of the wicket or a few inches before it; the ordinary slow full-pitch, which reaches the batsman about the height of his knees; and the medium-paced full-pitch, which will hit the stumps nearly at the top. The high-dropping full-pitch is a ball that is seldom used, the reason for its rarity probably being the extreme difficulty of bowling it accurately and the certain punishment it will meet with if it falls at all short either in height or length of what it should be. It should be delivered as high as possible; there is no limit to the height this ball may go in the air, as the higher it ascends the more difficult it is to play. It should be bowled so that it reaches its highest point when it is almost directly over the head of the batsman, and should pitch orf the very top of the stumps. It is strange that this ball is not more often practised by slow bowlers, as, especially to the pokey, nervous style of batsmen, it is fraught with considerable uneasiness and requires some skill to play properly. To really first-class punishing batsmen it is a ball which has comparatively no terrors, and on which not much reliance can be placed, though it should always, in our opinion, be tried at least once to every batsman who is getting 'well set.' But to the poker, the man who refuses to do anything A pokey batsman dealing with a high-dropping full-pitch.
but stick his bat in front of the wicket, who lets half-volleys, full-pitches, and long-hops pass unscathed and unplayed on both sides of him—to him who considers he is doing his side good service by wasting three hours of valuable time for a dozen runs on his side of the balance, and three hours' wear and tear of the wicket on the other—to him who helps so greatly to fill up the records of drawn matches, the high-dropping fullpitch is an excellent ball. He does not know what to do with it; he is afraid to step back to play it for fear of hitting his wicket, and he hardly likes to be so bold as to try to cut or hit it on the on side. One of the most amusing sights we have ever seen at cricket was one of these batsmen having ball after ball of this sort bowled to him; it was not till after he had nearly lost his wicket a dozen times, only keeping it by exceptional good luck, and had afforded the greatest merriment to players and spectators alike, that he burst out from sheer desperation into wild and furious hitting—a line of conduct which had the immediate effect of compelling the bowler to desist from his lofty attacks.
The second kind of full-pitch—the one reaching the batsman about the height of his knees—is the most usual of fullpitches, and enjoys the distinction of being considered the easiest of all balls to hit. A good batsman can hit this ball from a slow bowler to almost any part of the field; consequently, though it often happens in the chapter of accidents that a wicket falls to this ball—a. catch in the country perhaps, or a hard catch and bowl—it is of all balls the very worst for a slow bowler to deliver.
The third kind— the medium-paced full-pitch straight to the top of the stumps—is occasionally, for a slow bowler, a very useful ball. In the first place, it is not quite so easy to hit as it appears to the batsman.; the change in pace from slow to medium often causes him to hit a trifle slower than he should do, when the ball, coming on faster than expected, hits the top or splice of the bat, and goes straight up in the air. This ball is generally more successful with players who have a partiality for on-side hitting than with others, as it is never a difficult one to play quietly; it is only when the batsman tries to hit that it becomes likely to get a wicket. It is also useful when a hitter, by running out and hitting every ball, is demoralising bowler, fielders, and the whole side. If the bowler sees the intention of the hitter to run out before the ball is delivered—and he is often able to do this—he can do nothing better than bowl a good medium-paced full-pitch straight at the top of the middle stump; if the batsman goes on with his intention of running out, he is not only apt to overrun this faster than usual ball, and let it pass over the top of his bat, but if he does hit it he is likely to send it high in the air, from the above-mentioned cause of catching it with the top or splice of the bat. There is, however, nothing so flurrying to a bowler as a batsman who runs out to every ball, and who evinces his intention of doing so before the ball is delivered. The writer has often talked with old cricketers on this subject, and they have remarked how well the old bowlers of their early days used to keep their heads under these trying circumstances. Doubtless they deserve the very greatest credit for doing so, for there is nothing so trying to a bowler; it spoils his pitch, and is rather apt to do the same to his temper. The regular attendant at matches may have seen almost every bowler of reputation in England so thoroughly flurried and upset by a batsman doing this, that, in spite of all efforts to keep cool, the bowling was simply paralysed and rendered useless to the side for the time being. The best courses for a slow bowler to pursue on these occasions is, 1st, to bowl the sort of full-pitch just discussed; and, 2nd, to increase his pace a little, and bowl a little short of a good length, about a foot or more outside the legs of the batsman. There is nothing a rushing-out batsman finds so hard to hit as a ball well outside his legs.
Widish off balls are also useful, as a batsman going down the wicket is not only apt to miss, but also, if he can reach, to sky them. A high full-pitch into the hands of the wicketkeeper is likewise sometimes successful; but, though we may lay down certain rules and suggestions as to what is best for a bowler to do at this very trying time, we are afraid that, unless he is able to keep exceptionally cool, they will be of no practical assistance.
The variableness of the English climate plays a very important part in the success or otherwise of slow bowlers. A shower of rain in the night often has the effect of making particularly deadly a slow bowler who, the day before, on a hard and fast ground, was comparatively harmless and ineffective. Up to 1884 the disadvantage of a rainfall in the night to a side that had begun but not finished its innings was increased by the rule forbidding the ground to be rolled except before the commencement of each innings. Rain in the night not only softens the ground, but brings up to the surface numbers of worms, which cover the pitch with little heaps of earth mould. These little heaps, in the absence of any rolling, made the ground bumpy and treacherous, and consequently entailed serious discomfiture to the batting side. The only plausible argument ever advanced for this injustice was that it might happen to either side, and was one of the chances of the game. However, the M.C.C. wisely decided, though not till quite recently, that this rule should be abolished, the reason for the decision being that the side which won the toss had a great advantage as it was, from having the first and best of the wicket, and that, as the other side was usually batting at the end of the day, it gave the men an extra and unfair disadvantage in having the wicket spoilt by rain and worms without the chance of having it rolled. No rule, however, can affect the drawback under which a batting side is placed whose wicket is softened by a heavy rainfall in the night. The roller may level the worm moulds, but it cannot alter the slow, sticky state of the ground; in fact, it often brings up more water, and makes the pitch still more sticky and slow. It is on occasions such as these that slow bowlers meet with their greatest success. So frequently during the course of the season do these soft wickets occur, even in what are called our hoi summers, that it is part of the science of bowling to know how to turn such grounds to the best advantage. The different states of the ground caused by the weather may be roughly, and for all practical purposes, divided into five: 1st, the hard and dry state; 2nd, the hard state, with the grass wet; 3rd, the very soft and slow state, (a) with the grass dry, (b) with the grass wet; 4th, the drying state, when it has been very slow and soft, but is gradually drying under the influence of a hot sun or wind; 5th, the hard and crumbled state. The hard and dry state calls for no comment, as everything written on the subject of bowling, unless otherwise specified, refers to the ground in this condition. The hard state, with the grass wet, is perhaps the most trying time for a slow bowler. He has to bowl with a wet ball, which he has great difficulty in holding; he cannot get on the slightest degree of twist, as the wet ball slips off the wet grass directly it pitches, allowing no time for the ball to 'bite' the ground and take the twist. A good batsman on these wickets knows that all he has to do is to play forward with a straight bat when the ball is anything like a good one, and he is bound to meet it. The slippery ball flies off the bat like lightning, and travels, if the grass is short and not too thick, over the hard ground faster than it does when the grass is dry. Every now and then a ball may be inclined to keep low or shoot; but a shooter does not possess the same terrors on a wet as on a dry ground, because in almost every instance it can be played forward to, and a good batsman in playing forward always keeps his bat low enough to stop shooters (especially on wel wickets) until he actually sees the ball rise.
The only course for a slow bowler to adopt on these wickets is to bpwl as good a length as he can, and as straight as possible. He should also bear in mind that the ball leaves the ground far more quickly than usual in its wet, slippery state, and that, consequently, the most likely place in the field to capture a batsman is short-slip. Easy as the ground is for a batsman when once he gets the pace of it, it often happens that at first he is surprised at the great pace from the pitch, plays back instead of forward, and places the ball in the slips. It is a golden rule for every bowler, slow and fast, on these wickets to have short-slip 'finer' than on ordinary occasions, and a trifle further back. It is often advisable to have an extra man standing about three yards squarer than the regular short-slip, but no farther from the wicket. Two quick active men, who are capable at times of bringing off smart one-hand catches, should be chosen for these places. They are by far the most likely men in the field to dismiss good batsmen on wet hard wickets; in fact, it is often difficult to see how two such batsmen are to be separated on these occasions except by a catch at one of these places, or at the wicket. A bowler should with this object keep bowling a good length on the off stump and just outside it, recollecting that good-length balls must pitch considerably shorter than usual on these very quick wickets.
The very soft and slow state is the result of heavy rain which has left the surface of the pitch dry, but the ground itself thoroughly sodden. This condition of the ground is popularly supposed to favour a slow bowler. How often, on coming on to the ground to inspect the wicket after a night's rain, is he accosted something in this style: 'Well, Jack, this ought to suit you; those twisters of yours will want some watching today!' Jack, after looking at the pitch, which is as soft and sodden as a piece of dough, knows full well that it will be a long time before the ground gets back enough of its half-drowned life to help him in the slightest degree. There is no poorer fun for a slow bowler than having to bowl on these utterly lifeless wickets. On a hard true ground, though it may be favourable to the batsman, he has good sport in trying every dodge he can think of; he fishes and feeds and angles as warily as Izaak Walton himself; the ground and ball are full of life and go, and very often, unfortunately for the bowler, the bats-man too. On wet hard wickets, when he can get no twist on, there is still life and pace in the ground; but in the sodden dead state, directly the ball touches the ground it sinks in, loses all life and pace, and comes on to the batsman like what a Yorkshire professional was once heard to call a 'diseased lawn-tennis ball.' There is no greater fallacy at cricket than to suppose that a sodden wicket is an advantage to a slow bowler. The time when it begins to assist him is when the surface is 'caking' under the influence of the sun or a drying wind; and then it is that, as we said above, the greatest successes of slow bowlers are met with. A slow bowler having to bowl on a sodden wicket perceives at once that it is extremely difficult for him to bowl to a good batsman a 'good-length' ball for the following reasons:—
What is called a 'good-length' ball on ordinary occasions remains on the ground so long and comes off the pitch so slow that a batsman, if he is so minded, can with ease play it back—i.e. he can see it coming on from the pitch in time for him to get back and play it as a simple 'long-hop.' Anything short of this will all the more be capable of being played as a 'longhop.' If the ball is pitched farther than a good length, it becomes at once—certainly to batsmen quick on their legs—a half-volley. Thus, if a batsman really gets the time of the ground, he has only to play these two simplest of balls. No amount of spin will help the bowler the ball in the soft ground may twist at right angles, but it does it so slowly that the batsman has ample time to defend his wicket. In these circumstances there is only one thing for a slow bowler to do, and that is to bowl faster and endeavour, by giving extra pace to the ball, to make it come off the ground quicker. There are some batsmen whom, on these sodden wickets, it is almost impossible to get rid of. They remain for hours, perfectly contented if a whole day is taken up with their innings and forty runs added to the total, the chances of a draw being thereby greatly augmented. A famous professional stick, on one occasion, remained at the wickets when the ground was sodden for one hour and fifty minutes before troubling the scorer; he was then so flustered by the jeering of the mob that he rushed out, hit a catch, was missed, and, amidst as much cheering as if he had wanted one run to complete his hundred, broke his duck's egg. Louis Hall, of Yorkshire, is a desperate man to bowl to on these grounds; every ball that is bowled he either plays back or smothers. Nothing in cricket can be more dull or dismal than bowling to this batsman on a sodden wicket at Bramall Lane Ground in a real Sheffield fog.
Although, as has been said, slow bowlers are not assisted by the ground when in this condition, and it is extremely difficult to bowl anything approaching a good ball to a good batsman, there are some batsmen, and real good ones too on a hard true ground, who are utterly unable to adapt their style of play to a slow ground, or rather never can realise that a ball pitched into a lump of dough will leave it much slower than when pitched on to a stone. These batsmen, if they kept their keenness of eye and activity till they were a hundred, would still be seen playing a quick forward stroke on the sodden ground, sending the ball up in the air in every direction. A batsman who persists in playing forward on a dead wicket and finishing his stroke as he would do on a fast wicket is certain not to last long. It is very curious to notice how sometimes nearly a whole batting side will make a mistake about the condition of the wicket. The first batsmen see the ground slow and the ball twisting a good deal, and begin playing as they would do on a faster wicket, viz. playing forward to the pitch instead of waiting and playing a back game. Four or five batsmen will follow, play in the same style, and lose their wickets, generally bowled, or caught and bowled. Some batsman will then come in who at once finds out what the slow bowlers have long since known—that it is a slow easy wicket he has to bat on, and not a 'caked,' 'kicky' one. What happens? He plays every ball back except those that he hits, and he hits everything except a long-hop, because he can get to the pitch of anything else. The slow bowlers who have been doing the mischief are soon knocked off, and his side, in spite of the failure of its four or five most competent batsmen, makes a good score. On one occasion in a first-class match the first seven wickets fell for fifty runs, the wicket being deadly slow and dull; the eighth man came in, and, by dint of playing back and hitting and a little luck, made over a hundred in about an hour and a half, being fortunate enough to have some one to stick in with him at the other end.
When the ground is very soft and the grass wet, the bowler is in about the same position as when the grass is wet on a hard wicket; he has to bowl with a wet slippery ball, and cannot get any twist at all upon it. This is called the 'cutting through' state, which means that, the ball being slippery and the ground and grass wet, it cuts through the surface of the pitch, taking with it a small piece of wet sticky turf As in the hard state with wet grass, short-slip is an important place and likely to get chances. Although the ground when in this condition is in favour of the batsman, cricket is miserable under such circumstances, and is enjoyed neither by batsman, bowler, nor fielders. The batsman cannot stand on the slippery mud; the bowler, with wet dirty hands, and boots and trousers bespattered with slush, is utterly unable to do anything with the slimy ball; and the fieldsmen can neither hold nor stop it. The ground is covered with sawdust, without the use of which it would be impossible for the bowler to grasp the ball firmly, and altogether the whole scene is so unlike cricket, essentially a fine-weather game, that it always seems a pity under such conditions to go on playing.
The drying state, when the ground has been very soft and sodden, but is gradually drying and caking on the surface under the influence of a hot sun or wind, is the time when slow bowlers have it all their own way. It is on this condition of ground that bowlers like Alfred Shaw, and Peate, of Yorkshire, have so often astonished the cricket community with wonderful analyses. When the ground has got into this state, it will often remain so for several hours. At Lord's, when the ground after being soft has become caked on the top, it is no unusual occurrence to see thirty good wickets or more fall in the course of the day. When a side, no matter how many really good batsmen it may number, has to go in on 'caked' wickets against good bowling, they may think themselves lucky if they get 100 runs. The ball takes almost as much twist as a bowler wants to put on; it comes off the ground at different paces, one part of the pitch being a trifle drier and harder than another. The first ball of the over will perhaps get up almost straight and very quickly from the pitch as a batsman is playing it; the next pitches a trifle shorter, may stop in the ground, and 'get up and look at you,' as it is called, making correct play an impossibility. Or perhaps one ball will get up very quickly and high, and hit the batsman on the arm or side, and the next, pitched in almost the same spot, will leave the pitch equally quickly, but never rise more than an inch from the ground. It is no recommendation to a bowler to be able to get wickets on such grounds as these; any bad bowler might bowl a good batting side out for a small score with such assistance. The only way a batsman can reasonably hope to add any notches to the score of his side is to grasp the situation at once, throw careful correct play to the winds, and hit, pull, and slog in every direction where he thinks he can get rid of the teasing ball. The Australian eleven of 1882 were particularly good on this class of wicket; they had four men—Giffen, Bonnor, McDonnell, Massie—who, rarely needing much inducement to hit, used to launch out most vigorously and successfully on these occasions, often cracking up twenty or thirty runs in about half the number of minutes, and securing victory for their side.
Although very badly caked wickets are not uncommon, perhaps the best for bowling and the worst for batting in modern experience was at the Oval during the last innings of the England v, Australia match at the Oval, 1882. It is the only disastrous match for England in the whole list of national fixtures that have been played in this country. It may be remembered that England, having only a few runs to get to win, nearly made them for the first two wickets, Grace and Ulyett both making about twenty. The ground at this time was drying and becoming every minute more difficult, and the way in which our English wickets were mowed down by Spofforth is now a matter of cricket history, too well known to repeat. Spofforth was bowling rather more than medium pace, bringing the ball back a foot or more very quickly from the pitch, sometimes kicking to the height of the batsman's head and at others shooting. Some of our cricket reporters talked in an airy manner about the 'funk' of the English team on that occasion, but the charge was wholly without foundation. A batsman's consciousness that twenty thousand spectators were watching each ball with breathless interest, and that on his own individual efforts depended the reputation of English cricket, that the bowling was about as good and the ground as bad as any cricketer had ever seen, might, and probably did, cause a feeling of intense anxiety in the minds of each of the English players who failed in his efforts to win victory for his side; but to say that their efforts were paralysed, or that any one of them was unnerved by what is popularly called 'funk,' is certainly unjust to the well-tried cricketers who did battle for England on that memorable and disastrous occasion.
The hard and crumbled wicket is perhaps almost more difficult for batsmen than when it is caked. The ball will twist a great deal on this class of wicket, and does it very quickly. It is also inclined both to 'pop' and keep low. Spofforth, Giffen, Peate, Barlow, and Barnes are all most deadly bowlers on such a wicket as this.
Some of our most successful slow bowlers have been lefthanded. The peculiarity and difficulty about left-hand bowling is that the natural spin imparted to the ball by a left-handed bowler is the off-spin, which, of course, makes the ball after the pitch twist from the leg side of the right-handed batsman to the off. This, as we have mentioned above, is the most difficult twist for a batsman to play, as an off break is more easy to watch after the pitch than a leg-break. The leg-break which a batsman has to meet from a right-handed bowler is not so difficult to play as that from a left-hander; because, first, the latter is usually faster than the former, and, secondly, it is much more disguised. The right-hand leg-break is impossible without getting the ball in the centre of the hand and screwing the hand round just as if it were twisting a corkscrew the reverse way—an action which at once prepares the batsman for the leg-twist. Thirdly, because it usually twists very much less than the right-hand leg-break. It is not the ball which twists the most that gets the wickets; it is the ball that just twists enough to beat the bat.
The mode of attack generally adopted by a slow left-hander is to place all his men, with the exception of a short-leg and a deep mid-on, on the off side. He then proceeds to bowl on the off stump and outside it, making the ball go away from the batsman to the off as much as possible after the pitch. Great care has to be taken by the batsman, as the slightest mistake in hitting or forward play will give a catch to one of the numerous traps laid all round on the off side. It is the object of the bowler to get the batsman either to hit at a ball which is not quite far enough to be smothered, or to reach out and play forward at one which is a little beyond his reach. A favourite device of the left-handed bowler is to get the batsman to hit at widish ones on the off side, a stroke that must cause an uppish hit somewhere, as it is impossible for a batsman to smother a ball that is a trifle out of his reach. It is often a good thing for a left-handed bowler to send down a ball without any twist on it at all, especially if he is bowling on a wicket where he is able to 'do' a good deal. The ball without any spin on it should pitch on the middle and off stumps; and if the bowler is bowling fronn round the wicket, as left-handers usually do, it will then come on in a line with the pitch and the hand at the moment of delivery, and if not stopped by the bat, take the leg-stump. This slow ball that comes with the arm in the middle of others going the other way is very successful. Slow left-handed bowlers often have their tempers sorely tried by a class of batsmen that were discussed in a previous portion of this chapter, namely, those who are so frightened of getting out that they will never play at an off ball, long hop, half-volley, or good-length. There are many enticing balls bowled by left-handed bowlers that ought to be left alone by every batsman, notably those that pitch too wide to enable them to be played forward and smothered. There is no greater or more successful trap for wild young players than these widish off balls. But it is indeed a trying time for the bowler when he keeps pitching just outside the off stump, and is not even played at by the batsman. Bowlers should, in these circumstances, bowl ball after ball on the off stump and just outside it. It is by no means an uncommon occurrence to see these punishing batsmen taken in by a ball that comes in a little with the arm, and removes the bail while they are striking an attitude, bat over shoulder.
We have had some excellent left handed-bowlers in England, and there can be no doubt that every team should possess one of this sort if possible. Peate for some years enjoyed the reputation of being the best left-hander in England, and rightly so. He was an exceptional good length, difficult to see, and had a lot of work on. Some of his performances against the Australians are truly wonderful. When Peate first began to play cricket he was a very fast, high-actioned bowler, and the writer remembers thirteen or fourteen years ago finding him on the slow sticky wicket of the Carlisle ground very nasty to play. He subsequently altered his pace to slow, and it is a remarkable fact that, though a fast bowler once, and still a young man, he has now lost the power of sending down a really fast ball. Another of our great slow left-handed bowlers was David Buchanan, and, strangely enough, he too was in his early days a fast bowler. As one of the slow school he is best known, and we have no doubt that he at the present moment has taken nearly twice as many wickets in the course of his career as any other living cricketer. His bowling was celebrated for the great amount of work he got on to the ball; unless the batsman was on the pitch of it, a mistake was certain. The only team that ever seemed to enjoy Buchanan's bowling was the Rugby boys, and constant practice had robbed it of all terrors for them.
The best left-handed medium-paced bowler we have in England now in the writer's opinion is Briggs, the Lancashire professional. He possesses a marvellous strength of wrist and fingers, which give him great power of twist and pace. His very fast ball is nearly as good as that of Palmer, the Australian. One of his best performances was in England v. Australia at Lord's in 1886. None of the English bowlers on this occasion could do much with the ball except Briggs. There is one Australian left-handed bowler who we regret has never been seen on English cricket grounds—Tom Kendall. In 1878, when the first colonial team visited this country, great accounts of Kendall's prowess with the ball had reached us. His name was included in the list of the players whom we were led to expect, but for some reason or other, though he did actually start with the team, he left it at Adelaide or at some other port at which the ship touched. The writer saw him and played against him in 1882 in Tasmania, and, though getting on in years and rather on the big side for bowling, he was about as nasty a left-hander as any batsman could wish to play. He had a high action, changed his pace well, from slow to medium, and then to very fast, had lots of work both ways on his slow and medium balls, and the very fast ones went with the arm. When the writer saw him his length was not as good as it might have been, or, from all accounts, as it once was. His action reminded us rather of that excellent bowler J. C. Shaw, in his day the best left-hander in England.
In the first Australian team that visited this country, in 1878 there was another left-handed slow bowler named Allan, about whom the Australians themselves spread most extraordinary statements. It was said that Allan, 'the bowler of the century,' as he was called in Australia, possessed some of the most remarkable qualities. Rumour declared his spin off the ground was so great that the slowest ball came off up to the bat at ten times greater speed than it had travelled to the pitch; that he could twist either way, to almost any degree, at will, and that his bowling had a most remarkable curve in the air, which rendered it most deadly. This left-handed bowler is mentioned because, though his powers of bowling had, of course, been greatly exaggerated, it was certainly most puzzling. He met with some considerable success at the outset of the tour; but subsequently his health gave way before the wearing work of cricket every day, and he was unable to bowl at all. His bowling had a considerable amount of spin, but what was the most extraordinary thing connected with it was the inward curl in the air towards the body of the batsman, and then, after the pitch, the outward twist of the ball. A ball that goes one way in the air, and another after the pitch, is calculated to try the mettle of the best batsman. It is a subject for regret that Allan, through increasing years and his consequent inability to stand hard work, has not accompanied any of the later teams, as his bowling was so very different from anything we have ever seen at home.
Does bowling curl or twist in the air? is a question we have often been asked, and we have frequently heard disputes, by men who possessed some considerable knowledge of the game, as to whether it was possible for balls to travel thus or not. It seems almost incredible that men who have over and over again handled the bat should doubt the tendency of some kinds of bowling to twist or curl in the air. Nearly all leg-break slow bowlers curl inwards towards the batsman before the pitch, and no one who has ever played against W. G. Grace's bowling can doubt that the real secret of his success as a bowler has been in the peculiar flight his action gives the ball, causing it to curl before it pitches.
However, the question as to balls turning in the air has been definitely settled by the American base-ball players. In this game the pitcher throws one full-pitch after another to the batsman, and even if the latter happen to be one of the best and most experienced in the game he misses a considerable proportion of these full-pitches. And why? because of the twist or curl in the air which the pitcher imparts to the ball. A very interesting account is given by Mr. R. A. Proctor in 'Longman's Magazine' for June 1887 of a well-known English cricketer's failure to strike the full-pitches of one of the best American pitchers. Time after time the bat struck the air and nothing else; and this was simply owing to the curl the pitcher put on the ball. Mr. Proctor scientifically explains the curl in the air, and it may be of interest to insert a short extract from his article:—
There is one style of slow bowling that has of late years almost completely vanished from first-class cricket: we refer to under-hand slows. As under-hand was at one time the only bowling that was allowed by the rules of cricket, and as it met with a great amount of success, even after the raising of the arm was permitted, it will be as well to refer to the cause that has brought about its practical abolition. This is owing to the increasing popularity of the game, and the consequent great increase in the number of good batsmen. The greatest underhand bowler that ever played was probably William Clarke, whose merits have been so often discussed in cricket writings that it is unnecessary to repeat them here. In order to ascertain the style of batsmen Clarke made his great reputation against, we must refer to some one who has seen and known the great bowler and conversed with those who were in the habit of playing against him. We are told that Clarke had perfect accuracy of pitch, a quick rise from the ground, and a good leg twist on his bowling. These attributes in an underarm bowler, most excellent as they are, would not nowadays, with the present efficient state of batting, justify the name of the possessor being placed in the first rank, because we consider no amount of accuracy of pitch, twist, or anything else can ever secure this coveted distinction to a bowler of this kind. Mr. Pycroft gives us the information we require on the subject of batting against Clarke's bowling. He says with regard to Pilch, at that time the best batsman of the day, 'He played him back all day if he bowled short, and hit him hard all along the ground whenever he over-pitched; and sometimes he would go in to Clarke's bowling, not to make a furious swipe, but to "run him down" with a straight bat.'
Now this description of the play of a man who was able to meet Clarke's bowling is interesting to us, because it shows us that the way in which the great bowler was played by one of the few who could oppose him successfully is exactly the same method in which every good batsman of the present time does play under-hand bowling If any man of to-day, chosen to take part in the Gentlemen v. Players match as a batsman, were to endeavour to play under-hand bowling in any other manner, he would be laughed at as being devoid of the most elementary rules of the game. Mr. Pycroft goes on to tell us the way which many did adopt in playing Clarke. He says, 'This going in to Clarke's bowling some persons thought necessary for every ball, forgetting that discretion is the better part of cricket; the consequence was that many wickets fell from positive long-hops.' This description shows that a great number of those who fell victims to Clarke's bowling were absolutely uninitiated in the first principles of playing slows, viz. never to hit except on the volley, or just as the ball pitches. Nowadays every batsman—at any rate all who play in first-class cricket—knows the danger of playing wildly at under-hand 'lobs,' as they are called. Occasional mistakes are made, no doubt, when an unexpected lob bowler appears, but more from wildness and anxiety to score than from any ignorance as to the mode of playing such balls. The way to play lobs is exactly the method Mr. Pycroft tells us was adopted by the great Fuller Pilch.
Slow lobs have therefore in first-class cricket died a natural death, and although we may expect to find a lob bowler occasionally cropping up here and there, we do not think there is much prospect of seeing an exemplar of this style who will ever attain the rank of a first-class bowler such as that acquired by Clarke, Mr. V. E. Walker and Tinley. Mr. A. W. Ridley was the last well-known under-arm bowler who made a mark in first-class cricket. His performance against Cambridge in the now famous University match is too well known to need record here. Humphreys of Sussex has occasionally been successful with this style of bowling, and will be again, no doubt, to wild batsmen. Although we have stated that lob bowling has died a natural death, and cannot ever be expected to cope with the present state of batting, still under-hand slows are occasionally such an excellent change that we are sorry they are not more practised. It is not, however, wonderful that there are so few lob bowlers who can go on at a pinch for a change, when we consider what has been already said about batting having mastered the art of under-hand; men will not practise any art unless they have some fair prospect of being ultimately successful, and knowing that lobs will only be useful very occasionally and cannot attain to great success, they will not practise them. It is a pity they do not, as over and over again we see instances of a good wicket falling to a poorish lob bowler when everything else has failed. The previous remarks about under-hands refer to first-class cricket; against schools and against second-class batsmen lobs have been and always will be particularly deadly. There is something so tempting to an inexperienced player in seeing a ball chucked up in the air slowly and simply, it looks so very easy to hit, so peculiarly guileless, that a wild slog is frequently the result, too often followed by disastrous consequences.
For this reason the captain of every school eleven should insist on one of his team devoting himself to lob bowling; a little practice will enable any one to get a fairly accurate pitch, and twist from the leg side any boy can manage. Lob bowling thus acquired at school will often be useful in after days as a change, even in first-class cricket. There are one or two simple rules connected with lob bowling which ever}'one who attempts this style should master.
First—Do not bowl too slow; if the ball is thrown high and slow in the air, a good batsman, quick on his legs, will have time to reach and hit it before it pitches. Old Clarke used to say, 'It wants a certain amount of pace to make a good-length ball with proper rise and twist.' The ball should be sent at such speed as will oblige the batsman to play forward to it.
Secondly.—A good long run should be taken, as this gets way and 'fire' on to the ball, and is always more likely than a short run to deceive the batsman as to the pitch.
Thirdly.—Generally bowl round the wicket.
Most of the remarks that we have made on slow roundarm leg-break bowling apply to slow lobs.
Having devoted a number of pages to the subject of slow bowling, let us now turn to the consideration of what is almost equally important: fast bowling; indeed, it may be said that the co-operation of a good fast bowler is absolutely essential if a team wants to rank amongst the best, particularly as, if there be one of each sort bowling at either end, the change in pace is more likely to embarrass the batsman than if he had to play two bowlers of the same pace. There has been for several years a great dearth of good fast bowlers, a fact which is greatly to be regretted by all lovers of the game. We have scores of slow bowlers turned out year after year from our universities and public schools, but scarcely ever a fast one worthy of the name of 'bowler.' Few men care to be at the trouble and exertion of bowling fast when they find that inferior batsmen, by dint of playing straight and assisted by a perfect wicket, can successfully defy all efforts to dislodge them. When a map has become fairly proficient with the bat there is no easier bowling to play, if the wicket be a really good one, than fast. Men will not be at the great trouble of practising fast bowling and trying to get accuracy of pitch and direction when they see the best fast bowlers in England occasionally treated by second-class batsmen with the utmost disrespect.
Although fast balls are easy to play on good wickets, however, it is but seldom that a wicket which is good at the beginning of a match remains so to the close. The ground wears and cuts up with the continual pitching of the ball and the tramp of feet, and fast bowling on such occasions often becomes most deadly. Then, again, a fast quick delivery to a new-comer, even though the best of batsmen, may deceive him in the pace, and, before the eye gets accustomed to the light and the hand becomes steady, cheat him into playing back at a ball which ought to have been met with forward play. Often have crack batsmen been dismissed summarily by the first or second ball coming quicker than they expected off the pitch. Murdoch, the famous Australian batsman, was particularly apt to mistime fast bowling on first going in, and several times has the author seen his stumps shattered immediately by an ordinary straight fast ball without any 'work' at all on it. The tail end of a team are usually victims to a good straight fast bowler, as, unless a fast bowler is met by straight fearless forward play, he is bound to be dangerous, and it very rarely happens that the tail end of an ordinary team, even a county team, is capable of this. A great deal has been said and written about young fast bowlers bowling too fast for their strength, thus overtaxing their powers and over-bowling themselves. It is doubtless a fact that many young promising fast bowlers have been rendered useless by this anxiety to get more pace on the ball than their strength warranted; and there can be no better advice to a young aspirant for the honours of a fast bowler than that so often given, viz. 'Bowl within your strength, or else you will over-bowl yourself.' Although the wisdom and truth of this warning are generally ascertained by personal experience pretty early in the career of most fast bowlers, it is seldom, we are sorry to say, remembered in actual practice—which remissness, we are bound to add, does not in the least surprise us. It may possibly sound like heresy to many old cricketers to say that in fast bowling pace is nearly everything; but such is our opinion. Assume that a man can bowl straight and a good length—i.e. has a good command over the ball—and then it may be said that the faster he bowls the more likely he is to get wickets. And this is generally discovered by young bowlers who have an aptitude for fast bowling, with the result that many 'over-bowl' themselves, strain muscles, rick shoulders, and render themselves useless.
The object of fast bowling is to beat the batsman by the pace of the ball, and if this object be accomplished the ball will either be missed or a bad stroke will be made by the batsman. The faster the bowling the more hkely it is that a batsman will be beaten both before and after the ball leaves the ground. Should the ball 'shoot' or 'get up,' the chances of its being played accurately are rendered much less when the ball leaves the ground with lightning-like speed and is almost invisible to the eye than when it leaves it with less speed, and gives the batsman an opportunity of seeing what is going to happen for an appreciable moment before it reaches him. Besides, the faster the bowling the more scope there is for the bowler to change his pace should he be one of the few fast bowlers who have the power of so doing with advantage. While saying that pace is everything in a fast bowler, we do not wish for a moment to cry down or disparage the advantages of medium-paced bowling. This style has its own characteristics, which are more closely allied to slow bowling than to fast; but at the same time there are many moderately good medium-paced bowlers now bowling with some success in first-class matches who would be much more deadly and successful could they add about half as much speed again to their bowling. There are, of course, men who, on the other hand, spoil a good style by trying to bowl too fast— men who depend for their success on peculiarity in flight and the work on the ball. Every man must judge for himself; if he possess great powers of twist combined with accuracy, and anything peculiar or difficult to see in his action, then let him devote himself to slow or mediumpaced bowling.
It is strange that English first-class cricket is so devoid of really fast bowling. Ulyett, of Yorkshire, now that Allan Hill, of the same county, has retired (and good luck go with him for as honest and cheery a cricketer as ever bowled a ball), is with one exception the only quite fast bowler playing at the present time. There have been brilliant comets for a season or so, who have shone brightly and then quickly disappeared. Harrison, of Yorkshire, seemed likely to make his mark, but after a brilliant beginning vanished from the scene of first-class cricket Crossland, of Lancashire, for a brief period, mowed down the County Palatine's opponents like ninepins, but he has now likewise retired—a victim to the just cry against unfair bowling. Ulyett's only companion in first-class cricket as a fast bowler is Bowley, of Surrey. We have heard a great diversity of opinion with regard to this bowler. The writer has seen and played against him on several occasions, and thinks he is at the time of writing the best fast bowler in England; but he is the best of a bad lot. Bowley certainly is very fast, and has the additional advantage of being much faster than he looks. If he could raise his arm a few inches and still maintain the same pace, he would be a fine bowler. The amateur fast bowlers of the last few years who have taken part in big matches are Rotherham, Christopherson, Whitby, and Toppin. Rotherham, at the beginning of his career, his last year at Uppingham and the year following, was doubtless a very deadly bowler. He had a good slow ball and a splendid yorker; but he only lasted a very short time. Christopherson was a fairly good fast bowler at one time, but he took a great deal out of himself with his action, and soon lost the fire and life that are necessary to make a first-class bowler. This absence of fast bowlers (temporary it may be hoped) is one of the most remarkable facts connected with first-class cricket. It is only a few years ago that most of the best bowlers were fast: the list included Tarrant, Jackson, and Freeman, whose bowling used, it was said, to hum in the air; and, later, what a harvest of fast amateur bowlers there were—Butler, Francis, Powys, Evans, and names far too numerous to mention! Now we do not possess one really good fast bowler. We hope times will mend in this respect, and that the next few years will see some fresh talent developing, to wear worthily the mantle of bygone heroes.
As mentioned above, with reference to slow bowling, the higher the hand and arm are raised at the moment of delivering the ball, the higher the ball will bound after it leaves the pitch. A fast bowler should always bear this in mind, and keep his hand as high as possible. It is simply a matter of ordinary common sense that a ball which rises up high from the pitch is more difficult for a batsman to get over and smother than one that comes on low and skimming. A fast ball when it is anything like a good length, must be met with the bat, i.e. it must be played with the forward stroke; consequently a ball that rises quickly from the pitch, and is still rising when it meets the bat, is extremely likely to rise higher still after it leaves it, unless it is played with great care and caution.
The low skimming fast bowler is generally an easy man to play; the batsman, when the ground is true, can play hard forward to almost any length of ball; there is no abrupt rise to render an uppish stroke probable, even if he does slightly misjudge the pace and length of the ball. There is, of course, in fast bowling, a much greater difficulty in getting any appreciable twist on to the ball than in slow. The ball leaves the ground so quickly that it is hardly in contact with it long enough to 'bite' the turf, and so avail itself of any spin that may have been imparted to it by the bowler. It is to be remembered, however, that the slightest deviation of a fast ball from its course after it has pitched is, if a good length, most likely to deceive the batsman. The latter is bound to play to the pitch of the ball, as it leaves the ground so quickly as to render it impossible for him to follow it with the eye in its course from the ground. He plays forward with a straight bat to meet it; should it turn an inch or two he will most likely miss it.
The off break is the one most usually attempted by fast bowlers; the ball is grasped firmly, generally by the seam, to give the hand a firmer grip, and is delivered in the same way as described for the slow off break. There have been but few really fast bowlers who have been able consistently to make their balls come 'back.' Every now and then, however, for some unaccountable reason, a fast bowler finds that he is making the ball do a lot from the off side. Perhaps his grasp is firmer and his wrist and fingers are more powerful than on ordinary occasions, or the ground may have more turf on it, or, for some other reason, his bowling twists in from the pitch with most fatal results to the batsmen.
If a fast bowler happen to be a man of strong physique, which is usually the case, a fairly long run up to the wickets before delivering the ball is an advantage to his bowling. This gives more impetus to the ball, and what is popularly known as 'devil' Spofforth, the Australian bowler, when bowling fast, takes a much longer run than when bowling medium pace. It is also an advantage to keep the batsman waiting for the delivery of the ball, which happens when the bowler runs several yards up to the wicket. For a fast bowler who intends to change his pace from very fast to medium slow, a long run is of great advantage, as the sight of the bowler coming up to the wicket before the delivery of a slow ball as fast as before the delivery of a fast one, is extremely likely to take in the batsman with regard to the pace. There are not so many tricks and dodges in the art of bowling fast as there are in bowling slow; the chief object to be sought is to bowl straight and good length, and to make the ball bound. A fast bowler, when first being put on, should remember that his muscles are probably stiff, and that he may not at first be able to bowl as accurately and as fast as he will be when thoroughly warmed to his work. For this reason it is always well to bowl two or three balls to one side of the wicket before beginning. These should be not quite at full speed, for fear of straining or ricking a muscle not yet in full swing, but a good medium pace. It is always best for a fast bowler to try a ball or two before beginning, excepting in circumstances when he is called upon to bowl to some one he has never bovled to before, and especially so to some one who has never seen him bowl. How often when batting have we silently chuckled with joy at seeing a man quite unknown to us rapidly loosening his arms with two or three balls before beginning to bowl! It is a great thing to have an unknown bowler on one's side, but he loses half his value if his style and action are revealed to the batsman before he receives the ball. In 1886 the writer was playing in a match against the Australians, when, although things had been going very well for the English side, the team was beginning to get tied up into a knot owing to the steady careful way in which Scott, the colonial captain, was defying all the efforts of our bowlers to dislodge him. A fast bowler, who had never seen Scott in his life before, was deputed to bowl, and was proceeding to get ready for 'two or three down' to loosen his arm, when he was told not to mind his arm being stiff, but to bowl the first over as fast as ever he could. The first ball sent Scott's leg-stump flying; it was quite a simple ball, never turned a hair's breadth either way, but the action and pace of the bowler took him in, and this would have been very unlikely to happen had he had an opportunity of seeing the bowler's style.
A fast bowler must be straight to be good. This is not the art of one skilled in the dodges of slows; he has to bowl straight, and a good length too, or else the runs will come at an enormous rate. In the present day it is usual to do with out a long-stop even to the fastest bowlers; this makes it imperatively necessary for the bowler not to bowl to leg, or, if missed by the batsman, the balls have a good chance of flying past the wicket-keeper to the boundary for four. Whether it is a good principle to do without long-stops, even when the best wicket-keepers are behind the sticks, is a doubtful point It is not within the province of this chapter to discuss the subject, but an opinion may be briefly expressed to the effect that the absence of long-stops to fast bowling is a mistake, amongst other reasons because it obliges the wicket-keeper to unite in himself the duties of a long-stop and a stumper.
A fast bowler should have such command over the ball as to be able to bowl a 'yorker' whenever he wishes, for the fact may be repeated that a fast 'yorker' is a most deadly ball.
Spofforth and Palmer, the Australians, and Rotherham, the old Uppingham bowler, were about the best fast 'yorker' bowlers of modern times. The ball came from these bowlers as high as the arm would allow, and seemed to fly like an arrow, with lightning-like rapidity, straight to the block-hole, or a few inches inside it. A high-action 'yorker' is more likely to deceive a batsman than a low-action one, as in the former case the starting-point of the ball is above the line of vision, and in the latter on a line with or below it, which naturally makes the course and pace of the ball more easy for the eye to judge. A very common error into which good fast 'yorker' bowlers fall is not being content with trying the ball occasionally to a batsman, and when he first comes on or when they first go on, but persistently trying, over after over, to break down his guard with a ball with which he is evidently quite at home, and which presents no terrors to him. The result of this mistake is that the balls get considerably punished, either by being driven on the full-pitch or else on the half-volley, the latter ball being often the result of a tired-out 'yorker' bowler's persistency. The writer remembers, when playing in a match some years ago, asking W. G. Grace, who was on the same side, what sort of a fast bowler a certain man was who was going on to bowl. 'Oh, Tm never frightened of him; he is always trying to "york" you, and bowls any amount of half-volleys,' was the reply, and this was soon proved to be, like most of the champion cricketer's opinions, perfectly accurate.
A good length just outside the off stump and between the off and middle stump is the direction that may be commended to the bowler who bowls over the wicket, and tries to get a little off spin on the ball. The leg-stump, in olden days, was considered the most deadly spot for a fast bowler to aim at; but since every first-class batsman now stands up to his wicket, and does not draw away an inch when the ball comes between it and his legs, leg-stump bowling is rather expensive work. By all means let fast bowlers lay siege to the leg-stump of inferior batsmen; but good batsmen, getting over this ball, will play it with an almost perfectly straight bat on the outside, and tax it most unmercifully for the total of their side.
As a rule, it is better for a fast bowler to bowl over the wicket, as by so doing he has more of the wicket to bowl at, and has, consequently, a slightly better chance of hitting it if the ball is missed by the batsman. He has also a greater chance of an appeal for leg before wicket being answered in his favour than if bowling from the other side of the wicket. There are some fast bowlers, however, who must, from the very nature of their action and delivery, bowl from round the wicket, viz, those who have either a natural bias from the on to the off, or who are able by their strength of wrist and fingers to impart such a bias to the ball. A man who bowls from the very extent of the crease outside the wicket, and whose bowling has naturally or othewise this leg side bias—it can hardly be called twist in fast bowling—is a particularly awkward customer for the batsman. There is such a constant tendency and inclination for the ball to keep going farther away to the off side, both before and after its pitch, that the greatest care must be exercised by the batsman to prevent himself playing inside the ball and putting it up either to point, third man, or short-slip. A fast ball that comes in from the leg side is the most difficult ball that has to be played, assuming its good length. There have been very few fast right-handed bowlers who have been able to manage this ball, but there are many instances of left-handed men who have attained to great accuracy with it. The late Fred Morley, of Nottingham, and Emmett, of Yorkshire, are instances.
About thirty years ago there were numerous good fast bowlers, who used to get the leg bias on the ball in the following way: They bowled round the wicket, and delivered the ball from about the height of the hip; the backs of the fingers were presented to the batsman before and at the moment of delivery; the result being that the ball had on it a slight amount of what, in slow bowling, we have described as leg-break. This was a useful style, and it is a pity that it has almost altogether died out at the present day.
It is quite impossible to say with any certainty what essentials are necessary in fast bowling before it can be ranked as first-class; so very much depends on whether the action is easy or difficult for the batsman to see. By the word 'see' is meant whether the pace and pitch of the ball at the moment of delivery can be instantly gauged by the batsman or not. Given equal straightness, pace, and command over the ball in every respect, the bowler who has an action which it is easy to see cannot compare with the man who, from some peculiarity in the movements of his body at the moment of delivery, has an action which is not easy to see. Now, it is a very difficult task to lay down any rules or reasons why some bowlers are easier to see than others; but after a good deal of consideration on this subject the writer has come to the conclusion that the bowlers who do not present a square front to the batsman when the ball is delivered, but who stand sideways or half turned, are, as a rule, the most difficult to judge. The hand comes then from behind the body, and is often not plainly seen till the very latest moment before delivery. There may be, and no doubt are, many mannerisms in bowlers which have their effect, but the above suggestion will probably be found to contain a good sound working rule. Take Giffen, the Australian; almost as much of his back as his front was visible to the batsman when he delivered the ball, and his bowling was most difficult to see—at any rate until the batsman was thoroughly well set. Low delivery.
Perhaps the best English batsmen have made more bad and utterly mistimed strokes off Giffen than off any other modern bowler. Spofforth may have bowled more men out, but Giffen certainly was the cause of more misjudged and uppish strokes, due, in all probability, to the fact of his bowling being so difficult to see.
The best bit of bowling the writer ever recollects playing against was in the second innings of the Gentlemen of England v. Australians, at Lord's in 1884. It was Giffen's day, and a batsman had to have luck on his side if he succeeded in staying in long enough to appreciate the beauty of the bowling. Take Peate and Emmett, the two Yorkshire left-handers, both in their day the best bowlers in England—in fact, the latter delighted his many admirers and friends by topping the list of English bowlers in the season of 1886, a most creditable performance for a man no longer in the first blush of youth. Both these men stand sideways to the batsman when they deliver the ball, and both are most difficult to see. Palmer, the Australian, bowled very nearly quite square; his bowling was very easy to see and to judge, and the more credit is therefore due to him for being such a successful bowler. There is no doubt a greater difficulty in attaining to perfect length and command over the ball when the body of the bowler is not square at the moment of delivery; but if these essentials to good bowling are obtained by patience and constant practice, the bowler has this great advantage that his balls are more difficult for the batsman to judge accurately. It seems strange that not one of the numerous published books on cricket has ever suggested the advantage to the bowler which is obtained in this way. In almost every one of these works great stress is laid upon the necessity of the bowler presenting a full face to the opposite wicket at the moment the ball leaves the hand. It is doubtless easier for a beginner to bowl straight if he adopts this style of bowling; but if he can once gain straightness by the other, viz. the sideways style, he has enlisted a great help to success.
W. G. Grace is, however, an exception to this rule. He delivers the ball perfectly square with the batsman; and yet we suppose that to a batsman who meets him for the first time, his bowling is about as difficult to see and to judge as that of any bowler ever was. It is a fact that his bowling is invariably fatal to men he has not met before. This is owing to the hovering flight that his action imparts to the ball. The first time the writer ever played against W. G. Grace's bowling was at Cambridge in 1878, and on the way to the wickets he was greeted with the cheering cry, 'I'll get you out; I always get youngsters out!' and surely enough he did, caught and bowled for two or thereabouts. What the champion did next morning showed that he was as generous and kind to young cricketers as he was skilful in the game. He took the writer to the nets prior to the beginning of the second day's play, and saying that youngsters required to know his bowling before being at home with it, he proceeded to bowl for quite twenty minutes to him; a comprehension of his method was thus gained, and the result was an addition to the Cambridge score of some forty odd in the second innings. Few latter-day cricketers would do this.
Perhaps one of the reasons why W. G. Grace is so deadly to young cricketers is this: the batsman, seeing an enormous man rushing up to the wickets, with both elbows out, great black beard blowing on each side of him, and a huge yellow cap on the top of a dark swarthy face, expects something more than the gentle lobbed-up ball that does come; he cannot believe that this baby-looking bowling is really the great man's, and gets flustered and loses his wicket. W. G. Grace is certainly enormous, and a year or two ago at Lord's an amusing remark might have been overheard on this subject. The England v. Australia match was being played. W. G. walked out into the field side by side with Briggs of Lancashire, the latter, as is well known, being very small, perhaps hardly up to W. G.'s elbow. A small child of about five was in the pavilion with his father, and said, 'Father, who is that big man?' 'That's Dr. Grace, the champion,' said the papa; and 'Who is the little one?' the child continued. 'That is Briggs.' Dead silence for a few moments, and then, 'Papa, is Briggs Dr. Grace's baby? '
Although power of pace, straightness, and command over the ball are the really essential qualities of good fast bowling—as, indeed, of all sorts—there are many occasions when fortune smiles upon bowling which possesses none of these good attributes. And it is for this reason, we think, that every cricketer should be able to bowl when called upon to do so by his captain. Every man who has played cricket has bowled at a net, and he certainly has an action which is different from everybody else's. As a rule, men who are not considered regular bowlers can send the ball in somehow or other at a fairly fast pace more or less straight, and these unknown, wild, and erratic bowlers often succeed in getting rid of well-set batsmen who have defied all the efforts of the recognised bowlers of the side. There are numerous instances of a side being deeply indebted to a bowler who never before nor afterwards showed the slightest ability to get wickets. In Australia in 1882, when Ivo Bligh's English team was playing combined Australia, on a certain occasion two of the best Australian batsmen—Murdoch and Bannerman—seemed immovable. They had been in for about an hour, and every one of the regular English bowlers had been on and off. A suggestion was made to try C. F. H. Leslie. Now this gentleman, with all his great merits, was never, even in the estimation of his best friends, a great bowler. But on he went with pleasure, as every cricketer should when ordered. The first ball was a very fast one, rather wide, the second ditto, but the third one—'Ah, the third!'—was a head ball, designed after the manner of Spofforth's best; and it pitched on the middle of Murdoch's middle stump! The next comer was Horan, at that time the reputed best player of fast bowling in the Colonies. A very fast long-hop, wide on the off side, was prettily cut straight into Barlow's hands at third man, and Mr. Leslie had secured two wickets for no runs. He continued for another over or two, had Bannerman beautifully stumped by Mr. Tylecote off a fast wide half-volley on the leg side, and then retired in favour of one of the regular bowlers, after having, simply by wild erratic fast delivery, lowered three of the best Australian wickets. We give this as an example of the principle that every cricketer should try to bowl, and if he finds that he cannot attain to any efficiency, even with constant practice, then let him try to 'sling in' as hard as ever he possibly can; he will often be of use to his side when in a fix.
Before leaving the subject of fast bowling a word must be said about what may be called the great cricket bugbear of the last few years—viz. throwing. It is worthy of notice that when over-arm bowling was first allowed a great outcry arose and there were not wanting those who prophesied that this 'hand over head' style would ultimately result in 'a mere over-hand throw—a kind of pelting, with a little mannerism or flourish to disguise it.' Now it is an astonishing thing that, in a great variety of cases, this is just what actually has happened. Some of the bowling that has been allowed to pass unnoticed by umpires is well described by the phrase quoted; but although this is so, there are many minor offenders whom all would like to see pulled up short, not out of any ill-will to them personally, but in the interests of the game. Now throwing is most pernicious to cricket, and is calculated, if allowed to increase (as it surely will unless promptly suppressed by the authorities, backed by public opinion), to exercise a most disastrous effect on the game. The subject of throwing is sometimes pooh-poohed by prominent cricketers, who have remarked, 'What does it matter whether a man bowls or throws?' If it makes no difference, by all means let the M.C.C. at once expunge the rule relating to throwing and jerking. But let us pause for a moment to see if there are any reasons to suppose that it does make a difference. There are, in truth, two very good reasons why throwing should be stopped. First, if it were allowed it would seriously interfere with the art of bowling. The reasons for this proposition are as follows: In throwing there is no scope for dissimilarity of style. All men who throw must, from the very nature of the delivery, send the ball on its course with exactly the same description of spin. It is impossible for a thrower to make the ball go across the wicket from the leg to the on side; every ball which leaves a thrower's hand has the off-side spin on it, and none other is possible. Any style which tends to cramp bowling, as this does, must be bad. Again, a throwing bowler cannot change his pace as other bowlers do; he dare not bowl the slow high-dropping ball so successfully used by Spofforth and others, because he knows that when his arm and wrist move slowly the unfair jerk of the wrist and elbow will be more manifest than when it is partially concealed by the usual quick movement of his arm. If throwing tends to cramp bowling, as it does, and render certain essentials for the development of the science impossible, then it must be injurious to the game. Secondly, if throwing were allowed the batsman would be in a position of considerable danger. Many cricketers say, 'Let throwers alone, they are always easy to play;' and this, no doubt, is so, for the reasons given above, especially when every thrower must, for the sake of appearances, adopt some slight measure of disguise in his action; but once let it be recognised that throwing is part of the game, and a race of sturdy chuckers will spring up, whose pace will be so terrific that the best and pluckiest batsman will not be able to defend his body, much less his wicket, against their lightning-like deliveries. Imagine what it would be if Bonnor, or Forbes, or Game were to be allowed to throw, all of them having thrown in their best days as much as 120 yards— is it likely that a batsman at a distance of only twenty-one yards could be quick enough with his bat to stop such bowling? Even with an ordinary fast bowler a batsman has sometimes difficulty in preventing himself from being struck by the ball, and with an undisguised thrower the danger would be tenfold.
The question then arises, what can be done to stop the throwing nuisance? And it is one which every member of the cricket-loving community should ask himself. It is a question of the greatest difficulty, as is evident from the fact that the committee of the M.C.C. have so far found it impossible to legislate with regard to the nuisance. The committee has done everything in its power; it has instructed the umpires to watch closely the delivery of every doubtful bowler, and probably the umpires have acted fully up to their instructions; but they have stopped here, and absolutely refused to report to the world the result of their careful observations. It is a fact that of late years no professional umpire in a first-class match has no-balled a professional bowler for throwing. This is not to be wondered at: professional umpires themselves have been professional bowlers, and they cannot bring themselves to take the bread out of the mouth of one of their own class by no-balling him, and stigmatising him at once and for ever as a 'thrower.'
We cannot get amateur umpires to stand: these would, no doubt, fearlessly no-ball any unfair bowler; but if we could, we should probably find that the quantity of bad decisions in the course of the year would be greatly increased. An umpire wants practice and experience in keeping his attention and whole mind fixed impartially on the game, and this can only be acquired by those who stand day after day in that capacity.
The only way, then, to our mind, to stop throwing, as the M.C.C. cannot and the umpires will not, is to get public opinion to step in and sweep it off our cricket grounds. Let every amateur cricketer, whether he plays for his county or his village club, set his face resolutely against the evil, and do his utmost to discourage it. If an 'Anti-Throwing Society' could be established amongst cricketers, we firmly believe it would effect its object. In the North of England, where the game is ever increasingly popular, there are many 'chuckers' to be met with. The clubs who do not possess, to say the least, a doubtful bowler are, we should say from our experience, in the minority. Young professional bowlers see the general laxity that prevails, and adopt the peculiar flick of the wrist and elbow, hoping thereby to get more twist on the ball, and this sooner or later develops into a throw. Young bowlers of this description get drafted from their village clubs into the county team, and thereby augment the number of 'doubtful' bowlers in first-class matches. Now if every amateur stood out against this system, and even went so far as to say, 'I will not be one of a team that wins its matches by such means,' unfair bowling would soon die out.
On the subject of throwing we can learn something from the. Australians. Perhaps it is the only subject connected with the spirit in which the game should be played wherein they are able to give us much assistance, but we ought for that reason to be all the more willing to take any advice which they or their system can afford us.
Now in Australia unfair bowling is absolutely unknown. Directly a bowler begins to develop the slightest tendency to throwing he is tabooed. One can traverse the whole of Australia and watch the numerous clubs in all parts of the country without ever seeing a bowler who is even verging on the line of 'throwing.' It is hard to understand why this state of affairs does not exist in the mother country. It will be well for everyone to realise that, if this question is allowed to drift on from year to Doubtful delivery.
year without any senous protest from public opinion, it will become absolutely necessary for the committee of the M.C.C. to do something in the matter. What this should be is, as we have said, very doubtful, and many and varied would be the opinions of competent judges as to the form of legislation that would meet the evil. It can almost be taken for granted that it is impossible satisfactorily to define a throw, and even if this were not so the solution of the question would be no nearer, as there would be just the same difficulties in the way of an umpire saying that a bowler came within the definition as there is now in saying that he throws. What is wanted is to get rid of throwers in small club and village matches, and then we should never get them drafted into first-class cricket. If the umpire at either end were allowed to no-ball, we believe the system of throwing would receive a serious blow. It often happens that the thrower can only bowl at his own umpire's end; if he attempted it at the other end he knows what would await him; and if both umpires had the right to no-ball for throwing, this difficulty would be overcome by his not being able to bowl at either end. It is, however, earnestly to be hoped that no change of any sort in the rules will be necessary, but that all true cricketers will unite in discountenancing that which is always a source of wrangling and dispute.
Before leaving the subject of fast bowling a few remarks on the position of the field will not be out of place. Every bowler who is worth his salt knows much better than anyone else how the field should be placed to his bowling. So much depends upon the style and favourite strokes of the batsman to be dislodged and the mode of attack that is going to be brought into requisition, that the general rules we suggest here are more as a guide to young fast bowlers than to those who have gained their experience. To a fast over the wicket round-arm bowler (on a true wicket) the field should be placed as on page 180.
Should the bowler, however, be one who changes his pace to slow and relies occasionally on quite a slow head ball, it will be as well to bring short-leg half-way between the umpire and the bowler, and put mid-on out deep in the field on the on side. On no occasion should short-slip be dispensed with; he should on a fast wicket be fairly fine, and if he is a quick active man with his hands (as he should be for this post), about eight yards firom the wicket. The object of short-slip is to pick up snicks which just miss the wicket-keeper, and although he may hold a larger proportion of these quick snap catches when a long way from the wicket, he will get an infinitely greater number when closer in; consequently, if he is a man of quick sight and tenacious hand, he will actually secure more catches close in, although at the same time he may miss more. The positions of long-leg, third man, short-leg, and mid-on depend to a great extent on the batsman's play. It is a golden rule never to do without a point and cover-point, although in some instances—e.g. when a strong cutting batsman is in on a fast wicket—it is sometimes advisable to place point in front of the wicket and cover-point square. It is,
however, but seldom that this is necessary, and many cricketers always view the change with some misgiving as to its correctness, because a good active cover-point in the usual place saves a large number of runs and, probably, gets more catches than any other man in the field, with the exception of the wicket-keeper and short-slip. A round the wicket fast bowler requires the field in much the same position. But in his case it is sometimes necessary to have an extra man on the leg side, as these bowlers are very apt to bowl between the legs and the wicket, which means
with good batsmen that they get played on to the leg side, between mid-on and short-leg. If this change is necessary long-leg maybe sent almost to the boundary, very fine, behind the wicket, and long-stop be brought on to the leg side. A very fine long-leg prevents boundary byes, and generally manages to save the fine long-leg boundary hits. Unless there is a first-class man behind the stumps, however, this generally results with first-class bowling in rather too many extras to justify its continuance. Fast left-hand bowlers want more men on the off side, as, from the nature of their bowling, they get more punished in that direction than anywhere else. If fast left-hand bowling is accurate and straight, long-leg is usually dispensed with, and, in fact, mid-on as well is often taken to the other side of the wicket, leaving shortleg, who is brought forward a few yards, the only man on the leg side of the wicket. Then there is an unbroken line of fielders on the off side, which the batsman finds it difficult to break through if it is composed of active and energetic men. The way in which fast left-handed bowlers place their field is usually as on page 181.
There is a class of fast left-hand bowlers who require more men on the on side— viz. those who give the ball the leg side bias on delivery, which, to a right-handed batsman, causes the ball to come in from the off side, or, as it is usually termed, to come with the arm. It is often necessary with this style of bowling to have a very fine short-leg, to stop the snicks and leg byes which are caused by the batsman playing outside the ball Then a short-leg by the umpire is necessary, and also a mid-on, making three on the on side. Mr. Appleby, of Lancashire, is an example of this style of bowler, as is Barlow, of the same county, though he hardly comes within the definition of fast bowling. We have occasionally seen a left-arm bowler, like Emmett, of Yorkshire—who relies exclusively on the off break, which, to a right-handed batsman, brings the ball from leg to off—involuntarily send down a ball that, instead of taking the bias imparted to it, for some strange and unaccountable reason went the other way, an accident which places the batsman in a most awkward fix.
Some bowlers experience great difficulty in bowling to left-handed batsmen. The necessary alteration in their style seems to worry them and interfere with their accuracy of pitch. Usually a slow bowler tries to get a left-handed batsman caught on the off side. He places most of his men on this side, and bowls the off break (or, as it would be to a left-handed batsman, the leg-break) with the object of getting the batsman to play inside the ball, and thus make an upstroke. In short, he places the men as a left-handed bowler places them when bowling to a right-handed batsman. Left-handed batsmen are notoriously strong and powerful in their off hitting, and consequently in this direction must the bait be laid. As a rule, left-handed batsmen are apt to be a trifle wild and unable to restrain their keenness to hit, and consequently they pay the usual penalty of attempting to hit widish off balls going away from them. But occasionally a bowler meets a left-hander who is too wide awake and too good a batsman thus to throw away bis chance of scoring, and then different tactics must be employed. There have been, and are, wonderfully few really good left-handed batsmen in England, and the chance of a bowler having to meet one of them is very slight In England now, in first-class cricket, there are Scotton of Notts and Peel of Yorkshire, and that is really about all. The best of this class was perhaps the late F. M. Lucas, whose recent death in India has caused such sorrow to his wide circle of friends. He was really an accomplished batsman, with good sound defence and great punishing powers. A slow bowler might bowl for hours on the off side to him, with the sole result of seeing four after four being despatched all along the ground to the boundary. Moses of Sydney, who has many times distinguished himself against our English teams, is another excellent left-handed batsman. In our opinion, when a really good left-hander comes in, one who is not likely to get himself out on the off side by careless hitting, an attack should be made on his leg-stump. Most left-handers are good leg hitters, but we have never yet seen one (not excepting the two above named) who was as good on the leg-stump as a first-class righthanded batsman. There is an awkwardness apparent in the left-hander's play to a ball pitching on the leg-stump, or just inside it, and there is always a great likelihood of a cross bat being used for a leg hit. Many and many a time has the writer, after trying the off-ball trick unsuccessfully against one of these batsmen, succeeded in dismissing him by bowling over the wicket at the leg-stump and between the legs and leg-stump of the batsman. This manoeuvre only entails a couple of men being brought across from the pff side to stop the run-getting.
There is one species of ball which we have not discussed, deadly as it is, both in fast and slow bowling. This is the ball which, after the pitch, never rises, but shoots along the surface of the ground, and is commonly called a 'shooter.' The reason why no notice was taken of this when the different kinds of ball which may be bowled were being dealt with is because no amount of practice or skill can enable a bowler to bowl thus. It depends for existence upon inequalities in the ground. There are some grounds which have acquired great reputation for supplying 'shooters' for the benefit of bowlers; but this reputation is unfortunately always accompanied by one for being lumpy and dangerous. Not a great many years ago Lord's used to be celebrated for shooters, owing to its rough condition; and even now, well looked after as it is, shooters are of more frequent occurrence there than on most other good grounds. Although it is not in the power of any man to bowl shooters at will, still there is no doubt that men with a low delivery have a greater chance of being helped by a shooter than men who bowl with a high overhead action. The writer recollects at Cambridge, about 1879 or 1880, being told by a young professional bowler, engaged at the University ground at that time, that he had found out how to bowl shooters. He was a bowler of considerable promise, and had begun to make his mark in county cricket, but it being known that his cricket abilities far exceeded his intellectual powers, the announcement of this wonderful discovery was received with some amount of doubt. However, out he came to bowl, to prove his prowess with the celebrated shooter; but it simply appeared that, instead of bowling with an overhead delivery, which was his wont, he bent his body quite low, and proceeded to bowl in a manner which was hardly removed from genuine under-hand. It is unnecessary to say that there were no shooters. His balls kept low after the pitch because his action was low.
There is one style of bowling sometimes seen in the present day that has not been mentioned, viz. fast under-arm. This is of two kinds: first, that which pitches a good length as with round-arm bowling; secondly, 'sneaks,' or bowling that pitches near the bowler's hand and travels along the ground till the ball reaches the batsman. The latter can never be of any avail against a good player on a decent wicket, as every ball can be met by the forward stroke and rendered harmless. In country matches it is amusing to see the batsmen holding their bats in the air and trying to pounce down at the very last moment on these balls. This mode of playing such bowling is essentially incorrect, and would even be likely to cause the downfall of a good batsman; it is as certain as anything can be at cricket that a good forward straight bat cannot miss a 'sneak.' Mr. C. I. Thornton at one time attempted this style of bowling, and was known to get a wicket or two. The good-length fast under-arm, when bowled round the wicket with a good leg twist on, might be made very dangerous. The old style of low round-arm, mentioned a few pages back, was very similar to this style of bowling, and was bowled with the same object as this has in view, viz. catches in the slips and on the off side. We only know of one fast under-arm, leg twist, good-length bowler, and he does not play in first-class cricket. His name is Bunch, an old sergeant of the Black Watch, well known on many military cricket-grounds all over England and India. Some years ago he was decidedly a good bowler, his balls came very fast, pitched good length on the leg-stump, and, having lots of leg stuff on, wanted very careful play.
And now, after having discussed the different styles of bowling known in cricket, let us consider some of the main rules which must guide the action of every bowler in the field. The first and chief principle that a young bowler must master is that he is bowling for his side's success, and not for his own; and that, with that object in view, he has voluntarily placed himself under the leadership of his captain. He must, therefore, give in at once, and readily, to every order. A captain is always ready to hear the suggestions of a bowler, and, as a rule, with regard to placing the field, is always willing to adopt them; but should he not do so, the bowler must accept the decision with the best grace possible. There is nothing more discouraging and demoralising to a side than a sulky bowler—i.e. one who gets angry when spoken to, and subsequently adopts a defiant manner towards his captain. This bowler is usually a very poor stamp of sportsman, but unfortunately he may often be seen, and the marks by which he may -be recognised are: First, bowling wildly and much faster than usual. Secondly, getting to his place at the end of his over after everyone else. Thirdly, if he fields a ball, throwing at the wicket, instead of to the wicket-keeper, as hard as he can, generally causing an over-throw. Fourthly, if he misses a ball in the field, standing still and allowing some more remote fielder to run after it, or else running after it himself at about the same pace as if he were just starting on a five-mile race. He is a great nuisance generally in the game. We do not deny that circumstances often arise when one is bowling that tax to the utmost the temper of the mildest man in the world; it is, to say the least, very irritating to try for half an hour to get a man caught out by a particular stroke off a particular ball, and then at the end see the ball bowled, the stroke made, and the catch missed; but, as chance enters to a great extent into the game, the bowler ought to do his very utmost to curb his feelings, in the interests of others who are taking part in the game.
A bowler should be ready to take any place in the field when he is not bowling. In these days when slow bowling is frequently on at both ends, there is often a difficulty in getting four men to do the out-fielding. A bowler should not object at all to help his side by doing this out-country work. Although a great specialist in the field, such as an excellent cover-point or point, is always an object of admiration, more admirable still are men good at all places. W. G. Grace, A. N. Hornby, and many others we could mention were at one time equally safe and at home in any position where they were placed.
A bowler should never grumble aloud at catches being missed; the unfortunate man has done his best and failed, and any censure only makes him more flurried and adds to his discomfiture without doing any good.
A golden rule for every bowler to observe is—after the batsman has played the ball, get back to the wicket as quickly as possible. Neglect of this rule loses many a 'run out.' If a bowler does not get back to his wicket, there is no one to take the ball and knock the bails off should the batsmen run and the ball be returned to the bowler's end. When the ball is thrown up, the bowler should not take it till it has just passed the wicket; he should then seize and sweep the ball into the stumps in one and the same action. Should he stand behind and take the ball before it reaches the wicket, there is great danger of his disarranging the bails before he gets the ball in his hands. Of course there are exceptions to this rule—e.g. when a ball is coming very slowly up to the wicket from a feeble throw or because the ground is sticky and dead; then the bowler must do his best anyhow to get the ball into the stumps before the batsman reaches the crease.
A bowler should never throw the ball at the wicket unless it is the only possible chance of running the batsman out. There is always a chance of the ball slipping out of his hand and missing its aim.
A bowler should take plenty of time between each ball he delivers. If he hurries he will get flurried and out of breath and bowl badly.
It is a mistake for a bowler to appeal unless he has a good chance of getting a favourable decision. Umpires are very peculiar individuals; once let it enter their heads that a bowler is trying to 'jockey' a decision out of them, up go their backs, and they suddenly become a mechanical toy that glibly answers every appeal with the two words 'Not out,' and those only. A bowler is quite justified in appealing for a leg before wicket even if .he is himself doubtful and uncertain as to whether the ball pitched quite straight or would have quite hit the wicket, since he is exceedingly likely not to form a correct impression of its straightness from the fact of his being at the moment of the pitch of the ball a little out of the straight line between the wickets.
Bowlers should always take care before a match that they are shod with good stout shoes with plenty of nails in them. It is a most important thing for a bowler to have shoes which will prevent him from slipping, and this is somewhat difficult when grounds are so constantly changing from hard to soft. For a hard ground nothing is better than big nails or screws; these do not go into the ground, but grip it and give a firm foothold. The left shoe of a right-hand bowler and the right shoe of a lefthand one should be extra well supplied with nails, because in the act of bowling the whole weight of the body comes down upon the left foot with the right-hand bowler and the right with a left-hand one.
For a soft ground the old-fashioned spikes are the best They can be put in and taken out in a few minutes before the beginning of a match, according to the state of the ground. Every bowler should carry spikes, nails, and screws, a screwdriver and gimlet, in his cricket-bag.
A bowler should do all in his power to prevent cutting up the wicket with his feet in a place where bowling from the other end may pitch. If he finds that he is doing so with either foot he should at once change sides of the wicket, and if he then finds that, do what he will, he cannot help damaging the wicket—which is a most unlikely event—he should at once desist from bowling. If the ground is unduly cut up and made artificially difficult for the batsmen by bowlers' feet, whether it is done intentionally or not, such bowling is unfair and should at once be stopped. SpofTorth in some states of the ground used to spoil it terribly, and this although he wore no spikes on the offending loot. The side of this foot, however, came down with great force a few yards in front of his own wicket. No doubt great damage at times was caused to the opposing batsmen by this unfortunate foot, and also to the Australian batsmen themselves, and on one occasion an appeal was made to the umpire as to whether, though caused unintentionally, it was or was not unfair. The umpire declined to give an opinion. But there can be little doubt that a bowler who has unfortunately developed this tendency is transgressing the rules of fair cricket.
A chapter on bowling would not be complete without the addition of some rules for the guidance of those who are beginning to play cricket and who want to learn how to bowl. Success depends so much upon the natural action of the bowler that the multiplicity of rules so often laid down for the guidance of young bowlers, though followed out to the letter, does not greatly profit the aspirant to bowling honours. There are many straight accurate bowlers who can put as much twist as most men on the ball, and who yet never attain to any eminence in the art. This is due to their action being simple and easy to see, and to their consequent inability to deceive the batsman as to the pace and flight of the ball. There are, however, one or two simple elementary rules which it would be always as well for young bowlers to follow.
First.—Take every opportunity of bowling at imitation cricket with a racquet or fives ball, or any other sort of ball. This teaches you by practical experience the difference in the spins of the ball and what constitutes a good ball. Small cricket with a fives ball and a fives bat is splendid fun, and has initiated many a youngster into the mysteries of break-backs and breaks from leg.
Secondly.—Keep your arm as high as possible.
Thirdly.—If naturally inclined to be a fast bowler, aim at straightness first of all, and take care to bowl well within your strength.
Fourthly.—Always bowl in the same style and action. Bowl every day in practice, but not for more than half an hour. And take a rest of a minute or so after every six balls; remember in a match you have a rest after every four or five. Bowl carefully in practice. If you get tired leave off at once. If you find your bowling is getting worse instead of better, leave off for a few days and have a complete rest.
Fifthly.—Take a good long run, whether you bowl slow or fast; and if you can, run on a little after delivering the ball. This gives extra 'fire' to the ball.
Sixthly.—Be sure to practise bowling both sides of the wicket.
Seventhly.—If you want to become a really good bowler, accustom your fingers early to get as much twist as possible on the ball, both ways.