Cricket (Steel, Lyttelton)/Chapter 6

Cricket  (1888) 
Chapter 6



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

Cricket (Steel, Lyttelton) 0269.jpg

ERTAIN natural qualifications are indispensable to enable any cricketer to become a great fieldsman. The highest reputation that can be attained by any painstaking cricketer who is not endowed with these qualifications is that of being a good

'Saving the four.'

safe man. When you hear this epithet, you may take it for granted that reference is made to a man who may cover himself with glory if he has to field a ball within a certain more or less limited space from the spot where he has taken his position, who is generally in the habit of holding a feasible catch, and who will seldom disgrace himself.

In other words, a safe field is generally a slow one, is lacking in electricity and rapidity of movement, and, as batsmen get to know this, the short run is attempted with impunity. Slow fields are earnestly advised to practise throwing; for their defects are less apparent when fielding a long distance from the wicket, and the non-observant spectator does not notice that the ground covered at a distance from the wicket by a slow field is very small compared to that commanded by some space-covering field like Gunn, Maurice Read, and Stoddart.

Again, let safe and slow fields, the roadsters among the thoroughbreds, try and get a respectable knowledge of the game; for if they obtain this they can in a great measure discount their deficiencies. A good judge of the game gets to know by instinct where a batsman is likely to hit certain balls, and so does the observant fieldsman. He will consequently shift a few yards or so from his original position to the spot towards which his instinct tells him the ball is likely to be hit; and he will thereby earn the enviable reputation of being a man who is frequently in the right place. It used to be said of the immortal French tennis player, Barre, that he himself did not run after the ball, but the ball ran after him; his genius told him where his opponent was going to hit the ball, and he planted himself accordingly. In like manner will a fieldsman so plant himself; and it is important to a slow field to try and acquire this instinct, for if the fieldsman is not on a certain spot of ground before the hit is made, his slowness will prevent his getting there afterwards, especially if the hit is hard and the ground fast.

Directions may now be given on the knotty points, 'Where ought I to stand?' 'When ought I to back up?' 'Which end ought I to throw to?' and a few others; for this reason, that many a good fieldsman might be better if he knew where to place himself and precisely what to do.

First, then, it may be safely asserted that a concentrated attention on every ball is a sine quâ non of even decent fielding. Men often think that if they are simply looking at the batsman they are doing all that is required. But this is not so. There is a difference of opinion as to whether the eyes should be fixed on the batsman, or should follow the ball as it leaves the bowler's arm; this is a matter of dispute, our own opinion being in favour of the former plan. But each man should stand as if the next ball were sure to come to him, not only as if it

Cricket (Steel, Lyttelton) 0271.jpgBacking up.

might come to him. One can see a whole eleven doing it now and then when there are (say) six runs wanted to tie and seven to win. They are all adopting for a few minutes the position they ought to adopt always—in short, the position in which great fieldsmen like Messrs. Royle and G. B. Studd are found invariably. We will first take a few general points, and then the separate places in the field.


This is a matter which demands the earnest consideration of all who field within thirty yards of the wicket. There ought always to be two men backing up; never more. Nine times out of ten they will be superfluous, but the tenth time they will save a 'four overthrow,' and all the chagrin, demoralisation, and tearing of hair connected with that disaster. No fieldsman can throw his best unless he is confident about the backing up, and the man who ought to be abused when an overthrow occurs is not the fieldsman who throws the ball, but the men who should be backing up and are not. Again— and let young fields take heed to this—there must be ten yards between the two men backing up, and also between the one nearest the wicket and the wicket. This gives them room to stop the wildest throw, but does not give the batsmen time to run if the ball passes the wicket. If the fields stand close together, two are as bad as none, and get in each other's way. Rules for the different fields we give in dealing with them separately.


This is, of course, a gift of nature, not a result of art. Few men can throw far, but everyone can throw quickly, and that is what prevents batsmen from running. There is a moment which decides a batsman whether he can manage to secure another run or not. It is just when a fieldsman, having run some way after the ball, and having his back turned to the wicket, is stooping to pick up preparatory to throwing in. Now any good judge of running, after seeing a man go through this process once, knows exactly how long it will take. Every nerve should be strained to make it as brief as possible: a little extra sign of life and rapid movement will make the batsman hesitate a moment, and the run is lost. The engraving on p. 251 shows what in our opinion is the proper way to pick up a ball going away. The field is not trying to catch the ball up as far as his feet are concerned. He is stretching his hand forward to pick it up, and when he has got it into his hand he will throw it rather over his left shoulder to the wicket. Again, supposing a run is being snatched. The field should then remember that to throw in slowly is of no possible use. The throw may be, in other respects, as perfect and as straight as Robin Hood's arrow, but the batsman will be safe over the crease, and such a throw becomes an example of showy drawing-room cricket, which is sure to be applauded by the spectators, as well as the reporters, but is useless to the side. If every field picked up and threw Cricket (Steel, Lyttelton) 0273.jpg'Overtaking and picking up.'

in as quickly as his knee joints and the state of his arm allowed him, a very considerable percentage of the runs usually scored would be saved. It is commonly asserted by many of those supporters of the game who, having laid down their arms, devote themselves for the rest of their lives to laying down the law, that nobody ought ever to throw down the wicket. This is certainly wrong. We do not mean that everybody ought always to throw at the wicket, but only that some fields, under certain circumstances, ought to do so. These circumstances occur when it is the only chance of running a man out. The ball should be hurled violently at the bails, and if an overthrow occurs, the wise captain will abuse those who ought to be backing up, and not the thrower. But to throw hard at the wicket when there is no chance of running a man out is strongly to be condemned; it may produce an overthrow, and it is certain to inflict useless concussion on the hands of bowlers and wicket-keepers. No fieldsman is so apt to disregard this advice as the bowler; at least, it is a fact that many bowlers are particularly fond of returning the ball hard to the wicket after they have fielded it. It does not succeed in running a man out once in a thousand times, it often enables a run to be got by an overthrow, and it uselessly troubles the wicket-keeper. A batsman is next door to an idiot who is got out by such means, and we shrewdly suspect that it is often done to secure the applause of an unthinking mob.


This is an art which the above-mentioned critics lament as having died out. It may be suspected that they missed as

Cricket (Steel, Lyttelton) 0274.jpgFig. 1.—The right way to catch.

many catches as the present generation, but still the present generation miss more than they ought. All fine country fields catch the ball close to the body, and rightly so, because the eye is more in a line with the ball, and with the hands in the position shown in fig. 1, not in the way shown in fig. 2. If a young player begins in the wrong way, he will miss one or two and get nervous. It is worth remembering that folios of rules will never make a nervous field keep hold of a country catch. Cold hands are a frequent cause of failure, but loss of confidence and the disorganisation of the nervous system is the commonest reason, and a constant prayer of many a cricketer is to be spared a high catch.

When a field begins to be uncertain, he should keep wicket to fast bowling for a quarter of an hour a day, and field somewhere close in for a week or so. The wicket-keeping will Cricket (Steel, Lyttelton) 0275.jpgFig. 2.—The wrong way to catch.

practise his eye, and the fielding close in will spare his nerves during this educational process. Practice is, of course, useful for long catches, but only up to a certain point. A player may alter from a bad style of catching to a good one by practice, but a very safe catch in practice is frequently a bad performer in a match, simply on account of nervousness. For sharp catches, wicket-keeping is, perhaps, the only thing that will help. The peculiar faculty they demand is, like the spin in bowling, something that cannot be taught, the possession of which is a guarantee of genius.

And now for those who occupy the separate places, first among whom we are surely right in dealing with the


A little thought makes it clear that there are given at least three chances of catching to one of stumping a man out. And so the wicket-keeper must first feel the ball safe and warm in his hands before he attempts to put the wicket down. This advice sounds obvious, but it is so often disregarded that it must be insisted on. The first rule accordingly is, that the ball must not be snatched at, but received. This snapping is a very common fault with amateurs, and the great George Finder's remark, 'You amateurs snap 'em a bit,' hits on a weak spot in amateur wicket-keeping. Another reason for not snapping is one that will certainly strike home, and that is, that the non-snapper is not nearly so likely to hurt his hands, as one form of snapping consists in jerking the hands quickly

Cricket (Steel, Lyttelton) 0276.jpgWicket-keeper—Sherwin in position.

forward to meet the ball, and thereby resisting a blow instead of waiting for it. Another danger of snapping is, that you run the risk of moving your hands in such a way that, instead of the ball striking the palms of the hand where it does not hurt, it strikes you on the top of the thumb or fingers, causing an agony that only wicket-keepers can rightly appreciate. Hardly any two wicket-keepers stand alike, so take any position that is natural to you, as was recommended in the chapter on Batting, only bearing one fact in mind, which is, to avoid standing so far away as not to be able comfortably to put down the wicket without moving the legs. The postures generally assumed are, it must be confessed, the reverse of graceful; they are too well known to need description, but the two most common forms are shown in the figures given on pp. 254 and 256. In one figure we recognise the massive proportions of the famous Sherwin. Now comes a most important rule, and that is, never to move the feet till the ball is hit by the batsman or has passed your hands or is in your hands. Again, you may not be able to take many leg-balls, but every time you do put the wicket down, not regarding the fact that the batsman may not be out of his ground. If you wait to look, he certainly will not wait to get back, warned as he is by the sound of the ball impinging on the gloves that there is no time for loitering about. We do not say that an appeal ought to be made to the umpire every time that the wicket is put down; that ought only to be done when you think that the batsman was out of his ground; unless this is the case it is an unfair and unsportsmanlike proceeding.

We have before protested against pandering to the vicious tastes of the gallery, and we must protest against it again, and caution wicket-keepers in the following particular. It is supremely difficult to take leg-balls, and the populace applaud accordingly when one is taken. Now we have no objection to a wicket-keeper taking as many leg-balls as possible, but on one condition, and that is, that he does not lay himself out to take leg-balls at the expense of the off balls. It is easy to do this by a different position and a concentration of thought on the leg-balls. The vast majority of catches are given on the off side, and catches, as has been before remarked, out-number stumping chances in the proportion of 3 to 1. We would infinitely sooner have a wicket-keeper on our side who was safe on the off side and did not take one leg-ball in a hundred, limiting leg-balls to those outside the legs of the batsman. Let your first thoughts be concentrated mainly on straight and off-side balls, and pay no regard to the applause of any save those whose knowledge of the game makes their approbation valuable.

A player with no aptitude for wicket-keeping on first going to that position will undergo moments of unspeakable agony. Spectators do not thoroughly realise the position of the wicket- Cricket (Steel, Lyttelton) 0278.jpgWicket-keeper—Another position.

keeper, indeed nobody can who has not attempted the art. In the first place, we will suppose a very fast bowler; in the second, a fast and possibly a rather bumpy wicket; in the third place, a batsman with perhaps the bulk of W. G. Grace or Roger Iddison, wielding a bat of the orthodox proportions; and in the fourth place, three stumps with two bails placed on the top. The body of the batsman in many cases completely obstructs the view the wicket-keeper ought to have of the ball. Even if he can get a good sight of the ball there is that abominable bat being fiddled about, baulking the eyesight in the most tantalising manner, and there are some batsmen who have a provoking habit of waving their bats directly the bowler begins his run, and continuing their antics till the ball is right up to them; while others seem to be built like windmills, and have a limb always at hand to throw out between the unhappy wicket-keeper and the rapidly-advancing ball. There are several seconds, therefore, when the wicket-keeper is only conjecturing what course the ball is taking, and is certain of but two things—one, that the ball is hard; the other, that it is advancing in the direction of himself with terrific rapidity. Then, even if you see the ball plainly, it may happen to be, and frequently is, straight, and a straight fast ball raises unutterable emotions in the wicket-keeper's breast; for who knows what devilish tricks the ball, to say nothing of the bails, will play after the wicket is struck, and the course of the missile diverted, not stopped? One reads how a bail has been sent a distance of thirty or forty yards by a fast ball, and that bail may take the wicket-keeper in the eye in transitu. The writer was once struck by the ball on the eye and by the bail on the mouth at very nearly the same second. The wicket-keeper is grimly told that he must not flinch, and that he never can be really good if he does not keep his legs still. True, most true; but, like other great people who do great things, he must resist every natural impulse and all his lower nature, and not till he has succeeded will he stand the least chance of reaching to a pinnacle of excellence. Having briefly pointed out these difficulties and dangers, let us beg the field to treat the wicket-keeper as tenderly as possible, to cultivate a straight throw, either a catch or a long-hop, and not half-volleys or, worse still, short-hops, and never to throw hard when there is no necessity. If the throw is crooked, the wicket-keeper should not leave his position to stop it; leave that to the men who are backing up. He may be called upon afterwards to put down the wicket, and he ought to be in a position for so doing. Bear in mind also this cardinal rule—namely, to stand behind the wicket to a throw and not in front.


It may be stated first of all in regard to this place, that its importance is very considerably less in the cricket of the present day than it was in former times. The improvement of bowling in mere accuracy, owing to the fact that now compared with twenty years ago five medium pace and slow bowlers exist to one fast bowler, is the reason of this change; and even when Cricket (Steel, Lyttelton) 0280.jpgHit to square-leg.

a long-leg is used, it is very often because a sort of back-up is required for the wicket-keeper, and the long-leg is consequently placed very sharp, always remembering that there is no long-stop. The man chosen for this grand post ought to know from the way a batsman hits at a ball whether he should stand square or sharp. The old-fashioned long-leg hitting of George Parr is almost a thing of the past; so that long-leg should stand too square rather than too sharp, especially as the right hand will thus get most to do. If the batsman is a weak hitter, alter the position, moving not only nearer the wicket but sharper as well. For a weak hitter's most dangerous stroke will be a snick to leg, and it is rather galling to see a snick score many runs. But a strong square-leg hit is far more dangerous; therefore, leave ample space to cover the ground, and trust to your speed to save two runs. A good runner, after he plays a ball gently to long-leg, makes all haste over the first run, and, as he turns, assumes that there is time for the second if he sees that the long-leg is slackening in the least, or winding up for an ornamental throw, or in any other way wasting time. In such case jump towards the ball the moment you see the batsman turning round to slide it in your direction; run as if a mad bull were behind you, and picking up the ball with one hand (as it is moving slowly enough) hurl it at the wicket-keeper's head—unless he is some distance off, in which case throw so that it goes to the wicket-keeper a longhop. Occasionally it is useful to throw to the bowler, assuming that he is behind the stumps and that mid-off is backing up, because the batsmen get frightened at this manoeuvre, and feel that their second run entails too much of a risk, and this frequently prevents them trying it again. Bear in mind that the aim of good fielding is, not to run men out, but to prevent their trying to run. Remember also that a catch to long-leg has a tendency to curl towards your right hand, so do not rush too violently towards the left directly the ball is hit.


have somewhat similar duties to perform, and the latter in one way is the easiest place in the field, for there is less twist on the ball when hit there than is the case with any other hit. When the ground is hard, stand deeper than when it is soft, because on a hard ground a single is easier, a four harder, to save. Again, stand wider when the bowler is bowling your side of the wicket, as he is then responsible for part of the space between you. If the batsman is a timid runner, it is a good plan to tempt him to run by pretending to be slow, and the moment he calls 'run' dash in with unexpected vigour. This artifice, however, can be useful only once in an innings, and must not be attempted by any except quick and good fields. But if by well-ascertained and true report and your own observation you know that either or both of the batsmen are slow or timid runners, stand further back, unless there is any special reason to make you stand in for a catch, for by so doing you cover more ground and can save fourers or threes. Mid-off must back up behind the bowler when the ball is thrown in from long-leg, short-leg, mid on and long-stop. Mid-on backs up the bowler when it is thrown from mid-off, cover-point, point, and third man. Modern tactics and modern slow bowling have invented an extra field in the shape of an extra mid-off, who stands between cover-point and mid-off, and his duties, when the fashion is to bowl mainly on the off side for catches, are most onerous. Mr. G. B. Studd's fielding here is one of the sights of cricket. The Australians in general, and Boyle in particular, have introduced a new position to bowlers of the Spofforth type—you may call it either an extra short-leg or an extra mid-on. If the wicket is soft and catchy this field stands sometimes only five or six yards from the bat, and makes numerous catches when batsmen are poking forward and the ball is inclined to hang. In short, it is on the on side that which 'silly point'—afterwards described—is on the off side. It will only be seen when bowlers of superlative excellence are bowling, men who can be relied upon to keep a good length, and whose bowling is too fast to allow the batsman to run out for a drive. If the bowler has not these qualities, but bowls a decent average of half-volleys on the leg-stump or a little outside, there will probably be a coroner's inquest required. But Boyle knows that neither Spofforth nor Palmer bowls such balls, and it cramps the batsman unpleasantly to see a field standing there on a tricky wicket. Extreme vigilance is required for this post, and the risk of injury is too great to permit it being made use of when the wicket is fast. It was practically never seen in England till the Australians introduced it in 1878.


shares with the three last-mentioned fields a great responsibility connected with throwing and running fast after the ball. A very common set of strokes are those which send the ball on either side of cover-point, mid-off, extra mid-off or mid-on, and realise on a hard ground three runs. Now a really good field very seldom allows three runs, because he makes the batsmen suppose that the ball is somehow back at the wicket almost at the same moment that he is seen picking it up from the ground. Those who have tried this will testify how very often a sudden turn and throw-in just checks the third run; the batsmen feel that they must watch such a field, and it is this very watching which prevents them from ever pressing the running. This is a most important matter and one generally neglected, but it is worth insisting on, because anybody can act upon this piece of advice. Anyone can run his fastest and throw his quickest, but the men who field in these places seldom do their best, though the man who does not is not a genuine cricketer, and is probably a selfish animal. Such conscientious fielding as this gets very little recognition, though it saves about one in every ten runs. Spectators do not observe; the cricket reporters notice the features of the game that are obvious to only ignorant spectators, and they do not waste ink upon it; but any really judicious captain estimates it very highly. No doubt a flashy field is very useful at cover-point; he cramps all the runs on the off side, and covers the defects of a third-rate mid-off; but very often these are just the men who shirk the burden, heat and hard work of the day, as we may call these repeated excursions of fifty yards or so under a strong sun. Cover-point should learn, if possible, the under-hand throw, practised with such success by Mr. W. Law. He has to back up behind mid-off when mid-on or the deep-on fields are throwing in, and behind point when short leg and long-leg throw to the wicket-keeper.


Success in this place depends almost entirely on natural gifts, and there are two distinctly different methods of first-class fielding in this place. One is the point, who seems nearly to have solved the problem of perpetual motion, and bounds about everywhere, rushing in at one ball and right in front of the wicket to the next, but whose first position is closer in than more stationary fields at the same place. The other variety of point stands a yard or two further from the wicket and is more stationary, and his specialty consists in being a grabber of every ball within his reach. The right way of standing is shown in the figure opposite. There are plenty of good fields at point who stand differently from this, but we are trying to teach those who are not good fields, and we think that this figure is a good position. The important point to observe is that you can move quicker when one foot is drawn a little behind the other, and Carpenter and other good fields used always to stand thus. Some critics would say that point ought to stoop more, and no doubt some good points do. Each must choose his own elevation as far as this goes, but we feel sure that a great many balls go over the point's head when he stoops very much, and that on the whole the figure shows the best stoop. The stationary and the restless both have their merits and both have their characteristics. The tall man with a long reach nearly always adopts the stationary position, and no hit is too hard for him to face. Of course he ought to stand ready to start quickly, but his business consists in covering as much ground as possible from very nearly one position, and he must have a good aptitude for getting his hand in the right place to stop the ball. It is worth noticing that Dr. E. M. Grace, a prominent example of the movable point, always fixes his eye on the batsman and seems to anticipate from his look the kind of stroke that is going to be made. Possibly, after long experience, a look of concern may be detected in the striker's face when a bumper is coming. Anyhow, such a field as Dr. Grace often finds himself in the right place, and gets a perfectly easy catch, where another point would have got none. This is a stroke of genius for which he receives no applause, as it looks so simple.

The position of point ought to be in a line with the wicket, and at a distance depending entirely on the pace of bowler, Cricket (Steel, Lyttelton) 0285.jpgPoint.

Style of batsman, and condition of ground. The faster the bowler and the ground, the further off the wicket ought point to stand, but in no case ought he to be more than eight yards away. Some points make a great mistake in standing further than this, for a very common catch at point is when a bumping ball rises off the batsman's glove and pitches about four yards from the wicket io the direction of point—a certain catch if point is fielding in his right place, but impossible to get at if he stands too far from the wicket. There is no limit on certain grounds and to certain batsmen to the closeness to the wicket which an active point will stand. The ball has been taken literally almost off the bat. We think, on the whole, that the fieldsman who stands nearly in the same position till the ball is hit, who is quick in starting, and very sure and ready to face and stop a real 'hot-un,' is more valuable than the restless point who runs here and there, and rarely adopts the same position for two consecutive balls. There is, however, much to be said for both styles; but we feel very sure that the restless point must first acquire a certain faculty of more or less correctly judging where the batsman is likely to hit the ball, or else he will be always rushing to the wrong place.

There is a combination of circumstances which induces modern captains to put their point right forward on the off side about eight yards from the wicket. The circumstances required include a batsman who has got a peculiar forward style, a bowler whose balls are inclined to hang or get up straight from the pitch, and lastly a catchy wicket where the balls are apt to bump and hang. It is a very useful place sometimes, but most dangerous to the field at other times. In the Australian and England match at the Oval in 1880, Morley was bowling, McDonnell was batting. The ball now and then bumped up, and the English captain acceded to W. G. Grace's wish and allowed him to go forward point, or, as it is familiarly called, 'silly' point. Now McDonnell is one of the hardest hitters in the world, and Morley used sometimes to bowl a ball a little over-tossed. A ball of a certain length might have been bowled that McDonnell might not have smothered at the pitch, and the requisite hang having taken place, AV. G. Grace might have triumphed. But unfortunately, before this consummation took place, McDonnell got a ball admirably adapted to his extremely powerful off drive. The well-known musical sound of a bat hitting the ball plump was heard, then a second knock higher in its musical pitch and nearly as loud, the ball was seen about twenty yards high in the air, and McDonnell easily scored a run. What really happened was this: McDonnell made a grand hit all along the ground, and long before the burly form of W. G. Grace had unbent itself, the aforesaid ball had struck his toe, which offered a strictly passive, because involuntary resistance, with such violence that the ball ascended into the air like a rocket, and a run was the result. W. G. walked slowly, a wiser man, to his old position on a line with the wicket, and probably in his inmost thought silently adopted the opinion that the position of 'silly point' is only feasible when a batsman of a style directly opposite to that of McDonnell is at the wicket. But this forward point is very useful at times, and should be made use of when circumstances are favourable. The late Mr. R. A. Fitzgerald, in his well-known book 'Jerks in from Short-leg,' says that if there is no good field at point in an eleven, the captain should choose the fattest man, for nature makes it impossible for him to get out of the way of a hard hit. In other words, it sometimes strikes him in the most prominent part of his person and saves four runs. Perhaps Roger Iddison, of Yorkshire fame, can testify to the truth of this remark.


ought first of all to be as vigilant as if he were keeping wicket. If he is so, and knows where to stand, he will find it the easiest place in the field; if he is not, it will be the hardest. Wicket-keepers ought always to be able to field short-slip, for it is a post that has all the pleasant moments of wicket-keeping with none of the knocks and bruises and other discomforts of that important place. Stoop as the ball is in the air, and hold the hands ready forward, as shown in figure on p. 266. This position is necessary because many more balls hiss low along the grass than rise into the air from a snick, and if they do rise, short-slip can rise too and be in time for them; but if he has to stoop he will be too late. So for fast bowling stand finer than most short-slips do, and if the ground is very hard keep a long way off—eight yards is often not too long a distance. But the difficulty in this respect is much greater when the bowling is slow. A late cut adds materially to the speed of a slow ball, though it has scarcely any effect on a fast one. But if, instead Cricket (Steel, Lyttelton) 0288.jpgShort-slip.

of cutting, a batsman plays forward and snicks a slow ball, a gentle catch comes at a medium height and drops short. Shortslip must then regulate his position accordingly. When he sees the batsman lean forward he must advance one step; when the batsman hangs back and the ball is on the off side he should hang back too and hold the hands low; for assuredly if anything comes it will be a hard low catch. He should study the slow bowler's action so as to know when his fast balls are coming, and drop back. He should also ponder on the pace of the ground, and never forget that wet on the top of a hard ground makes the fastest surface of any: in these circumstances, therefore, he should stand finer and deeper. When the rain soaks in, the balls pop, and catches come slower and higher. Short slip should back up when balls are thrown, not from shortnor from long-leg, but from mid-on and mid-ofF and coverpoint, and should run across, when there is a run to third man, between the wicket-keeper and short-leg. This last is a tiring and often unremunerative process, but if done through a long innings is in the highest degree commendable. Short-slip must also run up to the wicket and take the place of the wicket-keeper when the latter has usurped the functions of an ordinary fieldsman and left his post to pick up and throw in the ball to the wicket.


This is another most scientific post, and one in which a bad fieldsman is very much out of place. First, there is the twist. It is worth knowing respecting a twist from a bat, that if the ground is hard and the cut clean, the ball will not twist till it has lost some of its impetus. Consequently stand straight in the line of a hard cut on a smooth ground, as the ball, though it is spinning all the time, will not curl till it is some way past third man. But if the turf is soft the ball bites and curls on the second or third bound, seldom on the first unless the stroke is a very slow one. The same holds good with regard to longleg. The batsman, if he were a genuine judge of a run, would always 'run' to third man when the spin is likely to act at once, since under those conditions the ball wants so much watching that third man cannot well return it in time. But many batsmen do not know these things.

With regard to the distance of third man from the wicket, it is important that he should judge it according as the batsmen are good runners or not. He should estimate this at once from their appearance and demeanour, standing well out if they are men of weight and dignity, and nearer in if they are active and inclined to steal runs. After they have run one run to him he should come a yard nearer in, feeling like a man who has had a personal insult offered him, and is burning to avenge it. Lastly, he has to consider the throw-in. It is nearly always best to throw to the bowler's wicket (assuming, of course, that he is ready behind the stumps and mid-on is backing up), for this plain reason: it is generally the non-striker who calls the run and consequently starts the quickest, runs quickest, as he sees the danger before him, and gets home the quickest. Even if he does not call the run, he is backing up, and starts unshackled by having made a stroke. So leave him alone. The striker, on the contrary, has made a stroke (and one that throws him back a good deal), is not backing up, and does not see the danger. Also, if he runs by the shortest way to the other wicket, he will very likely be cut over. Circumstances, in short, are against him. Above all, he seldom suspects that the ball is coming his way, for very few third men ever throw to the right wicket, very few bowlers are behind the stumps, and very few mid-ons back up. Third man should stand squarer for a strong cutter than for a weak one. He should back up behind short-slip when the ball comes from mid-on, and arrange with cover-point as to the throws from short-leg, himself covering point when the throws come from in front of the wicket, and cover-point taking that place when they come from behind.


is an important place for backing up and saving singles. It is a good plan to put a left-handed man here, as he can better command the strokes between himself and mid-on, which are generally so prolific of runs. Having fielded one of these, he ought not to throw to the wicket-keeper, as he is already facing the bowler's wicket, and the bowler's wicket is facing him, should he wish to throw it down. He should of course previously make a league with mid -off as to the backing up. The late Mr. R. A. Fitzgerald, in the book just mentioned, 'Jerks in from Short-leg,' once urged the importance of putting the 'witty man' short-leg as a convenient spot for cracking jokes. Certainly conversation in the field is often of great service towards keeping the men brisk. Short-leg has to back up all the returns from the off side, dropping well back if short-slip comes across for this purpose, and in any case leaving ten or fifteen yards between himself and the wicket. A captain of an eleven feels himself very often bound by an unwritten tradition to put the notoriously worst field in his eleven short-leg. No doubt it is exceedingly difficult to judge which is the natural position for a bad field, but we unhesitatingly say that several matches have been lost by bad fields at short-leg. In the days of his prime people used to watch W. G. Grace playing ball after ball in the direction of short-leg, especially when left-handed bowlers were on. The late famous J. C. Shaw was not a good field in any sense of the word; he was consequently often to be seen fielding at short-leg, and we wonder how many times he has missed W. G. Grace in that position? Missing Grace was, and is still, a most expensive mistake. There are several players who are weak in their play off their legs, and these players are continually sending chances to short-leg, while other players are extremely fond of playing off their legs, and score very heavily by the stroke; and it is wonderful to see how many runs a quick field will save when such men are batting.


In these days of slow bowling and fine turf captains of elevens do not bother themselves with providing long-stops at all. Wicket-keepers are so good, the bowling is so straight, that, in the present year (1888), it is impossible to say who is the best long-stop in England, for the simple reason that no longstops are wanted. But in the days of yore, every schoolboy who was fond of cricket could tell you of the prowess of Mortlock, H. M. Marshall, and A. Diver. Mr. Powys was a splendid bowler, and so was Mr. R. Lang. But had not Mr. H. M. Marshall been found to stop Mr. Lang's balls, and Mr. F. Tobin those of Mr. Powys, neither one bowler nor the other could have been put on at all. Such long-stops as these stand rather on the leg side, and if the bowling is very fast, just deep enough to take the ball as it rises after its second pitch. This is not easy to do, and young hands feel tempted to leave more room. But this, when the ball is very swift, scarcely diminishes its speed at all, and the further off long-stop stands, the more chance there is of the ball bounding awkwardly by the time it reaches him. Long-stop, however, would be in an awkward position if the batsmen ran every bye that is possible. To prevent their doing so, he must throw over to the bowler, for the old reason that the striker has the whole distance to run and has his back to the danger. Again, a hard throw, straight down the pitch, places both batsmen in jeopardy, the striker especially, and that is why he so often runs with his hand to the back of his head, of course retarding his speed by so doing. It is a harassing run to steal; and that, combined with the fact that it is not scored to either batsman, is doubtless the reason why it is not oftener stolen. Long-stop should accordingly be a strong thrower, and mid-off a conscientious backer-up. Longstop should back up (behind short-leg) the returns from coverpoint and mid-off.

Before concluding these technical remarks, let us draw attention to one or two circumstances connected with cricket affairs now which are different from what they were formerly. We have said that in these days long-stopping is a lost art, or rather it is not an art that is required in modern elevens. It would appear miraculous to an old cricketer who had seen nothing of the game for the last fifteen years could he watch Spofforth bowling, and Blackham keeping wicket with no long-stop, when the ground was hard. Such a thing would not have been dreamt of twenty years ago. Then a ball used to shoot five or six times in an innings of 135 runs, and the occasional shooter that occurs now always results in four byes if it escapes the bat and the wicket. Hence one important reason why formerly a longstop was indispensable. Though there are or were, a very few years since, some very fast bowlers, the average pace now-a-days is far slower than twenty- five years ago, and that is another reason for dispensing with long-stop. But the change of tactics in not having a long-stop has had one effect that we regard as pernicious, and that is, that it has spoilt one part of the skill of wicket-keeping, and on the whole worked an enormous change for the worse in the fielding of short-slips generally. The longstop is not there, both wicket-keeper and short-slip are conscious of this, and they are aware that his place must be filled up by themselves. If a ball goes in the least to leg, even if it only just misses leg-stump, short-slip is usually to be seen backing up the wicket-keeper; for four byes make an appreciable addition to the score. But though the ball is on the leg side, it is quite possible for the batsman to hit it on the on side, and send it straight to short-slip's hands, if he only could have been in his proper place. He is abused if he does not back up the wicket-keeper, and in any case the mere feeling that runs must result from the wicket-keeper not handling the ball makes it impossible for him to give his undivided attention to fielding at short-slip proper. He is continually shifting towards his left hand, and numerous balls that he would have fielded if only there had been a long-stop, now result in runs. The wicket-keeper is also in more danger of being hurt, and as his position is necessarily one attended by extreme responsibility and considerable pain, this further danger ought to be spared him if possible. The risks he runs are from fast balls outside the batsman's legs. He cannot see the ball accurately so that he may judge where to put his hands without moving his feet; in order, then, to prevent the ball going to the ropes, he has to rush right in front of it, at the risk, if the ball should bump or do anything odd, of getting hit on the face or elsewhere. If a long-stop were behind him, he would try and take the ball for the sake of a possible catch or stump-out, but he would not expose himself to danger by getting in front of it.

Two corollaries must be drawn from what has been already said. The first is that the bowler should be just as prepared to receive a throw-in as the wicket-keeper. When both wickets are menaced, the danger of a short run is doubled, and ah overthrow is oftener due to the bowler and backer-up than to the field. But it is said 'This is all very fine, but the bowler cannot get behind his wicket in time.' No assertion could be wider of the mark. Take some genuine cricketer as an example, and no better one could be chosen than Mr. A. W. Ridley, some ten years ago. Lob-bowlers follow their own ball further down the wicket than any other kind of bowler, and of all lob-bowlers Mr. Ridley did this the most. But no one has ever seen a short run got off his bowling, without, at least, at the same moment seeing him dart behind the wicket, and be ready to put down the hardest throw anyone might send to him. He is always there in time, and any bowler in the country might do the same if he were cricketer enough to see what is wanted. The second inference to be drawn is, that it is highly important to pursue a medium hit with all possible speed, and to throw it in as if it burnt the fingers to retain the ball a moment. We do not remember an eleven who neglected this less, as a whole, than the Players eleven of the year 1887, and the number of runs that can be saved by observance of the rule is immense.

These are the two most important directions which can be given to any young cricketer, and especially to any young captain of a side, in order that he may select his men with a view to these requirements of the game. The general fielding capacity of a whole team depends on the attention devoted to such dull points by the eleven minds, not less than on the suppleness of the eleven backbones. No directions, it has already been said, will make a bad field into a good one. But it is equally true that no advice should be offered which cannot be acted upon. Consequently only some duties of a fieldsman have been described. But it is not too much to say that a careful attention to these points would ultimately turn eleven indifferent cricket players into a good fielding team.

In a work necessarily somewhat didactic as this is, it may be advisable to remind youngsters that the finger of scorn is pointed even more to the very bad field than it is to the very bad batsman or bowler. A very bad bowler will not be asked to bowl unless the bowling is hit into a thoroughly entangled knot—as was the case in an Australian v. England match in 1884, when every member of the English team, including Shrewsbury, had to bowl—and then, if he fails, he has only done what was expected of him. But it is difficult for anybody to explain, except on the ground of gross carelessness, how a man who is a good bat or bowler can be so utterly useless as a field as some have turned out to be. The cricketer who never appears to have grasped the rudiments of the laws concerning twist, who is lazy and will not run after the ball, and who hardly by accident holds a catch, is an eyesore in cricket. And let us also assure the young practitioner that an intelligent audience, though a somewhat rough one, such as you may see at places like Bramall Lane, Sheffield, will jeer in audible and not too polite tones at the bad field long before it will do the like at bad batsmen or bowlers. Every cricketer knows the different eccentricities of indifferent fields, their wonderful varieties of error, and the specious appearance of some that fatally delude the most patient captain. There are some men who are fairly fast runners, and can throw hard, and yet are fields of a character to make angels weep. They dash in at the ball like a man charging at football, with the result that they half stop it, or, after they stop it, in attempting to pick it up, they kick it eight or ten yards behind them. They never seem to be able to judge what sort of length the ball will come into their hands, and never under any circumstances is the ball cleanly handled. And yet they go at it so heartily, they move so quickly, and, at first sight, look so alert and full of promise, that it is difficult to condemn them until you have had two or three days' experience of them. This sort belongs to the class we call the specious fieldsman. Then there is the man who might look at a batsman for two hours and yet never discover where his favourite stroke is likely to go, who obeys orders strictly, and when he has taken up the position assigned to him, stands there like a tree, despite the fact that every ball hit in his direction is a little too much on his right or on his left hand. This individual may safely be assumed to be a creature of a low order of intelligence, to whom Providence has probably vouchsafed a natural instinct for bowling, in the absence of which he would never be seen on any cricket-ground again, except as a spectator. He is so stupid that he never can excel in batting. Then there is the man who is very slow and has not acquired the merit of being what may be called an eminently safe field. His position when endeavouring to stop the ball is that illustrated by the figure on the opposite page, which shows what is essentially the wrong position to assume. Probably he will not touch the ball with his hands, and it certainly cannot be stopped by his legs or feet. He can hold a catch sometimes and stop a ball occasionally, but he does not succeed in these two particulars often enough to make one forget or forgive his extraordinary slowness. Another variety is the man who fields tolerably well sometimes, but, when he fails to stop a ball, either runs after it very slowly, which is the sulky form, or else dashes after it and throws it wildly and very hard anywhere, causing overthrows by the dozen, and maiming his comrades' fingers. This is the angry form—an odious type; let every youngster beware of such and develop not into it. Every cricketer ought to try to become as good a field as he can by assiduous practice—for this reason, if for no other: bowlers get disorganised when the fielding is loose.

A natural curiosity is always evinced where a critic shows a tendency to name certain celebrities in any form of game. This is the reason why we now proceed to praise famous men and famous fielding elevens; but let us add that we do not profess to name every good man who has ever fielded, and can only beg for forgiveness if we omit to mention some who have deserved recognition.

The various Australian elevens have earned great fame for their fielding in England, and it was no doubt very good. At the same time we think it was not so good as their batting, and certainly not so good as their bowling. The elevens of 1882 and 1884, which were the best, no doubt won their matches by all-round play; but if we had to name a weak point we should say that, as compared with the batting and bowling, it was their fielding, although this was very good. The Australians Cricket (Steel, Lyttelton) 0297.jpgThe wrong position for stopping the ball.

themselves say—at least, so we have heard— that the fielding in Australia of the Hon. Ivo Bligh's eleven was never surpassed in the colony; and that must be high praise. Still, judging by what we know of that team, we think that we can point out higher standards in England. The finest fielding we have ever seen was that of the Players in 1887 in their annual match at Lord's against the Gentlemen, and at the Oval it was nearly as good. But that was only for two matches. As is natural. University teams, from their youth and habit of playing together, have earned great fame as fielding elevens, and if we had to select four elevens whose fielding reputation ought to be inscribed on the highest pinnacles of fame, we should name the Cambridge representatives of 1861 and 1862 and the Oxford of 1874 and 1875.

The Cambridge celebrities of 1861 and 1862 have faded away into distance, and the present generation know not their names. Both those elevens had several fast bowlers in them, and one—Mr. R. Lang—was superlatively good. It was owing to this fact that Cambridge had to provide itself with a longstop, and Mr. H. M. Marshall in that capacity has earned undying fame; for long-stopping on Lord's Ground in 1861 and 1862 was no laughing matter. As general out-field Mr. Marshall also stood very high, and was a perfectly safe catch. Contemporary cricketers of that day are nearly unanimous in their praise of Mr. W. Bury as a fieldsman; at longleg he has never been excelled. There were besides these the Hon. C. G. Lyttelton at point, and Mr. R. Lang at short-slip. 'Bell's Life' of that date mentions as a fact that the fielding of Cambridge in the University match of 1862 was never equalled on Lord's or any other ground. Those were the days when the bowling was mainly fast, the ground rough, and the cautious safe field who got stolidly and fixedly in a certain position was often defeated owing to the ball making unspeakable bounds. It required a touch of genius to be a grand field at Lord's in those times, and several members of those two Cambridge elevens possessed it. The two Oxford elevens of 1874 and 1875 had each only one fast bowler, but they had magnificent fielding teams to support their slow bowlers. When the bowling is generally slow, amateur wicket-keepers can hold their own. This was the case in 1874 and 1875, and in Mr. H. G. Tylecote Oxford possessed a wicket-keeper fully up to the mark for the work he had to do. It used to be, and probably is still, a bone of contention between Messrs. W. Law and A. W. Ridley, the captains respectively of '74 and '75, as to which of the two elevens was the greater in this particular line of fielding. Mr. Law contended that his eleven in 1874 made no mistake in the inter-University match, whereas the 1875 eleven did. But the Cambridge batting in 1874 was fatuous to a degree, and the Oxford eleven had nothing to stop, whereas Cambridge in 1875 batted very well and kept their opponents hard at it. We are willing to give equal credit to each, and to enshrine the names of Law, Game, Ridley, J. B. Jones, and Royle in the temple of fame.

It is not easy to gauge the merits of the fieldsmen of forty years ago. Some of them have made their names live: Mr. T. A. Anson as wicket-keeper, Mr. R. T. King at point, and the famous W. Pickering at cover-point, for instance. But, though they had rougher ground to field on, still the scoring was nothing like so large, matches were not nearly so numerous, and the wear and tear far from being so great. The first thing that strikes one on reading over old scores and comparing them with those of the present day, is the enormous number of extras that were then given. Bowlers were, no doubt, faster, but they bowled many more wides. Taking one year at random, 1880, we find that for the whole season Yorkshire in all matches only bowled eight wides, five of which were delivered by the famous Tom Emmett, who is, no doubt, a slightly erratic bowler. In the days of Redgate and Mynn the wides were numerous, so were the no-balls, and frequently the extras contributed more to the total than any one batsman. If the bowling was fast and erratic, one cannot wonder that byes became numerous, especially when the rough ground is also considered. In the University match of 1841 Oxford gave Cambridge 56 extras out of a combined total of 223—a very large average. In 1887 Cambridge only gave Oxford 14 extras in a combined total of 461, and Oxford lost but three wickets in the second innings. In the same year Oxford gave Cambridge only 20 extras in a grand total of 459. Though bowling is generally slower now than forty years ago, still in former days they used to have long-stops to bowling that even amateur wicket-keepers would now stop. The long-stopping wicket-keeper—that is, the wicket-keeper that lets nothing pass him—is a marvellous testimony to the excellence of modern grounds, the accuracy of modern bowling, and the skill of the men themselves. The sight of Blackham, standing close up to the wicket, stopping Spofforth and Palmer would have made our forefathers look on aghast. In the well-known print of the Sussex and Kent match in 1840, old Lillywhite is bowling, and he was a slow medium-pace bowler; yet, though Tom Box was reckoned the best wicket-keeper of the day, he has a long-stop to Lillywhite's bowling.

We may now try to enumerate the greater fields of cricket history. We read of the marvellous feat of Mr. T. A. Anson at the wicket, when he stumped a man off a leg-shooter of Alfred Mynn, one of the fastest bowlers of the period. We yield the place of honour to Mr. Anson for an individual feat, but it is alleged to have taken place a long time ago, and is it certain to be true? The greatest wicket-keepers since 1860 in England have been Lockyer, Pooley, Pilling, and Pinder, and we ask Plumb and Sherwin to forgive us. To discriminate between the first four is impossible; we merely remark that to genuine slows of the pace of Southerton and Peate, we reckon Pooley to have been the best that ever lived, and to the very fast, Pinder at his prime was unequalled. Still Pooley was relatively not so good to fast, nor Pinder to slow; and, on the whole, we think that these four may be put on an equality. The best wicket-keepers of old days were Mr. Herbert Jenner, Mr. T. A. Anson, Mr. W. Ridding, and Mr. W. Nicholson among amateurs, and E. G. AVenman and Tom Box among professionals. The best English amateur wicket-keeper that ever lived, in our opinion, is Mr. Alfred Lyttelton, and besides him, since 1860, there have been Mr. Leatham, Mr. Bush, Mr. Newton, and Mr. E. F. S. Tylecote.

Perhaps a word would not be out of place here respecting Mr. Blackham, the celebrated Australian wicket-keeper. When the Colonial Eleven came over in 1878, 1880, 1882, and 1884, practically the whole of the wicket-keeping had to be done by Mr. Blackham. In 1880 and 1886 Mr. Jarvis assisted him. Now wicket-keeping is essentially an amusement you can have too much of. In old days, when there was a lot of fast bowling, the cream of the wicket-keeping used to be seen during the first six weeks of the season, because during that time the hands of the wicket-keeper were more or less sound. The famous George Pinder, at the beginning of his career, had faster bowling to keep to consistently than any other cricketer before or since. Freeman, Emmett, and Atkinson were three very fast bowlers, and they all three played for Yorkshire, and after them came Hill and Ulyett. Pinder in consequence very frequently damaged his hands, and no wonder. Blackham, however, during all the four years we have mentioned, had Spofforth and either Garratt or Palmer to stop. Now although these were not so fast as the Yorkshire lot, they bowled a goodish pace; the Australian season consisted of two matches a week from the beginning to the end of the cricket year, and Blackham did not get very many days off. When his record is examined, therefore, we think that his performances during these four years constitute the greatest wicket-keeping feats on record. Not unless Spofforth bowled his fastest did he ever have a long-stop, and he held his hands closer to the wicket than any other wicket-keeper we ever saw. If the batsman was an inch out of his ground for a second or so, the ball would be put down, and a stump-out resulted, for the hands had no distance to travel, and no time was lost. Of course the bowling he had to stop was very accurate, but when the amount of wicket-keeping that he had to go through and the number of wickets he got are considered, our opinion is that Mr. Blackham is the finest wncket-keeper to bowling of all paces that the world has ever seen.

There have been numerous fieldsmen at point who have made themselves a nanie, and by universal testimony in his day, Mr. R. T. King, of Cambridge University, was not approached in excellence in this position. The late Mr. John Walker, who was intimately acquainted with cricket of that period as well as with that of a later date, once told the writer that in his opinion none of the modern points ever came quite up to Mr. King's level. Since 1860 Carpenter, R. C. Tinley, E. M. Grace, and F. W. Wright, have earned high reputations in this position, but a great many excel at point, and in the University Match alone there has been some admirable fielding here; the Hon. J. W. Mansfield for Cambridge, and Mr. Hildyard for Oxford, both being very good. The place where good fielding is most conspicuous is midway between cover-point and mid-off, and with this post the name of Mr. G. B. Studd is for ever identified. Mr. Royle at cover-point has never been excelled, and the same may be said of Gunn at third man. The celebrated fieldsmen of old were Mr. W. Pickering at cover-point; John Bickley and Mr. R. Lang at short-slip; Mr. E. S. E. Hartopp, Mr. H. M. Marshall, W. Pilch, A. Diver, W. Mortlock, and J. Thewlis at long-stop; while F. Bell, W. Bury, John Smith, and A. Lubbock were excellent at a distance from the wicket. There have been also, and are, many fields who were and are good at any place; for instance, the renowned Mr. V. E. Walker, and the still more famous Mr. W. G. Grace. We have said before, and we say it again, that the fielding, though probably as good as ever it was, is not so good as it ought to be. The nuisance of the day is the long scoring; we wonder how many innings of 100 are played where you do not read the well-known remark, 'the batsman gave a chance at 24, another at 62, and a third just before he was out, but none the less he played a fine innings.' The following brief epigram is undoubtedly true—'Good fielding makes weak bowling strong and strong batsmen weak.' An eleven that is really A1 in fielding very rarely has to field out for 300 runs. When we say this we feel inclined to go farther and add that if no feasible catches are dropped this total of 300 runs would not be of anything but the rarest occurrence. This fact ought of itself to be sufficient to make every true cricketer try and become, if not a brilliant field, at any rate one who, when a catch is sent him, does not cause a thrill of agonising anxiety to arise in the minds of the supporters of the side to which he belongs.

Cricket (Steel, Lyttelton) 0303.jpgAn anxious moment.

  1. We are largely indebted to an article on this subject by the Hon. and Rev. E. Lyttelton, which appeared in Lillywhite's Annual for 1881.