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Now, from the amount of correspondence that ensued on the subject of slow play and stonewalling, in illustration of which the match under consideration was frequently cited, one would naturally suppose that there was a vast difference in the rate of the scoring by the two teams. Let us see.
Take, first of all, the match recorded above. For equitable comparison, we must pass by that portion of England's innings in which wickets were almost thrown away in the scoring of 91.06 per hour, and keep only their superb batting for 315 runs for the loss of a single wicket. Up to this point, it is admitted, the game was played as it ought to be
played: the result was 75 runs per hour. Was it, then, correct criticism to call the 64.93 runs per hour of the Australians "stonewalling"? If 75 runs
per hour in the opening stages of a game represents excellent play, surely 10 runs less per hour in playing for a draw is not deserving the adverse comment it received in this case.
Not in this match alone, but all through, the popular error appears to have been that the Australians scored slowly. But from tables which I have compiled with the utmost care I subjoin a portion, from which it will be seen that, on the average, actually they scored faster than their opponents.
AVERAGE RATE OF SCORING PER HOUR BY ENGLISH PLAYERS WHOSE AGGREGATE TOTAL OF RUNS HAS REACHED 100 OR OVER.
Many writers on the game have made bold statements about the slowness of the play of Australia, which were not supported by figures, and could not have been. One of the best known of these stated in an article published at the end of last season that he could only refer to the doings of the Australians with a "magnificent vagueness," an admission amply borne out at the end of his paper when he referred to the Australian team as comprising eight "Barlows and Scottons. The reader can judge for himself from the tables given above.
One comparison I will establish between Hayward and Noble. Hayward, it will be seen, scored at the rate of 27·09 runs per hour, Noble at the rate of 25-74 per hour. So far as I have ever read or heard, Hayward's scoring was never referred to as "slow," but rather universally as "sound cricket." Noble, on the other hand, was notoriously, in popular opinion, "a stonewaller.' And yet Hayward was the faster scorer by only 1:35 runs per hour!
Regarding the popular impression of the slow cricket of the Australians, I invite atten
tion to my figures for a moment longer. In the whole tour the Australians batted 201 hours 4 minutes for 14,289 runs, including extras-71.06 runs per hour on the average. The players opposing them batted 186 hours 14 minutes for 13,056 runs, including extras-70·01 runs per hour on the average. The visitors were the faster scorers by 105 runs per hour.
Again, glancing at the Test matches. England's slowest was at Nottingham, when playing to save the game: 155 runs were made in 3 hours 15 minutes. That yields an average of 47.69 runs per hour; and I may remark that this record of slow play would have been still more remarkably low had not it been for Ranjitsinhji's innings of 93 in 2 hours 41 minutes. The Australians furnished their slowest
play in the fourth Test game, at Manchester, when they batted 7 hours 7 minutes for 346 runs. This gives an average of 46.27 runs per hour. I ought to observe, however, that the Australians never reached England's highest rate of scoring in the Test matches, which was that at the Oval in the
game so fully recorded above. The Australians' fastest scoring in Test matches was in their first innings at Lord's, when they made 421 runs in 6 hours 14 minutes 67.54 runs per hour on the average.
Turn now to bowling, where
the superiority of the Australians was most marked. And first let me submit two special tables of bowling analyses which, with figures supplied from other tables compiled by me, cast an interesting light on this department of the game :
SHOWING AVERAGE NUMBER OF BALLS BOWLED TO TAKE A WICKET.
(a) By English Bowlers who bowled one hundred overs or more.
G. H. Hirst took one wicket with every 35-06 balls bowled.
Mr E. Jones took one wicket with every 43.11 balls bowled.
prove a little more expensive in the doing of it. When slow play is under discussion, it is invariably the batting that is considered. Were all bowling of the same style, it would be reasonable to look to the batsmen to try to produce faster cricket. But to any one who has watched the game closely, it is apparent that where bowlers aim chiefly at length and direction, scoring is made difficult. I have read a great deal about the decline of Notts cricket owing to the cautious methods of her batsmen. To me it seems due less to her style of batting than to her style of bowling. In my experience of cricket at Trent Bridge, during the last ten years, I have never seen any visiting batsmen do wonders in the way of fast scoring. Let any adverse critics adverse critics of Arthur Shrewsbury and William Gunn bowl a few overs to these batsmen, and they will find that bad length balls will most surely be hit for four with greater precision than could be shown by reputed big hitters.
I have never had the privilege of seeing Alfred Shaw at his best. But I have seen William Attewell bowl by the hour such an awkward length, just a little short of the "blind spot," that any batsman attempting to force runs off him would almost have been throwing away his wicket. Is it fair, then, to blame batsmen for scoring slowly? From the files of Wisden I have taken out Attewell's figures in county championship matches for Notts, and I find that with every 58:58 balls he delivered he has taken a wicket. As he has been the
mainstay of his county in bowling, many of the opposing wickets must have fallen at this rate.
Glancing through last year's bowling averages, I find that the English bowlers who have taken wickets with the fewest deliveries are W. H. Lockwood and Albert Trott, with 36-77 and 37·10 deliveries on the average respectively. Now if these two bowlers were performing regularly together, it would be impossible for the resulting cricket to be uninteresting. Though the batting showed nothing sensational, the fall of wickets would be sufficiently rapid to keep the spectator from being bored.
Success in taking wickets quickly depends much on the devices in pace, flight, and break practised by the bowlers to prevent batsmen getting set; and most often it is when batsmen are set that the game becomes tiresome to watch. I well remember a remark made by an old professional cricketer who saw Albert Trott bowl for the first time at Lord's. It was, "He bowls too many of a' sorts to be a good un." It is really by their bowling of two three sorts that Trott and Lockwood are so formidable to batsmen; and the more their style of attack is followed the better for the game.
Of the various alterations in the laws of the game suggested with a view to increasing its attractiveness, that of the 1b w rule appears to me decidedly the best. The net boundary, which is being given a trial at Lord's, is, I am afraid, an essentially wrong change; and as a matter of fact, so far,
within my knowledge, the experience of the last month has not won for it the favour of County players. It merely substitutes one boundary for another, and therefore no readjustment of values for hits to and over the net can ever rectify what is an initial weakness. Further, instead of acting in favour of the bowler (which I presume is the real objective of any such alteration), it aids the batsman; not only because it tends to increase scores, but because it adds to the work of the fielders, of whom the bowler is one. And probably it will be found, when the hotter weather arrives, that batsmen will take advantage of the opening which it gives to waste time in "breathers" after they have run out their
Some writers seem to think that by such a change as I suggest in the 1 b w rule the responsibilities of the umpire would be increased. That is not my opinion. On the contrary, I believe that they would be lessened. To me it has always been harder to determine whether the ball pitched in a line from wicket to wicket, than whether it would have hit the wicket. Nor can I anything in the argument that leg-break bowlers would soon get their men out legbefore. If the batsman did not place himself in a straight line from wicket to wicket, he could not possibly be out 1 b w. I am aware that some leading
batsmen declare that it would cramp their play, and prevent them playing productive strokes that now are common. It would not prevent them playing the ball with the bat. It would only mean that in many cases when they failed to play the ball with the bat they would be out, whereas now they save their wicket by interposing their legs as a second line of defence.1
The question which batsmen have honestly and disinterestedly to ask themselves is this: "Have we more advantages in the game than the bowler?" I think batsmen have. In all cases when appeal is made against them, they are given the benefit of the doubt. no case is the bowler given it: indeed, in regard to fairness of delivery, the doubt is against him.
A remark made by Victor Trumper at the close of the Australian tour seems to me eloquent in favour of putting a stop to leg play. I was complimenting him upon his consistent fine batting, and praised him for not using his legs in defending his wickets. He answered: "I don't believe in backing up with one's legs, but I will have to learn to do it. Nearly all the great batsmen often save their wickets in that way."
I am sure we are all agreed that when Victor Trumper was getting runs, no alteration in his style of play was to be desired.
The rule proposed would not be new, but only a return to an old one. See 'Cricket Scores, 1730-1773.' By H. T. Waghorn.