Meeting of the County Cricket Council, 1889

THE LEG BEFORE WICKET QUESTION

Meeting of the County Cricket Council, 1889

A special meeting of the County Cricket Council was held on Wednesday, February 8, in the members' dining pavilion at Lord's Cricket Ground. Seventeen counties were represented, the following being the list, with the names of the delegates:-- Surrey, Mr. J. Shuter and Mr. C. W. Alcock; Lancashire, Mr. S. H. Swire; Nottinghamshire, Mr. W. H. C. Oates and Mr. W. E. Denison; Yorkshire, Mr. M. J. Ellison and Mr. J. B. Wostinholm; Middlesex, Mr. A. J. Webbe and Mr. P. M. Thornton; Kent, Mr. G. Marsham; Sussex, Mr. Montagu Turner; Gloucestershire, Mr. W. G. Grace; Derbyshire, Hon. W. M. Jervis; Leicestershire. Mr. T. Burdett and Mr. H. T. Arnall-Thompson; Essex, Mr. M. P. Betts; Somersetshire, Mr. H. Murray Anderdon; Warwickshire, Mr. H. W. Bainbridge; Cheshire, Mr. H. Thornber; Hampshire, Mr. H. K. Grierson; Staffordshire, Mr. A. H. Heath; Hertfordshire, Mr. C. Pigg.

It was, of course, arranged that only one vote should be taken from each county, but other gentlemen than delegates were permitted to speak. Lord Harris was expected to take the chair in virtue of his office as President of the Council, but he was unable to be present, Mr. A. J. Webbe (hon. sec.) reading the following letter from his lordship:--

War Office, February 7.

MY DEAR WEBBE,

I fear a committee meeting here will prevent me getting to Lord's tomorrow. There is a chance of my getting there at three o'clock, so that if the Council take first the question of beginning early, and the boundary question, I shall be in time for the l-b-w motion. If I can be present I should support Mr. Ellison's proposition in the strongest terms. I am not in the least afraid of giving the bowler too good a chance, for I believe that the more probability there is of matches being finished, the more popular the game will be with the public, and I should prefer his proposal to yours, because I think it leaves less to the umpire's individual judgment. If any resolution or resolutions are carried the Council should consider as to what form it will address the M.C.C.--

Yours, &c.

HARRIS.

Mr. M. J. Ellison (President of the Yorkshire County Club) was then voted to the chair. The minutes of the last meeting, held in December, having been read and confirmed, the meeting unanimously passed a rule that the opinion of the majority should be binding, and further decided, as there was a prospect of Lord Harris being present later on, to take the least important business, and to postpone the discussion on the leg before wicket question in the hope of having the President's assistance thereat.

The first motion taken was that of Mr. GEORGE MARSHAM (Kent), who moved that the chairman, hon. secretary and treasurer should be ex-officio members of the Council. There was some little misunderstanding on the part of Mr. Ellison as to the meaning of this proposal, he thinking that the idea was that the chairman and the honorary secretary and treasurer of every county club were to be made ex-officio members of the Council. It was afterwards explained that the proposal merely meant that the chairman and hon. sec. and treasurer of the Council itself should be members of the Council, whether they were delegates from their counties or not. Mr. M. P. BETTS (Essex) having seconded the motion, Mr. W. E. DENISON pointed out that it might give undue weight to the opinion of one particular county, as it would be possible for one club to have three or four votes as against one by any other county.

Mr. P. M. Thornton (Middlesex) also opposed the motion, which on being put was lost by a large majority, only four voting for it.

Mr. W. G. GRACE (Gloucestershire) then proposed That all county matches shall commence at twelve noon on the first day, and on the second and third days play shall commence at eleven a. m., and that this rule shall be strictly enforced.

Mr. W. H. C. OATES ( Nottinghamshire), who seconded the motion, observed that if the rule were strictly enforced there would be very few drawn matches.

The motion seemed to meet with general approval and was unanimously adopted.

Mr. A. H. HEATH ( Staffordshire) next moved that arrangements should be made on county cricket grounds to enable boundary hits to be run out. He remarked that his club were strongly of opinion some such arrangements should be made, and they proposed to do so by means of a net being suspended all round the ground by the boundary. The principal object of having boundary hits run out was to assist the bowler. The present arrangements gave batsmen an undue advantage, and any regulation that would help the bowler would be to the interest of cricket.

After some little hesitation the motion was seconded by Mr. W. G. GRACE, who observed that in his younger days they used to have to run out their hits, and he did not see why batsmen should not have to do so now.

Immediately upon this a series of objections were taken. Mr. A. J. WEBBE pointed out at some length, the inconvenience and cost that the carrying of the rule would involve especially to clubs that play on several grounds in their own county. Mr. Heath had said that Staffordshire proposed to use a net round the ground, which would stop the ball crossing the boundary, but if a very small net were used it might easily be moved by the spectators when their own side were batting, to allow the ball to run through and practically obstruct the field, while if a large net were employed the view of the spectators would be seriously interfered with. Mr. Webbe said that for his part he should soon be a spectator, and he should object very much to have to view cricket through a big net. With regard to the use of boarding three feet high, which had also been suggested, it was pointed out that this would be equally unfair and unsatisfactory, besides exceedingly costly, and one telling objection, urged by Mr. Webbe, was that a hard hit direct on to the board would rebound into play, and probably be worth only one or two runs, and might possibly lead to a run out, while a mere lofty swipe just over the ring would earn more than its deserts.

The feeling of the meeting apparently was that, although there might in theory be some advantage in the innovation, yet the practical difficulties were overwhelming. Only Messrs. Heath and Grace voted for the resolution, and, though one or two of the delegates did not actually vote against it, it was lost by a very large majority.

The next motion on the agenda paper was that relating to the leg before wicket question, and though Lord Harris had not arrived it was decided to proceed with the business.

Mr. M. J. ELLISON moved from the chair the following resolution which stood in his name: -- that the attention of the M.C.C. be called to the unsatisfactory effect of Law 24, and to recommend that it shall be so altered as to secure that a batsman shall be out if with any part of his person, being in the straight line from wicket to wicket, he stop a ball which in the opinion of the umpire would have hit the wicket. Mr. Ellison remarked that the object of his motion was to endeavour to carry into effect the intention of the framers of the leg before wicket rule, and that was that a batsman who defended his wicket with his body instead of with his bat should be punished. In the days of underhand bowling the rule answered its purpose, but with the introduction of round-arm bowling it was almost immediately found the rule did not act, as he believed it was originally intended it should act. They would remember that the late Mr. Felix took up the question, and endeavoured to prove by diagrams that it was almost impossible for a batsman to be out under the existing rule unless the ball broke back. Mr. Felix tried to raise an agitation on that point, but he was not successful, and the law remained as it was, and there was no agitation for an alteration or repeal of the rule until within the last few years. With the introduction of slow round-arm bowling, and with the great work some bowlers were able to get on the ball, the very objectionable practice had arisen of batsmen standing in front of the wicket, perhaps with the bat over the shoulder, and stopping with their legs a ball that would have hit the wicket. To all who enjoyed cricket he thought that practice could not be other than very objectionable. There was a strong feeling in Yorkshire on the subject, and it was on that account his county committee had thought it right to bring the matter forward. He was not prejudiced as to the form in which the matter should be presented to the Committee of the M.C.C., but he only desired to see what he believed to be the intention of the framers of the law carried out.

Mr. S. H. SWIRE ( Lancashire) said he had been instructed by his county committee to support the resolution, and in order to obtain discussion he seconded it.

Mr. P. M. THORNTON remarked that the resolution was discussed by the Middlesex committee, and it was decided to support Mr. Ellison's motion rather than that of Mr. Webbe, their own countyman. He had received the opinion of Mr. V. E. Walker, who thought the best solution of the difficulty would be by making Law 24 read as follows:-- Or, if he stop any ball with any part of his person which is in a straight line between wicket and wicket, or if he cross the wicket and stop any ball which would, in the opinion of the umpire at the bowler's wicket, have hit the striker's wicket.

At the suggestion of the chairman, Mr. Webbe again read the portion of Lord Harris' letter in which his lordship gave his support to Mr. Ellison's motion.

Mr. W. E. DENISON observed that the M.C.C. were the law making authorities, and that as the Council's decision could not be enforced, and was not likely to produce any result whatever they were simply wasting time by discussion.

Mr. W. H. C. OATES said the Notts Committee were of an opinion that any alteration in the law would be best left entirely to the M.C.C., and he had been requested not to vote for any recommendation to that club on the subject.

Mr. J. SHUTER (Surrey) observed that the question was whether it was desired to stop what Lord Harris called abnormally long scoring, or to prevent the present style of play. If Mr. Ellison's suggestion became law the majority of batsmen would have to suffer, because a man would be out to a ball breaking back on to his legs, even though he did not purposely stop the ball. He thought Mr. Webbe's suggested addition to the law would meet the case, and he should support that gentlemen's motion. With regard to long scoring he thought a wet season would put a stop to that, and make the obtaining of twenty runs a difficult matter.

After a little further conversation, Mr. ELLISON put his resolution, which was carried by 11 votes to 3, the other three counties remaining neutral. The vote was as follows:--

For: Yorkshire, Lancashire, Middlesex, Sussex, Kent, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Cheshire, Somersetshire, Staffordshire, and Hertfordshire.

Against: Surrey, Warwickshire, and Essex.

Did not vote : Nottinghamshire, Gloucestershire, and Hampshire.

Mr. WEBBE thereupon withdrew his suggested addition to Law 24-- Or should he wilfully cross the wicket to defend it with his person.

It was decided, on the motion of Mr. ELLISON, that a copy of his resolution be sent to the Secretary of the M.C.C., with a request that it should receive consideration.

A vote of thanks was then moved by Mr. SWIRE to Mr. Ellison for his courteous and able conduct in the chair, and, in acknowledging the compliment, the Yorkshire President wished that the meeting should record its thanks to the Committee of the Marylebone Club for their courtesy in allowing the meeting to be held where it was.

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