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Walking the walk

The thorny subject of walking has been around for years ..

Martin Williamson

January 15, 2005

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Ken Barrington pretends to walk shortly before the incident itself © The Cricketer
The thorny subject of walking has been around for years, and polarises cricket-lovers into those who believe that batsmen are entitled to wait for the umpire's decision and those who feel that to stand one's ground after nicking the ball contravenes some unwritten 11th commandment.

The opprobrium is usually reserved for the batsman who the all-invasive TV replays show to have edged a ball but who stays put. But in 1965, Ken Barrington was lambasted for quite the opposite when he walked despite being given not out by the umpire.

The incident occurred during the third Test of England's 1964-65 tour of South Africa at Newlands. The series was not one of the happiest, and by the time the teams arrived in Cape Town England's behaviour was under the spotlight.

On the first day England thought they had Eddie Barlow caught bat-pad by Peter Parfitt in the gully off Fred Titmus, but John Warner, the umpire, gave him not out. Barlow and Titmus were then seen to exchange heated comments, and for the rest of the day the atmosphere in the middle was tense. Barlow went on to complete his hundred, which almost none of the England players acknowledged, but when Tony Pithey reached an ordinary fifty soon afterwards, the fielders went overboard, as if to underline what they thought of Barlow's conduct.

The local press rounded on England, one front page commenting that they had "allowed themselves to descend to a deplorable level ... and lowered the standard of cricket". The papers were full of articles debating whether batsmen should walk, but almost everyone agreed that the umpire's decisions should never be openly questioned. And while England's behaviour had certainly been petulant, most critics agreed that the umpiring had also been woeful, with both teams receiving some poor decisions.

When England batted, the crowd gave them a hard time, yelling for the batsmen to walk almost every time a ball off the pad went to hand. When he had made 44, Barrington played a ball into the ground and then to Trevor Goddard at short leg. He spun round and began walking to the pavilion in mock disgust, before turning and returning to his crease with a grin on his face. The spectators, who had initially cheered what they thought was a wicket, saw the funny side.

Before the storm: Mike Smith leads England onto the field © The Cricketer
Three runs later, Barrington got what he described as a "hard edge" to an awayswinger from Peter Pollock which Denis Lindsay, the wicketkeeper, clung on to. Barrington took a step to leg - some onlookers believed he was walking - before standing his ground and waiting for a decision. "I knew I was out," he recalled, "but then I remembered all the chat in the papers about leaving decisions to the umpires. The result: I hesitated. In the same split-second came a terrific appeal."

Umpire Warner appeared as perplexed as Barrington, and he too stood motionless. For about eight seconds nothing happened, and then Barrington slowly walked off. "I felt I just couldn't stay there," he admitted. "It was a matter of principle and sportsmanship." The fielders and the crowd both applauded his honesty, but the delay had been so long that for some time there was uncertainty as to whether he had actually retired.

The media's reaction was vehement and mixed. Some hailed it as a tremendous act of chivalry, others lambasted him for waiting so long before walking - JL Manning in the Daily Mail wrote it "was too ostentatious to be convincing ... it smacked of `we chaps know how to play the game even if you lot don't'." The Rand Daily Mail demanded that Barrington apologise for subjecting Warner to "ridicule and contempt", and called on the officials to refuse to stand if it wasn't forthcoming. And in the Daily Express John White informed Barrington hotly that "if there is some kind of award for making an umpire look an idiot, you have won it".

A rather upset Barrington apologised to Warner for "unwittingly leading him into more controversy", and blamed his own hesitancy on his own indecision. The Test itself petered out into a tame draw, but not before Barrington, England's tenth bowler in South Africa's second innings, had taken three wickets in 19 balls, amusing the crowd, but presumably not the tailenders, with impressions of contemporary spinners.

Perhaps the last word should go to Gubby Allen, the former England allrounder and administrator often held up as the epitome of gentlemanly conduct, who admitted that "between the wars few batsmen ever walked unless given out". Perhaps the golden age of chivalry wasn't quite as glittering as it is sometimes made out.

Is there an incident from the past you would like to know more about? E-mail us with your comments and suggestions.

MCC in South Africa 1964-65 - Charles Fortune (Robert Hale, 1965)
Cricket Crisis - Jackie McGlew (Hodder & Stoughton, 1965)
The Cricketer February 1965
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 1966

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Martin Williamson Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.

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