1903

The second-class counties and the law of leg before

During the season of 1902 the Second-class Counties gave in their competition matches-at the request of the Marylebone Club-a trial to the suggested law of Leg-Before-Wicket, carried by a large, though insufficient, majority at the Annual Meeting of the M.C.C. at Lord"s in May, 1901. The proposed law read:- If with any part of his person (except the hand), which is between wicket and wicket, he intercept a ball which would hit his wicket, 'Leg-Before-Wicket." The change from the existing rule is the removal of the restriction as to the ball having to pitch in a straight line between wicket and wicket. Wishing to publish in Wisden the opinions of those who had subjected the proposed rule to the test of actual play I wrote to the various counties concerned, asking at the same time what was thought of the new method of scoring points adopted in the competition. In reply I received the following letters. It will be seen that the proposed alteration in the law of Leg-Before-Wicket met with comparatively little favour.-S. H. P.

MR. R. W. ALLEN, BEDFORDSHIRE COUNTY CLUB, writes:-

Dear Sir,

I have to acknowledge receipt of your favour on the subject of the new method of scoring for the Second-class County Competition, and also the proposed alteration to the law of L.B.W.

As regards the first question, the alteration in scoring has been a great success during the last season, and has in a very large measure added to the interest of the game, and I hope the same method of scoring will be continued next season.

With reference to the second question, I think this requires very careful consideration. I do not believe the proposal has had any effect whatsoever upon altering the decision of the matches but, however desirable it may be to prevent batsmen from leg play, as the Rule stands it is most objectionable. We had two cases during last season of unsatisfactory decisions, and I feel sure cases like these must have occurred elsewhere and are likely to continue. It is almost impossible for any man to calculate with certainty the angle of any break, and why place this extra duty upon the umpire? I shall certainly vote against the rule for next season, as I think it undesirable to increase the responsibility of the umpire, especially in the direction of doubt. Besides, he is constantly worried with appeals, and general unpleasantness may be caused thereby.

I am,Yours faithfully,

R. W. ALLEN.

MR. F. G. H. CLAYTON, the NORTHUMBERLAND Captain an old Harrow cricketer, writes:-

Dear Sir,

As regards the new L.B.W. rule, I hope myself it will not come into force, as in my opinion there is not enough in it to make it worth the alteration, and also I think it gives the umpire too large a scope. As regards the scoring of points: this I think an excellent plan; on two occasions it made the matches quite exciting, when otherwise they would have fallen very flat.

Yours truly,

F. G. H. CLAYTON.

COLONEL FELLOWES, Hon. Sec. of the DEVONSHIRE COUNTY CLUB, writes:-

Dear Sir,

I can only give you my personal opinion on the matters referred to in yours of 1st inst., as I have not consulted my Committee.

With regard to the L.B.W. question. I stood umpire on two days; in Dorsetshire match one day, and in the Glamorgan match one day-owing to the non-arrival of the M.C.C. umpires-and my opinion is that it is much easier for an umpire to decide the question of L.B.W. under the rule tried by us, but there were a number of appeals, as I don"t think the rule is thoroughly understood. Some players seem to think it does not matter where the leg (or part of the body) is so long as the leg stops the ball from hitting the wicket-they don"t know that any part of the personmust be between wicket and wicket.

I don"t think this rule could ever work in country matches where country umpires are employed, as I am sure it would end in a row.

With regard to the scoring of points, I think the rule is a good one, the only drawback is in a case like the following:-One side makes 293 in first innings and gets six wickets of the other side out for about 116, on the first day. During the night there is rain and it continues during the morning; about lunch time it looks as if it were going to clear, but it is very doubtful. As there are only four wickets to fall, if the side that has scored 293 can win on first innings, they score a point. The sides in the case I am thinking of were kept waiting on the ground all day, the result was, there was no play after all, but it was not decided till past five o"clock. If it had not been for this wish to score a point, it would have been decided at lunch time there would be no more play, and the men would have got away early, and made things pleasanter, but under the circumstances it could not be helped.

Yours in haste,

J. FELLOWES.

MR. J. H. BRAIN, the well-known Oxford and Gloucestershire cricketer who has for some years captained the Glamorgan eleven, condemns the proposed alteration in the law of Leg-Before-Wicket unsparingly. He writes:-

Dear Sir,

With regard to the working of the L.B.W. rule tried by the Minor Counties this year, I think there can be no doubt that it was an entire failure. I take it the object of the new rule was to help the bowler on fast true wickets and so prevent drawn matches unfortunately on such wickets the new rule is absolutely innocuous; it does not help the leg-break bowler, as unless one is almost treading on one"s wicket one"s leg is not in a line between wicket and wicket when hit by the leg-breaker while on the plumb-wicket the off-break bowler can"t do enough for the new rule to help him. When one gets a good off-break bowler against one on a bowler"s wicket, and the ball keeps flicking back and beating the bat and hitting the leg, then is the time for the new rule to gather in a plentiful harvest of victims, whose opinions about the innovation are not always marked by that satisfaction so universal among victims of the present L.B.W. rule. The fact appears to be that the new rule only helps the bowlers when no such help is required, and, such being the case, all who have tried it will be relieved to see it dropped in second-class, and glad that it was never adopted in first-class cricket.

New system of scoring points. It think we all liked the new system of scoring one point for a lead on the first innings of unfinished matches, though sometimes it meant hard luck for a side. I remember a match in which a side after losing by 2 or 3 runs on the first innings were prevented by rain from winning the match when they only wanted 20 runs and had six wickets to fall. However, this is the fortune of war, and the system was, at any rate for our two-day matches, a vast improvement on the continual drawn matches of previous seasons.

Yours faithfully,

J. H. BRAIN.

MR. H. M. TURNER, Secretary of the OXFORD COUNTY CLUB, says:-

Dear Sir,

Judging from the remarks I heard during the season, I should say the new L.B.W. rule was decidedly unsatisfactory. It seems to have been a mistake to have made it experimental as a man taking part in second-class county matches had to adopt a different style of play, i.e., he would be out to a stroke in one of those matches L.B.W. for which in an ordinary game or first-class County match he would be not out. It should have been for all or none. Doubtless batsmen would become accustomed to the new order of things, but it would be easy for a man to forget under which rule he was playing, and it is throwing a tremendous amount of additional responsibility on the umpires. Previous to the new rule complaints have been frequent enough in all conscience as to their incompetency but now they will be tenfold. It seems to me a very difficult question for them to decide, and in view ofthis arrangement of ours for reporting on the competency and satisfaction given by the umpires in each individual match it will cause a deal of dissatisfaction and probably unintentional unfairness. This little incident will to play at these balls he would very likely give a chance to the wicket-keeper or slip. I do not consider the rule has had a fair chance and it is of course very hard for the umpires to decide as they are umpiring under one rule one week and perhaps another rule the next week.

Apologising for the length of my letter.

Believe me, Yours faithfully,

P. J. de PARAVICINI,

Capt. Bucks C. C. C.

P. S.-New method of scoring points was a great success, and I trust that it will be adopted by the first-class Counties next year.

MR. J. EARLE NORMAN, Hon. Sec. HERTFORDSHIRE COUNTY CLUB, writes:-

Dear Sir,

Before replying to your letter I have waited till we had a Committee meeting, so that I might be able to give you a more general idea of Hertfordshire men"s opinions on the proposed alteration in the L. B. W. rule and on our new system of scoring points. This meeting took place only yesterday.

To take the last item first. We are all agreed that nothing but praise should be accorded the new system of scoring points. It had given an added and a continuous interest to all our matches and its effect has been particularly noticeable this year, when the weather has been interrupted play so very frequently. (I believe one of our men did point out to me an error in the way the percentages are calculated, but that is a mere matter of detail.)

As for the other item-the proposed alteration in the L. B. W. rule-our idea is that this particular attempt has proved a failure. The experience of the past season"s matches, so far as Hertfordshire is concerned, goes to show that the alteration is ineffectual on hard wickets but is brought into operation chiefly on soft and slow wickets. In other words, as the one object in having a change at all was to keep down tall scoring, it comes into use when it is not particularly wanted.

Yours faithfully,

MR. J. EARLE NORMAN.

MR. K. E. M. BARKER, Captain of the SURREY SECOND ELEVEN, writes:-

Dear Sir,

Personally, I have not seen more than half-a-dozen instances of the new Leg-Before-Wicket rule come into force. and therefore I can only conclude that the new rule had the desired effect of stopping men playing with their legs and not the bat.

The new method of deciding the championship by points seems to have worked out very satisfactorily; and especially the counting of one point to the side leading on the first innings when time or weather has prevented the match being played to the finish; and frequently we have had a keen and interesting game on the second day-play having been impossible on the first-when in former years there could have been little or no chance of arriving at a definite result.

MR. W. C. HANCOCK, STAFFORDSHIRE COUNTY CLUB, sends the following:-

Dear Sir,

In reply to your enquiry as to how the proposed alteration in the law of Leg-Before-Wicket has worked in our competition matches during the past season, I may say that the question has been considered by my Committee, who came to the conclusion that the proposed alteration had not had a sufficient trial to enable them to give a definite opinion upon it. As far as we could ascertain, very few decisions were given in our matches based on the alteration, and it was difficult to obtain the requisite information from some umpires in cases which might have assisted us in forming an opinion. Added to this, we found a divergence of opinion among the umpires themselves as to the manner in which they interpreted the provisions of the proposed alteration although one would have thought the wording was perfectly plain. Another obstacle in the way of a satisfactory trial was this. Like the majority of the Minor Counties, we played eight matches, and none of our batsmen had more than nine innings. In these few innings, spread over the whole season, the batsmen had to alter their game for the time being in face of a new element of danger, and the alteration did not meet with the approval of any of our players.

As regards the new method of scoring points, we consider it to have been entirely successful. It has kept up the interest throughout the match, and has almost entirely caused that bugbear of modern cricket-the drawn game-to disappear.

Yours very truly,

W. C. HANCOCK.

MR. TREVOR WHEELER, Hon. Sec. of the WILTSHIRE COUNTY CLUB, writes:-

Dear Sir,

I must apologise for the delay in replying to your letter of October 1st, re opinions on the trial of the L. B. W. rule, and on the system of scoring by points in the Second Division of the County Championship during the past season.

With regard to the former, the general consensus of opinion amongst players in this county (whose criticisms I consider of more value than that of spectators), is that it made no practical difference to the game and did not fulfil its purpose in any way.

This is somewhat remarkable as Wiltshire possesses a leg-break bowler of rather more than average ability. The tendency to unnecessary appeals, caused by its adoption for this year, was also to be deprecated.

The system of scoring by points is considered satisfactory.

Yours faithfully,

TREVOR WHEELER, Hon. Sec.

MR. J. F. WHITWELL, Captain of the DURHAM ELEVEN, says:-

Owing to the great amount of rain last season which caused wickets generally to be dead and easy or very difficult, the new L. B. W. rule adopted in second-class County cricket was not a success. When the ball goes straight the rule is quite ineffective, and when it does a great deal it is almost impossible for the umpires to tell whether the ball would hit the wicket, and consequently they decide in the batsmen"s favour. I think, however, that in a dry season when wickets get crumbly it would help very materially to shorten the innings.

In my opinion the new method of scoring a point on the first innings is very unfair. It certainly adds interest to the game, but as often so much depends on the result of the toss I think it should be discontinued.

Yours truly,

J. F. WHITWELL.

© John Wisden & Co