The L-B-W question

General meeting of the Marylebone Club

On Wednesday, May 2nd, the 101st annual general meeting of the Marylebone Club was held in the Pavilion at Lord's Cricket Ground. Hon. E. Chandos Leigh (president) was in the chair. After the ordinary business had been transacted the meeting became special to discuss the proposed alterations in the laws and an account of the proceedings is appended.

This following is from the report of the committee to the general meeting:--

On the 13th February last, the committee passed the following resolution:--

'That a sub-committee be appointed to consider the report to the general committee whether any undue advantage rests with the batsman or with the bowler under the existing Laws of Cricket, and if so what steps should be taken to remedy this defect, and the following gentlemen were accordingly appointed to serve upon the sub-committee--Lord Bessborough, Lord Lyttelton, C. E. Boyle, A. W. Ridley, W. E. Denison, V. E. Walker, A. J. Webbe, Hon. Sir S. Ponsonby-Fane, and H. Perkins. They met several times, the main subject of their deliberations being the alteration of Law XXIV., upon which the opinions of a number of leading umpires and cricketers were taken. On March 19 the sub-committee made the following proposals, which were unanimously approved by a special meeting of the committee, subject to confirmation at the special general meeting:--

    (1)
  • That the over shall consist of five balls.
  • (2)
  • That a bowler shall be allowed to change ends as often as he pleases, provided only that he does not bowl two overs consecutively in one innings.
  • (3)
  • That on the last day of match, or if a one-day match at any time, the in-side shall be empowered to declare the innings at an end.

But recognising the great difficulties in the way of any extension of the law of leg before wicket, and the fact that the practice it was sought to prevent was adopted by a very limited number of cricketers, the committee have abstained, for the present at all events, from recommending any alteration of the existing law. They think that before any such important change is carried into effect ample opportunity for discussion should be given, and that practical unanimity amongst cricketers should be as far as possible arrived at. The committee have, however, passed the following resolution :--

'That the practice of deliberately defending the wicket with the person instead of the bat is contrary to the spirit of the game, and inconsistent with strict fairness, and the M.C.C. will discountenance and prevent this practice by every means in their power.'

The committee recommend that instructions be given to all umpires the club may employ that, should they at any time see any batsman deliberately in their opinion defending his wicket with any part of his person, they shall report the same to the committee, and they hope that, with the co-operation of the county authorities and cricketers generally, this step will be found adequate to prevent the evil which is complained of. If not, stronger measures may be necessary, but time will have been given for mature consideration, and the risk will be avoided of making an alteration in a most important law which experience may show cannot be maintained.

The President having stated that he proposed that each alteration should be considered separately,

Lord Harris rose and spoke at some length. He remarked that in all matters the club exercised great discretion, and their decisions were accepted by everybody. When alterations were suggested, either affecting the play or simply verbal construction, precedent showed that the club had been very careful in not carrying out alterations without first taking the opinion of leading clubs in this country and elsewhere. In suggesting that they should hesitate before legislating, he was exceedingly fortunate in having the support before legislating, he was exceedingly fortunate in having the support of an important member of the committee, Captain Denison. That gentleman has distinctly stated that the Marylebone Club were the head of the cricket world, and that they only altered the law after due consideration, and after time had been given to various cricket authorities to consider the proposals. In 1883 several alterations in the law, chiefly of a verbal nature, but some affecting the play, were suggested. The committee had ample time to bring their proposals before the annual meeting, and submit them for consideration, but it was thought it would be unwise to do so, and the alterations were deferred for a whole year. He was told that in that year the committee circulated the proposed alterations among the counties, Universities, and leading associations in Australia. That was the precedent established by the club, and it would be perfectly wise to adopt the same principle now. He was not calling into question the wisdom of the committee in bringing forward these suggestions--it was part of their duties to do so--but it was a different thing for the club to be called upon to decide that the alterations should take effect until due time had been allowed for their consideration. There was the question to meet as to whether they had any great evil, and if they had he should be in favour of immediate action. With regard to the suggested increase to five balls in an over, he could see that there was some advantage in that, and that some little time would be gained. But there were also disadvantages, and one was that the best bowler on a side would be bowled more than he used. Further, there was the value of the tradition attaching to the four balls an over, and if the alteration were made now they might in a year or two have a suggestion to increase the number to six. He believed that in purely Australia and American matches six balls were bowled to an over, and the Australians only consented to four balls with our elevens as an act of courtesy. Our representatives properly pointed out that the Marylebone Club had not altered the law, and that they were right in adhering to four balls, and the Australians most courteously gave way. With regard to the proposals, he thought it would be wise to defer action.

Captain DENISON said he agreed Lord Harris that, unless the matter was urgent, it would be the best course to defer action. He had taken the trouble to consult his county committee ( Nottinghamshire) on the subject, and he found they were anxious for the third proposal as being likely to obviate the farce of knocking down wickets. He should be sorry if these laws were not passed, but, at the same time, in a case of this sort, those who had the management of matches should be consulted. He could see no active necessity for the alterations, and after a season's experience and taking the opinions of the Australians and counties, they could then consider them.

Rev. W. K. BEDFORD observed that the rule relating to the closing of the innings was an innovation, and interfered with the management of a match for the first time. Such a change must be justified by circumstances. He understood that the reason given was that there were more drawn games than in former years. He had, however, gone into cricket history, and he would undertake to say that if they took an average of years there were not more drawn games now than some ten or twenty years ago.

Lord Harris then moved, and Lord BESSBOROUGH seconded, an amendment To defer the consideration of the alterations of the laws proposed by the committee, in order to obtain the opinion of leading clubs in England and elsewhere.

Mr. C. E. Boyle remarked that the reference to the committee was this:-- That a sub-committee be appointed to consider the report to the general committee as to whether any undue advantage rests with the batsman or bowler under the existing laws of cricket, and if so what steps should be taken to remedy this defect. The sub-committee entertained a number of suggestions, and considered them in this sense: That something should be done to remedy the relative positions of batsman and bowler. The laws of cricket were made when grounds were rough, but conditions had changed, and at present preponderated in favour of the batsman. Mr. Boyle then gave a number of statistics of the high scoring last summer and in some former years to support his contention, and concluded by expressing the opinion that it behoved the club in the interests of cricket to do something to remedy the defects that had been pointed out.

Mr. A. J. Webbe suggested that Mr. Boyle should take the batting statistics of a wet season and see how they worked out.

No other member rising to speak, the PRESIDENT put Lord Harris's amendment, and it was carried almost unanimously. The result of this decision was that the recommendations of the committee were shelved.

The meeting then terminated with a vote of thanks to the President.

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