Do not tamper with the toss, 1906

Notes by the Editor

Sydney Pardon

The Laws of Cricket were allowed to remain undisturbed in 1905, the desire for change, so much in evidence during recent years, having apparently lost its force. The proposition brought forward, with the support of the committee, at the M.C.C. meeting at Lord's in May, to make the last sentence of Law 1 read "the choice of innings shall be decided by tossing, unless otherwise arranged" was beaten on a show of hands by such an overwhelming majority that no purpose would have been served by taking a vote. It was certainly curious that this effort to minimise the effect of luck should have been followed by F. S. Jackson's extraordinarily good fortune in winning the toss in every one of the five Test Matches. Still, though Darling's unhappy experience strengthened the case for a modification of the existing rule as regards a series of games between the same sides, I hold strongly to the opinion that the toss, as an essential feature of cricket, should not be tampered with. Apart from all other considerations - such as the delightful uncertainty before a match begins as to which side will bat first - the toss for innings affords the best guarantee that wickets will in all cases be fairly and properly prepared. I would not for a moment suggest that in the case of out and home county matches the knowledge that the opposing team were going in first would in the ordinary way lead to any wrong-doing on the part of the ground-keepers. All the same there would be a danger which the law in its present shape prevents. Very little extra water, or the difference of a few hours in the last time for watering, might make all the difference in the world to the side that had first innings, and even the suspicion of malpractices of this kind would cause great ill-feeling and might lead to an old-established county match being left out of the following season's programme.

The Test Matches are fully dealt with in another part of Wisden, and I do not wish to refer to them here except to pay fitting tribute to F. S. Jackson for what he did in his first year as captain of the England eleven. It would not have been at all surprising if the responsibilities of his position had affected his own play, but, so far from this being the case, he batted in finer form than ever, scoring 82 not out at Nottingham, 144 not out at Leeds, 113 at Manchester, and 76 and 31 at The Oval. All through his career he has been the man for a great occasion, but never so much so as in the Test Matches last summer. He first played for England at Lord's in 1893, and with five hundreds to his name he can point to a record in Test games unapproached in this country. No wonder that Darling, interviewed on returning home, described him as unquestionably the best bat in England. On the subject of his success last summer Mr. Jackson, though of course delighted, was very modest. At the finish of the final match at The Oval, when his labours were over, all he could be induced to say was that in these big matches he knew he had always played his best cricket.

It would ill become me to allow the retirement of James Phillips from the post of umpire in first-class cricket to pass without comment. Now that we are almost entirely free from the curse of throwing the value of what Phillips did for the cause of fair bowling is beginning to be realised. He had the courage to act when other umpires were content to express their opinions in private, and for the great improvement that has resulted from the concerted action of the county captains and the present happy condition of things, thanks are chiefly due to him. The concerted action of the captains only came when the question had been brought within the range of cricket politics. It is a little humiliating to think that an Australian umpire undertook a duty that our own men had shirked, but the fact must be borne in mind that Phillips stood in a rather more independent position than most of his colleagues. The courage lay in the initial steps as, the plunge once taken, Phillips soon found that he had authority behind him. As one who in a modest way laboured for many years to rid English cricket of throwing, I have special reason to rejoice at the change that has been brought about, and as I gave Phillips all the support I possibly could at a time when he was subjected to a good deal of criticism and even abuse, I may now congratulate him on his good work. No one could watch first-class cricket last season without being conscious of the great change that had come over the game. There was plenty of very fast bowling, but Cotter, Brearley, Knox, Warren and others were all so unimpeachably fair in delivery that not the slightest question could be raised with regard to any one of them. I do not think for a moment that there would have been this general fairness of action if Phillips had not stood up for the enforcement of Law 10.

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