But bring back the old L.B.W. rule, 1962

An enjoyable visit to Britain

Jack Fingleton

"--and, departing, leave behind us footprints on the sands of time."

Henry Longfellow himself departed long before Old Trafford became famous. He died in 1882 (in which year, incidentally, Sir Jack Hobbs was born) but the poet's lines had some significance at Old Trafford on August 1, 1961, when, in the last tumultuous hour of an exciting Test, Richie Benaud pitched to Trueman's footprints and bowled Australia to the telling victory in the series. It was a famous victory for Australia; on the evidence, it was an infamous defeat for England.

Twice, on that last day, England had merely to close its collective fingers on victory. Australia could make only 190 in the first innings on an immaculate pitch. England hit back with 367, an impressive lead. Had the England fieldsmen held their chances, the game could almost have finished on the Monday evening in England's favour with a day to spare.

Lawry, badly missed at 25, made 102. Harvey was missed twice but, good fortune notwithstanding, Australia, 296 for six, led by only 119 runs as the game resumed on the final day.

In the first minutes of the morning, Allen took three wickets and victory, surely, was then in England's grasp. This was the first time of sighting on this day although, in sheer technique and command of a tight situation, there was not in the whole series a better partnership than the last-wicket one that followed between Davidson and McKenzie.

Last-wicket partnerships, if of any duration, are generally good for a laugh. They mainly comprise a comedy of accidents but there was nothing like that about this one: no chances; no mis-hits; no struggling to cope. Had Davidson, in his long, honest and meritorious Test career, not had to spend toiling hours as a fast bowler he would, I am sure, have revived batting memories of Frank Woolley. This is not sacrilege. He drives as Woolley drove -- clean, full-blooded strokes of artistry and challenge that cleave the fieldsmen and singe the grass -- but long stretches of fast bowling will dim the batting ardour of most.

Davidson, this day, came fresh to his batting task. In one over from Allen, he hit two prodigious 6's and two 4's that surged to the boundary. At the other end was the splendidly proportioned McKenzie, turned 20 only a few weeks before yet playing with the cool head of a veteran and a bat as straight as a surveyor's plumb bob.

Was Benaud a lucky captain? This will seem a strange question to interpose here (and particularly as I intend to probe later this fascinating person and his well-publicised methods) but as that last-wicket partnership went on and on that sunny Manchester morning I often noticed Davidson glance towards the Australian balcony. What did he want?

One experienced in Test cricket knew immediately that Davidson sought instructions. He wanted Benaud to appear and show by actions his wishes: to give a traffic policeman's stop sign to say he wished Davidson to hold on longer and make England's fight against the clock a harder one; to hold up all fingers to suggest that he wanted the Australian innings to end, say, in ten minutes; to swing with his hands to say he wanted more quick runs.

But Benaud didn't appear. He himself, had been in the midst of the three quick dismissals in early morning. That sickening setback had upset whatever preconceived plans the Australians might have had and, moreover, it had put them badly on the run. This brilliant last-wicket stand had brought them back into the game but it was most unexpected, naturally, and even the experienced Davidson wanted a skipper's sign as to intentions.

For a period the partnership lost character in its indecisiveness and it was fortituous that McKenzie should have fallen when he did, just on one o'clock. The partnership was 98.

England thus wanted 256 runs in 230 minutes. In mid-afternoon, the game was as good as over. England, 150 for one, needed only 106 runs in as many minutes. Back in Australia, with the hour around midnight, most turned off their radios and went to bed, accepting the seemingly inevitable.

Come weal, come woe, no Test side in such a position should ever have lost this game. Dexter, in one of the great attacking innings of the century, was 76. Benaud didn't seem to have a card to play.

Just previously, against the clamour of the crowd, he had called for drinks. On a hot day, perspiring bowlers and batsmen do need a drink but this call by Benaud seemed more, possibly, in the nature of an old soldier's trick -- hoping that the break in play and concentration might do what his bowlers so obviously couldn't.

It made no difference. Dexter sailed on and Subba Row sewed up his end more securely. All that England wanted was just ten more minutes of Dexter but, hereabouts, Benaud played absolutely his last card in the pack. He came around the stumps to pitch on Trueman's marks at the other end. He had to bowl around the stumps to hit the marks at such an angle that the batsmen were forced to play at the ball. Had he bowled over the stumps, the batsmen need not have played with the bat the ball off the roughage.

Benaud had discussed the possibilities of this move the night before with Ray Lindwall, the old Australian bowling fox. Lindwall thought there was merit in it although I doubt whether either thought there was victory in it. Had Benaud thought so, surely he would have tried it sooner.

Dexter went and May came. Usually so reliable and capable, the English captain immediately perpetrated two palpable errors. A swing to fine-leg is always risky. It is doubly risky to a ball coming in off the roughage but the biggest error May made was in attempting such a stroke without covering up his line of retreat. His legs didn't protect his stumps -- he could not have been l.b.w. at such an angle -- and over they went. May hadn't scored.

Close came to turn himself and everybody else inside out with some vainglorious swishes to fine leg. He hit Benaud almost straight for six but he swished fine again and was out and then Subba Row fell also. A pall fell over the ground. A game virtually won at twenty minutes to tea was lost by tea and all because Benaud bowled round the stumps to Trueman's marks.

So, then, did Trueman's footprints on the Old Trafford pitch leave their imprint on the sands of cricket time. Thus is history made. A little but an important thing with a man like Benaud about.

Yet was it such a little thing? The Australians met Yorkshire at Bradford in the first week of this tour and I wrote in that issue of the London Sunday Times that Trueman's untrammelled passage down the pitch after delivery could play into the Australian leg-spin of Benaud and Simpson in the Tests.

It was a tip untaken. Both Trueman and Lock were heavy invaders of the pitch in England in 1956. The Australians then did not deter them. We went to the other extreme two years later in Australia and made such a speciality of asking them to run off the pitch that some of the M.C.C. men were justified in asking where, exactly, they could put their feet after delivery.

My first captain in Sydney was the old Australian wicket-keeper, Hanson Carter. He was a Yorkshireman by birth (he displayed an appreciation for pitch niceties that was noticeably absent in the county of his birth in 1961) and woe betide the fast bowler or batsman who ran down the pitch when Carter was about.

The offender didn't do it the second time and this was as it should be because captains, batsmen, wicket-keepers and umpires are all custodians of the pitch. Some bowling wear is unavoidable but a bowler should, in his follow-through, have veered off the pitch by the time he has reached the good-length mark from the other end.

Trueman, a most colourful cricketer of whom I am very fond, had been allowed to develop this bad habit. On the evidence, with Benaud the Prosecutor, the series of 1961 turned on his footprints. Millions throughout the United Kingdom this day saw on television or heard on the wireless as this game dropped right out of England's lap. It must have been a depressing business for them. I seemed to detect next day some suggestion of national gloom.

In no sense is this article meant to deal with one's impressions of the 1961 tour. A book is needed to cover a tour in detail but a book is not for one who had no attendant "ghost" - as so many nowadays have - and who jumped like a grasshopper to and from the television, wireless and Press boxes. So, then, I am forced to concentrate upon a few facets of the tour and this much must be said immediately: this was the happiest tour of England I have known. It was almost devoid of "incidents". To be true, at times, the standard was not of the highest. I never ceased to wonder how a palpably weak Australian bowling side could escape as it did - let alone triumph - but the Australians had the merit of holding important catches and also had commendable all-round batting strength in Lawry, Simpson, O'Neill, Harvey, Burge, Booth, Davidson and McKenzie. Benaud was a big disappointment in his own batting but herein was the side's greatest asset. It had batting strength in depth and it possessed a positive approach to the batting job. Lawry was outstanding though not fully probed in his sensitivity to spin and spin, moreover, that made him use restricted footwork. For all that, Lawry was admirable in his concentration and devotion to duty. Harvey, not the dasher of old, was still the most technically correct of all the batsmen in both sides because he never failed to use his feet to advance towards the ball. Burge and O'Neill played several really magnificent innings, notable in any era. Simpson was a reliable Test batsman, a very good one, indeed, for all that he sometimes gave the impression that he place overmuch value upon figures. One stood down unjustly, as he had reason to believe, sometimes finds difficulty in dislodging the chip from his shoulder but O'Neill also had had a similar reverse in his early career and had dismissed it from his mind.

Nothing on the field, however, surpassed the strength of Benaud's power and influence off the field. Here was his greatest victory. His team pulled solidly behind him for the whole of this long tour and this is noteworthy for inevitably, because of man's nature, cliques, caves and cynicisms form from long association. The sight of the same 17 male faces over the breakfast table for nine months in itself often starts bickering but Benaud, like a good officer, kept his men happy. He was always one of them, never aloof. This was achievement Number One.

This team, too, had a good collective business sense. Where it originated from I do not pretend to know but whereas on other tours the leading lights were quick to accept for themselves the glittering opportunities that offered for leading lights, this team worked on a co-operative front. It had its own off-field agent who handled the business activities and the team pooled the quite considerable sums that were offered for individual feats in the series. This could do nothing else but make for happy comradeship. There were a few occasions when I thought these offerings for individual Test feats had suspect value. Grout, who had an outstanding series, sometimes attempted his impossible and slip's possible. There might have been some prize reason, also, why MacKay did such a long bowling stint at The Oval on the final day. I thought, too, that Jarman deserved a place in the final Test.

These could be assumptions on my part but if certain firms are to draw their publicity from Test matches by awarding individual prizes, those at the helm must be doubly careful to see that they are kept in perspective.

In one particular respect Benaud stood head and shoulders over any international captain I have known. His public-relations work was simply superb. His stated plan of campaign at the beginning, to make every match as interesting as he could, had an instant appeal and was in contrast to that of the preceding captain, Johnson, who said he would use county games for Test purposes.

In all his appearances on television and in his statements, Benaud said the right and the happy thing. He had a flair for it. The year before, when in England as a journalist, he did a course on television and he considered this of immense value. This tremendous medium of publicity he used to great advantage.

And then there was the way in which he handled the Press. He had no favourites. He greeted them all as brothers, as indeed they were professionally. I often smiled at the exodus from the Press-box when Benaud came from the field. He was always available for questioning and, one surmised, helped many with suggestions for angles and stories.

He was cricket's gift to the Press. Some of my brethren are notorious for getting grouches off their typewriters at the tour's end but, understandably, this time they had nothing but bouquets for Benaud and his team.

In so many ways, then, Benaud did an unsurpassed job for his team and the game. There was a suggestion, early in the tour, that he was treating the Press too liberally. It seemed that the order came on high from Australia that he was to be gagged somewhat but, if he was, it didn't last. It wasn't long before Benaud pursued his bland and helpful way again.

I had one experience with him that impressed me considerably. I was staying with Mr. Joc Lynam, Headmaster of the Dragon School at Oxford. He asked whether I might bring several of the team to meet the boys one day.

In my time, I knew this would have been an unpopular request. Players of my generation did not take kindly to outside jaw on cricket. I put the request to Benaud. "Certainly," he said, and looked into the dressing-room. "Brian and Frank: would you go along to a school, please, for half an hour?" And Booth and Misson came off with me and both spoke to the boys in a most pleasant manner. Benaud was always eager to please. No wonder he was always clapped to the centre of every ground on which he played.

A winning captain must have good fortune and Benaud has had his measure of this yet it could be claimed that he has encouraged fortune to smile upon him. There was one occasion in Sydney, in a Test against England, when he adopted delaying tactics as rigid and as dubious as any I have seen but he would prefer to forget this.

For the most part, he has thrown out challenges and has always been ready to accept them. On good, true Australian pitches he has gambled to excess by sending England and the West Indians in when he won the toss. He won both matches. His declarations have been sound yet sporting. His field captaincy has been markedly sound.

I have written at length upon this facet of Benaud and the tour because I feel they merit it. They have to be known and understood because of the important part they played in making this such a happy tour, such a pleasant one for everybody. I can't recall a single untoward incident.

May, Cowdrey and their English charges played a prime part in this and the Australians selectors also contributed by wisely not choosing a single bowler with a suspect action. That was important. It was also sound policy yet Benaud, aided by a cheerful and genial manager in Mr. S.G. Webb, Q.C., and a capable assistant manager in Mr. Ray Steele, did by far the biggest job of all.

I pity the Australian captain to come after him. In the public relations sense, Benaud has set him a nigh impossible task because the next one is not likely to possess the sound Press background that Benaud has.

It is interesting to reflect that Benaud came into the job only because of illness to Ian Craig. Benaud believes that reports to high quarters on his possibilities as an Australian captain were, at one stage, most unfavourable.

It is interesting, too, that he served his apprenticeship under Keith Miller, one of similar outlook to Benaud who had outstanding successes with New South Wales teams but never got the call to higher honours.

There was remarkably little between the teams in this series. The Old Trafford result could so easily have gone the other way and then the emphasis in analysis would have been upon May and his men. I daresay that English pens will closely dissect English cricket in this "Hundred Coming Up" edition of Wisden's so that I need not, necessarily, delve too deep with my impressions but this I must say: English batting will never be true to itself until it rediscovers the art of footwork.

Over all, this Australian attack should have taken many a hammering. Dexter gave it one at Old Trafford -- his magnificent innings of another calibre at Birmingham suggests he has the all-round game to have a tremendous series in the next one in Australia -- but one seemed to detect mental flaws in the English approach to batting.

Every one of England's leading batsmen hug the crease with the back foot as if he expects the bailiff to come at any minute and find him not at home. This is distressing because batting is only seen at its best when it is built on footwork and I cannot recall one stroke by a leading English batsman in which he moved out of his crease in this series. Hobbs and Bradman were the great masters of footwork that I saw. Hammond was not far behind.

As a small boy, I read C.B. Fry on footwork. It sounded most abstruse. It went something like this: the weight sways back to the back foot, allowing the front foot to be free. The front foot moves down the pitch and the weight sways on to it, freeing the back foot. The back foot comes up and crosses behind the front foot, taking the weight and freeing the front foot. The front foot moves down again and the back foot comes up, again, and crosses behind the front foot and thus allows the front foot to be put to the pitch of the ball.

C.B. would have used more polished language, of a certainty. It sounded all very difficult but even as small boys we could follow it. Does anybody read Fry these days?

I must be quick to add that it was most unfortunate that Cowdrey, a gifted player, was not well enough to play at Old Trafford. He would have flourished on such a glorious pitch but Cowdrey is one who often denies his better parts. He is one whose footwork goes into reverse because it seems to be used most by many English stars in circumventing that abomination (to me, anyway) of all cricket rules -- l.b.w. to a ball breaking in from outside the off-stump.

I would not be surprised if the decline in English batsmanship is directly attributable to this innovation of the late'thirties. I can see nothing to admire in this rule and its effects. It has fostered the in-swingers, the leg-side attack, the leg-field and -- in English cricket, at all events -- it has killed the art of slow leg-break bowling.

The leg-breakers are not wanted. They are cricket's poor relations and so footwork down the pitch goes into desuetude, the game loses its most attractive prod with the leg to nullify the effect of a ball breaking in from the off.

This l.b.w. rule, as it now stands, has had more effect upon English than upon Australian batting. The mental effects are noticeable every series when the Englishmen come up against almost an unknown variety of bowling. Some seem to be mesmerised before they start.

Footwork, then, is the first prerequisite if English batting is to recover its pristine glory. A batsman must move both out and back if he is to dominate spin. On a few occasions, Cowdrey has forgotten the inhibitions of the l.b.w. rule and we have seen some wondrous innings from him.

Peter May (I sincerely hope our Australian Test fields have not seen the last of this cultured batsman, one of the truly great) has played several of the best Test innings I have seen and has the footwork if he will give the order from the bridge. David Sheppard uses his feet but, unfortunately, we didn't see him this series.

It is in order for an Australian to congratulate the umpires who stood in this series and to give high marks to the groundsman and staff at Edgbaston, Old Trafford and The Oval. They made good cricket possible because they provided Test-match pitches.

The Lord's one, alas, now wears the furried ridge of age. Like our Melbourne one of a few years back, it has grown tired of life and needs a complete face-lift. I hope it gets it. On our next visit to Leeds, I hope we find, in the words of Mr. Sellers, that they do know how to make Test pitches up that way. They have contrived to conceal the fact for some time.

May I, finally, advance these causes. There has been trouble for far too long over dragging. Surely, this problem could be settled immediately if the law says the front foot, in delivery, shall be behind the batting crease. The batsman is given that advantage in the pitch: I see no reason why the bowler should not have it, also.

In New Zealand and in South Africa there has been much no-balling of bowlers for dragging. So many of our great bowlers have fudged over both lines. If the batting crease is made the important line for bowlers with their front foot, I can see this dragging problem solved over-night. A dragging bowler will always have his front foot well over the batting crease.

I would like, too, to see a fast bowler limited in his run to the crease. So many fast bowlers -- and many of them are by no means fast, I might add -- seem to run from eternity to get to the crease. These provide many of cricket's dullest moments. That long trudge back, the long run up, the long retreat and so on and on all takes up infinite time.

Surely the origin of the long run is in one's tender years as a means of scaring the opposition. So many fast bowlers I have watched get little from their run-up. They are running as fast some yards after their take-off as they are 20 yards later. Tyson and Trueman are two who bowled faster when their run was shortened.

I would like to see a white line no more than 15 yards back and all bowlers told to fit their run into that. I could never see the point of a man running 37 paces to bowl a ball 22 yards. And it makes for so much tedious watching.

I end this article with a plea. Let English administrators experiment for two seasons with the l.b.w. rule as it was. I found many English internationals of my generation who shared my dislike of this rule. It will be asking much for English batsmanship to recover its footwork in two years but at least it will be a start.

© John Wisden & Co