Doubtful deliveries, artificial pitches and more, 1902

Notes by the Editor

Sydney Pardon

On Tuesday, the 17th of December the following important circular, addressed to the Secretaries of the various counties, was made public by the M.C.C.:-


I am directed to inform you that the Captains of the First-class Counties met on September 24th, 1901, and agreed to refer such resolutions and recommendations as were passed then, or may be passed at future meeting, to the M.C.C. Committee for confirmation.
In pursuance of this agreement the following proposals have been approved: -

*(A) "That the Bowling Crease shall be widened one foot each way."
(B) "That it is undesirable, in the interests of Cricket, that the wickets should be prepared artificially (i.e. in any way other than by water and the roller, except when patching is necessary)."

*(A) In accordance with the rules of the M.C.C. this proposal will be brought before a Special General Meeting on May 7th, 1902.

The M.C.C. Committee have given further careful consideration to the question of the Captains in 1900 has done so much good in discouraging this practice that it is unnecessary to suggest any drastic measures at present.

They hope that the County Cricket Executives will, in future, decline to play bowlers with doubtful deliveries, and thus remove the probability of any further infringement of Law 48.

Should an occasion arise when an Umpire by no-balling a bowler makes it clear that he is protesting against his deliveries, they think the only course open to the captain is to take such bowler off, otherwise the proper spirit of the game cannot be preserved.

To meet the contingency of any flagrant case of illegal bowling arising, in the future, the following proposal has been made, and the Counties are invited to express an opinion thereon.

"The Counties shall authorize their Captains to deal with the question, and, if at any meeting convened, with notice that it will be brought up the Captains shall decide by a majority of 2 to 1 that any bowler has been guilty of illegal bowling, they shall "name" him and recommend his suspension for at least a season, and refer it to the M.C.C Committee for confirmation."

Yours faithfully,

Dealing first with the latter part of the circular - in some respects the most significant - I rejoice that the M.C.C. committee, though they overruled the decision come to by the county captains in December, 1900 to debar certain bowlers from taking part in county matches, acknowledge that a great deal of good has come from the famous meeting which for a few weeks threw the cricket world into a ferment. At the time I gave the captains what support I could, and, amid the storm of criticism, I felt perfectly certain that, whether or not they were allowed their own way, nothing but benefit to the game of cricket would result from the action they had resolved on. Never within the last twenty years or more has there been so little unfair or doubtful bowling as in the season of 1901. Indeed the improvement was so marked as to make it clear that, if the captains stick to their guns, we shall soon be entirely free from the evil of which not very long ago it seemed impossible to get rid. The proposal on which the counties have now been invited to express an opinion does not seem to me to be in any way too stringent. There is not the slightest fear that the county captains will by a majority of two to one condemn any bowler unless his delivery is open to serious objection. It has been urged in "The Field" that if the captains put their ban upon a bowler who had passed all the umpires unchallenged, not one of the umpires could with any self-respect consent to stand again, but this argument is not in reality half so strong as might at first sight appear. Bob Thoms told Lord Harris years ago that any steps to get rid of throwing would have to come from those who control the game, and it is generally understood that at one of the private conferences organised at Lord's by Mr. Lacey, many of the present umpires asked in this matter of unfair bowling they might be relieved of responsibility, the necessary action being taken by county captains and committees. Those who are so extremely sensitive as to the jurisdiction of the umpire being interfered with, even away from the field of play, seem to forget that for many years the law as to fair bowling was flagrantly infringed over and over again without the slightest step being taken by the umpires to put matters right. Personally I do not believe that unless James Phillips had shown the way by pulling up Hones during the tour of Mr. Stoddart's second team in Australia, we should have seen any no-balling for throwing in this country. Like most reformers, Phillips has been subjected to a good deal of criticism and many hard words, but he need not trouble himself about anything that has been said against him. To him in the first place is due the present vastly improved condition of things. As to his action in no-balling Mold sixteen times at Old Trafford last July, I can say nothing, as I was not present at the match, but with regard to the agitation that was got up on Mold's behalf I have a very strong opinion indeed. To read some of the comments that appeared one might have supposed that nobody except Phillip's had ever called Mold's fairness into question. The fact that the Lancashire fast bowler had been condemned as unfair by the county captains by a majority of eleven to one, at their meeting at Lord's in December, 1900, was systematically ignored. I have not the slightest prejudice against Mold as a man, but repeating what I said last year, I think he was excessively lucky to go through nearly a dozen season before being no-balled.

I do not know whether any concerted action will be found possible, but after the expression of opinion I heard from several distinguished cricketers last season, I am not in the least surprised that the question of the preparation of wickets should have been raised. It is certain that more than three days cannot in this country be given up to a match, and within that limit of time it is, on wickets prepared according to the most modern methods, becoming increasingly difficult in fine weather to play a game out. The climax was reached during the past season at Leyton, the wickets on that ground being so superlatively good that it was almost impossible to get through four innings in three days. Indeed, out of eleven matches seven were left drawn. This was an altogether unsatisfactory state of things, and both Mr. C. E. Green and Mr. A. P. Lucas made no secret of their opinion that Mr. Green and Mr. A. P. Lucas made no secret of their opinion that a great mistake had been committed in having the wickets prepared in the modern fashion. Other famous cricketers I could name contend that the use of liquid manure of which some ground-keepers are now so fond, handicaps the bowler in two ways, first by taking nearly all the life out of the ground, and secondly by rendering the wicket almost impervious to natural wear. No one, I take it, would attempt to lay down any hard and fast rule as to how grounds should be dealt with out of the cricket season, but it does not seem to me impossible that the counties should come to an understanding as to what constitutes the legitimate preparation of the individual wicket. The mowing machine, the hose, and the heavy roller have in combination made the task of the modern batsman sufficiently easy, and in the opinion of many good judges of the game he did not need the further help that has lately been accorded him. The question of the preparation of wicket is urgent, as we do not wish to be driven to the necessity of deciding our three-day matches on the first innings.

© John Wisden & Co