THEN AND NOW
A SURVEY OF 20 YEARS' COUNTY CRICKET. [By P. F. Warxkb.] ! For the Dunedin • Star ’—Copyright.) When I first began to play county cricket in 1894 C. B. Fry was captain of the Oxford XL. W. G. Grace, though 46 years of age. was playing in Test ami continued to do so until ,1899. and K. S. Ranjitsinhji had just left Cambridge and was not yet qualified for Sussex. A. E. Stoddart, W. W. Rond, Shrewsbury, and W. Gunn were, in their prime. F. S. Jackson had been brilliantly siicces.-tui for England v. Australia in the previous season, and Richardson and Lockwood, of Surrey, were a wonderful pair of la.-t bowlers. Another bowler of the fa>i school was Mold, of Lancashire; and the slow left-handed type had worthy representatives in Peel, of Yorkshire. and Briggs, of Lancashire —in the I'arlv ’Nineties.—
In that season S. M. J. Woods and F. S. Jackson bowled unchanged in Gentlemen v. Players at Lord's, and among the promising "colts” were A. C. Madaren. Tom Hayward, J, T. Brown, and J. R. Mason, while G. L. Jessup. whose first season it was for Gloucestershire, was d - jcrlbed by • Wisden ’ as *• displaying considerable natural aptitude for the game"'! Of the men who were playing in 1894 and who figured in their county elevens in 1915 only H. K. Foster, W. G. Quaiie. Santa'.;. Hayward. J. Douglas. J. T. Hearne, J. R. Mason. Hirst. A. O. Jones. G. L. Jes*op, and W. Mead remain, besides myself. The " googiie ” was unheard of then, and swerving was practically unknown. Rawlin and Walter Wright being its only exponents so far as 1 can recollect.
My first appearance in p. tir-t class match was fur M.C.G. v. Oxford, at Oxford. when I made 0, clean howled, and 13 Ibw, and caught C. L. Fry at shortleg off Mead. i can recollect the ball which bowled me ever. now. It turned from the off on a slow wicket, and I played forward, only to hear the fatal cra-ii. Today I would never dream of playing for ward to a similar ball, and believe I could okay it back easily; hut I may be "throwing bouquets at my-eif." a- the Americans MV.
My first Middlesex match was v. Somcr►et. at Taunton, and rny scores modest eiicmch— only 6 and A —hut 'Middlesex won by 19 runs after a thrilling fight. A. M't-bbe (captain). A. K. Stoddart. Sir T. O'Brien, and fi. were the great names in the Middlesex eleven, and 1 was delighted when any of them spoke I" nip. I thought litem all heroes i Of that side only .1. T. Ilearne and myself »re still to be found doing duty, the one with 24 and the ether with 20 sears' service to his credit-
in the following -ca-on. 1395. \V.( '•. '•cored a thousand rims in May, and finished up with an aggregate vf 2.5-16 and =*' average of 51 ; and H.mjitsinhji now qualified for Sussex and was in great form. Rut to go through each season in detail would bo impossible in the cour-e of u •ingle article, and would probably be some what wearisome to ray reader:-.' T shall therefore confine myself to a general survey and comparison of cricket and cricketer? :n the 20 years between 1391-1313. —Stickv Wicket I’lav.
Looking back at all the splendid names which come to my mind during my experience of 20 years one is apt at first sight wi think that there are no giants quite ,'ike the giants nf one's youthful days, but i calmer reflection and a careful peru.-al tf form leads one to the conclusion that -here are as good fish in the sea to-dav ts ever came out of it. Ot one thing I un certain, and that is that it is .harder ;o make runs in first class cricket to-day :han it was 12 or 15 scars ago. for the reason that the bowling is more varied a-nrl that captaincy has improved. There v.-ere, as 1 have said, very few real sweryers when I first began, and the gnoglie was undreamt nf. Mow one has :r. fare “ swervers,” ‘'in-swingers,” and -c.oglies, and left-arm bowlers keeping a length on the leg stump with seven fieldsmen on tire leg side, while a great deal more thought and attention, generally speaking, are paid to the tactics of the game, and the catching is more reliable than it waj. About the years 1399, ISOO, 1901 far too many catche's -were dropped, as Alfred Shaw in his book points out. in county cricket, though this criticism does not refer to an England eleven—A. C. Maclaren's side which went out to Australia in ISOI-02. for example, being a magnificent fielding side—but to first class cricket as a whole. Between 1893 and 1902 there was a good deal of marl used in the preparation of wickets, and this made rungettmg easier than it is to-day, and one of the wisest of the many wise things the M.C.C, have done was the circular which discouraged the use of what may be called artificial _means in the making of a pitch. Nowadays one never comes across a wicket such as the Oral and Leyton used at one time to be. The batting of to-day on hard, true wickets is no better than it was, and is probably less attractive to look at, the swinging-away ball having made certain off-side strokes rather dangerous. but on wet and sticky wickets Oattmen, as a general rule, are superior to what they were. The great players of the nineties—Grace. Rtoddart, Shrewsbury, and many others—played just as well on sticky wickets as the greatest of their successors, but the general level of sticky-wicker play has improved. This I attribute to the influence of Ranjitsinhji, who drove home the fact that when the ball is turning back play is safer than forward plav. Of course, one occasionally conics across a really difficult wicket on which two lefthanded bowlers like Blythe and Tarrant bt« almost unplayable, but I do not think I am guilty of an exaggeration in maintaining that the science of ptirky-wickei play is better understood than it was. Wicket-keeping to-day is as splendid as ever, but it cannot be said to be better than it was, when one thinks of such men as MacGregor, Lillev, Storer. and otheics; but, as I have said, the general level of fielding seems to be higher, there being less toleration shown to the indifferent or lazy fieldsman. —Our Best Bowlers.— With regard to bowling, one may fairly ! slaim. that Barnes has never had a, superior and very, very few equals. He is the test bowler on al! wickets I have mot in my career, having every good quality—--spin, a break both ways, flight, and accuracy of length. Moreover, he brings the ball down from a great height. There- is ro Loctwocd or Richardson just now, and ths former on his day was the greatest fast bowler of my time, and probably of any time. Ha had a, very quick breakback, made the ball get up nastily, and could send down, a very well disguised slow ball. Richardecn was far more consistent than Lockwood, and many wonderful feats »tand to bis credit. Ho was a greater i bowler day in and day out than Lockwood, j being infinitely more consistent, but he I did not have that puzzling - slow ball in | his armory. He was a- fine figure of a ; man, and his break-back was terrific, and ; few men ha.ra bowled a better yorkcr. ; East bowling has its chief representative ; to-day in Hitch, who is really fast, and Who * has made great improvement recently, obtaining mors command over his length. Many people maintain that there is iio left-handed bowler eo good _as Peel or Rhodes was, but ray own opinion is that Blythe is as great a bowler as cither of tile famous Yorkshiremen. He Is a master of flight, and hae. a great knowledge of the game, and how to bowl to various styles of players. On a sticky wicket he is extraordinarily difficult.
Among medium to fast-medium bowlers Booth ranks very high. I consider him a most able bowler. Slower than Booth is Albert Eelf, with his immoderate length and swerve both ways. D. W, Carr and' J. W Hearn* represent the English googly school, and on his day and. in his hour I believe the latter to be our greatest exponent of this particular stylo. He spins the hall tremendously, and oomes off the pitch at an amazing pace. B. J. I'. Boaanquet we», aa all the world knows, the Inventor of the “off breaking leg break." and h* taught it to R. S. Schwarz, who taught it to the South Africans, who in Yfialor and G. A. Faulkner produce^
the two best googly howlers the world has yet seen, though H. V. Hordern, the Australian, is a dose rival. Of the fast left-handed swinger F. 11. Foster in Australia in 1911-12 and in the English summer of 1911 was the best I have, ever seen of his methods. On the whole, in considering England's strength, things could hardly he better at the present moment. Wo won the rubber in Australia in 1911-12; wo came out first in the triangular tournament; and wo have since defeated South Africa quite easily, in Hobbs we have the best bat in the world at the present time —one worthy of comparison with any of the giants of the past—and in Barnes, beyond all question, the Iwt bowler. A further encouraging fact is that wo have so many men who while still young have reached | the top of the tree—J. W. Hearne, Woolj ley, and Mead, for instance ; and I believe that at the present time we could put an eleven into the field not unworthy of j comparison wit hj the great England Elevens of 1826 and of 19C2.
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THEN AND NOW, Evening Star, Issue 15699, 13 January 1915