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Art. 7.-POST-WAR ENGLISH CRICKET.

1. A Few Short Runs. By Lord Harris. Murray, 1921. 2. My Cricketing Life. By P. F. Warner. Hodder and

Stoughton, 1921. 3. Defending the Ashes. By P. G. H. Fender. Chapman

and Hall, 1921. 4. A Cricketer's Book. By Neville Cardus. Grant

Richards, 1922. 5. The Art of Cricket. By Warwick W. Armstrong. Methuen, 1922. And other works.

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THE late Lord Northcliffe, in 1917, told a prominent cricketer that the war had for ever killed the national game, and that never again would his newspapers give

than a perfunctory account of this moribund pastime. Seldom was prophecy so falsified. Not only has first-class cricket since the war attracted far larger crowds than ever, as well as more general attention, but greater space in the press has been devoted to it, and even matches of small importance are occasionally recorded in the leading journals. Nor is there any sign of abatement in popular interest, despite the admitted fact that the standard of contemporaneous cricket, at least in batting and bowling, falls far below that of the ’nineties. In many respects the post-war resuscitations of the game possess features which have no parallel in its history, and consideration of the achievements of the four past summers present potentialities that may affect its development for more than a decade to come.

Cricket was restarted amid an avalanche of practical and impracticable suggestions for the improvement of what needed no improvement. So long as the game is played in the proper sporting spirit, with due appreciation that the aim is to win a definite conclusion by active effort, there can be little fundamentally at fault with it. Though much improvement in the present standard of skill is desirable, yet the fact remains that the essentials are right with the game.

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What is needed is more general effort to attain to the finest quality of antagonism between the fielding and the batting sides. The experiment of two-day matches ended, to the general relief,

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after trial during a solitary summer; but it served the purpose of forcing players to make special endeavours to finish matches, and thereby attracted spectators to watch keen struggles. And it may be noted that, more than in the holiday times of former years, cricket exercises a spell over boys, who must some day form the patrons of the game—for county cricket is an expensive business, which cannot be financially practicable without support both from gate-money and the subscriptions of members.

The re-establishment of three-day matches, in 1920, produced a season of exceptional interest and apparent brilliance, for only a very few thoughtful spectators realised how much lower was the standard than it had been in years gone by. Yet, bearing in mind that four summers had been devoted to war, there did not seem to be much amiss on the match grounds. Those with foresight looked for skilled new-comers, because the first-class game stands in constant need of replenishment as the elder players retire. If D. J. Knight fell short of his achievements in the previous years, in G. T. S. Stevens-chosen as a schoolboy to represent the Gentlemen—and Waddington there seemed promise, not, as it happens, as yet much further developed; from Uppingham came a spirited young bitter and magnificent fieldsman, A. P. F. Chapman. C. H. Gibson bowled after a fashion that filled the critical mind of A. C. MacLaren with admiration; whilst the respective brotherhoods of Ashton and Bryan, as well as the mercurial individuality of Parkin, proved that some of those who were new to big cricket were capable of brilliant play. By now it has been realised, however, that neither the public schools nor the colts in the last four seasons have furnished an adequate quota of the best quality. Never before has the Old Guard, apart from a few individual exceptions, been so supreme, though with advancing years increased experience often tends to increased caution and, of necessity, less activity in the field. The evergreen popularity of the University match may be ascribed to the fact that it is an annual struggle of Young England, and youth in the game is of more value than the veterans care to admit.

The summer of 1920, full of delightful episodes, reached a splendid climax in the triumph of Middlesex in the concluding encounter with Surrey, which decided the championship. It was the final match of P. F. Warner, the most thrilling in which he had ever participated; and the termination of the remarkable contest was followed by a demonstration of enthusiasm rarely equalled in the history of cricket. During the following winter the disastrous defeat in all five test matches of our English representatives in Australia afforded to the community the first hint that what had been good enough when we were playing among ourselves fell far short of what was necessary against first-rate opponents.

It will always be debatable which was the best Australian side ever sent over here, but none has equalled the success enjoyed by the team which, under the captaincy of Warwick Armstrong, annihilated English cricket last year. In J. M. Gregory and E. A. McDonald our visitors possessed a couple of superb and well-contrasted fast bowlers, who never troubled themselves about the condition of the wicket. Collective excellence in batting, with two widely differing great run-getters in C. G. Macartney and W. Bardsley, combined with magnificent fielding, achieved all that was necessary, whilst our visitors admitted the climatic advantage to themselves of a summer practically free from rain. Nevertheless, it was Englishmen themselves who virtually effected their own defeat. Warwick Armstrong told me that his bowling ought to have been hit out of the ground time after time; instead of which he knew the majority of his opponents were already virtually bowled out when they faced him with their want of confidence. With no less than thirty cricketers selected for the five test matches, the English sides deteriorated into mere scratch elevens. No greater indication of the panic the Australians inspired could be afforded than the crippled, effete opposition provided by the champion county on a perfect pitch, though in their other matches the same eleven displayed an admirable initiative and defence. As evidence of the want of judgment of the selectors of our representative teams, A. C. MacLaren collected an amateur eleven, in which youth largely predominated, and gained over the as yet undefeated Australians the most popular victory of the year.

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As to the season of 1922, it has apart from some magnificent efforts been one generally of dullness and disappointment. Never before has professionalism so predominated in the game. With the enormous programmes of the majority of the counties, obviously this must be the case when the bulk of our amateurs are compelled to devote their energies to tasks and duties more important than making runs. At the same time, such a condition fails to provide the best in cricket, because, of necessity, the average professional cricketer, being dependent on his individual consistency for earning his emolument, cannot be expected to take sporting risks in the way that an amateur does. Hobbs and Woolley, as masters of their art, are superior to this generalisation. But the present sides, representative of Yorkshire, Notts, and Lancashire, in which the paid element largely predominates, have furnished examples of stolidity of batting which may, indeed, win matches, but is incapable of stirring enthusiasm.

In fairness, it must be urged that the worst offenders, in what may be termed negative batting, have often been amateurs. The opening of the University matchnay, the whole of it except the part played by A. P. F. Chapman-furnishes an outstanding illustration of this statement; whilst other amateurs deliberately, and too often, left alone balls which seemed to invite drastic treatment. Lack of enterprise was never so apparent or so general; never before in any season has the average rate of scoring been so slow. It would astound the giants of the past to realise that, as an unnamed student of cricket has said in the Press, 'to-day the ball which gets most wickets and is most difficult to play is the half volley; a ball, which for centuries has been thoroughly well smitten to all the boundaries of the world, has become the corner-stone of our English bowling, because it is the one ball which a batsman cannot see right on to his bat. If the batsman of the present day had to bat against such bowlers as Alfred Shaw, Attewell, or J. T. Hearne, he would have to wait until September to get a ball to hit. Now we have very few batsmen who take the trouble to do more than make the obvious shot to a caricature of a ball.'

It does not seem to be realised that, in first-class

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cricket, the quality of the batting always keeps just a little better than the bowling it has to meet. That is why the finest batsmen have always been found in the seasons when the bowling was at its best. To W. G. Grace successive generations of fast bowlers presented no terrors. K. S. Ranjitsinhji was often dismissed through playing carelessly at indifferent bowling; he rarely showed his finest form unless pitted against the greatest bowlers, such as Lockwood and Richardson. Since the war we have had no really fast bowlers, and that is one reason why our batsmen failed so dismally against the Australians. Be it noted, that it was only the youngest batsmen who really defied their attack. Warwick Armstrong thought far more of Hubert Ashton and D. R. Jardine, of A. P. F. Chapman and A. W. Carr, than of the horde of adequate batsmen with assured reputations the Australians had to meet. The first county which brings out a really fast bowler should win nearly all its matches, provided the captain has the common sense not to overwork him. The average career of a fast bowler in county cricket was only five years before the war; under most contemporary leaders he would last barely a couple of seasons.

One grave drawback to the modern game is the heaviness of the bat. This was not introduced by K. S. Ranjitsinhji, to assist his glide stroke, as is currently supposed, for the Jam Sahib of Nawanagar told me in August of this year that he had never used a bat weighing more than two pounds two ounces. The weightier implement, put on the market by the trade, killed the most attractive strokes. It may be of interest to mention that, not long before his death, Alfred Lyttelton having taken up a new-style bat, observed : 'If I had been condemned to use one of this weight, I should never have won even a place in the Eton eleven.'

The profound respect with which any bowling that possesses length is treated may, at least in part, be due to the fact that, with the modern bat, some strokes have become nearly impossible; whilst Lord Harris has described cutting as a lost art. Also there is the baneful innovation of the two-eyed stance and the fact that schoolboys are now instructed to wait and see if the ball is going to in. swing'—which it rarely does—instead of advising them

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