Page:Jubilee Book of Cricket (Second edition, 1897).djvu/106

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to walk before trying to run—to learn to bowl straight and a good length before attempting much in the way of break or the higher branches of the art.

But there is another side to the question. Even when a bowler has acquired mechanical accuracy and considerable command of pace and break, his education is by no means complete. He has to learn to apply all this—to adapt his skill to circumstances. In order to do this successfully he must use his wits. He must know all about his own bowling, its possibilities and limitations. He must understand the different kinds of wickets on which he will have to bowl at different times. He must also be able to place his fielders suitably for different batsmen under various conditions of wicket, and learn the art of laying siege to batsmen's weak points.

Wickets may be divided into those in favour of the batsmen and those in favour of the bowler. The former consist of three sorts—the fast dry, the fast wet, and the slow wet wicket; the latter also of three—the fiery, the crumbling, and the caked or sticky wicket. There are, of course, innumerable gradations in the pace and quality of various wickets, but the above classification is accurate enough for present purposes. On a good "fast dry" wicket it is almost impossible to put any break on the ball; you must trust to good length and variation of pace and pitch. On a good slow wicket some break can be effected, but the ball comes so dully off the pitch that, unless it hangs a bit, there is no difficulty in playing it. When the ball hangs, a "catch and bowl" is often the result. On such a wicket it is a good plan to bowl rather faster than usual—that is, if you are a medium-pace or slow bowler—in order to put as much sting into the delivery as the wicket will allow of. As to a hard wet wicket, an ordinary good wicket after a brief shower, to make the ball break at all is next to impossible. The ground is hard and slippery, and the ball simply skids along after pitching. On such a wicket, however, the ball always comes very quickly off the pitch, and is liable to keep low, or even to shoot. There is nothing more in favour of the batsman than rain falling often and in small quantities, whatever the previous state of the wicket; for when recently watered by rain the wicket is bound to play easily—the ball either whips along quite straight or cuts through. Moreover, the ball is slippery and cannot be properly grasped by the bowler, who is likewise handicapped by being unable to get a good foothold. There is little doubt that a hard fast wicket, made greasy on the top by rain, is the best of all from the point