Page:Jubilee Book of Cricket (Second edition, 1897).djvu/190

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In playing forward the bat should be kept absolutely straight—that is to say, the edges of the blade as seen from the front should be at right angles to the ground. Viewed from the side, the edges of the bat should be sloping forward, the handle being nearer to the bowler than the bottom of the blade.

At the precise moment when the ball meets it, the bat should be just behind the left leg; otherwise the batsman is hable to overreach himself The result of overreaching may be that the right foot is dragged over the popping-crease, which is fatal should the ball miss the bat; or else the ball is lifted into the air by reason of the bottom of the bat swinging forward in front of the top.

On account of the improvement of wickets, forward-playing is much safer now than it used to be, and it is at the same time much easier and more effective. A player should therefore take steps to acquire the highest proficiency in it of which he is capable. The better the man is at forward-play, the faster will he be able to score, inasmuch as forward-play is essentially aggressive. It contains a certain amount of latent scoring power, even when intended to be purely defensive.

In 'good forward-playing, the bat most distinctly meets the ball, and not the ball the bat. It is easier to make progress in forward- than in back-playing. This is perhaps the reason why one sees so many more good forward- than good back-players. Mere defensive back-play is easy enough. The veriest novice can, make some kind of back-stroke. But a player who can score runs by his back-play is very rare. Crude back-play does not contain one run in a dozen strokes. It is advisable, I think, to teach all beginners to play forward as much as possible. For it is much easier to learn to make runs with forward-play than it is with back-play. If a beginner does not make runs, which are the outward and visible sign of the grace of cricket, he is liable to lose heart. A beginner must take great pains to cultivate the proper movements of the limbs, and the exact position in which his feet ought to be for forward-play. He is almost sure to find it difficult at first to bring his weight to bear upon the ball. He is liable to get to a certain point in proficiency, and then to come to a sudden stop. But I do not think he ought to pay much attention to back-play until he can make forward-strokes with fair certainty and effectiveness.

At the start every beginner discovers a natural back-stroke without much difficulty; but, as we have seen, the criterion of back-play is ability to score with it. This is a fact which is