If I remember rightly, Dr Grace himself describes the stroke somewhat as follows: when a player finds himself in two minds as to what he shall do, there are two or three courses open to him. He may hit for home and glory, trusting to luck. If his trust is not misplaced, the ball will drop somewhere out of harm's way. Secondly, he may play forward on faith—a particularly dangerous stroke. Again, he may make a kind of hurried backstroke; but this is not likely to prove successful, as he has already begun to move forward. So it is best to play a half-cock stroke, which means that the bat is merely held almost stationary somewhere between a back- and a forward-stroke rather over the popping-crease, and the ball is allowed to hit it. Note that this is the only stroke in which the ball should be allowed to hit the bat. It is a compromise, and as such is purely defensive. It is almost impossible to score off a genuine half-cock stroke. It is a mistake to play the stroke unless forced to. do so' by circumstances.
One of the great differences between back- and forward-play is, that in the latter the batsman's object is to smother the ball at the pitch before its direction after pitching is determined, while in the former the stroke is made at a time when the ball's course is fully determined. In the one case the batsman judges exactly where the ball is going to be, and endeavours to get his bat there at the proper time; whereas in the other he watches the ball right on to the bat, having it practically directed under his eyes at the time of playing. A really good back-player does not much mind what antics the ball plays, provided only he can manage to see the ball all the way. Many back-strokes must necessarily be purely defensive, but a batsman should learn to shape at back-strokes in such a way that there is behind each some scoring power in reserve—that is, so that if at the last moment he finds the ball easier to play than he expected, he can turn his defensive stroke to run-getting purposes without any apparent change of movement.
On the other hand, even in making a forcing- stroke there should be, as it were, a reserve of power for defence. It is, I think, a mistake to let all one's strength go into a stroke; for if this is done, it is impossible to recall one's self. By playing slightly within one's strength, it is possible to alter a stroke to meet an unexpected contingency, such as a sudden twist of the ball, a bump from the pitch, or a shunter. The most dangerous ball for forward-play and for any forcing-stroke is the ball that comes slowly off the pitch or hangs. Such a ball is very liable