Page:Jubilee Book of Cricket (Second edition, 1897).djvu/226

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A slow good wicket—that is to say, one made soft by rain and not subsequently caked by the sun—sometimes causes batsmen trouble; and yet it is a very easy wicket. The only difficulty is, that a rather different style of play is required. Whenever a forward-stroke is used on such a wicket, great care should be taken not to play too soon, as the ball is apt to hang. It is best to rely chiefly upon back-play and hard hitting. The push-stroke is not of much use. If the wicket is very wet so that the ball cuts through, forward-strokes can be used with fair effect if the ball is closely watched so as to make certain of proper timing. When the ball breaks at all—and on most wet wickets, however easy, the bowler can usually get some work on the ball—a batsman can play back with ease and effect. But the deviation of the ball from its original line of flight makes forward-strokes rather unsafe unless the ball is completely smothered at the pitch. The hook-stroke is particularly useful on slow wickets, for a player can step back and have plenty of time to watch the ball as it comes from the ground. It is sometimes necessary and profitable to use the high drive when the wicket is in this state. The strokes along the ground are apt to travel so slowly that they can be very readily fielded. A batsman must use his own discretion in such matters.

A crumbly wicket—that is, one more or less broken on the surface—enables the bowler to make the ball break prodigiously. To make runs on such a wicket the batsman must have an exceedingly quick eye, and an almost quicker wrist, if he is to show to advantage. The ball takes a break very rapidly after pitching: in order to extricate himself from a difficulty, a batsman must rely upon an instantaneous co-operation of eye and wrist. The ball breaks so much that it is impossible to play forward-strokes at the rising ball with any success; the ball is nearly sure to beat the bat. Unless a batsman can get right to the pitch of a ball, he ought to play it back. If, however, he is weak in his back-play, the best thing he can do for his side is to have a dash. He is far more likely to make a few runs by going for the bowling with all his might than by any other procedure. As to sticky wickets, they are rather a problem. A batsman is really almost helpless on such wickets before good bowling. The ball does everything the bowler intends it to do, and sometimes more, and sometimes quite the reverse. Unless a batsman has an almost superhuman power of watching the ball, the best thing he can do is "to take the long handle" and hit as hard as ever he can, chancing where the ball goes. This is the unscien-