A very common fault in players who otherwise execute the forward-stroke correctly is the habit of bending the right knee. The effect of this is to weaken the stroke considerably, as it is conducive to a stooping attitude. It also causes, as is mentioned above, a dropping of the right shoulder and a bending back of the body in exactly the opposite direction to that in which the weight ought to be thrown. The fault is one which coaches very rarely notice, if indeed they understand that it is a fault at all.
My chief feeling about back-play is, that very few cricketers pay proper attention to it. It can, I believe, be made almost, if not quite, as effective for scoring purposes as forward-play is. Any one who has seen Arthur Shrewsbury, Mr Jackson, and Mr MacLaren play an innings on a slow wicket, or indeed on any wicket, will agree with me on this point. There can be no doubt that for defensive purposes back-play is the better, for the ball can be watched right on to the bat. Most players, after acquiring some facility in forward-play, take no trouble to improve their back-play. One sees every year in first-class cricket players whose forward-strokes have improved almost beyond recognition during a single season, but whose back-play remains in the same state at the end of three seasons as it was at the beginning. Without sacrificing forward-play in the very least, proper attention should be given to the cultivation of back-play. Nearly every one has his own natural method of playing back, which he ought to develop to its highest pitch. It is dangerous to play back at any ball which is not, either of itself or because it is made so by the batsman having stepped back, somewhat short of good-length.
Cutting is essentially an aggressive stroke. No ball that could possibly hit the wicket should be cut. The two commonest faults in cutting are getting under the ball and playing the stroke when the line of flight of the ball is too near the wicket. It has already been explained how necessary it is to bring the bat down on the top of the ball in attempting to cut it. The stroke played in this way ought to be perfectly safe. Players who make too much of a hit of their cutting usually have a tendency to get under the ball. Some players, too, are inclined to drop the right shoulder in cutting. This fault is also likely to make the stroke uppish. Cutting at balls too close to the wicket is apt to get you out in three ways,—by knocking your wicket down; by a catch at the wicket; by a catch at short-slip. A man needs a little room in which to cut; without it his action is rather