hard, a captain has no alternative but to take first innings; for whether hard and true, rough, fiery, or crumbled, a dry wicket will almost certainly not improve, and is very nearly sure to deteriorate. The only case where an improvement is likely to take place is when the ground starts by being fiery or crumbled, and exactly the right amount of rain falls to take out the fire, so that it rolls out smooth and true. But it is quite impossible for a captain to know beforehand to a nicety what the weather is going to do, so he cannot afford to expect such improvement. A dry wicket must always be regarded as at its best in the first innings of a match, and as likely to deteriorate with the wear and tear of the play upon it.
In calculating the effect of rain upon a wicket, three points must be taken into consideration: first, the state of the ground previous to the fall; secondly, and in connection with this, the amount of rain and sunshine that comes subsequently; and thirdly, the usual behaviour of the particular ground under certain conditions.
About the last point nothing can be learned except by continually observing particular grounds or consulting those who are in the best position to give advice—groundmen, for instance, or experienced professionals engaged at the ground. Advice from similar sources may also be useful on the first point. Yet a captain, if he has not had personal experience of the state of the ground by playing on it during the few days preceding a match, can generally find some one who has either played a game on part of it or practised at the nets. It is, however, worth while remarking that very frequently the centre of a ground where match-wickets are pitched is quite different from the side parts where smaller matches and net-practice take place.
The state of a wicket at the time of a match depends, as has been pointed out, upon the prevailing conditions of weather acting upon the previous condition of the ground. Dry wickets do not concern us at present Wet wickets are of several kinds. After rain has fallen, a wicket must in the course of nature be becoming dryer. Only, if there is no sun or wind to help in the process, a wicket once thoroughly soaked dries so slowly that, as far as a cricket-match is concerned, it may be regarded as in a fixed state of dampness. But before considering wickets that are thoroughly soaked, a few words are necessary on the subject of those that are merely damp on the surface.
These are of two kinds. The first is when the ground is