Page:Jubilee Book of Cricket (Second edition, 1897).djvu/265

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243
CAPTAINCY.

along the dead ground, and the fieldsman can easily get to it to prevent boundaries. Hence a run is worth more on such a wicket than on a hard one. But the ball is very easy for a good batsman to control and keep from the wicket under these conditions. There is no doubt that they favour batsmen, though sometimes sides collapse when a wet wicket suddenly occurs after a series of dry ones. It is not the wicket that causes this, but the change.

A wicket that dries slowly and equally may be described as neutral. It does not favour either batting or bowling. But it may be described as easy rather than otherwise. The bowler can get a fair foothold, hold the ball fairly well, and get a moderate, even large, amount of break on the ball. But the ball does its work so slowly that a batsman can easily watch and play it, even if he cannot score with rapidity. The point to see is, that it is not a bowler's wicket, though it is frequently mistaken as such both by captain and others, simply because they see that the ball can be made to break.

It is the sticky or caked wicket that is the bowler's paradise. The ball can be made almost to speak on such a one by a skilful bowler, and even a moderate performer can prove very destructive. When a wicket is in this state, a captain's point of view is that it cannot get more difficult and may get easier; so he has a very good excuse for putting the other side in. The only drawback is, that this condition of ground is very likely to prevail for some time—long enough for four short innings—so that by putting the other side in, a captain takes away from his own the advantage of batting first and second instead of third and fourth, without gaining any compensating advantage. So, even with a sticky wicket, it is advisable not to be too ready to give up first innings.

It will be seen that the whole question of whether it is better to go in or let the other side do so hinges on the understanding that it is distinctly advantageous to bat first. That it is advantageous is regarded as an axiom of cricket. No one thinks of disputing it. A few considerations are sufficient to establish the point. The two chief are, that the side which goes in first is almost sure to get the best of the wicket, and that it is much easier to prevent runs than to make them. With regard to the first consideration, it is quite obvious that unless the weather plays tricks a wicket cannot but be truer and better in the first than in the second, and in the third than in the fourth, innings of a match. Now, the weather plays extraordinary pranks some-