Page:Jubilee Book of Cricket (Second edition, 1897).djvu/266

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times, so that there are occasions when it proves an advantage to have lost the toss, and bat second. But this consideration is absolutely beside the point, as no captain can divine the future, and has to decide before the match is played, not during it, whether to take the innings or not. There is no course open to him except to regard present circumstances as they are, and take it for granted that the weather will not prove contrary. The reason why wickets gradually deteriorate during matches is manifest. Every ball that is bowled knocks the turf about in a greater or lesser degree, and every time a batsman or bowler plants his foot on the actual pitch some damage is done to it. This is what is meant by the wear and tear of a match. But there is another reason, which is sometimes forgotten. Match-wickets are very carefully prepared for some time before they are used. A wicket to be used on Monday has probably received attention—judicious watering and rolling—since the Monday before, and that daily. But after the first ball has been bowled the wicket may not be touched again till the match is over, except for the slight rolling it receives just before each innings, which rarely makes much difference to it. Consequently it does not get its daily treatment either on the first, second, or third day of a match, and it misses this treatment much in the same way that a human being would miss his proper amount of food and drink for three successive days. In any case, it is a matter of experience that wickets do deteriorate in a greater or lesser degree during matches. Given normal conditions, the first innings affords the best, the fourth the worst, chance of getting runs. It is no exaggeration to say that three out of four games between fairly equal sides are won by the one that goes in first, through the score made in their first innings. And, what comes to the same thing, the average number of runs made in the second innings in matches is considerably lower than that made in the first. The same holds good with regard to the relative scores in fourth and third innings.

The second consideration that makes it advantageous to bat first is, that runs are harder to make than to save. And the case is this. A run is more difficult to make than to save, because batting is in its nature a far less certain and reliable thing than bowling and fielding. A man who really makes up his mind to bowl or field as well as ever he can, is able to do so with something like certainty, whereas the best bat in the world cannot make sure of scoring a single run. In other words, batting is, besides being more difficult in itself than bowling and fielding,