Page:Jubilee Book of Cricket (Second edition, 1897).djvu/267

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245
CAPTAINCY.

far more subject to chance. A bowler may bowl a bad ball or a fielder drop a catch without losing all chance of retrieving himself. One bad stroke, and a batsman is out once and for all. Of course batsmen often have good luck in being missed in the field or being beaten by the ball without being bowled; but this does not—at any rate on the average—equalise the chances. A bowler can without doubt be much surer of bowling a good ball, a fielder of catching a catch, than can a batsman of keeping a ball out of his wicket or scoring a run off it. Now the disproportionate value of a run in hand and a run to be made is greater in the fourth innings than in any other, for the simple reason that batsmen on the one hand, and bowlers and fielders on the other, have a definite undertaking before them. The definite knowledge that unless the batsmen are all got out under a certain number of runs the match will be lost makes bowlers and fielders doubly efficient, for it makes them realise the absolute necessity of saving every run and getting every wicket. It is almost a truism that, in most cases, the more definite is the object a man has before himself, the better means is he likely to take to achieve it. But in the particular case of a cricketmatch this tells more favourably for bowlers than batsmen. It is true that some batsmen have the gift of rising to the occasion, and never bat so well as when their side dearly needs their best work; but, as a general rule, batsmen do not do well when they have to play against bogey as it were—against a fixed number of runs. Nervousness, anxiety, and keenness to do well, sometimes militate terribly against good batting. And there is always the fact that a bad stroke generally means "out"; and once out, a batsman never may return. That it is a big thing to go in to make a score on a bad wicket in the fourth innings of a match is sufficiently obvious. There is no surer proof of this than that it has time after time proved advantageous for a side to have to follow on, which means starting with a deficit of 120 runs to wipe off in the second innings; because if the second innings prove really fruitful, and the side which won the toss is set a fair number of runs, to get the disadvantage of the fourth innings has finally proved more than equal to the deficit.

Another advantage of taking first innings is, that it is the only one of the four where each man goes in to bat absolutely fresh. In the other innings of a match all the batsmen have had some bowling and fielding work to take the edge off their efficiency—that is, unless the first innings exactly coincide with the day's play, which it rarely does. Moreover, it not unfrequently happens that the