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Dr WG Grace on cricket – archive

DR. W. G. GRACE has already written two books on cricket, and now Messrs. NEWNES has published a third. It is quite small and maybe had for a shilling, and though there is a good deal about golf and fishing and other irrelevancies, plenty of shrewd stuff is to the point.

Of course, the book is egotistic; we should hardly feel that we had our money’s worth if it were not. If anyone has earned the right to the egotist’s complacency, it is the genial champion of the game, who in his day was as clearly exalted above his contemporaries as SHAKESPEARE appears to be above his now. He is generous to those he played and to the younger men, but there are some trenchant criticisms of our modern methods.

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Dr. GRACE regrets the tendency to an excess of defensive play and ridicules the talk of bowling that is too good to be hit when it is all a matter of the batsman’s steady timidity. He quotes with approval Mr. E. V. LUCAS’S remark that gentlemen nowadays play cricket like over-worked artisans, and he wants to see more stepping out to drive in defiance of the wicket-keeper.

Dr. GRACE has some curious things to say about the “google” bowling, which, with such masters as FAULKNER and VOGLER at their best, he believes to be the most difficult kind ever invented. His belief, founded on a conversation with the bowlers, is that they can’t maintain their form for many years because their tortuous methods make them feel queer under the ribs. In contrast, anyone who wants to bowl happily forever should imitate the easy action of JACK HEARNE or ALFRED SHAW. Part of the England cricket team regained the Ashes in the triangular Test series in 1912, including Walter Brearley (back left).

Part of the England cricket team regained the Ashes in the triangular Test series in 1912, including Walter Brearley (back left). Photograph: Popperfoto/Getty Images
Sometimes Dr. GRACE is almost indiscreet. He says that BREARLEY is not as fast as he looks; that he has known under-hand bowlers faster than RICHARDSON and MOLD; that in the days when the particular county employed umpires, “the Lancashire and Nott’s umpires always knew which side was batting”; and that F. S. JACKSON is very likely to win the Amateur Golf Championship soon. The experienced cricketer has seen in the hint to the long field that it is easier to catch running backward than forward and in the suggestion that the very high standard of fielding at the present day has been set by those who are safe in the pavilion.

It is interesting to read about that obsolete and unregretted stroke of the draw. That other curious stroke, practiced by RICHARD DAFT and greatly fancied by the mid-Victorian schoolboy, to accomplish which the batsman cocked up his left leg and played the ball under it. Even this surprising piece of technique pales before GEORGE PARR’S famous sweep, which took a straight ball round to somewhere between long leg and long stop. What would these old heroes think of it if they knew that leg-hitting was abandoned and that when a man tries to cut a rising ball, his friends shudder and mutter “Steady”?

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