Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Spirit of 1612

Frontispiece from the 1744 Laws of Cricket
In 1612, the pupils of Aberdeen Grammar School rioted against the petty rules disciplining them and, brandishing various firearms, took over part of the school. The masters stopped the riot, and 21 pupils were expelled, while some were arrested. Not long after this serious incident, the school welcomed Fantasy Bob onto its roll.

In FB's days at the school there was little by way of rioting and like the rest of the the pupil body he was well behaved and assiduous in his love of learning. However things seem to have declined and the school is now associated with one of the more shocking disciplinary incidents that has come to FB's attention for many years.

The concept of bowling successive overs from different ends of the pitch seems to have been integral to cricket for as long as it has been played. The first codification of the Laws, made by Noblemen and Gentlemen who used the Artillery Ground in London in 1744, seems to confirm this, for the following law is included:
Ye bowler must deliver ye ball with one foot behind ye Crease even with ye Wicket, and when he has bowled one ball or more shall bowl to ye number 4 before he changes Wickets, and he shall change but once in ye same innings.
In the modern laws this has become Law 22(1) which states far more prosaically:
The ball shall be bowled from each end alternately in overs of 6 balls. 
and law 24, which defines a no ball. The concept of 'changing but once in ye same innings' is lost - indeed FB is struggling to work out what it means but thinks it means a bowler could only bowl 2 successive overs once. The modern laws preclude that.

For that small minority of FB's worldwide readership who are interested in these matters, and by way of digression to the main thrust of this wittering, the 1744 Laws do not provide for LBW, which was only introduced to the laws 30 years later in response to the increasing habit of batsmen in wilfully keeping the ball off their wicket with their legs.  The pain had been taken out of this by the development of increasingly effective pads.  The original version of the LBW law is based on the concept of the batter deliberately stopping the ball hitting the wicket; this was dropped in 1788, which was the first codification by the Marylebone Cricket Club. Little by little, the law has developed into the modern simple structure easily comprehensible to everyone, which does of course still retain some aspect of the batter's intention in that he cannot be out if struck outside the line of off stump when attempting to play a shot. What constitutes a shot is keenly debated.

What this law, or subsequent versions of it, does not contain is any concept that it need not apply in Aberdeen. Even in 1744 it would have applied.

However members of Aberdeen Grammar School FP CC (for whom FB turned out very occasionally shortly after 1621) saw fit to disregard for this law last weekend.  On being told by their groundsman (who may or may not be doughty) that while the wicket was playable one of the run ups was too wet for play, agreed with the opposition's suggestion only to bowl at one end.

Good for them says Fantasy Bob, he is pleased to hear that the spirit of 1612 is not dead.

And for information, Aberdeen Grammar School has produced some cricketers of distinction in addition to Fantasy Bob.  Present Scottish international Kyle Coetzer is a former pupil, as are the twins Dallas and Jeremy Moir, Scottish internationalists of the 1980s.  

But the greatest cricketer to come out of Aberdeen had the misfortune never to attend the school.  Although born in Aberdeen, Ian Peebles was educated in Glasgow before going on to play 13 Tests for England and captain Middlesex.  Peebles has the distinction of being identified by Bradman as the only bowler to have troubled him during his golden year of 1930 when he scored 2960 runs at an average of 98.66.  What might he have become if he'd gone to the right school?

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