Friday, 14 August 2015

Proper Cricket

Little did Fantasy Bob realise last Saturday when he won the toss and inserted the opposition that he and his team mates were about to witness some proper cricket.

The scorecard will only reveal that the opener (names are suppressed to protect family and loved ones) was out caught for 0. Bad luck, readers may think. They may think again when they learn that the dismissal was in the 21st over.

For all present, it was a cleansing experience - the perfect antidote to modern cricket’s soul destroying ILP induced obsession with instant gratification and 3 figure strike rates. For there was nothing instant and certainly no gratification .  So proper was this proper cricket that there was not even a strike rate.

Stonewalling is a dying skill. When FB first played league cricket, victory was only possible for the side bowling second if they took all 10 wickets. Otherwise the match was a draw. And the batsman who could bat for the draw by putting up the shutters was as valued member of the team as the fast bowler and the dashing middle order batsman, only subject to more dressing room ribbing than them. Players would  also know the stonewaller in the opposition and when he strode to the wicket, the fielders in the deep would get out their deck chairs since they knew any prospect of them being called to action that afternoon had disappeared.

Gone are those days – the side bowling second can win even without taking a wicket.  This is not proper cricket.  And the language is impoverished - the terms winning draw and losing draw, redolent with meaning though they may be, have fallen out of use. We are all the poorer.

Allot acknowledges the applause
on breaking the record for the longest duck
Low scoring has a time honoured place in the top level game too.  In 1999, New Zealand bowler, Geoff Allott playing S Africa at Auckland, faced 77 balls in 101 minutes before being dismissed for a duck. This is the longest completed innings without scoring in Test cricket. It stood as the longest time at the crease for no runs until March 2013, when Stuart Broad batted for 103 minutes against New Zealand before scoring a run. Broad then accelerated, in his next 35 minutes at the crease he scored 6 – and, like Allott, was dismissed having faced 77 balls.

Both innings were key to securing draws for their sides. Sadly, Test cricket is not sophisticated enough to differentiate between winning and losing draws. All draws are the same.

Junior cricketers in FB's side who have gorged on unnatural run rates therefore failed to understand the nostalgia that ran through FB and his more senior colleagues at witnessing this innings.   What were they on about in these repeated references to proper cricket?  FB and his wrinkled mates may not have called Allot's and Broad's efforts to mind, but there was only one name on their lips when they discussed slow scoring after the match. A proper cricketer in all senses of the word.

Chris Tavare
The legendary Chris Tavare played 31 Tests for England through the 1980s. His career strike rate was 30.60 ie it took him more than 3 balls to score every run he made.

His feat of two separate scoreless hours in the same innings is unique - against Pakistan at Lord's in 1982 he scored 82 in 406 minutes facing 277 balls.  Even that was brisk compared to the 6 and a half hours it took him to compile 35 in Madras off 240 balls earlier that year.  Later the same year, he managed a scoreless hour in each innings at Perth; in the first innings he scored 89 in 466 minutes from 337 balls, positively racing along compared to the 9 he scored in his 2 hour second innings in which he faced 82 balls.

Yes Tavare was a legend. But he was far from being the slowest scorer ever in fact he is quite far down the list. Mike Brearley was even slower. But heading this list is New Zealand’s Trevor Franklin, who career strike rate was 26.44.  Only once in his 37 Test innings did he score more than a run every 2 balls (50+ SR). But he is on the Lords honours board – his only Test hundred took him him 310 balls and over seven hours, 45 minutes of which was spent on 98. This pause was just showmanship, building up the tension, for when he finally got to three figures the crowd went wild – and then settled to sleep again.

Proper cricket - where has it gone?


  1. It has disappeared as a result of the inexorable rise of one-day knockabout cricket. Batsmen are so used to maintaining a high run rate that they have largely forgotten how to play a defensive innings.T20 is the ultimate killer of Proper Cricket.

  2. And current events at the Oval prove the point..............