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Cricket is the king of all outdoor sports—the game which beyond all others it behoves English boys to learn and master.
At once the most scientific and the most permanently interesting of all openair pastimes; while providing healthy,but not too exhausting,exercise for the body, it stimulates and excites the mind to action not less wholesome and agreeable.
Nor do its claims to the proud position asserted for it amongst our English sports and pastimes rest here. It requires from its followers, and, indeed, cultivates and confirms in them, habits of patient, unflagging attention to the work immediately before them; for of what worth is a would-be cricketer who cannot concentrate his whole thought and energy on the game; who should venture to think, " I was not looking," sufficient excuse for a catch missed or a run lost? Habits of ready obedience and self-negation; for who shall call himself "cricketer " who respects not the laws of the game, and regards not the august decisions of their exponents, who cares not to submit to the wholesome diseipline of his captain, or who, steeped in self-conceit and burning with the lust of personal distinction, cares rather to play for his own hand, to see his own name blazoned forth prominently in the score-sheet, than to consult the advantage of his side, or to further its ultimate success? Habits of presence of mind and unhesitating readiness of action in emergency; for is not the whole game but one long series of sudden emergencies, demanding instant and unhesitating treatment?—and a score of other virtues and moral qualities on which it were tedious to enlarge.
The game of cricket is of some antiquity amongst us. Like most of our public institutions, it has risen from small beginnings, little by little, a rule added here, a licence curtailed there, to its present compact and approximately perfect form.
Of the early history of the game we have very little record. A game called "creag," played with a bat and ball, and common amongst the Saxons, even before the Norman conquest, is supposed by the best authorities to be the germ from which, in the course of many generations, our present game of cricket has been developed.
It is certain that the game was played, and that commonly, more than two centuries ago; but in its present form, which differs materially from its earlier constitution, it has not yet existed a hundred years.
Before the year 1781, the wickets, which now form, as it were, the very central point of the game, had no practical existence; the bat was in shape like a hockey-stick or golf-club; and there were many other points of divergence from present practice, such that in effect they must have rendered the cricket of 1769 an almost totally different game from that of the present day.
As, however, our present purpose is rather with the game of our time than with that of 1769—rather with actual practice than with past history—we will forbear any further reference to those dark ages, when wickets as wickets were not, and when bats were bludgeons, and address ourselves to the task immediately before us.
It is scarcely possible, and, indeed, it is almost an insult, to suppose that any English boy, who is old enough to read this, can be ignorant of the general character and theory of cricket. Nevertheless, for the benefit of such benighted beings, if any such there be, a few lines may be not unreasonably devoted to a due and concise exposition of the leading features and objects of the game.
There are two methods of playing cricket, viz., single and double wicket, differing from each other in many important points, yet in elementary constitution and in most leading points of practice essentially the same. A short glance, therefore, at first principles may well serve for both.
To play cricket, two opposing parties strive in turn to score as many " runs" as possible from the bowling of their opponents, who, of course, strain all their energies to reduce this score to the smallest practicable dimensions.
The "outing side," through its bowler, strives to knock down the wickets with the ball, delivered from a given point and under certain restrictions; while the other or " inning side," through its batsman, defends them with the bat, and, if possible, strikes the ball away to such a distance that, before it can be returned, he may be able to run from wicket to wicket one or more times, and each time this distance is accomplished, one is added to the score of his party.
If he fail to protect his wicket, or if the ball be caught by the opposite party after he has hit it and before it touches the ground, or if in any other way specified in the rules he be "put out," he has to retire, and another of his party takes his place, until they are all in turn thus disposed of. The outing side then takes their place at the wickets and becomes the inning side, while they become the outing side.
When this change has been effected twice in due rotation, each side being allowed two turns or "innings" at the wickets, the runs that each has made are added up, and that side which has scored the most wins the day.
Amongst its other recommendations, cricket possesses an advantage over football and most other outdoor games in the universal identity of its rules. There is one central club, the Marylebone, better known to cricketers as the M.C.C., to which, by common consent, the whole body of cricketers looks for the rules and regulations of the game.
As it is imperatively necessary to know the rules of a game, at least in outline, before beginning to play it, the rules of the M.C.C., as authorized and published in 1889, are here given; and the young reader who burns with the hope of one day attaining a cricketer's fame is strongly advised to study closely and carefully not only the rules themselves, but also the explanatory notes appended to them.
Laws Of Cricket.
1. A Match is played between two sides of eleven players each, unless other
wise agreed to; each side has two innings, taken alternately, except in the case provided for in Law 54. The choice of innings shall be decided by tossing.
2. The Score shall be reckoned by runs. A run is scored :—1st. So often
as the batsmen after a hit, or at any time while the ball is in play, shall have crossed and made good their ground from end to end. 2nd. For penalties under Laws 16, 34, 41, and allowances under 44. Any run or runs so scored shall be duly recorded by scorers appointed for the purpose. The side which scores the greatest number of runs wins the match. No match is won unless played out or given up, except in the case provided for in Law 45.
3. Before the commencement of the match two UMpiRES shall be appointed,
one for each end.
4. The Ball shall weigh not less than five ounces and a half, nor more
than five ounces and three-quarters. It shall measure not less than nine inches, nor more than nine inches and one-quarter in circumference. At the beginning of each innings either side may demand a new ball.
5. The Bat shall not exceed four inches and one-quarter in the widest
part; it shall not be more than thirty-eight inches in length.
6. The Wickets shall be pitched opposite and parallel to each other at
a distance of twenty-two yards. Each wicket shall be eight inches in width, and consist of three stumps, with two bails upon the top. The stumps shall be of equal and sufficient size to prevent the ball from passing through, twenty-seven inches out of the ground. The bails shall be each four inches in length, and when in position on the top of the stumps, shall not project more than half-an-inch above them. The wickets shall not be changed during a match unless the ground between them become unfit for play, and then only by consent of both sides.
7. The Bowling Crease shall be in a line with the stumps; six feet
eight inches in length; the stumps in the centre; with a return crease at each end, at right angles behind the wicket.