Paddy O’Hara

When Ian Thompson went out to toss at the start of the 1985 Challenge Cup final he discussed the playing conditions and regulations for the game with the umpires and his opposite number on the NICC team. Timing of intervals, drinks, lunch, tea, stumps. Only Ian can tell us exactly what terminology was used that day but we are fairly sure that the following terms and phrases were not used.

Duckworth Lewis
nett run rate
white ball
coloured clothing
outer circle
inner circle
power play
u18 year olds wearing helmets
fast bowling directives

Could the same be said of the same conversation about to be had between Eugene Moelean, Peter Shields and the umpires at this years final?

In the second of our features on the changing face of cricket in the past 25 years, Ireland’s own MCC laws expert (Paddy O’Hara) penned the following article in September 2010 as part of our celebrations.

From Sesquicentennial to Terquasquicentennial !

When I ‘fielded’ a request – or was it an instruction? – from Gary Blair to write something for this 175th anniversary brochure about how cricket and its Laws have changed over the past 25 years, I thought ‘dull and boring’. However having agreed so to do, I thought it might be a nit more readable to set the scene.

Our much loved game evolved from a rural pastime which I believe was referred to as club ball. The ball was wooden and the ‘club’ was shaped a bit like a hockey stick. When played by villagers the ‘target’ was usually a tree stump, or when as a recreation for shepherds out on the pasture, they would use the wicket gate – borrowed from the sheep pen.
Such are the great traditions of cricket that even today the ‘target’ is still referred to as a wicket made with stumps.The first wicket was made of just two upright stumps and a crosspiece – low and squat. To score a run or a notch as it was then called, the batsmen had to ’pop’ the toe of his bat into that hole before a fielder got the ball in.
As you can well imagine many close calls resulted in lots of bruised and bloodied knuckles, so a plan B was devised. A line was cut into the turf instead, behind which the bat had to be placed to earn a notch. Nearly three centuries later the Laws still refer to that white painted line four feet in front of the wickets at each end of the pitch as the popping crease!
Cricket has always been governed by Codes of Law and these stood the test of time in quite remarkable fashion. Of course they are periodically amended because of events on the field of play and also the natural evolution of the game in its various forms. It was back in the mid 1700’s when the first Laws were printed and bits would be clearly recognisable today.
The wickets and creases I have already referred to.
The toss. “The pitching of ye first wicket is to be determined by ye cast a piece of money”The pitch. 1 chain (22 yards) in length.
Umpires. Would be the sole arbiters of fair and unfair play.

When the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) was formed in 1787, it became the sole authority for drawing up and amending the Laws of Cricket and, still today, holds the World copyright. I regard it as a great privilege to be a member of the MCC Laws sub-committee charged with this responsibility.

As I have already stated, the Laws evolve with time and circumstances, and I may just have discovered something of a link between the introduction of LBW and Lisburn Cricket Club!
Although the bowling was all underarm, bowlers became more crafty and instead of skimming the ball along the ground, they developed the art of spin and trajectory.

This meant that the hockey stick shaped bat wasn’t very effective, so a gentleman called John Small pioneered playing with a ‘straight’ bat, and being ever resourceful started manufacturing them as well. This sea of change in the art of batting meant that batsmen stood more upright and of course much closer to the wicket and by and large they became much more cautious and defensive. And this is where I think I may have found the Lisburn link. A celebrated opening batsman of the day who became known as the blocker had worked out that if he missed a straight ball, a second line of defence could be his leg – no pads, so painful but worth it ! He once scored 1 run from 170 deliveries! His name ? Tom Walker. Now, I remember playing against a certain Lisburn legend Cecil Walker and he played in a very similar style, so I’m thinking Tom could well have been Cecil’s great, great, great grandfather!!

As a result, the original three modes of dismissal – Bowled, Caught and Run out – were augmented by a fourth – LBW. A batsman will be given out if he “puts his leg before the wicket with a design to stop the ball and actually prevent the ball from hitting the wicket”.
And umpires’ lives were never the same again.

The other curious link with this great old club that is Lisburn, and great old days of cricket, is that the first ever coloured clothing strip worn, was the Wallace Park ‘green and gold’. Around 1750, the 2nd Duke of Richmond’s XI wore green waistcoats and breeches, and gold hats.

In the 1800’s, a big controversy arose over the delivery of the ball – so no surprise there then. Underarm bowling metamorphosed in to round arm bowling and the batsmen certainly didn’t like it “It’s not cricket !” were the mutterings. It was described as ‘throwing’ and attempts were made to outlaw it with a Law “The ball must be delivered underhand, with the hand below the elbow”. But the die had been cast – if you’ll pardon the pun – and in 1835 round arm bowling was legalised, and after that it was onwards and upwards until it became the over arm bowling we are familiar with today.

But enough of history. Fast forward to 1986 and cricket was being played under the 1980 code – extraordinarily only the fourth re-write since 1788! Lisburn was playing in the NCU senior league and celebrating 150 years as a club. My old pal Ian McBride was club chairman and Ian Botham was brought over to whack a century off about 17 balls – which he duly did – in a celebration match.
1992 saw a 2nd edition of the 1980 code, incorporating the various amendments that had been approved during the intervening 12 years. One of the major changes was to accommodate the fact that helmets had come into common usage, both for batsmen and close fielders. The Laws highlighted that helmets were for protection, not as aids for dismissal, so a batsman couldn’t be Caught from a ball deflecting off a fielder’s helmet, nor could he be Run out if the ball rebounded directly onto the wicket from the helmet. Additionally, the Laws stipulated that when not being worn, helmets had to be placed behind the wicket in a direct line between wicket and wicket. This last clause may well have resulted in Mike Brearley’s ‘cunning plan’ when captaining Middlesex, to place one at short mid wicket, to tempt the batsman to play across the line to try and hit it!
The new millennium saw the production of the 2000 code – that we play under today.
This was a major re-write with many changes and amendments – far too many to discuss here. However they did highlight the Law makers’ concerns about declining standards of player behaviour.
Penalty runs were introduced in an attempt to deter unfair practices like illegal fielding, ball tampering, deliberate distraction or obstruction of batsmen, time wasting and pitch damage.

The preamble ‘The Spirit of Cricket’ was incorporated into the Laws. This comprises only seven short sections and all cricketers should read, understand and abide by it. All changing rooms should have it reproduced, framed and hung above the door. The introductory paragraph is certainly food for thought.
Cricket is a game that owes much of its unique appeal to the fact that it should be played not only within its Laws but also within the Spirit of the Game.
Any action which is seen to abuse this spirit causes injury to the game itself.
The major responsibility for ensuring the spirit of fair play, rests with the captains”

Here endeth the lesson.

Of course the Laws of Cricket are only the framework around which all cricket is played, world wide. Every Governing Body produces its own playing regulations and these are constantly changing, almost year on year as they attempt to modify and update their competitions. Just thinking back to 1986. In NCU cricket we had no bowler’s limits (I’ll bet Dermot Monteith bowled 25 overs on the trot more than once), no fielding circles, no fielding restrictions, no 1-day wides, no time limits, no reduced overs, no Duckworth / Lewis, no coloured clothing, no white balls…………we just played cricket!
I wonder what the game with be like when Lisburn C.C. is 200 ?

Oh, and by the way, there is a new (4th) edition of the 2000 code for you all to learn in time for the start of your terquasquicentennial season in 2011.
I love that word!

Happy Birthday Lisburn.

Paddy O’Hara

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