When Cricket was first invented, the bowler would always deliver the ball underarm. Two hundred years later, what caused the change in rules that brought in today's over the arm delivery?
#122210. Asked by star_gazer. (Jun 30 11 9:22 AM)
Six consecutive no balls in 1862 caused the rule change:|
From underarm to overarm
The evolution of bowling
Originally, all bowlers in cricket delivered the ball underarm. Although to the modern mind this conjures up images of children's games, the reality was that the best bowlers could impart considerable spin on the ball, and deliver it at quite a pace.
By the early part of the 19th century, the balance between batsman and bowler had swung very much in favour of the former, even though poor pitches kept the scores down. To counter this imbalance, bowlers started looking at ways of redressing the balance. What happened - by natural evolution rather than any conscious decision - was the emergence of round-arm bowling with the ball delivered at or below shoulder height ...
By 1826, Sussex, the unofficial champions, built their success on two round-arm bowlers - James Broadbridge and William Lillywhite - and confusion grew among players and public about what was allowed. Often it was left to individual umpires, and objections from batsmen facing round-arm bowlers was common. In 1828, MCC modified the Laws again, allowing the bowler to raise the arm to elbow height, but the round-armers continued, as did the confusion. Seven years later, admitting defeat, MCC rewrote the Laws to permit round-arm deliveries.
No sooner had that debate been ended than the arms began to creep above shoulder height, and in 1845 MCC yet again changed the Laws to try to give the umpires more power, enshrining in the Laws that their decision was final. Just as had been the case with round-arm, over-arm bowling became more widespread, aided by a number of umpires doing little to prevent it.
Matters came to a head on August 26, 1862, when Surrey played All England at The Oval and Edgar Willsher deliberately bowled overarm and was no-balled six times in succession by umpire John Lillywhite. The irony was that Lillywhite was the son of the very man who almost four decades earlier had done so much to change the Laws. Willsher and the other eight professionals in the England team walked off and play ended for the day.
Perhaps sensing that the tide had turned, MCC changed the Laws in time for the 1864 season, permitting the bowler to do anything other than throw the ball. Things did not change overnight, and round-arm bowlers continued to be seen in first-class cricket well into the 20th century, as did the occasional underarmer.
The idea of roundarm is traditionally attributed to Christiana Willes, sister of Kent cricketer John Willes. The story goes that when bowling to her brother in the garden at home in the 1800s, Miss Willes found herself inconvenienced by her large, lead-weighted dress which prevented her from performing the underarm action. Elevating the arm to just above waist height, she was able to deliver the ball without interference from her attire. According to sir John major in More Than A Game, the story is unlikely to be true for reasons of fashion more than cricket because hooped skirts were out of fashion during the period of the Napoleonic War. |
In fact, roundarm has a more plausible origin. It was said to have been devised in the 1790s by Tom Walker, known as Old Everlasting. Walker was a famous opening batsman who had a solid defensive technique and was notoriously difficult to dismiss. He was also a more than useful bowler who was always looking for ways to improvise. Legend has it that he and some of his fellow players in the "Hambledon Era" used to practise in a barn during the winters. Walker worked out that he could generate more bounce and variation of pace if he bowled with his arm away from his body and soon realised that these deliveries gave the batsman added problems. He tried to use the style in major matches but was no-balled and had to return to his usual underarm lobs, with which he was by no means unsuccessful.
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