Brian Halford: Why leg-byes are a stain on the game of cricket
Warwickshire’s recent county championship match against Lancashire was a thoroughly entertaining contest.
It was full of hard, competitive cricket, much of which was good while there were sporadic flashes of excellence and several unpredictable twists.
Other sessions were afflicted by errors. That happens over four days. It is the flow and counter-flow during 20 or 30 hours of playing time which makes first-class cricket unique.
A good championship match is the archetypal roller-coaster of emotion.
Either of the Bears’ first two four-dayers this season, against Yorkshire and Lancashire, alone contained more drama, emotion, pathos, twists and thrills than all those ever produced by all the soap-operas ever made in the world put together and multiplied by 50 trillion.
The game at Old Trafford was a cracker. Swinging one way then the other before a young debutant provided decisive heroics on the last day. Everything about the match was to be admired.
Except one thing. It included 33 leg-byes.
Thirty-three. Yes. THIRTY-THREE leg-byes. Each one a hideous carbuncle on the face of, never mind that match alone, cricket itself.
Let’s go back to the beginning. The dawn of cricket. When the laws of this great game were laid down.
Leg-byes. I mean, why? Just why?
The ball strikes the batsman’s pads. This means the batsman has failed to get his bat on said sphere. Either his stroke was defeated or he offered no stroke at all. In either case why on earth should the batting side benefit to the tune of runs on their total?
When I see a bowler steam in, giving all he’s got, uphill and into the wind, and send down a delivery to which a batsman aims a fey waft which misses hopelesly and the orb deflects off the pads and scuttles off to the boundary for four leg-byes it makes my blood boil.
Warwickshire’s championship matches last season included 365 leg-byes. 365!
That’s one for each day of the year. And a significant chunk of runs – a decent innings total – which influenced several games.
Extrapolate that over the history of cricket and you find that these silly, pointless, mediocity-rewarding extras have stuck their great, big, festering, unwelcome snout into – and warped – some of the greatest occasions of all.