Chris Waters on Cricket: Why it is no longer safe for batsmen to put leg before wicket

Another lbw appeal....
Another lbw appeal....
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I MUST confess there was a part of me that wanted Yorkshire’s Jack Brooks or Steve Patterson to lose their wickets during the County Championship match against Northamptonshire.

That might seem like an odd thing for the cricket correspondent of the local paper to say – not to mention a foolhardy one – but I would not have minded one iota had one of Yorkshire’s last-wicket pair got out.

Not just got out, mind, but specifically got out lbw. For that would have created a remarkable world record – that of the most lbws in an innings of a first-class match.

When Brooks and Patterson came together, eight of the nine wickets had fallen that way. Thus Yorkshire had equalled a figure now recorded on eight occasions – half in Britain, half overseas.

As it was, Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale put paid to any chance of history being made when he declared the innings at 459-9, with Brooks unbeaten on 37 and Patterson undefeated on 17.

Gale did not have records on his mind, of course, but merely sufficient runs in the bank to let loose his bowlers on the Northamptonshire top-order.

Interestingly, four of the lbws were given by Ian Gould and four by his colleague, Mark Benson.

They seemed to be having a game within a game as to who could raise their finger the most.

Their judgement, however, was excellent throughout. Indeed, Jason Gillespie, the Yorkshire coach, said he had no complaints with the verdicts.

Another strange aspect was that the eight lbws all fell in succession. After Adam Lyth was caught behind early in the innings, Kane Williamson, Andrew Gale, Alex Lees, Adil Rashid, Andrew Hodd, Liam Plunkett, Ryan Sidebottom and Gary Ballance all saw an upraised finger after ball hit pad.

Whenever Brooks or Patterson were struck on the pad, practically the whole press box – hoping to see history being made – called out: “Go on, give it!”

It was all in jest, of course, as Brooks and Patterson compiled what was actually an excellent stand of 61 in 62 balls.

When I looked up what the record was for the most lbws in an innings, what particularly struck me was the contemporaneous nature of the list. Indeed, the seven previous instances of eight lbws in an innings all occurred between 1980 and 2011.

Furthermore, of the 35 times in which seven lbws in an innings have been recorded, 29 have taken place since the 1980s.

In addition, of the eight instances of eight lbws, four have happened since 2008, while 12 of the 35 cases of seven lbws also occurred in the last six years.

What are we to make of this? In my view, it shows that umpires are now more confident of giving lbws than they were in the past.

It is a knock-on effect of Hawkeye, the technology that tracks the path of the ball. Hawkeye has shown us that more balls would go on to hit the stumps than had previously been thought, particularly when batsmen play forward against spinners.

Had Hedley Verity been playing today, or Wilfred Rhodes, they would have won far more lbw decisions. Umpires are not so inclined to give batsmen the benefit of the doubt.

No outright world record at Headingley, then, but a record equalled.

Even Brooks and Patterson would surely sympathise with statisticians everywhere.