Sidney Kitcat    Getty Images
Sidney Kitcat Getty Images

July 29, 1886. Dismissed by the opposition skipper, Sydney Kitcat lodged a complaint against the tactics employed to bring about his downfall. That led to a change of laws in cricket. Arunabha Sengupta remembers the low-key game in Lord s which had a rather serious consequence.

The cricketer with one of the strangest of names. Sydney Kitcat, the Gloucestershire batsman who played 54 times for the county. That too between 1892 and 1904, which meant that he shared the field with WG Grace quite often. Incidentally, he was one of the later-day Gloucestershire cricketers who attended the funeral of WG.

He was also instrumental in changing one of the archaic rules of cricket.

Just four years earlier the epochal Birth of Ashes Test had taken place.

In the first England innings Fred Spofforth had bowled 36.3 overs. Tom Garrett and Harry Boyle had bowled 35 between them.

In the second, Spofforth had bowled 28 overs. Boyle and Garrett had bowled 27 between them. However, it was Boyle who had bowled Ted Peate with the last ball of his 20th over. If Peate had survived, it would have been Spofforth running in to send down his 29th over.

How was this possible?

Because Spofforth changed ends in each innings. At that time Law 14 read The bowler may not change ends more than twice in the same innings, nor bowl more than two overs in succession.

In 1886, Kitcat was captaining Marlborough College against Rugby. The opposition captain Charles Bengough had already caught him off his own bowling in the first innings.

Marlborough were 80 for 2, chasing 233 to win in the second innings, when Kitcat came into bat the second time. He settled into a good innings and was guiding the team towards the target when the rather important incident took place.

Bengough had bowled once from each end. And in his second turn from the pavilion end, his second consecutive over for the second time, he had Kitcat caught by William Bowden-Smith for 27.

Kitcat was not happy. He challenged the verdict, but the umpires, Derbyshire pace bowler Tom Mycroft and the Nottinghamshire round-arm fast bowler John Wheeler, stuck to the decision. Kitcat was not amused when his team lost the match by 37 runs.

However, later MCC Secretary Henry Parkins also agreed with the umpires.

At the same time, it did seem a rather manipulative bit of gamesmanship for a bowler to bowl more number of overs by changing ends multiple times.

Hence, three years after this incident the law was altered: A bowler can change ends as often as he pleases provided that he does not bowl two consecutive overs in one innings.

That is how it has stayed to this day.

Brief Scores

Rugby School 163 (Alfred Nockolods 7 wickets) and 240 (Henry Bradby 48, Harold Bowden-Smith 95) beat Marlborough College 171 (Rowland Wilson 5 wickets, Charles Bengough 4 wickets) and 195 (Frederick Poynton 47; Rowland Wilson 5 for 72) by 37 runs.