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Bob Willis Trophy

Declaration bowling: ‘An insult to first-class cricket’ or a justifiable tactic?

by Jack Butler 2 minute read

The Bob Willis Trophy match between Leicestershire and Durham saw Leicestershire turn to declaration bowling as both counties tried to force a result on the final day.

Declaration bowling is one of the most complex cricket oddities; it is a way to force a win, even if it looks like you’re doing everything to lose.

The infamous tactic, which has its detractors, sees the fielding side deliberately bowl ‘badly’ so that the batting side can score at a quicker rate. What looks on the surface as a bowling spell straight off a village green, is in fact taken from the highest level of English domestic cricket [you can watch Leicestershire’s example below]. Ironically, a tournament named after a such a legendary bowler saw Leicestershire bowling intentionally badly to force a result. It’s important to note this is not just Leicestershire batsmen bowling pies out of rain-inflicted boredom, this is two counties doing everything to force a result.

And before further rain brought a premature end to the day, the declaration bowling seen in the morning very nearly forced the result that Leicestershire were after. After being set 292 to win, they found themselves 208-3 before a heavy shower ended the game.

Rain delays at the Fischer County Ground meant that after four days there was no chance of all four innings being completed and for both Leicestershire and Durham, a draw is useless.

As only two of the three group winners progress to the final and with no threat of relegation looming over them, a draw is worth little for either side if they want to progress. To force a result, both sides forfeited an innings each and turned the game into what was effectively a one innings match. If it were not for the adverse weather in the final session, the ploy may well have brought Leicestershire an all-important win.


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