February 28, 2013

Horse 1444 - Third Man

I think I've found possibly a worse position on the cricket field than Fine Leg, a position so horrible that even captains are loathed to use it - Third Man.

I don't know why he's the Third Man, presumably the captain is at First Slip standing next to the Wicket Keeper and that's two men, so maybe it is given that title of honour because it is so horrid.
Third Man to Third Man duties are equally as arduous when it comes to the change of over because like Fine Leg to Fine Leg duties, the fielder has to run the longest chord of the ground. Unlike Fine Leg (see Horse 1409) though, the Third Man is expected solve problems.

Fine Leg is usually where a captain will put either the worst fielder or perhaps a bowler who they'd like to rest between overs. Fine Leg is known in advance to be either a bad fielder or someone resting and so captains don't tend to give Fine Legs all that bad a time.
In contrast, Third Man is assumed to be at least half way competent and it is therefore completely justifiable to give them a display of anger if they make even the most minute of mistakes.

Third Man is placed deep behind where the slip cordon would usually go but so far back, that just like Fine Leg, they're expected to cover an area comparable to a sheep station in Queensland where distances are measured in hours rather than miles. A ball is almost never consciously played to Third Man; usually it involves the batsman slashing wide and high and then getting a thickish edge. So unlike Fine Leg where balls are directed, clicked, glided even, at Third Man the fielder has to do their best to diffuse a hand grenade and if they don't, they can expect a volley of abuse to come their way.

Not being content with requiring a Third Man to have springy legs and the hands of a bomb disposal expert, the captain also needs them to stay awake.
Fielders at Cover or Mid-Wicket can generally keep their brain ticking over due to the constant threat of being struck by a full blooded drive, or a bash directed at Cow Corner but the poor old Third Man is so far away from any action, that the whole match takes place 'out there' somewhere.
A fielder at Third Man has so much time to let their brain wander whilst waiting for anything to happen out there that in the mean time, great books and ideas can be composed; great writers like Arthur Conan Doyle, Earnest Rutherford, Isaac Newton and even Frederich Engels were all known fielders at Third Man and dare I suggest composed their literary work out there. Isaac Newton the inventor of gravity, of course, never fielded at Third Man; the story of him being struck on the head by "an apple" (this is obviously a metaphor; we might call it a "cherry" today) took place at Deep Mid-Wicket and he reported as a side note to his book of optics that he was looking into the sun at the time and just lost it. His mistake cost Essex the match as Surrey would cruise to 784-9 dec. and even the plucky batting of Essex's Nos. 8 & 9, Marks and Spencer wasn't enough to save them.

Third Man might start to come into prominence as the Ramp shot in Twenty 20 cricket begins to take hold but that goes along with a whole raft of new developments, like fielders at Leg Slip and Deep Extra Cow Corner.
For the moment if you are asked to field there, accept the job in deference to the captain but remember to take a microphone and a sound recorder so that you can dictate notes to turn into a Pulitzer Prize winning novel later. It'll be worth it.

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