Was It All Cricket?
“The March of Time,” applied to cricket, might be a more appropriate title for this chapter. If old Father Time were interested in cricket, he would, from first-hand knowledge, be able to unfold a story that would thrill sportsmen throughout the Empire. He would begin with the romance of the earliest days of cricket, of under-arm bowling, then round-arm, then over-arm; he would tell of the men of Hambledon, of the great county sides of Kent, of Sussex and of Hampshire, and of the spread of the game to the northern counties; he would describe two wonderful players in Alfred Mynn and Fuller Pilch; coming nearer to more recent days, he would herald the arrival of W. G. Grace, the giant of the game, who was to become the founder of modern cricket.
But so far Father Time will have been discussing the teams and the players of England only. The sides were evenly matched and the contests keen. Presently, in a far-off country, he would espy eleven men playing against odds. At first one side had 22 men in the field, later reduced to 18, then to 15. The story would begin to sound familiar to colonials who remembered the touring teams of many years ago and the cricket coaches who, possessed of great skill and patience, taught the lads of “down under” the game that was watched by many people.
As he went from playing field to playing field, Father Time would note the improved play of the tutored. He would finally hazard the opinion that one of the pupils played as well as his master—that another was nearly as good. He would further record the other members of the family as having shown considerable improvement in their play. This may sound somewhat fantastic, but it is a true picture of the way Englishmen developed the cricket of the Empire and lifted the game in Australia and South Africa to a standard of play comparable with that of England herself and gave the West Indies and New Zealand a start that may yet lead them to rank as worthy opponents.
As each year passes it becomes increasingly difficult to find page 410 anyone able to fill in the full story of Empire cricket. The unique opportunities afforded me of playing with and against so many of the great players of the past, leads me to believe that my own impressions may be of interest. The fact that I enjoyed the acquaintance or friendship of every Australian captain from 1878–1945 — Percy McDonnell excepted — strengthens my claims to be able to quote the past. It is certainly a far call from Dave Gregory to Bradman. I also met most of England's captains back to W. G. Grace. I met and saw the South Africans play in Australia, played against the West Indians in England, and a generation later saw them play in the Antipodes, and played with and against Englishmen in England and Australians in Australia.
Among the most interesting glimpses I have had into bygone days, were conversations with two very old men. Edward Pavitt, the eldest son of a family that arrived in New Zealand in the eighteen-forties, told me that he had seen Alfred Mynn play at Colchester. Mr. Pavitt was ninety years of age when he related to me his impression of this memorable event of his boyhood days. His chief recollection of seeing the champion of one hundred years ago was of a man with a magnificent physique, of how hard he hit the ball, of the great crowd that assembled to see him play, and of the public adoration of the cricketer who, in their estimation, stood head and shoulders above all others.
The other experience was a talk with Charles Forder, who had just celebrated his hundredth birthday. On this notable occasion he had been interviewed by a newspaper man and mentioned that on arrival at Christchurch his first job had been with my father. This prompted me to call on the centenarian. His mind was very clear, especially when recalling events of his early years. He laughed heartily in telling me the story of his first job here and how, in his earliest experience in the use of corrugated iron for roofing, he had driven the nails through the iron in the hollows of the corrugations! He chuckled when he said, “And I didn't get the sack!”
I was surprised when he turned the conversation to cricket. He remembered my cricketing days. Mr. Forder then told me that he came from the same village in Surrey as Julius Caesar and could tell me all about the players of Stephenson's pioneer team to Australia. He said that in his village there was a family page 411 eleven of Caesars. He was delighted that I could converse with him about players whom he had known intimately, for Caesar, Jupp and Pooley, the Surrey professionals, had been members of early English teams that visited New Zealand, and about whom I had heard many interesting stories.
All these unique experiences, which cover so many phases of the game, may at least give me some qualifications to review and to express opinions on International cricket back to the time when Australia and the other Dominions became grown up. Reference to, and reliance upon text-books have seldom been necessary, because, on the historical side, I am relating knowledge assimilated in my youth and imprinted upon my mind so strongly that I can never forget. For the rest, what I write is from personal observation and experience, or first-hand stories that players of other generations have told me.
It is not generally known in the Dominions that there was a time when enthusiastic young men of Philadelphia looked as though they might carry the game of cricket to the fathermost parts of the United States. England fostered their efforts. First-class teams went across the Atlantic, and the Philadelphians were invited back to Lord's, the Oval and other county grounds. It will surprise colonials to know that W. G. Grace visited America years before he was seen in Australia. English players have told me of the pleasant and friendly manners of the Americans, and how well liked they were in England. These included some good players, of whom perhaps the best was J. B. King, whom the Englishmen rated as a really first-class bowler; on one occasion he flicked off the off bail with a ball that surprised even the great Ranjitsinhji, but the Indian prince got even with him next time. This effort to introduce cricket was of no avail; baseball proved too strong; the seeds of cricket were being sown on barren soil; the national game of the United States was more suited to the temperament of the American people. To-day, one sees about as much cricket in America as, say, baseball in Australia or New Zealand where spasmodic attempts are made to create an interest in the game. With the Dominions the position was different; wherever the home-life of the Homeland and the sports games of England were transplanted, there developed the same love of cricket as in the Old Country itself.
The first English team to visit Australia was in 1861, and page 412 three years later Parr's team, with E. M. Grace the only amateur on the side, followed H. H. Stephenson's pioneer effort and then extended its tour to New Zealand. The Suez Canal was not in existence in those days, so it will be realized that there was some adventure in a trip on a sailing-ship, taking several months, via the Gape of Good Hope. Other teams followed; great names like Lillywhite and Shaw next appeared as leaders of English touring sides. The colonials made rapid progress.
In the late 'seventies the Australians, who have never been accused of being bashful, threw oft' any inferiority complex they may have had, and challenged Lillywhite's team to a Test Match; it was played at Melbourne in 1877, when the Australians won by 45 runs; Charles Bannerman, the first Australian champion batsman, made the first Test Match century. Their success went to their heads. The Australians must have another Test Match before the Englishmen left for Home! A fortnight later they met again; this time England won comfortably. These matches were the beginning of what was later to be known as the Fight for the Ashes.
Looking back over the years that led up to this great Test Match period, one is amazed at the part played by great English professionals in pioneering the game in the Antipodes. The first team to go to America was a professional side in the year 1859, but after that the amateurs took up the responsibility of fostering cricket on the other side of the Atlantic. Perhaps the professionals found the visit to Canada and the United States did not pay; after all, they had a business side to their enterprise and were entitled to take a practical view. It was not long before they discovered that there were “goldmines” in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, as well as at Ballarat and Bendigo. Wonderful stories are told of those early visits; the players were received like Royalty and on arrival were driven through the streets in a four-in-hand coach; crowds gathered round their hotel to see the champions they had read about. There were banquets, and more banquets, and much entertainment. Bass's ale and Guinness's stout could be had everywhere and Johnny Walker—going strong— had reached Australia before them!
In Australia I met men who had played against Stephenson's team, and in New Zealand I knew several elderly men who, in page 413 their youth, played in the match at Hagley Park against Parr's men. They told fascinating stories of the bantering humour and playful ways of these young Englishmen of eighty years ago. As representatives of so many different counties they stirred the hearts of fellow countrymen far from their homeland. The Yorkshiremen sought out their Tom Emmetts and George Ullyetts, the men of Notts their Alfred Shaws and Arthur Shrewsburys, while the people of the south and the western counties drank ale and cider with the men of their own counties. Such scenes can never again be witnessed. In those days, many young professionals were recruited direct from villages and factories; they had reached manhood prior to their entry into first-class cricket, and some had never been out of their own counties. They spoke the pure dialect of their own counties. They spoke the pure dialect of their fathers. “Wher' be ee gwaine?” would ask the man of Somerset—“Oop t' tahn” says the Yorkshireman. They were visiting countries where the population was comprised of people fresh from the same green fields of England. No wonder these reunions produced scenes of excitement and celebrations with liquid refreshments! These players on tour were as happy as sand-boys. There were lots of side-shows; they played single-wicket matches—always for a stake and plenty of side betting; they also staged running matches, again for a stake and a wager.
When Lillywhite's team, with whom Alfred Shaw was associated as player-manager, was in Christchurch, races were arranged between Selby, three times second in the famous Sheffield Cup, and the best runner on the English side, and Billy Frith, the fine left-handed all-rounder in the Canterbury XI. It was to be the best of three races of 100, 120 and 150 yards. Selby won the first race by three yards and appeared to be winning the second, when Frith, to the astonishment of Selby, pipped him on the post. The several thousand spectators who remained after the game were now so wildly excited that it was found impossible to control them. Many attempts to clear a track wide enough for the two runners proved futile, and the third race was abandoned; not only was it getting late, but neither Selby nor Frith fancied himself for the longer distance, so the cancellation was a mutual, arrangement.
How these races originated is both amusing and interesting. page 414 In the match against Canterbury, the Englishmen borrowed a fieldsman and Billy Frith went out to field at long-on. Selby was at long-off, but soon the eager, active Frith was poaching into the Notts-man's territory; sometimes they were racing alongside one another in chasing the ball. At last Selby said to Frith, “Thee can skip, lad!” The members of this touring team, ever ready to arrange running matches, lost no time in pitting them against one another. William Frith is still alive at the great age of ninety, and it was only the other day that he repeated to me the above story, and his alert mind recalled these races exactly as I had heard him tell it more than forty years ago. But these young Englishmen did not confine themselves to matching Selby in running races, for in their team there was a champion billiards player, a crack snooker player, and plenty to play pool, with matches being arranged wherever they went. As betting was heavy, and card-games not neglected, it may be taken as certain that they took more money out of the country than they brought into it!
There was another extraordinary happening in connection with this match. Pooley, the English wicket-keeper, having met with an accident in the North Island, arrived in Christ-church some days ahead of his team-mates. At Warners Hotel, the evening when the names of the Canterbury eighteen chosen were posted up, Pooley, to the crowd around the notice board, said, “I'll take tens to one on each man's score and pick what he'll make!” A well-known Christchurch man at once took up the wager in pounds sterling. Pooley then wrote against the name of each player the score he thought he would make and lodged with the hotel proprietor the sealed envelope, to be held in the safe until after the match. As can be imagined, many of the local batsmen were no match for bowlers of the calibre of Shaw, Emmett and Ullyett and a number of them failed to score. When Pooley's envelope was opened it was found that he had put 0 against every batsman's name. There was a dickens of a row at Warners that night when the irate loser, thinking he had been fooled, refused to pay Pooley the money that was clearly due to him. The Englishmen narrowly escaped defeat in this match.
I am afraid the young men of these teams were more lively on tour than were members of one of the Australian elevens of recent times, when eight of them were reputed to be teeto- page 415 tallers! The name in itself was hardly known in the years I am speaking of and a player required some courage to display a blue ribbon—the badge of total abstainers. A good story was told of a man in Liverpool who asked a blue ribbonist to have a drink with him. To his surprise the man accepted and at the bar counter called for a whisky and soda. When chatting over the drink the puzzled host said to his guest, “Well, it's a funny thing to see a blue-ribboner drinking whisky. What do you wear it for?”
“Just to catch fellows like you,” he replied. “It's got me lots of drinks!”
As a youth, like many other boys of my time, I kept a newspaper clippings' book. The primary object of owning such a book was to paste in any references to one's own play. My scrap-book covered a wider field: I cut from the newspapers all the cabled reports of matches between English and Australian teams, and never missed an opportunity of securing photographs of teams and players, including those of reprints of the earliest years. One thing that always impresses me when I look at those old photographs is the character in the faces of some of the professional leaders of English teams who were the first to spread the “gospel” of cricket to the farthermost parts of the Empire. Parr, in particular, looks a fine personality and a real leader of men; Stephenson has a venerable appearance.
Although the English team in the first Test Match did not represent England's full strength, the performance of the Australians left no doubt in the mind of anyone that they were now good enough to visit the Old Country. Lillywhite urged them to go and they did not need much persuading.
It is a remarkable fact that an Australian cricket team had already visited England. In the earliest years of cricket in Australia, the aboriginal showed great aptitude for the game, and his keenness, equal to that of the New Zealand Maori for football, was encouraged. Someone suggested they should visit England. I fancy the thought was that they would attract attention and gate money! Although some of these natives played the game fairly well they were not any match for a county eleven. In Tuppenny they had a pretty good bowler; Charles Richardson told me that as a lad he had batted to him at the nets. The climate of England settled any chance of page 416 developing into a good side. They shivered in the field and before the tour was over, all of them were looking forward to their return to the sunshine and warmth of Australia.
Twenty-five years later I saw Jacky Marsh, the Queensland aboriginal fast bowler, taking part in first-class cricket in the Commonwealth. He was actually a candidate for Test Match honours. The keen controversy that ensued as to the fairness of his delivery made the authorities hesitate to select him. He was certainly a very fast bowler. Apart from his delivery, I think they were wise to exclude an aboriginal, for the status of the Australian native is not very high in the world, even among the native races.
On arrival in England, Gregory's team of 1878 was amused when, at some of the provincial railway stations, people who went to see them arrive expressed surprise that they were not black. Nearly thirty years later the New Zealand Rugby side of 1905 heard similar expressions, for the first New Zealand Rugby team to visit England had been a Maori one in 1889.
I have already told how the Australians of 1878 amazed the people of England by their defeat of a great M.C.C. team that was as strong as any side England could put in the field. It was not until then that the Mother Country awoke to the fact that a “Caesar” had arrived. It was typical of England's conservatism that such a thunderbolt had to fall before it was conceded that the Australians were entitled to Test Match status. With the season's programme already arranged it was now too late to include a Test. An agitation was started in England to have one of the county matches cancelled so that a trial of strength could be arranged, but the match did not eventuate. When one “compares the teams of the two countries of that time it is hard, at first glance, to see how the colonials could hold England's wonderful all-round side to an even contest. What Australia lacked as an evenly balanced side she made up for with a quartette of magnificent bowlers, two great batsmen in C. Bannerman and Murdoch, and wicket-keeping such as had not been seen before. While this first tour earned for Spofforth the title of the “Demon Bowler,” so Blackham became the “Prince of Wicket-keepers.” These names remain indelibly written on the pages of cricket history. The fielding of the men from “down under” was also a revelation. From this it will be seen that the Australians possessed page 417 qualities that went a long way to match the greatness of W. G. Grace and Alfred Shaw, and the array of batsmen and bowlers who supported them. Another factor was the marked degree of self-confidence shown by the Australians, which at first astonished the Englishmen, and introduced into their contests a keenness not previously experienced. This confidence has remained a typical Australian characteristic and has extended far beyond the fields of Test Matches and cricket controversies.
Throughout the history of the game there have been many examples of players and teams making a special effort in preparation for a coming match or tour, but none equalled in thoroughness that of the first Australian XI. Assembling in Melbourne early in November, 1877, they began a series of matches in the capital cities and country districts of all the States. They then crossed the Tasman and toured New Zealand from Invercargill to Auckland. Returning to Australia, more matches were arranged until, in all, twenty-two games had been played before the team left for England. Had Englishmen known of the effect this playing together was to have upon the team-work of the eleven they would have been more prepared for the shock they received at Lord's in the second match of the tour, and understood better how it was the Australians established themselves so quickly as an International side.
The team returned via America, where more matches were played, and on reaching Australia began another tour of their own country, including a match against Lord Harris's team, then touring the Commonwealth. This Australian team played continuously for fifteen months, in which time it took part in seventy-seven matches. It is astounding to find that in this series of games Spofforth took no fewer than 764 wickets for six-and-a-half runs apiece!
The Australians were back in England in 1880. It seemed tardy recognition to arrange for one Test Match only. There had been a scene on the Sydney Cricket Ground the previous year when an umpire's decision threatened to create a riot. It is told that when some of the spectators jumped the fence on to the playing area George Ullyett pulled a stump out of the ground and said, “I'm ready for them!” That this match at the Oval would be a stern contest was not hard to visualize; page 418 the fight for the ashes was a title that should have been coined in time for this game.
The Englishmen led off with 420; the great “W.G.” getting 152, thus making a century in his first Test Match. Australia made only 149 and following on looked like loosing by an innings. Murdoch, who had gone in first, was then ably supported by the tail-enders and the total reached 327. The captain had gone right through the innings and was left with 153 not out; it was a magnificent effort. Left only 57 runs to get, England lost five wickets before the winning hit was made. Spofforth had injured his hand and was unable to play in this match, so the full strength of the two countries had still not met.
The Test Matches were now under way. Back and forward went the touring teams, each paying a visit every two years. Rivalry was keen and public interest intense. It will be of interest to cricketers throughout the world to learn that the extraordinary interest of the Australian people in these early matches against England, and their genuine love of the game for the game's sake, prompted the leading bookmaker in Australia to say to his fellow members of Tattersall's Club, “Cricket is too wonderful a game to be spoilt by betting and I think we should all agree not to lay the odds on Test Matches.” Throughout the years this sporting attitude has been maintained.
The 1882 match at the Oval has so often been told as one of the greatest of all times that there is no need for me to retell it. Suffice it to say that it was the first time these teams had opposed one another at full strength and Australia's win by seven runs in a breathless finish carried her to a position that entitled her to rank as equal with her mighty opponents. Spofforth took fourteen wickets!
This 1882 team was often ranked as Australia's greatest, but in the late 'nineties and 1902 the magnificent sides led by Trott and Darling were considered to have raised the standard of play to a pitch not previously attained. The 1884 team was another great side, but soon after this Australia was to lose Spofforth, then Murdoch, and Ferris, all of whom settled in England, and it took many years to repair the loss sustained.
During these years, largely on account of Grace, England maintained her supremacy in, her Home matches; those page 419 played in Australia were more evenly contested. The middle 'nineties saw the youth of Australia again in challenging mood. In 1894 Stoddart took out what was probably England's best touring side to date. After a wonderful series the Englishmen won the final Test and with it the rubber. As Australians sat and watched Johnny Brown, the Yorkshireman, trounce their bowling, they were thinking of the omission of the great C. T. B. Turner from their side. Even to-day the decision looks inexplicable as does the leaving out of Hirst, Barnes and Jessop from the English side in the match at Manchester in 1902.
The first match of this 1894 series stands out as one of the greatest matches of all the Tests. Australia started off with 586, of which little Syd. Gregory made 201. England's reply was 325, and in the days of the compulsory follow on made 437 in their second innings. This was a splendid achievement, but it left Australia only 177 to get. At stumps they had scored 113 for two wickets. Old cricketers who took part and others who were watching this game have told me that during the last hour's play they saw the clouds banking up and blamed Giffen for not hurrying when the pitch was good. It is easy enough after an event to say “I told you so,” but it rained heavily that night. Next day there was bright sunshine. Still, the Australians were not unduly worried, for they had eight wickets to fall and only 64 runs to get, Giffen and Darling, the not-outs, added close on 20 more. Now less than 50 to get. Who could doubt the final result? But Peel and Briggs, the left-handers, were now bowling—the wicket was beginning to take the bite. When an Australian bad wicket reaches the stage when the ball no longer cuts through and, instead, assists the break and the kick, it is the worst pitch in the world; it was now such a wicket. Darling went first; this was serious, for the dashing left-hander was Australia's best foil to the left-hand bowlers. Giffen soon followed and the bowlers were on top. Stoddart, always a fine captain, had his team keyed up, and brilliant fielding backed up the inspired bowling. More wickets fell; the crowd sat aghast, silent and afraid. Fourteen were wanted when Blackham, with an injured hand, went to the wickets as Australia's last hope. But it was all over; Peel and Briggs were too good and England won by 10 runs.
A remarkable happening occurred in the final stages of this page 420 match. This is what the Australians told me: The genial Bobbie Peel was fond of a party; had he thought England had a chance to win he would no doubt have been in bed early on this last night—instead, he had a late night, and a late morning too, for he arrived at the ground just before starting-time. Stoddart was desperately anxious about his best bad-wicket bowler; he sized up the position at once, had Peel put under the cold shower and given a rub down. Time was moving on, and the umpires were ready to go out. The Australians helped to smother up the cause of the delay, and it was considerably after starting-time when the Englishmen took the field. Peel bowled like a demon and took five of the remaining wickets. Checking this story many years afterwards an Englishman who played in this match said to me, “Yes, that is correct.” He said, further, “I've always thought that was one of the finest and most generous actions of the Australians in Test cricket.” Who can tell what might have happened had they been able to have had that extra ten minutes at the wickets when the ball was cutting through?
When the Australians went to England in 1896 with such a bowling quartette as Giffen, Trumble, Jones and McKibbin—the best since the days of Spofforth, Boyle, Palmer and Garrett—the Englishmen were up against the strongest side they had met since 1884, but won the rubber just the same. This was Clem Hill's first visit to England.
The match at Manchester was a stern contest and provided more than one outstanding incident. Trott, the Australian captain, was a determined player at a pinch, but on this occasion he was overwhelmed by the excitement of the moment and unable to watch the final stages of one of the most dramatic finishes in the history of Test Matches. Richardson's magnificent bowling had made it appear as though the Australians might fail to get the 125 runs required. Runs came slowly, but wickets continued to fall; the Surrey express bowler had taken six of the seven that had fallen and still kept blazing away at the wickets of Trumble and Kelly now holding the fort, with only McKibbin and Jones to follow. At last Trott could watch no longer; he left the ground, jumped into a hansom cab and drove round the block to return in time to see the winning hit made and Australia win by three wickets, although the players of both sides knew that it was almost as close as a single wicket victory. page 421 While Trumble and Kelly stand out as heroes in this fighting finish, the bowling of Richardson ranks as one of the most remarkable feats of endurance ever witnessed in a cricket match. The Australians said that this was his greatest performance against them. There was a strange and touching scene at the finish, for when the players were leaving the field, old Tom was to be seen standing alone in the middle of the pitch, gazing at the score-board as though unable to believe that his valiant effort had failed to bring victory to England. Is it any wonder that he was known as “lion-hearted” Tom!
In 1897 Stoddart took his second team to Australia and the inclusion of Ranjitsinhji made it appear even stronger than that of 1894. But the Australians were too strong and won four of the five Tests.
Back in England again in 1899, the Australians looked a formidable side, even better than the 1896 team, but England, too, had a great side and had the best of an inconclusive series. England won the first Test and the other four matches were drawn. It was on this tour that Grace was last seen in Tests, and Victor Trumper and Wilfred Rhodes each made his first appearance.
The tour of MacLaren's team in Australia in 1901 I have already described.
Then came the 1902 Australian team to England. The Test Matches included those sensational games at Manchester and the Oval. Australia won the rubber. This was the first time since 1882 and 1884 that it could be said that Australia had successfully challenged England's supremacy in matches played in England. It is significant that it was the first time Grace had not played in the series. Victor Trumper played dazzling cricket. All bowlers were alike to him and many of them were nonplussed by his daring and superlative play.
Many years later I said to Trumble, “Which do you think was the best team Australia ever sent England?”
“1902,” he replied without hesitation.
“Why?” I asked.
“Well, to start with, we always batted thirteen men.” This cryptic reply puzzled me and to a further enquiry he said, “Well, just as Grace in his hey-day was as good as three men for England, so Trumper was as good as three batsmen for Australia!” The same could be said of Bradman today.page 422
The year 1902 will always be remembered as Trumper's year; the crowds flocked to see him as they had flocked to see Grace, and just as they were still eager to go wherever they could see Ranjitsinhji batting.
The winning of the rubber in 1902 by the Australians was the climax to a sustained effort to win the ashes in England. The fourth Test, at Manchester, was the deciding game. On the last day of this match there was some spirited cross-chat at the luncheon table. For the Englishmen the tenseness of the struggle had lessened and they now appeared certain to win. When MacLaren sat down next to A. G. Steel and opposite Trumble, the English captain in happy mood said, “Well, Hughie, I think we've got you this time!”
“I'm not so sure about that,” replied old Hugh. “I've a feeling that in the conditions out there, unless you get them quickly, you may not get them at all!” The sage Australian made no attempt to gild the lily and the conversation turned to the usual light-hearted talk that takes place when two cricket teams lunch together. It is impossible to say what effect, if any, Trumble's oracular remark was to have on the run of play, but the Australians always maintained that it did influence the tactics adopted. The fact remains that on resumption of play the Englishmen did hurry up, and lost several wickets in forcing the pace. It should perhaps be said that in the wretched weather conditions, had the batsmen not hit out, and failed, they would have been equally blamed.
One more tit-bit of this famous match is worth recording. When England's ninth wicket fell Trumble had to finish the over to Rhodes. His comrades say it was the best half-over old Hughie ever bowled. Then Saunders bowled to Tate who was over-awed by the occasion. He snicked the first ball down to fine leg; Armstrong chased it. Would it reach the boundary? While Warwick ran his hardest to stop the four, shrewd heads on his own side were hoping the ball would reach the fence, for they wanted to keep the bowling away from Rhodes. The ball won! Saunders again bowled to Tate and down went the stumps. Australia had won by 3 runs. What a match! What a finish!
In the Australian dressing-room afterwards. Major Wardill acted as though mistletoe hung from the ceiling, for he embraced all who came near him. It was one of those moments when page 423 pent-up feelings explode and make sober-minded men act like schoolboys. Even the stoical Trumble was unduly excited.
The story of the Manchester Test should never be told by itself, for it requires the Oval match, played three weeks later, to complete the true picture of the great sides that were pitted against one another in 1902. The final innings of the latter game will suffice. Left with 263 to make, England lost five for 48 and the position looked hopeless for MacLaren and his men. Jackson, alone—it was always Jackson—was proving capable of withstanding the attack of Saunders and Trumble. But then came Jessop! The entry of this mighty hitter into the playing area on his way to the wickets always caused a flutter of excitement, which differed from the expectancy created by other champions of his time. It was not only the spectators who were stirred, for the players knew they had to get him out quickly, or else…. A fielding side would know how most batsmen would score, but there was no knowing what Jessop would do, that is, on his day, for a hitter is not so regularly successful as the orthodox batsman. Well, this was indeed Jessop's day, and the speed of his scoring and power of his hitting nonplussed the Australians. His 104 in seventy-five minutes tells its own story. Darling was criticized for bowling Trumble unchanged throughout the innings, as he had done in the first, but Trumble was then the world's greatest bowler and his immaculate length was always tantalizing to a hitter. This time Jessop mastered him, and it certainly was Jessop's turn, for he had had his share of failures against the great Australian. The most remarkable part of Jessop's innings was his hitting of Saunders. Here was a wicket a bit on the soft side, and the Australian left-hander spinning from leg. Cricketers will know how much harder it is to hit against the break—“against the tide” as some of the English professionals call it. Stoddart always brought Bobbie Peel on as soon as he could to Jack Lyons, for that great Australian hitter found Peel more troublesome than other English bowlers. But Peel had more command of flight than Saunders, and there is little doubt that if the latter could have now and then sent down that slower ball, Jessop would have found him more difficult to hit.
After Jessop's dismissal there was still a long way to go, but Hirst was superb in the crisis. When his fellow Yorkshireman, page 424 Rhodes, walked to the wickets as England's last man, the stouthearted George strolled towards the pavilion to meet him, and said, “We'll get 'em in singles, Wilfred,” and this is how they got them. Hirst had shown some dashing hitting at the start of his innings, but 15 runs to get and one wicket to fall—well, circumstances alter cases!
Some of the tit-bits arising from the ashes of this match came out of fireside conversations with players of both sides. There was a touch-and-go l.b.w. decision in favour of Hirst when there were 8 runs to get, and Armstrong could have caught Rhodes in the slips when there was but i to tie and 2 to win, so there was plenty of excitement right to the finish.
It was a grand win in every way, and Jessop's innings so wonderful that it would have been a shame had it not carried England to victory. It was also a well-timed and stimulating honour for MacLaren, the English captain who succeeded W. G. Grace in the 1899 series and took his own team to Australia the following year. The Australians were tremendous admirers of MacLaren's. They reckoned the great Lancastrian was unfortunate in meeting Australia at the very peak of her long and brilliant career. As the Australians had already won the rubber they could afford to say, as they did say, that they were glad for Archie MacLaren's sake that this Oval match had brought him victory.
As such an authority as P. F. Warner has expressed the opinion that one of England's teams in the 1902 Test series was her greatest side of all time it will be seen that these were terrific struggles.
But the Englishmen were not to be denied; two years later P. F. Warner captained the first English team sent to Australia under the auspices of the M.C.C. and won back for the Old Country the ashes so recently lost. These were great cricket days for players and public alike. The teams were evenly matched, the contests sternly fought. Warner was not only a good captain, but he also typified the Englishman's style of play and the spirit of English cricket. Touring New Zealand and Australia as leader of Lord Hawke's team was invaluable experience for a coming All England captain. He showed great judgment in his handling of this successful side; especially judicious was his use of Bosanquet, who proved that he could be a match winner, even on the hard wickets of Australia.page 425
As we come nearer to modern times, there is little need to go into the details of matches that so many people are able to remember. The exchange of visits continued. The Australian team of 1905 called at New Zealand on the way to England. At Lancaster Park, Christchurch, on a sodden wicket, Trumper played one of his greatest innings. Under appalling conditions he played with the confidence and ease of the ordinary batsman on a good wicket, and his placing was a revelation; they told me it was amusing, as the field was moved here and there to block what looked like a favourite stroke, to see the next ball sent to the exact spot the fieldsman had left. I was away from New Zealand at this time, but his innings is still talked about in Christchurch. Trumper, getting little of the bowling at the start, had not made double figures when Duff reached 40, but Trumper had passed him when Duff was out for 42! The brilliant Victor scored 87 not out.
Trumper was a sick young man on reaching England and his play was not comparable with the dazzling performance he gave in 1902. Darling had been anxious to retire, and did not wish to make this tour, but his team-mates insisted; they wanted his left-hand hitting to knock Rhodes off his length as it had done in, the crucial Test at Manchester three years earlier. But England was not relying on one bowler. This time it was Bosanquet, Jackson and Brearley who did the damage. England won the only Test that was played to a finish and had the best of the drawn games.
Next came A. O. Jones's M.C.C. team to Australia. There were many ups and downs for both sides in this series, but in the end Australia won four of the five Test Matches, even though Barnes was in the English side.
The 1909 Australian team to England was destined to give the Old Country a shock. Noble was captain and at once impressed the critics as a great leader—the best since Trott; some thought him the greatest Australian captain. His team won the rubber. Bardsley and Ransford, both left-handers, were amazingly successful and worthy successors of Darling's and Hill's. Macartney both batted and bowled well, so it will be seen that Australian youth was, as ever, ready to replace retiring champions. This was the last Australian team to arrange its own tour. The Australian Board of Control had come into being and insisted on arranging the 1912 tour. It page 426 was to be an important one, for the triangular contests had been arranged.
The early English teams organized by Stephenson, Parr and Lillywhite were financed by guarantors and speculators. The Australians, from the outset, had worked together as a co-operative party. The Melbourne Cricket Club's help,'to which I have referred in an earlier chapter, enabled them to get a start in England until their share of the gate-money was available. At the end of the tour the players evenly divided the net profit. In wet seasons, or when their team was not as attractive as usual, they did not make much, but in the main these young men did well out of the tours. Imagine what a good wicket Alec Bannerman was on, when, being a Government servant, he also drew his full salary while he was away! Unkind words have often been spoken by Englishmen in criticizing Australian players for forming themselves into what is the equivalent of a co-operative company. Their amateur status has often been questioned. In the same way, Australians have sarcastically taunted Englishmen about liberal allowances to amateurs. This is a question that requires tolerance and understanding. There is no doubt the Australians are not professionals in the ordinary sense of the word. That those who remain long enough in the game to make several tours to England do sacrifice their business careers this story will make clear. One day in the dressing-room in Melbourne, little Jimmy Russell made us laugh when he had a tilt at Trumble for having such an easy job. He had figured it out that after thirteen years at the Bank Hughie had worked only seven years in the office. Russell created a further laugh when he said, “You're worse than Clem Hill, for he does manage to work about three-fifths of his time!” Trumble eventually became a branch manager, but it will be appreciated how cricket interfered with his promotion. George Giffen's six tours of England, most of them when the Australians travelled every two years, explain why he made little progress as a clerk in the Adelaide Post Office.
In 1878 the English authorities accepted the Australians as amateurs and the wisdom of this decision has never been seriously questioned. In cricket it is hard to find an exact definition of an amateur. When the Australians managed their tours as a business venture, the matter of money rarely page 427 came to the surface. The position became more difficult when the Board of Control took over the management and gave each player a definite sum over and above his expenses. The change was to have another effect. The earlier Australian teams were interested in the English counties' welfare and could often assist by arranging for their own champions to bat when the crowd would see them. We have had many instances of this in tours of New Zealand. When Trumper made his 293 at Lancaster Park, he was held back on the Friday night, even though wickets were falling quickly. Can anyone imagine Armstrong trying to have the Yorkshire and Kent matches reduced to two days had his team been touring under the same terms as all the earlier Australian XI's?
With regard to allowances to amateurs in English cricket I can speak from experience. Essex is not a wealthy county and may not have allowed as much for expenses as some other counties, but even these never allowed more than a nominal amount. While I was playing county cricket my bank book showed a progressive reduction, until I had eventually to get back to work. I would say that an English amateur is an amateur in the true sense of the word. I admit that when a player takes a position as assistant secretary to his county his position is not so easy to define, but these are isolated instances only. Equally disturbing is the case of the Australian player who accepts employment as a salesman in a sports depot. One recent team to England included seven such players. However, in the main, I do not think the Australian can be called a professional. I have heard Australians delight in quoting W. G. Grace's expenses; what does it matter how generous Lord Sheffield was when he asked the “great man” to lead his team to Australia?
I now turn to the Australian Board of Control and its quarrel with the players. There is little doubt that the Board was undertaking something that had to come. The game had become more democratic; organized clubs supported organized associations. These associations, in turn, created the Board of Control for the purpose of handling the cricket of the Commonwealth. A proportion of the profits from the Test Matches and tours was to be distributed among the associations and clubs. The only question should have been: What is the best line of approach? No doubt both sides were indiscreet, but the page 428 Board's heavy-roller methods ended all chance of a happy solution. When the players learned, amongst other things, that they were not to be allowed to appoint their own manager, a point which, they said, had already been conceded them, they dug their heels in and refused to go to England. There was consternation in Australia, but neither side would give way and. so the Triangular Contest lost some of its importance.
But this squabble was going on for some time prior to 1912. The ranks of cricketers became divided into Board's players and Players' players. In one team that came to New Zealand they were as divided as two political parties. There was an undercurrent of feeling that even reached the field of play. This was the state of affairs when Warner brought out his second M.C.C. team. Such a pair of bowlers as Barnes and Foster required, without any diversion, all the combined strength of Australia to meet their attack. The quarrel was carried to the selection of teams. Prior to the Melbourne Test match the selectors met to choose Australia's side. Uncontrolled tempers led to words and Clem Hill shot out his fist to hit a fellow selector who had made an insulting remark. The newspapers got hold of the story and made the most of it. There was no doubt where the great majority of the general public stood, for when Clem Hill went in to bat he was cheered from the moment he came through the gateway until he reached the wickets. Old Bob Crockett, the famous umpire, told me that when Clem reached the batting crease tears were in his eyes. How could anyone play their best under such circumstances? The Englishmen were too strong and won easily. Barnes and Foster, as a pair, were to become as famous as the Turner-Ferris combination in Australia's 1888 team to England.
The mention of this great pair of Australian bowlers reminds me of an amusing story. In the earliest years of his married life Hugh Trumble had the exciting experience of being presented with twin sons. When the doctor was announcing the startling news to Trumble he said, “Well, Hughie, Turner and Ferris have arrived!”
The Board of Control was to learn its lesson in selecting teams for overseas tours. The position might have been made more difficult for them, for some of the younger players offered page 429 to stand out with their comrades, but the older players, who were nearing the end of their playing careers, advised them not to ruin their cricketing careers by an act of loyalty to them. Over the years the players had often been criticized for their selections. There were the old cases of Albert Trott and Syd. Callaway. The most recent had been the selection of Syd. Gregory in the 1909 team. It had been suggested that he was chosen out of sympathy with his serious business loss in his sports depot. If, as his critics said, he was too old in 1909, he surely was more so in 1912. But the Board had to have a leader of international repute, so Gregory was invited to captain the side. His old team-mates, knowing how much this opportunity meant to little Syd., urged him to accept. The Board thus started off on the wrong foot. Gregory was not an ideal leader for such a tour, but this was nothing to some of the other selections! Several of the players behaved very badly on this tour; this fact was recorded in their manager's report to the Board. The Australians' reputation in England must have been at its lowest ebb during that year of 1912. It was now clear to the Board that the players' policy had been the right one to follow; character and behaviour must be taken into account when a player's qualifications are being considered for a tour overseas.
When the war clouds had lifted and the splendid young men of the A.I.F. touring team returned to Australia, all the old bitterness was brushed aside. When Armstrong led his 1921 team to England they at once won back for Australia the position previously held. But this team never quite reinstated the fine old spirit of comradeship that had existed between the players of the opposing sides in earlier years. A new element seemed to come into the game. A change in the spirit of the contests was noticed. It was astonishing to learn from members of this team that Armstrong would not even read English newspaper comment on the matches played. It was in this way, like Pitt and Balfour in their political worlds, that the Australian captain was more out of touch with public opinion than any of his predecessors. On this tour the Australians played cricket with the same will to win, and win all the time, as the New Zealanders played football, a feature of Dominion Rugby that not all New Zealanders approve of. One of the English papers likened the Australians, taking the field, to page 430 soldiers going “over the top” into battle! That was how this team played.
The climax to this fighting for the ashes came in 1932 when Jardine was to show Australians, on their own grounds, what dourness of purpose meant and how far it could carry the game away from the happier times of earlier years. There was an amusing sequel to the angry scenes that were witnessed when the English captain and his fast bowler so relentlessly carried out their policy of leg-theory attack. Two years later the South African football team played matches at Sydney on their way to New Zealand. Included in the African team was a very good forward and good fellow whose name was Bastard. The man on the hill called him Jardine—others called him Larwood! This is typical of the sense of humour of the Australian barracker who usually gets away with many of the things he says because he is really funny.
Bennie Ostler struck the right note when, as captain of the South African touring team, he said at the reception in London, “I hope someone will hurry up and beat us so that we'll have no unbeaten record to maintain.”
Huge in stature as were Mynn and Grace, it is possible that Warwick Armstrong was the biggest man of all the champions of the game. A very human story of the 1921 tour of the Australians will illustrate this fact. There had been some objection to McDonald's inclusion in the team, but Armstrong insisted that without the fast bowler Australia could not bring back the ashes. After leaving Fremantle, McDonald, who knew it was largely due to his captain that he had been selected, took the opportunity to thank him. He then said, “Is there anything you want me to do, Warwick?” to which the “big fellow” replied, “Yes, Mac, I want you to put the ‘peg’ in until we have won the rubber, and this also means getting fit.” For the rest of the voyage Armstrong and McDonald, each morning, went down into the stokehold of the P. & O. liner, and for two hours worked as firemen. They planned to rid themselves of their superfluous fat and became as hard as nails, but that they maintained their weight is clear from the fact that Armstrong on arrival in England still weighed 22 stone!
As the Australians walked off the field at the finish of the Test Match that completed their winning of the rubber, page 431 McDonald again sidled up alongside Armstrong and this time said, “What about it, Warwick?”
The answer was prompt and expressive: “Go for your life, Mac, and I'm with you!”
Following Armstrong's retirement and the rise of Collins, Woodfull, Ponsford, Kelleway and others, the game in Australia slowed up considerably, for Macartney alone carried on the traditional fast scoring of earlier champions. Collins and Woodfull would open for Australia: Hobbs and Sutcliffe for England. It was as though the Barlows and the Scottons and the Alec Bannermans had become the leading batsmen of the sides; everyone seemed to be a stonewaller and played as though his life depended upon it. The long-suffering spectators must have longed for a Grace, a Stoddart, or a MacLaren, to mention but three noted English opening batsmen of the dashing order—a Lyons, a Trumper, or a Duff on the Australian side. Bardsley was a fine player and had a majestic style, but towards the end of his career he scored little faster than the others.
I had a remarkable experience in 1924. The first Test Match had been in progress for three days when I left Auckland on the Monday evening for Sydney. It was a three and a half days' journey by steamer, yet I arrived in time to see the finish of the match on Saturday, the seventh day's play! Going on to Melbourne I saw every ball bowled in the second Test. It lasted from Friday to Friday—seven days! The Adelaide match also lasted seven days. The first hour's play in the Melbourne match produced 30 runs. The opening batsmen made no attempt whatever to make a scoring stroke off Tate. It was block, block, block.
In 1928 it was worse. In the Melbourne Test Australia batted all day for 142 runs. J. C. White, a slow left-hand bowler, bowled 57 overs for 61 runs! England followed and took all day to score 165. People would watch Test Matches because they were stern International contests, but they had begun, to cease going to watch the inter-State matches. There were fewer people at their club matches in Melbourne and Sydney than we get on Saturday afternoons at Hagley Park in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Donald Bradman of Bowral changed the scene. As a boy his cricket record had been phenomenal. Like Archie MacLaren page 432 when he appeared for Harrow, the pads seemed two sizes too big for him. If Bradman's stature was small, his bat was full width! He was a prodigy, the product of a country club. He came to Sydney and at once attracted attention. After a modest start in Test cricket, he soon became the most brilliant star on the horizon. In England in 1930 he thrilled the English people as Trumper had done in 1902. His slow walk to the wickets did not prepare one for the change of atmosphere that occurred the moment he took strike.
My first glimpse of the new champion was on the Melbourne cricket ground when he was playing for the Australian XI against the Rest of Australia. When batting his whole attitude was one of eagerness for runs. The bowlers tried harder, the fieldsmen became keener, the public sat up and watched. The off theory that for years had been left alone was now dealt with as it had been twenty and thirty years earlier. His cut behind point, his hitting the ball between the fieldsmen, was the same as that of the Grace I had seen at Crystal Palace. Soon he was scoring half as fast again as the previous batsman had done. It was a delight to see him scoring freely off bowling that other batsmen found difficulty in playing. I found myself comparing him with the champions of the past. I saw flashes of the genius of Grace and Trumper, but his techique was the technique of Grace, and his scoring strokes, also, more like those of “W.G.” Like Grace, he was busy—busy all the time—and runs came from his bat at a rate that made the score mount rapidly. Cricket could never be a dull game when Bradman was batting. Although Bradman has a wide range of strokes it is mainly his placing that enables him to score at such speed. Imagine this in a Test Match when he scored a century before lunch, another before the tea adjournment and still another before stumps! Grace twice scored 300 runs in a day against the best bowling in England, and Trumper got a similar number in a county match in 1899, while Macartney has scored a century before lunch, but since then no other player, till the arrival of Bradman, has scored as fast and kept it up for so long. He has not the poise and graceful style of Ranjitsinhji and Trumper, but has all the mastery of strokes and machine-like precision of Grace.
The hold that Bradman had on the people's interest is to be seen in an experience of a New Zealand friend of mine who, page 433 when visiting Australia in 1936, saw a Test Match at Melbourne. He noticed a woman, sitting next to him in the pavilion, take out her knitting and begin intently watching the stitches as she turned the heel of a sock. Presently my friend said to her: “Aren't you going to watch the cricket?”
“Oh, Bradman's out,” was the prompt reply!
I finish my picture of the Australians on this story of the Bradman of the nineteen-thirties. Thirty years earlier, when Trumper was at the height of his career, the drivers of delivery vans in Sydney would work their way round to the Paddington Oval on Saturday afternoons to see the brilliant Victor, in a club match, making the hitting of 4's look as easy as shelling peas. His dismissal always started an exodus from the ground. Now the crowd follows Bradman. He regenerated Australian cricket. His influence will be felt for many years, for the boys of the Commonwealth now try to emulate their new idol. To many, his entry upon the fields of play heralded a new era in Australian cricket; to others, it was but the revival of the classic batting of the few great champions of the game.