All Time XIs – Great Test Matches I Did Not Get To Witness

11 of the greatest test matches that I know about only at second hand – I may have watched highlights of them, read about them or both of the foregoing, but I did not witness them live.

This is a follow up to my earlier post about great test matches I did get to witness. These are matches I have read about and/or witnessed highlights of but did not get to follow live at the time. The matches are listed ibn chronological rather than ranking order, and to set the tone there is match not of test status as an hors d’oeuvre.

MCC V AUSTRALIA, LORD’S 1878 – A WARNING SHOT

The Australians had had a rough start to their tour of England in what was a very wet summer. When they arrived at Lord’s to take on the MCC few gave them much of a chance. MCC were fielding a very respectable side, with the mighty WG Grace to the fore. MCC batted first, and Frank Allan, a graceful left armer dubbed ‘bowler of the century’ in the run up to the tour shared the new ball with Harry Boyle, a medium pacer of exceptional accuracy. WG Grace hit the first ball of the match for four, but was out to the second. Another wicket fell one run later, but then Albert ‘Monkey’ Hornby and Arthur Ridley shared what turn out to be the largest partnership of the match. The moment that tilted this game towards being a historic one was when Frederick Robert Spofforth was called upon to bowl in place of Allan. Spofforth destroyed the MCC middle and lower order with sheer pace, a high water mark of 27-2 becoming 33 all out. Spofforth had taken 6-4 for the innings. The Nottinghamshire pair of Alfred Shaw (right arm slow/ medium) and Fred Morley (left arm fast) took the new ball for MCC. Australia fared little better than the home side, limping to 41 all out, with Shaw following the general pattern of his career by bowling considerably more overs than he conceded runs. For the second MCC innings Spofforth was given the new ball alongside Boyle, and MCC were rolled for a paltry 19, Boyle taking 6-3 and Spofforth 4-16. Charles Bannerman fell early in the fourth innings, but Billy Midwinter and Tom Horan saw Australia to a nine wicket win. The match was over on the same day it started, the thick end of a century before games with that intention would become a regular thing in top level cricket, and the aggregate of 105 runs remains the smallest ever for an FC match with a definite result. This tour did not feature any test matches, but the next visit by Australia in 1880 did, England winning a hastily organized match in September of that year by five wickets.

ENGLAND V AUSTRALIA, THE OVAL 1882: ASHES BORN

Unlike its predecessor in 1880 this match was planned when the tour itinerary was created. Albert ‘Monkey’ Hornby captained England, a mistake, espeically given that Spofforth, the leading Australian bowler, had a hex on him (if they weren’t yet prepared to appoint WG Grace who would have been the best choice then Lord Harris would have done). Rather than Hornby, EM Grace should have been the other opener for England (as he was in 1880, when he and WG put on 91 together in the first innings). However, all seemed rosy when Australia were dispatched for 63 in their first innings, and England responded with 101, Yorkshireman George Ulyett top scoring with 26. Hugh Massie now played a crucial innings for Australia, scoring 55 of the first 66 runs in their second innings and propelling them into credit with only one wicket down. Once he was out there was little more to the Australian innings, though Murdoch batted through such of it as there was to finish on 29* in a score of 122. The single most significant moment of the innings was the dismissal of Sammy Jones, who left his crease to pat down the pitch with the ball not officially dead. Grace, fielding at point, ran him out, a move which provoked Spofforth to absolute fury. While England were preparing to chase 85 to win Spofforth was telling his team mates “this thing can be done”. Grace and Hornby put on 15 for the first wicket, but then Hornby and Richard Barlow, also of Lancashire, were both out at that score. Grace and Ulyett shared a fine partnership, but Ulyett was dislodged with the score at 51, and two runs later, Grace, only the second player in the game to record a score of above 30, was dislodged for 32, making it 53-4. It was at this juncture that things turned against England. Lyttelton and Lucas, paralysed by nerves, could barely score, and skipper Hornby started panicking and messed with his batting order. When Lyttelton was dismissed to make it 66-5 the panic really set in, Hornby holding CT Studd, scorer of two centuries against the Aussies that season, back in the order until the eighth wicket fell. Billy Barnes was dismissed shortly after Studd’s arrival to make it 75-9, and Peate had three balls to survive from Harry Boyle before the end of the over. He scored two off the first of these, but a wild swing at the second met fresh air, while the ball clattered against his stumps. England 77 all out, and beaten by seven runs. Studd, with his two centuries against the Aussies earlier that season, was 0* (0), not the least ridiculous feature of this ridiculous match.

AUSTRALIA V ENGLAND, SCG 1894: 586 BATTING FIRST…

England were captained by Andrew Stoddart, Australia had entrusted veteran wicket keeper Blackham (who had played the first test match of all in 1877) with the captaincy. Blackham won the toss and batted. Tom Richardson the great Surrey fast bowler claimed three early wickets, but the then George Giffen and Frank Iredale joined forces. Their stand, apparently helped by some clumsy keeping on the part of Leslie Gay, yielded 171 runs, and then after Iredale’s dismissal Syd Gregory joined the fray, adding a further 139 with Giffen before the latter fell for 161 just before the end of day one. Australia closed on 346-5. On day two Syd Gregory completed a double century, only the second ever achieved in test cricket, and with Blackham scoring a test best 74 Australia reached 586.

England were all out for 325 in their first innings, Albert Ward top scoring with 75. They were made to follow on, and when the sixth wicket went down at 296, with the lead still only 35 Australia still looked well place. However, Francis Ford and Johnny Briggs put on 89 together for the seventh wicket, and even the tail made contributions. England mustered 437 in this second innings, setting Australia 177 to win. Jack Lyons began breezily, hitting 25 in 15 minutes at the crease, but after he and Harry Trott were both out, Giffen opted to play safe, making sure he was still there for the following morning (tests in Australia were played to a finish in those days). Australia close on 113-2, needing just 64 the following morning, Darling 44*, Giffen 30*. Overnight it rained (pitches were uncovered in those days, and overnight rain, followed by strong Australian sun the following morning created what was known as a ‘sticky dog’), though England’s trump card in such circumstances, left arm spinner Bobby Peel, did not hear the rain following, as he had given the match up for lost and drowned his sorrows in emphatic fashion. The Australians certainly did realize that it had rained. Peel and fellow left arm spinner Johnny Briggs gradually tightened the screw on Australia, and the ninth wicket went down with Australia still 15 short. Blackham was last man in, nursing a cracked thumb, and the other remaining batter, Charlie McLeod did his best to protect the injured keeper, ultimately Blackham prodded a catch back to Peel and England had won by 10 runs, with Peel having innings figures of 6-67.

OLD TRAFFORD 1902 – ENGLAND V AUSTRALIA

A spat between chairman of selectors (Lord Hawke, Yorkshire) and captain (Archie MacLaren, Lancashire) led to an odd looking England side. MacLaren wanted Schofield Haigh, but Hawke would not release him. MacLaren in a fit of pique at this left another Yorkshireman, George Hirst, out on the morning of the match, handing a debut to 35 year old Fred Tate of Sussex.

Australia batted first, and by lunch they were 173-1 with Victor Trumper having reached three figures, the first ever to do so on the first morning of a test match. Post lunch England did better, but a rapid partnership between middle order left handers Clem Hill and Joe Darling (73 in 45 minutes) helped Australia to reach 299. England began poorly, but a big stand between FS Jackson and Len Braund, plus some further lower order support for Jackson (128) got England to 262. Australia in their second innings were 10-3 and should have been 16-4, but MacLaren had high-handedly refused to move Lionel Palairet, a fellow amateur, from square leg to the right hander to square leg to the left hander, sending Fred Tate (who fielded close to the bat for Sussex) out there instead. Tate dropped a chance offered by Darling, and the partnership added 46 further runs. Thereafter it was a procession and Australia mustered just 86 second time round, setting England 124 to win. At 92-3 England appeared to be cruising home, but then a collapse set in. When keeper Dick Lilley was brilliantly caught by Clem Hill, who ran 30 yards round the boundary and threw himself full length to make the catch, it was 116-9 and Fred Tate joined Wilfred Rhodes. Tate snicked a boundary off Jack Saunders to open his account, but then Saunders’ next ball kept fiendishly low and bowled the unfortunate Tate to give Australia victory by three runs.

THE OVAL 1902ENGLAND V AUSTRALIA: A REVERSAL

George Hirst and Gilbert Jessop returned for England after missing the match described above. Australia batted first and tallied 324, Hugh Trumble top scoring with64* and Monty Noble making 52. Trumble then turned to his more publicized ability, bowling unchanged through the England first innings, taking 8-65. England avoided the follow on only thanks to Hirst who scored 43 out of the last 54 runs of the innings. Australia at the second time of asking were all out for 121, setting England 263, which looked a massive total in those circumstances. It was looking even further distant by the time Saunders (four wickets) and Trumble (one) had reduced England to 48-5. At this point Gilbert Jessop joined FS Jackson and the match began to turn. Jackson fell for 49 with the score at 157, and George Hirst joined Jessop. This pair added 30 together in just eight minutes, Jessop completing three figures in 75 minutes and off his 76th ball, both still England records, though the latter has seemed under constant threat lately. Jessop fell for 104, making it 187-7, and still 76 needed from the last three wickets. However, Bill Lockwood stayed with Hirst while 27 of those were scored, and keeper Dick Lilley helped add a further 34, meaning that when fellow Yorkshireman Rhodes joined Hirst in the middle 15 were needed with one wicket standing. England inched their way towards the target, and finally Rhodes hit the winning single off Trumble. Trumble had scored 71 undefeated runs with the bat and captured 12 wickets, Hirst had 101 runs for once out and a first innings five-for but this is always called “Jessop’s Match”. Lionel Palairet gained two England caps – the Old Trafford and Oval tests of 1902.

MCG 1907 – AUSTRALIA V ENGLAND – NEARLY A TIE

This was a match which swing back and forth but seemed settled in Australia’s favour when England were 209-8 in the final innings, needing 73 more to win. Joe Humphries was ninth out, with 39 still needed for the win, to an LBW which added fuel to the flames of a controversy – England had had several rough LBWs in that match, George Gunn being furious about the two given against him. Arthur Fielder, a fast bowler, but as he was to show both here and a little later for Kent when sharing a last wicket stand of 235 with Woolley no mug with the bat, joined Barnes in the middle. The last wicket pair chipped away at the target and eventually levelled the scores. Barnes then went for a winning run that Fielder was unsure about. Had the fielder, Gerry Hazlitt, kept his head and lobbed to the keeper test cricket would have seen its first ever tied match. As it was, Hazlitt panicked and shied wildly at the stumps, missing and allowing the completion of the winning run.

MCG 1928 – AUSTRALIA A ENGLAND – ASHES HELD

England had comfortably won the first two matches of the series, but although Hammond had already entered the record books by becoming the first to score two consecutive test double hundreds, with 200 in the first England innings, it looked long odds against a third win in a row when England set off in pursuit of a victory target of 332 on a pitch that had become so spiteful that opening batter Jack Hobbs reckoned it would be all over by the tea interval. As it turned out Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe, the other opener, were still both in residence by said interval, and midway through the evening, with the great pair still together Hobbs made a vital intervention, sending a message to the dressing room that if either opener fell that evening Jardine should be promoted to number three as his defence was more reliable than Hammond’s. Hobbs was the one to go, for 49 out of an opening stand of 105, and Jardine duly survived the remainder of the evening and England returned the following morning still only one down. Jardine contributed a crucial 33, Herbert Sutcliffe went on to 135, and although England had a bit of a stutter late on, George Geary, who had claimed the final wicket of the 1926 Ashes, smashed a four through mid-on to seal a three wicket win and with it retention of The Ashes.

OLD TRAFFORD 1956 – ENGLAND V AUSTRALIA

Good pitch which one side handled badly or spinners paradise made to order? England batting first ran up 459 in rapid time. Although Australia’s two recognized spinners, leg spinner Benaud and off spinner Ian Johnson claimed six scalps between them, they also leaked 274 runs while doing so.

Jim Laker, England’s off spinner, took the first two Aussie wickets, before Lock claimed the third, which opened the floodgates for Laker, who polished off the Aussie first innings with a spell of 7-8, giving him 9-37 in total. Regular rain interruptions and a fine defensive effort by Aussie opener Colin McDonald took the game into the final day. Eventually, with the second ball of his 52nd over, Laker trapped Maddocks LBW and Australia were all out for 205, beaten by an innings and 170 runs. Laker had all ten Aussie second innings wickets for 53, still the cheapest all ten in test cricket, and 19-90 in the match. The three other front line spinners had combined match figures of 7-380, an average of 54.29 per wicket, and earlier in the season, in the first innings of the match on a good Oval pitch Laker had recorded figures 10-88 from 46 overs against the Australians for Surrey. In all 58 of Laker’s first 100 Fc wickets of 1956 were Aussies, 46 in the Ashes series and 12 for Surrey in that tour match.

BRISBANE 1960 – AUSTRALIA V WEST INDIES

52 years after Gerry Hazlitt had failed to make the most of an opportunity to secure test cricket’s first tie Joe Solomon showed how to keep his head under pressure, executing two direct hit run outs in less than 15 minutes, first to dismiss Davidson (80), thereby giving his side a chance to save themselves, and then to seal the tie. Alan Davidson bestrode this match like a colossus, taking 5-135 in West Indies first innings 453, then scoring 44 of Australia’s reply of 505, then taking 6-87 as West Indies managed 284 second time round and finally scoring that 80 which so nearly won the match for Australia.

HEADINGLEY 1981 – ENGLAND V AUSTRALIA

This is proper script rejection stuff – not only did England record only the second ever victory by a side made to follow on, but one of the players who was key to achieving that result was not originally selected for the game and the other had been asked (albeit at most semi-seriously) if he wanted to play, having just stood down as captain (moments before he would have been sacked from that role). Australia scored 401-9 declared batting first, which was far more than they should have scored on that surface. John Dyson scored a very slow century, Kim Hughes made 89 and Graham Yallop 58, while Botham, recently resigned from the captaincy, claimed 6-95, his first five wicket haul since before taking up the reins of captaincy. England were 87-5 when Botham went in for his first innings, and a rapid 50 from him was the only highlight of their 174 all out. In the second innings they plummeted to 41-4 before Boycott and Willey added 64 for the fifth wicket. At 133 Boycott was pinned LBW, and two runs later keeper Bob Taylor departed. That brought Graham Dilley in to join Botham, and in 80 minutes the eighth wicket pair added 117, Dilley recording a maiden test 50, and Botham being well past his second 50 of the match. Chris Old helped the ninth wicket to raise a further 67, Botham racing past the 100 mark (87 balls to get there). Willis stayed long enough for a further 37 to accrue. England had totalled 356, a lead of 129, and Botham had scored 149*. The final morning was just underway. Approaching the lunch interval Australia were 56-1 and seemingly cruising towards their target of 130, when Bob Willis was put on to bowl at the Kirkstall Lane end. The first victim of one of the greatest spells of fast bowling in test history was Trevor Chappell, who in truth resembled a test match number three in name only, fending a bouncer through to Bob Taylor. Then came back to back wickets right on the stroke of lunch, Hughes well caught by Botham in the slips and Yallop superbly taken at short leg by Gatting. At lunch Australia were 58-4, and suddenly realizing that match wasn’t over just yet, while England went into lunch on a high. Old got one through Border’s defences early in the afternoon and it was 65-5. Dyson, who had one boundary off Willis post lunch took an a short ball from him and succeeded only in gloving it to the keeper to make it 68-6. Rod Marsh, the Aussie keeper, who had made a light-hearted bet on England when Ladbrokes were offering 500-1, took on another short ball from Willis, and Dilley at deep fine leg judged the catch superbly, being less than a foot inside the boundary when he completed it. That was 74-7, and one run later Lawson fell to mkae it 75-8. There was one final twist, as Lillee, who like Marsh had placed a bet on England at 500-1, helped Bright add 35 for the ninth wicket in four overs. Lillee then mistimed a drive at Willis and Gatting just managed to complete the catch, having to run in and dive forward to do so. Alderman came in at number 11, and was reprieved twice in one Botham over as Old at third slip put down catches. Willis summoned up enough energy for one final over, and with the first ball thereof he ripped a perfect yorker through Bright’s defences and Australia were all out for 111m giving England victory by 18 runs.

CHENNAI 1986: INDIA V AUSTRALIA – A TIE

Australia in the early to mid 1980s were a struggling outfit, but in this particular match they did a lot right, though not quite enough to win it. Dean Jones, in part due a vicious taunt from skipper Border, batted himself into a hospital bed, scoring 210 in eight hours at the crease on the first two days of the match, after which he had to put on a saline drip. Towards the end of the fifth day it looked like India were odds to complete their chase of 348, but Greg Matthews refused to give up, and eventually, with the scores level he trapped Maninder Singh LBW to secure test cricket’s second ever tie.

KOLKATA 2001: INDIA V AUSTRALIA – A VERY VERY SPECIAL TEST MATCH

Australia in the late 1990s and early 2000s were well nigh invincible, and the first two innings of this match did not suggest anything other than business as usual for Steve Waugh and his men, as they forced India to follow on. VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid then produced a historic partnership, with Laxman going to a then Indian individual record test score of 281 and Dravid making 180. India declared their second innings at 657-7, setting Australia 384 to win. Australia, unsurprisingly dispirited, collapsed to 212 all out and defeat by 171 runs, the third (and to date) last test defeat suffered by a side enforcing the follow on. Australia have rarely chosen to enforce the follow on since then, preferring to build stupendous leads and then look to dismiss their opponents a second time. Myself I would still need a good reason to suggest not enforcing.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Time for my usual sign off (the gallery is smaller than usual – there is not as much to see in foul weather)…

Author: Thomas

I am branch secretary of NAS West Norfolk and #actuallyautistic (diagnosed 10 years ago at the comparatively advanced age of 31). I am a keen photographer, so that most of my own posts contain photos. I am a keen cricket fan and often write about that subject. I also focus a lot on politics and on nature.

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