1930 February 1, 2014

Playing two Tests in a day

In the first month of 1930 England found themselves playing simultaneous Test series in New Zealand and the Caribbean

Unforgiving scheduling of international cricket is an almost ever-present complaint in the modern game, with players scrambling around the world to fulfil often ill-planned and unwanted commitments. But in January 1930 England managed to do something that never happened before or since - they agreed to play two Tests on opposite sides of the world on the same day.

In the 1920s the Imperial Cricket Conference - the forerunner of the modern International Cricket Council - recognised the need to expand Test cricket outside England, Australia and South Africa. At a meeting in May 1926 West Indies and New Zealand were elected to the ICC, making them eligible to play Tests.

West Indies made their Test debut in England in 1928. It was an inauspicious start - they lost all three three-day Tests and were largely outplayed - but they had displayed their huge potential on a series of reciprocal tours in the decade before.

The MCC, who governed English cricket and sent sides abroad (until 1977 Tests overseas were officially played by the MCC and not England) realised that it was important to send a representative team to the Caribbean to help further promote the game there. While there had been several tours by strong sides from England, none had featured official Tests.

New Zealand had also hosted many England sides - although much stronger ones - who traditionally visited at the end of the Ashes series in Australia. It provided a perfect and convivial low-key conclusion to an intense tour and allowed locals to watch - and play against - top cricketers.

The MCC wanted to send sides to both new countries as soon as possible but had to work around already-agreed series in Australia (1928-29 and 1932-33) and South Africa (1930-31). Those were both long tours, with players who went to Australia away from home from September to April. Few amateurs wanted to do back-to-back tours - even if they could afford the time away - and even then the administrators acknowledged the need for the leading talent to be rested.

The decision was taken to send sides to both West Indies and New Zealand in 1929-30. For New Zealand, especially, the fact that an English team was touring in its own right and not as an add-on to an Ashes series was acknowledgement they had joined the ranks of the Test elite.

The problem those picking the sides had was that none of the first-choice amateurs or professionals were interested straight after an Ashes tour.

Arthur Gilligan, the England captain, withdrew on health grounds and so his older brother, the 34-year-old Harold, was appointed captain for the New Zealand tour. Harold was in his final year as a first-class cricketer and had never played for England; he had only captained Sussex for the first time in 1929. There was a feeling it was a reward for his services to the game, but it was an astute choice. Wisden noted; "He proved himself not only an astute captain but also a diplomat of considerable ability. His charming and likeable personality was, in large measure, responsible for this tour being remembered to this day with affection by many New Zealanders."

The 14-man squad he took with him was decent but aside from the 42-year-old Frank Woolley, there was scant international pedigree. Only four others had played for England before - KS Duleepsinhji, Ted Bowley, Fred Barratt and Geoffrey Legge - and even then all had just the one cap to their name, three of the four having debuted the previous summer.

The squad for the Caribbean was, deliberately, of a better quality as it was recognised West Indies would be a tougher opposition. Even then, it was heavy on experience although that was countered with a slightly pioneering approach. "A special effort is evidently being made to take a most attractive side," wrote the Daily Mirror the previous July, "and cricket spectators there will have the opportunity of seeing several of our grandest veterans."

The one in most demand was Jack Hobbs, so much so that representatives of the Jamaican board travelled to London in June 1929 to try to persuade him to tour. But he would have been 47 by the time the trip started and the England selectors wanted to rest him ahead of the 1930 Ashes series.

The comment about the tourists including "veterans" was no understatement. George Gunn, 51, had last played for England in 1912; Nigel Haig, 42, in 1921; Jack O'Connor, 32, had made his debut the previous summer; Ewart Astill, 41, in 1928; Andrew Sandham, 39, in 1925; and Ronald Stanyforth, 38, in 1927 when he led England to South Africa despite never having played a County Championship match.

Patsy Hendren was 40 but was still a regular in the England side and had enjoyed a good series in Australia the previous year. Taking him to bolster the batting proved a wise decision. He scored four double-hundreds on the tour and averaged 115.50 in the Tests.

The grandest of them all was Wilfred Rhodes at 52. He had made his debut for England in the previous century and, aside from one fairytale recall to help win the Ashes in 1926, had not played for England since 1921. Only Bill Voce (20), Les Ames (24) Leslie Townsend (26), Bob Wyatt (28) and Greville Stevens (29) were under 30.

Leading them was the comparatively youthful Freddie Calthorpe. At 39, like Gilligan, he had never played for England - and never did again - but was an amateur and had the diplomatic skills to handle the trip. He also knew the region as he had led an MCC side there in 1922.

England played four Tests in the Caribbean. The first - and West Indies' first Test on home soil - was drawn, England won the second, West Indies the third and then came the historic fourth at Sabina Park.

The ten- day "Timeless Test" at Durban in 1938-39 has gone down in history, but the nine-day slog in Jamaica deserves an honourable mention. As in South Africa, it too was drawn. England made 849 - including a then world record 325 from Sandham, the first Test triple-hundred - and established a first-innings lead of 563. Calthorpe was criticised for not enforcing the follow-on but the age of his side, who had been in the field for a day, had to have been a major factor.

West Indies were set 836 with time seemingly unlimited. They closed the seventh day on 408 for 5 - two late wickets by Wyatt tipped the balance - but then two days of rain followed. As was the case in Durban, England's ship was about to sail and so the game had to be left drawn.

Calthorpe's side had a hard time, winning four and losing two of their 13 first-class games. In New Zealand, the other England tour was a more relaxed affair. It is perhaps indicative of how New Zealand were viewed that the Wisden report concentrated more on the five matches the team played against Australian states en route.

As with Hendren in the Caribbean, Woolley underpinned some of his more limited team-mates, averaging 51 with the bat and taking 68 wickets. Duleepsinhji gave him excellent support with 1,421 runs.

The Tests were also over three days whereas those in the West Indies were five-day games. Despite that, England won the first - New Zealand's Test debut - by eight wickets in under two days' playing time. The second was drawn and rain washed out the first two days of the third, rendering it meaningless. An extra fourth Test was agreed to compensate the Auckland authorities for the washout but that too was drawn after England amassed 540.

The team played 17 matches in New Zealand, winning nine and drawing eight; in Australia they won two, lost two and drew the other.

What happened next?

  • Calthorpe's side returned home via the Panama Canal and sailed close to the Caribbean as the final Test was taking place there. At the same time the 1930 Australian tourists were steaming towards Europe to start their tour
  • In mid February another side from England - Julien Cahn's XI - set sail for a tour of Argentina, playing two unofficial first-class "Tests" against Argentina. The squad was almost entirely made up of county players and included future England captain Walter Robins
  • Sandham's world record lasted a little over four months, until Don Bradman scored 334 against England at Leeds. Sandham never played Test cricket again

Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ESPN on February 2, 2014, 10:45 GMT

    I may have got this wrong but i always thought that until 1977, the banner was MCC just for the tour games, not the Tests?

  • Dummy4 on February 2, 2014, 5:00 GMT

    Nobody mentioned the fact that George Gunn had a very good chance of registering himself as the oldest test centurion. He threw his wicket when he was at 85 in the same test in which Sandham scored the first 300 of test cricket. That opening pair of Gunn+Sandham can very well be the oldest(in terms of sum of their ages) opening pair in test cricket, though I am not absolutely sure of this. Also, I look at Sandham scoring his 300 away from home as a sort of poetic justice as Murdoch had hit test cricket's first 200 in English soil(though Sandham obviously didn't score his 300 on Australian soil, but the fact that he scored that in a comparatively cricketing environment can very well be taken as some sort of cricketing genius).

  • ESPN on February 1, 2014, 14:00 GMT

    In 1998,the commonwealth games cricket was unofficial matches,while the Sahara cup was official.in common wealth games India played teams like Antigua , Guyana etc...except sachin ,most of the seniors played in Sahara cup.sachin went for those unofficial matches because IOC insisted that if sachin is not send to Malaysia ,they will not allow the cricket team to play

  • Devendra on February 1, 2014, 12:45 GMT

    In 1998, the Indian team was split into 2 as one team had to play in the Sahara cup against Pakistan & other team had to play the commonwealth games in Malaysia. The main players were divided with Sachin playing in the commonwealth side & Ganguly playing in the Sahara cup. The matches didn't coincide though.

  • Andrew on February 1, 2014, 9:38 GMT

    I reckon the ICC should give Test Status to 24 Teams ... India, India A,Australia, Australia A, England, England A, SA, SA A, Pakistan, Sri-Lanka, WI, NZ, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Ireland, Afghanistan, Kenya, Scotland, Netherlands, Canada, UAE, PNG, Nepal, Hong Kong. The teams must then be divided into 3 groups of 8 - current top 8 in the Premier League, The A sides with Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Ireland and Afhhanistan in Division 1 and The rest in Division 2. The teams remain for 4 years. after the four years ... The promotion relegation will be as follows ... the bottom 2 and top 2 in each division will swap divisions ... with the bottom 2 of division 2 revised with a mini-tournament with 2 non-playing test sides like USA, Bermuda, etc... ie. the top 6 in the premiership will remain for the following 4 years whilst the bottom 2 go to division 1 ... and the bottom 2 of division 1 go to division 2 ...

  • David on February 1, 2014, 5:21 GMT

    No reason this can't happen again to help the new teams in world cricket. It's called "A" team tours, and the big 3 (and maybe others) should have no problem regularly sending "A" teams to Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Ireland and more!

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