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The first of the three great contests between England and Australia had been looked forward to with an immense amount of interest, and the composition of the English team had caused a good deal of controversy. In the original team Mr. Hornby was to have been captain, and Barnes was selected; but owing to an injury to his leg the popular Lancashire captain had to stand out, while Barnes was prevented from playing by a strain he received in his side when representing the Players against the Australians a fortnight before. Barlow and Briggs were the two men chosen to fill the vacancies, and the Australians left out Evans and McIlwraith.
Fully 10,000 persons witnessed the first day"s play, which was good and interesting throughout. The weather, although dull and overcast in the morning, turned out beautifully fine in the afternoon, and the wicket afforded the bowlers very little assistance. Having the good fortune to win the toss the Australians went in first, and at the start of their innings fared remarkably well. Jones played superb cricket, and Jarvis hit with great brilliancy for 45. The score was 181 when the fifth wicket fell, and there seemed every prospect of a long total, but afterwards there came such a collapse that the last five wickets went down for 24 runs, and the innings closed for 205. Jones, who went in first, was out lbw at 134, his faultless 87, the result of two hours and fifty minutes' cricket, being made up of six 4s, ten 3s, and five 2s, and singles. Jarvis hit six 4s, a 3, and four 2s. It will be noticed that out of 204 runs from the bat, Jones, Jarvis, Trumble, and Scott made no fewer than 177.
The English fielding was exceedingly smart and accurate, and Pilling kept wicket to perfection. The two crack bowlers on the English side, however, Lohmann and Peate, only took one wicket between them. A little less than an hour remained for play when the Englishmen commenced their innings, and the score was only 9 when Mr. W. G. Grace was very cleverly caught at slip. Shrewsbury, who followed, was let off from a sharp chance in the same position from the first ball he received, but afterwards batted well, and he and Scotton were together at the call of time, when the score stood at 36 for one wicket.
On the second day the interest in the match was thoroughly sustained throughout. The Australians bowled and fielded admirably, and the Englishmen, who scarcely seemed to play in their best form, scored with difficulty. Shrewsbury, after making 31, was bowled by a yorker, and Scotton, after exhibiting great patience, was caught at point at 80. Mr. W. W. Read batted in splendid style for 51 - the highest score on the side - and was out to a very good catch at third man at 131. The chief hits of his 51 were seven 4s, three 3s, and two 2s.
When the luncheon interval took place the score was 140 for five wickets, and afterwards Ulyett and Briggs were speedily disposed of, the score, with seven men out, being only 160. Then, when it seemed most probable that the Australians would lead on the first innings, Lohmann and Barlow made an invaluable stand, and quite altered the aspect of affairs. When he scored only a single, however, Lohmann was badly missed from an easy chance by Palmer at long-on, and for this mistake the Australians had to pay very dearly. Lohmann hit with great nerve and judgment, while Barlow played his usual sound and steady game. The score was up to 206 before Lohmann was bowled, 46 having been added during the partnership. In the end the total reached 223, or 18 runs to the good, Barlow taking out his bat for an invaluable 38. Spofforth took the most wickets for the Australians, but Palmer came out with the best analysis.
With an hour and twenty minutes remaining for play, the Australians went in a second time at ten minutes past five, and though Jones and Scott put on 37 runs for the first wicket, matters went so badly with the Colonists afterwards that before the call of time four wickets had fallen for 55 runs. Giffen and Jarvis were both out to Barlow's bowling, and Bonnor, who exhibited very bad judgment was caught from a very tame stroke on the off side within five minutes of time. The close of the second day's play left the Australians 36 runs to the good, with six wickets to fall in their second innings.
On the concluding day the Australians thoroughly kept up their reputation for playing an uphill game, and though they were defeated at the finish, they made a splendid fight of it, and the interest in the match never for a moment ceased. Thanks mainly to the capital batting of Scott, and the plucky hitting later on by Garrett and Spofforth, the Australians' total reached 123. Included in Scotts 47 were four 4s, two 3s, and eight 2s.
As the Englishmen were only left with 106 runs to get to win, it looked as if they would gain a very easy victory, but so disastrous was the start that perhaps the three best batsman in England, Grace, Read, and Shrewsbury, were dismissed for a total of only 24. It must be stated, however, that the wicket was beginning to crumble a little, and was by no means so easy as it had been on either of the two previous days. The Australians now began to realise that they had a chance, and they bowled and fielded with remarkable keenness.
It was at this point, when three wickets were down for 24, that Barlow became Scotton's partner, and the two men, displaying most praiseworthy care and judgment, wore down the splendid bowling of the Australians, and again turned the scale in favour of England. The partnership altogether lasted an hour, and yielded 41 runs, the score being thus 65 when the fourth wicket fell. Later on, Mr. Steel played in moderate form, but he was missed from an easy chance by Bonnor at short slip, and had this come off the Englishmen would probably have had to fight very hard for their victory. At 90 Barlow's long and extremely good innings of 30 was brought to a close by a clever catch close in, and when the game was a tie Ulyett hit out recklessly, and was caught in the long field. Briggs made the winning stroke at twenty minutes to six, and the English were left winners of a remarkable match by four wickets. Special praise must be awarded to Barlow, who took seven wickets at a cost of 44 runs in the second innings of the Australians, made three catches, and scored 68 runs in the match for once out.