First Test match

England v Australia 1888

Played at Lord"s, Monday, Tuesday, July 16, 17. Australia won by 61 runs. Although of course it was seen that the Australians were by no means equal on their merits to the best team in England, there was a considerable amount of anxiety as to the result of the first of the three great Test matches. In dry weather and on a hard wicket, confidence in the strength of English batting would have been almost unlimited, but the weather for weeks had been so bad, and the Australian bowling had proved so destructive, with the condition of the turf favouring it, that many quite dispassionate judges thought the game would be so fluky, that victory would depend almost entirely upon success in the toss. It need scarcely be remarked that there had been only one previous Australian victory in this country over the full strength of England, and that that was accomplished in 1882 by a team which, by general consent, was the best that ever came here from Australia.

Our batting had probably become stronger so far as the professionals were concerned, but it certainly had not maintained its position among amateurs, there being many good Gentlemen batsmen, but no new ones who had any claim to be chosen in a strictly representative eleven. On the other hand, our bowling was probably stronger than ever, while the wicket-keeping and fielding of the selected team left nothing to be desired. Attewell had been chosen by the Marylebone Committee, and Mr. Shuter, of whose innings for the Gentlemen we have already spoken, would also have played but for lameness. As it was, Abel, the most consistent scorer among the Players, had a place, and at the last moment the old Oxonian, T. C. O"Brien, was put in as a hitter. Good man as he is, O"Brien entirely failed in his mission, and Abel, of whom so much was expected by his friends, probably could not help his play being influenced by his sense of responsibility. The Australians left out Lyons and Boyle, and McDonnell, having won the toss, went in with Bannerman to commence a match about which every one"s nerves were in a high state of tension, and at a time when it is not too much to say that all concerned, from batsmen, bowlers, and umpires down to the merest spectators, felt the importance of the issue, and how much was at stake. We ought, however, to say that to the best of our knowledge there was little or no betting of any consequence, and certainly, with all the eagerness and keenness of feeling, there was no bitterness or acrimony on either side.

Winning the toss was known to be a much greater advantage than is usually the case, for there had been so much rain within a few hours of the start that it was impossible the ground should be in anything like condition for good cricket. It was for some hours uncertain whether there would be any play on Monday at all and the gates were not opened until after lunch time. Some thousands of people had crowded in the St. John"s Wood Road, and there was a great crush to get in, but the people had obtained places, and formed a thick ring all round the ground when play began at five minutes past three. The game has been often described, and it is not our intention to follow the play in detail. It was one in which the Australians, starting with a distinctly inferior team, played with great courage and spirit, and achieved a performance for which they were fully entitled and for which they received a large amount of credit. The Australians played quite the right game, hitting out pluckily, and never attempting to show correct cricket. The Englishmen started well enough, getting rid of Bannerman and Trott for 3 runs, but then Bonnor and M"Donnell were both missed. The total was only 82 when the ninth wicket fell, and, though this score was not a bad one under the conditions, it was not good enough to look like winning. Ferris, the last man, joined Edwards, who should have been easily run out, and then this pair, by some invaluable and fearless hitting, put on 30 runs before they were separated. The Englishmen went in in a bad light, and lost Abel, Barnes and Lohmann for 18 before stumps were drawn for the day.

On Tuesday morning play began at half-past eleven, and W. G. Grace did not add to the 10 he had made overnight. Wicket after wicket fell until eight men were out for 37, and it looked quite possible that England would have to follow on. Briggs and Peel averted this disaster, but the whole side were out before half-past twelve for 53, or 63 to the bad. The English bowling and fielding during the second innings of Australia were superb, and the ground was altogether against batsmen, so that it was no wonder the Australians were out for 60. Indeed, but for Ferris"s capital hitting the total would not nearly have reached that number. But it was clear England was at a great disadvantage, and that the 124 wanted to win would be more than could be made. Mr. Grace began really well, and 29 runs were made before the first wicket fell. At 34, however, the champion was out, and from that time Turner and Ferris carried everything before them. The Australians played a winning game with tremendous energy and unfailing skill, and at twenty-five minutes past four in the afternoon they were successful with 61 runs to spare. The vast crowd rushed across the ground directly the game was over, and thousands upon thousands of people formed a dense mass in front of the pavilion, and cheered with a spontaneous and genuine heartiness that could scarcely have been exceeded if the Englishmen had made the runs instead of being badly beaten. So ended a game that will never be forgotten in cricket history, and one which practically ensured the fame of the Australian team.

© John Wisden & Co