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The tour undertaken by Lord Sheffield's team in the Australian season 1891-2 was in one respect unique. Never before in the history of visits paid by English cricketers to Australia or by Australian cricketers to the mother country had the enterprise been undertaken and carried out by a single individual. In as much as two of the three Test matches against Combined Australia ended in the defeat of the English players, the tour was in one sense a disappointment to all lovers of the game in Great Britain, but this was only the fortune of war. Moreover, our defeats had one very beneficial effect, the double triumph of the Australians restoring the game to its old place in the affections of the Colonial public.
Apart from the fact of two of the big matches having been lost, the tour was a great success, Lord Sheffield's action in arranging the trip, and the manner in which he carried it out, earning unstinted praise from every organ of public opinion in Australia. It was understood that the expenses of the tour considerably exceeded the receipts, but this was largely due to the liberal scale on which everything was done. That Lord Sheffield was well satisfied with his own reception in Australia was best proved by the fact that he presented a handsome trophy to be competed for by the different Colonies. Except for the very important fact that Arthur Shrewsbury and William Gunn declined to accept the terms offered them, the team was, on the form shown during the English season of 1891, fully representative. It consisted of
Alfred Shaw acted as general manager of the team on Lord Sheffield's behalf, and earned praise on all hands for the tact and good judgement with which he discharged a by no means easy task. Beyond everything else the tour was remarkable for the re-appearance in Australia, after an interval of eighteen years, of Mr. W. G. Grace. When the most famous of all cricketers visited the Colonies in 1873 he was at the very height of his powers, and not a few of his warmest admirers regarded it as rather a hazardous venture on his part to go out again at so late a period of his career. Events proved, however, that Mr. Grace's confidence in himself was not misplaced. Alike in the eleven-a-side matches and in all engagements he came out at the head of the batting averages. When we remember that he was in his forty-fourth year, and that his position as the finest batsman in the world had been established at a time when all the other members of the team were children, this feat must be pronounced nothing less than astonishing. It is true that in the matches against odds he was favoured with more than his fair share of luck, but, so far as we could gather from the detailed reports that appeared in the Australian papers, he was not more fortunate in the first-class fixtures than his colleagues. His only big score was 159 not out in the first match against Victoria, but he played most consistently all through the tour, and rarely failed to make runs.
Speaking generally, the side did not quite come up to expectations, the chief fault being a want of steadiness in the batting. On the part of most of the men there was too strong a tendency to force the hitting, and the presence of either Shrewsbury or Gunn would have been invaluable. Still, at times some fine batting was shown, Abel's innings of 132 not out against Combined Australia, at Sydney, and Mr. Stoddart's 134, at Adelaide, in the last of the three Test matches, being probably equal in quality to anything the same two players have done at home. In eleven-a-side matches Attewell easily took the honours in bowling, it being only a striking success on a damaged wicket at Adelaide that enabled Briggs to get so near him in the averages. Lohmann, without being up to his best standard as a bowler, did splendid all-round work for the eleven, his fielding at cover- slip gaining unbounded admiration from all Colonial critics. The two great failures of the team were Bean and Sharpe. It was thought that the Sussex player, as a batsman, and Sharpe, as a bowler, would be thoroughly suited by the fast Australian wickets, but in each case the result was a complete disappointment. Nor did Mr. MacGregor, as a wicket keeper, come up to his English reputation.
The team played in all eight first-class matches, winning one and losing two against Combined Australia, gaining two victories each over Victoria and New South Wales, and one victory against South Australia. Against odds they did not meet with a single reverse, and the full record of their tour came out thus: - Twenty-seven matches played: twelve won, two lost, and thirteen drawn.
Match reports for
South Australia v Lord Sheffield's XI at Adelaide, Nov 20-23, 1891
Victoria v Lord Sheffield's XI at Melbourne, Nov 27-28, 1891
New South Wales v Lord Sheffield's XI at Sydney, Dec 4-7, 1891
New South Wales v Lord Sheffield's XI at Sydney, Feb 19-23, 1892
Victoria v Lord Sheffield's XI at Melbourne, Mar 17-19, 1892