Australia 0 England 1

The Australian team in England, 1893

Had the eighth Australian team come to England with no more preliminary flourish than attended the visits of 1888 and 1890, their record of eighteen victories, ten defeats, and eight drawn games would not have been regarded as at all unsatisfactory. The team, however, came as an absolutely representative side, every player now before the Australian public, with the single exception of H. Moses, having been available for selection, and the combination had of necessity to bear comparison with the great elevens of 1882 and 1884 - elevens which, so far at least as this country is concerned, showed Australian cricket at its highest point of development. Judged from this high standard, it cannot be said that the band of players who toured here last summer under the leadership of Blackham came up to the sanguine expectations formed of them. Indeed, many writers in Australia have not scrupled to speak of the trip as a failure. In any general sense this would be a hard word to use, but taking into account the special circumstances of the case, it can scarcely be considered unjust.

It was certainly thought by a large number of people in Australia - though a few good judges were less hopeful - that the side, including as it did most of the players who won the rubber against Lord Sheffield's team in the Australian season of 1891-92, would be quite equal to the task of holding its own against our representative elevens, and the general results of the tour have undoubtedly caused a great deal of disappointment. The point as to whether the promoters of the trip made the best possible selection is beside the question. They had a very wide field of choice, and as they preferred to dispense with the services of W. L. Murdoch and Dr. Barrett, they had necessarily to stand or fall by their own judgment. The exclusion of Murdoch, after he had thought that he would be a member of the eleven, gave rise to some correspondence in English papers that might very well have been avoided. One of the arguments used to account for Murdoch being left out was that the Australian public did not wish the team to include any players who had settled in England, and were therefore out of touch with Colonial cricket. This theory was all very well so far as it went, but we do not think the fact of Murdoch having lived for some little time in England would have weighed at all with English cricketers. That his presence would have been an element of strength, we have no doubt. He would have made the batting even more powerful than it was, and his judgment, tact, and strong will would have been invaluable in the management of the eleven, had he, as in 1880, 1882, 1884, and 1890, been captain.

Commencing their tour on May 8 at Sheffield Park, the Australians played two matches a week for eighteen weeks, no holiday being permitted, except when the men were set free by the fact of a game finishing in two days. The point has often been argued whether or not it is well to keep a travelling team at such constant tension, but inasmuch as they had fourteen players available, the Australians entered upon a heavy programme with better chances of carrying it through successfully than had fallen to the lot of any of their predecessors in this country. As generally happens, however, the men did not stay long on an absolute equality, Coningham and Walter Giffen - after the former had been played regularly for a few matches - being treated merely as emergencies, and Jarvis being regarded entirely as an understudy to Blackham, only having a chance of appearing when the older wicket-keeper was laid aside by accident. We do not think this was the way to get the best possible work out of the men. Of course it was essential that in the three contests with England and the other big matches the absolutely strongest eleven should be put into the field, but the fact should not have been so conclusively brought home to Coningham, Walter Giffen, and Jarvis, that they were, to put the matter bluntly, nothing better than makeshifts. No cricketer is likely to do himself justice when he knows that he is only playing in order that someone else may have a holiday.

In the course of their thirty-six matches the Australians showed enough good cricket to have made the reputation of any ordinary side, but when we come to examine their play in detail, we see clearly why the results of the tour should have caused so much disappointment in the Colonies. Only in two matches in which the prestige of English cricket was in any way involved did they prove victorious, and on neither of these occasions was the home side thoroughly representative. The match with the Players at Lord's unfortunately clashed with the meeting of Yorkshire and Lancashire at Leeds, and to further weaken the professional side, Shrewsbury found himself unable to play. Again, at Manchester, the North of England, though otherwise a very powerful combination, had to take the field without either Shrewsbury or Gunn.

Of the thirty-six matches on the programme, twelve were by general consent treated as representative fixtures, these being the three matches with England, two matches each with the M.C.C. and the South of England, and single engagements with Lord Sheffield's Eleven, Shrewsbury's England Eleven, Mr. C. I. Thornton's Eleven at Scarborough, the North of England, and the Players. Of these twelve fixtures, the Australians won only two, lost six, and left four unfinished. Their victories, as we have already stated, were obtained over the Players and the North, while the six matches they lost were one each with England, Shrewbury"s Eleven, Lord Sheffield"s Eleven, and the M.C.C., and two with the South of England. The four drawn games were two of the England matches, the first meeting with the M.C.C., and the fixture at Scarborough with Mr. Thornton's Eleven. The victory over the North of England, when they went in to get upwards of 270 runs in the last innings, and obtained them for the loss of seven wickets, was the most brilliant of their successes, but we should say without hesitation that the finest performance of the tour was the first match with the M.C.C. - a match which certainly deserves to go down to cricket history as one of the most remarkable games ever played.

Going in against a total of 424, the Australians had to follow their innings, with an adverse balance of 181 runs, and yet, in spite of this enormous disadvantage, they almost succeeded on the Saturday afternoon in snatching the game out of the fire, only the resolute play of Attewell and J. T. Hearne saving the M.C.C. from defeat. Remarkable in many ways, this particular match will be remembered, more than anything else, for the most extraordinary display of hitting ever seen at Lord's ground. Lyons and Bannerman opened the second innings of the Australians, and before they were separated the balance of 181 was hit off, Lyons's share of this number being 149. So tremendous was the pace at which the big hitter scored, that his first hundred runs were obtained in an hour. This beat the never-to-be-forgotten 100 in eighty minutes scored at Lord's for Middlesex against Yorkshire in 1889 by T. C. O'Brien, but in comparing the two performances it is important to bear in mind that the English amateur made his runs against time in the last stage of the match.

It is more upon their drawn matches than any games they won that the claims to distinction of the eighth Australian team will rest. Though they had no chance of victory, and would in all likelihood, with the ground as it was, have suffered defeat, they played a very creditable game against England at Lord's; and at Manchester they did still better, some of their very best cricket indeed being shown on this latter occasion. Their victory over the Players at Lord's marked a distinct change in their fortunes. Up to that time they had lost no fewer than five matches out of twelve, and there seemed every reason to fear that the trip which had opened with such a flourish of trumpets would be a downright failure. Happily the players pulled themselves together, and atoned in a considerable degree for their early disasters.

Still, look at the tour how we will, we cannot see that the side made out any claim to be considered equal to a representative England eleven. In only one of the three test matches brought to a definite conclusion, the Australians suffered defeat in a single innings, and in the interests of English cricket, the fact cannot be too strongly insisted on that the teams in Lord Sheffield's match at Sheffield Park, and Shrewsbury's benefit match at Trent Bridge, might with every propriety have been called England. Among other notable things during their tour, the Australians established a new record in first-class cricket, obtaining in their match at Portsmouth against the Past and Present of Oxford and Cambridge Universities the enormous total of 843. Some objection was taken in certain quarters to the match being counted first-class, on the ground that the team of the combined Universities was far from representative. A match under the same title had, however, been reckoned in 1888 and 1890, and it would have been very unfair to the Australians, who in the hope of making a record score practically gave up the idea of winning, to have discarded the game because the Universities' side was not so good as it ought to have been.

The strength of the Australian team lay in its batting; the weakness in the bowling and fielding. Scarcely any previous eleven from the Colonies - not even the great combinations of 1882 and 1884 - included a larger number of dependable run-getters. There was, it is true, no Percy McDonnell on the side to make his 40 or 50 runs under almost impossible conditions, but dead wickets were not very frequent during the English summer of 1893, and the loss was not felt to anything like the same extent that it would have been in a normal season. With Lyons and Bannerman representing the extremes of brilliancy and caution, and other batsmen of such varied powers as Graham, Trott, George Giffen, Bruce, Gregory, and Trumble, the side could always go into the field with good hopes of running up a formidable score. Even under favourable circumstances there were, of course, some failures, notably in the first innings of the England match at the Oval, when the team went down on a hard, true wicket for a total of 91, but, speaking generally, the disappointing results of the tour could not be attributed to lack of ability on the part of the batsmen. At same time it would be quite wrong to say that all the men came up to the expectations formed of them before they left home. Great hopes were built on the co-operation of George Giffen and Bruce, the two players whose absence from England in 1888 and 1890 prevented the teams of those years being regarded as really representative of Australian cricket.

When, in the third match of the tour, George Giffen made 180 against Gloucestershire at Bristol, it seemed as if he were going to play right up to his Australian form, but any such idea was far indeed from being realised. He made another big score - 171 against Yorkshire at Bradford - and with a good deal of luck he obtained 82 in the return match against Surrey at the Oval, but, on the whole, he was a long way from sustaining his reputation as the best of present-day Australian batsmen. On three or four occasions, when there was a match to win - notably against the Players at Lord's, Somerset at Taunton, and the Second Class Counties at Birmingham - he showed plenty of nerve and resource, but as a set-off against these successes there were many occasions on which he conspicuously failed. Indeed, in the matches generally regarded as representative, he had the extremely poor average of 12 runs an innings. The fact of his having to do so much bowling no doubt told considerably against him as a batsman, but it does not furnish a sufficient explanation of his unequal play. As a matter of fact he never seemed really comfortable against some of the exceptionally fast bowlers he had to meet, and it is highly significant that in ten of the twelve innings in which he was opposed by Richardson, the Surrey man got him out. We are inclined to think that Giffen's batting has suffered to some extent from the fact of his playing too often on the exceedingly true and easy wickets at the Adelaide Oval. The fiery grounds on which he sometimes had to play in England last season clearly did not suit him. After the claims made for him by some of the Australian critics, he was necessarily judged by the very highest standard, and it would be idle to contend that his batting in England satisfied either himself or his friends.

Bruce experienced two or three weeks of consistent ill-success during the height of the season, but while he at no time quite justified the praise bestowed upon him by the bowlers who went to Australia with Lord Sheffield's team, it would be unfair to regard his second visit to this country as a failure. In many matches he played very finely indeed, and we have seen few left-handed batsmen who were better worth looking at. Lyons improved vastly on his form of 1890, and seldom went in on a good wicket without inspiring the bowlers with a feeling of considerable apprehension. On no other occasion did he rise to the great height of his innings in the first match against the M.C.C., but time after time he played in his own style most brilliant cricket, scoring from all sorts of bowling at an astonishing rate. Inasmuch as he rarely proved successful on slow wickets, we cannot in point of general value rank him with such Australian hitters of the past as Massie and McDonnell, but given a dry and easy pitch we have seen no batsman so calculated to demoralise the opposing side. In the twelve representative matches he was far more successful than any of his colleagues, and he had certainly every reason to be satisfied with his personal share in the tour.

Still more remarkable, however, was the success of Harry Graham, who, visiting England for the first time, had the satisfaction of obtaining top average in all matches. The extraordinary fineness of the weather in 1893 makes it extremely difficult to institute comparisons with the doings of previous years, but taking everything into consideration and remembering especially how short had been his experience of first-class cricket in the Colonies, we are inclined to think that no Australian batsman during his first tour in England has played so well as Graham. Even among the best judges of the game in Melbourne and Sydney, his inclusion in the eleven was regarded as something of an experiment, but it was clear from the first match that he was fully entitled to his place. By scoring 219 at Derby he had the distinction of playing the highest individual innings of the tour, but his greatest triumph was gained at Lord's, when he made 107 against England. Blessed with any amount of confidence, he showed himself capable of getting runs under all sorts of conditions, and it was the unanimous opinion that, since S. P. Jones, Australia had not sent us a batsman of such abundant promise. His value to the side was much enhanced by his exceptional excellence in the long field. Bannerman was just as good a bat as on his previous visits to England, his defence being as strong and his patience as untiring as ever. As was perhaps only natural in the case of a player of such nerve and coolness, he did himself full justice on the most important occasions, playing particularly well in two of the matches with England.

Trott also batted uncommonly well-much better than in 1890 - and there was perhaps no finer innings played for the team than his 92 against England at the Oval. While retaining his brilliancy in the field, Gregory exhibited remarkable improvement as a batsman, playing very finely on many occasions. Adding together the runs he made and the runs he saved, he was unquestionably one of the most useful men on the side. Considering the reputation he enjoys in Melbourne, McLeod, as a batsman, certainly disappointed English critics. He often made serviceable scores, but there was nothing attractive in his style, and he did not seem to be master of many strokes. On the other hand, the reports of Hugh Trumble's improvement in batting were amply borne out, his hitting in many matches being remarkably fine. Of the remaining batsmen there is not much to be said. Turner and Blackham did one or two brilliant things, but were far from keeping up their previous form, and there was nothing very noteworthy in the doings of Walter Giffen and Coningham. We do not know whether Jarvis neglected to practise or became disheartened by not playing more frequently, but he was quite incapable of getting runs.

In discussing the bowling of the side we need not go to such length. It might in an ordinary season have been found adequate, but, despite all the fine work done from time to time by Turner, George Giffen, and Hugh Trumble, the want of variety on hard wickets was too obvious to be overlooked. A really fast bowler of even ordinary quality would have been valuable if only for the sake of contrast. Turner had for the first time to stand the test of a dry season in England, and it would be flattery to say that he came out of the ordeal with any increase of reputation. At first we were inclined to think that he had fallen off in form, but any such idea was destroyed by the brilliant success that rewarded him whenever the condition of the ground gave him any material help. In a word, when rain came to his assistance he was as deadly as ever. An attack of influenza during the early part of the tour no doubt handicapped him to some extent, but the fact remains that his presence inspired no apprehension in the minds of English batsmen when the grounds were in run-getting condition. He headed the averages and could point to a very good record for the whole tour, but he was not the great man on the side that he had been in 1888 and 1890.

On dry wickets George Giffen was clearly the best bowler in the team, a fact which in match after match was proved to demonstration. He complained, and not, we think, without reason, that while he had to do more than his share of bowling when the grounds were good, he did not have much opportunity of improving his average when wet weather had placed batsmen at a disadvantage. His bowling presented one strong point of contrast to the style ordinarily adopted at the present day. Discarding almost entirely the popular off theory, he pitched on the wicket with an off break and generally had four men fielding on the on-side. Indeed, to see the field placed for his bowling was quite a novel experience in these days, when we generally find eight men massed on the off-side. Inasmuch as his theory involves the restoration of leg hitting, Giffen is in proportion more expensive than other right-handed bowlers of his own class. His best ball is still the slow, dropping ball, which has always been so deceptive in the flight, and there are few bowlers so likely to get batsmen out who are meeting him for the first time.

An immense improvement on his form of three years before was shown by Hugh Trumble, who bowled consistently well all through the tour and had one week of exceptional success, taking fourteen wickets for 116 runs against the Players at Lord's and twelve for 84 against Kent at Gravesend. However little they might have thought of him in 1890, English batsmen were able to understand last season how he had gained his reputation in Victoria. His great height was always in his favour, and he seemed to have gained both in spin and accuracy. Apart from Turner, George Giffen, and Trumble, there was no first-rate bowling on the side. Trott did a good many brilliant things against the weaker teams, but he was nearly always expensive and very rarely successful when opposed to batsmen of high class. One of his best performances was accomplished against Sussex at Brighton, when he took nine wickets for 83 runs - five for 27 and four for 56.

McLeod came over with a considerable reputation, but it cannot be said that he had any terrors for English batsmen. He did very well now and then, nearly succeeding in winning the first match against the M.C.C. at Lord's, but there was nothing in his achievements to suggest exceptional ability. Bruce did one sensational thing against Yorkshire at Leeds, but he has not sufficient command over the ball to be more than an occasionally effective change. Coningham had some cause of complaint against the managers of the team, the opportunities afforded him after the first few matches-considering that he was selected chiefly as a bowler - being very few. We cannot help thinking that he might have been given a better trial. Blackham captained the side with any amount of zeal, but we doubt if by temperament he is quite fitted for so anxious and onerous a position. We are afraid we must add that his wicket-keeping began to show the effects of time and hard work. Jarvis kept wicket very well indeed in such matches as he was tried in, but, as already stated, he could get no runs. The fielding of the team was very uneven - at times most brilliant, but on some occasions inexcusably faulty.

Match reports for

Lord Sheffield's XI v Australians at Uckfield, May 8-10, 1893
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Gloucestershire v Australians at Bristol, May 15-17, 1893
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Marylebone Cricket Club v Australians at Lord's, May 18-20, 1893
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Yorkshire v Australians at Sheffield, May 22-23, 1893
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Lancashire v Australians at Manchester, May 25-26, 1893
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Surrey v Australians at The Oval, May 29-30, 1893
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Oxford University v Australians at Oxford, Jun 1-3, 1893
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Yorkshire v Australians at Bradford, Jun 5-7, 1893
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Cambridge University v Australians at Cambridge, Jun 8-10, 1893
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Marylebone Cricket Club v Australians at Lord's, Jun 12-14, 1893
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South of England v Australians at The Oval, Jun 15-16, 1893
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Players v Australians at Lord's, Jun 19-20, 1893
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Kent v Australians at Gravesend, Jun 22-23, 1893
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A Shrewsbury's England XI v Australians at Nottingham, Jun 26-28, 1893
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North of England v Australians at Manchester, Jun 29-Jul 1, 1893
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Yorkshire v Australians at Leeds, Jul 10-11, 1893
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Sussex v Australians at Hove, Jul 13-14, 1893
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1st Test: England v Australia at Lord's, Jul 17-19, 1893
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Somerset v Australians at Taunton, Jul 20-22, 1893
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Middlesex v Australians at Lord's, Jul 24-25, 1893
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Surrey v Australians at The Oval, Jul 27-29, 1893
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Oxford and Cambridge Universities Past and Present v Australians at Portsmouth, Jul 31-Aug 2, 1893
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Kent v Australians at Canterbury, Aug 7-9, 1893
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Liverpool and District v Australians at Liverpool, Aug 10-11, 1893
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2nd Test: England v Australia at The Oval, Aug 14-16, 1893
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Gloucestershire v Australians at Cheltenham, Aug 17-18, 1893
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Second Class Counties v Australians at Birmingham, Aug 21-23, 1893
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3rd Test: England v Australia at Manchester, Aug 24-26, 1893
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Nottinghamshire v Australians at Nottingham, Aug 31-Sep 2, 1893
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CI Thornton's XI v Australians at Scarborough, Sep 4-6, 1893
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South of England v Australians at Hastings, Sep 7-9, 1893
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