Fourth Test match

England v Australia 1902

The fourth of the Test games produced one of the most memorable matches in the whole history of cricket, the Australians, after some extraordinary fluctuations of fortune, winning by three runs. At the end of the first day they looked to have the game in their hands, and at the end of the second it seemed equally certain that they would be beaten. Superb bowling and fielding pulled them through at the finish, but they would probably be the first to admit that fortune was very kind to them, five or six hours' rain during Friday night making the task of the Englishmen in the last innings twice as difficult as it had promised to be. In the opinion of most people England ought, despite the damaged pitch, to have won the match, but defeat by three runs after such a tremendous struggle certainly carried with it no discredit. Nothing that English cricketers did against the Australians last summer - not even the victory at The Oval in the final Test match - was more brilliant than the way in which they recovered themselves on the second day, turning an apparently hopeless position into one that suggested an easy win. In picking twelve men for England the Selection Committee left out Fry and Jessop, restored Ranjitsinhji to the place he had not been able to take at Sheffield, and brought in L. C. H. Palairet and Tate. As Fry had failed in three matches it was only right to drop him, but it was a mistake not to play Jessop as his absence, apart from all question of run-getting, sadly weakened the fielding on the off-side. On the morning of the match another blunder was committed, Tate being played in preference to Hirst. The condition of the ground - very soft and slow after a lot of rain - offered some excuse for the course adopted, but it meant playing a bowler pure and simple in preference to a first-rate all-round man, and the result proved anything but happy.

The Australians derived great advantage from winning the toss as up to lunch time the ball did nothing at all on the soft turf. Trumper, Duff and Hill, made splendid use of their opportunities, but it must be said that the English bowlers did very poor work, pitching so short that it was often an easy matter to pull them. By magnificent hitting Trumper and Duff scored 135 in an hour and twenty minutes for the first wicket and when lunch time came the total without further loss had reached 173, the Australians seeming already on the high road to victory. After the interval Rhodes got rid of Trumper, Noble and Gregory in quick succession, but Darling punished him tremendously and while in with Hill made an invaluable stand for the fifth wicket. With only five men out for 256 the Australians seemed sure to make considerably over three hundred, but the last few batsmen could do nothing against Lockwood, and the innings ended for 299. It should be stated that owing to the soft ground Lockwood was not tried at all until the score had reached 129. Duff, Hill and Darling all played fine cricket, but the chief batting honours rested with Trumper, who scored his 104 without making a mistake of any kind. His pulling was a marvel of ease and certainty. The wicket had been drying fast since luncheon and the Englishmen on going in to bat could do little or nothing against Trumble and Saunders, five wickets going down in three-quarters of an hour for 44. Jackson and Braund then played out time, the total at the drawing of stumps being 70.

Friday was England's day, the cricket shown by the home side, apart from one lamentable blunder in the field, being magnificent. To begin with Jackson and Braund pulled the game round into quite a respectable position, carrying the overnight score of 70 to 185 before they were separated. Altogether they put on during their partnership 141 runs. It was a splendid performance, for although the wicket had improved a great deal and was in good condition, runs were very hard to get, the Australian bowlers being always able to get break on the ball. Lunch time had nearly arrived, when Braund, in stepping out to drive Noble, turned on to his wicket a ball that would have missed the off stump. A better morning's play all-round was not seen during the whole season. Braund made a wretched stroke with his score at 58 but otherwise his innings was quite beyond reproach, the way in which he punished Armstrong on the leg side being most refreshing. After luncheon Jackson did not get much support, but he played a great game himself, seizing every opportunity of scoring and forcing the hitting in the most skilful way while the last two men were in with him. In fourth wicket down on Thursday, with the score at 30 he was the last man out, England finishing up with a total of 262 or only 37 runs behind. He was at the wickets nearly four hours and a half, playing all the time with superb judgment and skill. When he had made 41 he might have been caught and bowled by Saunders from a very hard return and at 123 he was missed by Gregory at cover-point from the simplest of chances, but these and one or two hits that luckily fell out of harm's way just after luncheon were the only blemishes in his innings.

Excitement was at its highest point when shortly after four o'clock the Australians entered upon their second innings, everyone feeling that the result of the match might depend on the next hour's play. As it happened Lockwood's bowling was even more remarkable in quality than Jackson's batting had been, and the game went entirely in England's favour. Trumper, Hill and Duff were out for ten runs, Trumper being caught at slip by Braund at the second attempt, and the fourth wicket would have fallen at sixteen if Darling had not been missed at square leg off Braund's bowling by Tate. If the catch had been held it is quite likely, as Lockwood was bowling in such wonderful form, that the Australians would have been out for a total of fifty or sixty. As it was, Darling and Gregory stayed together for an hour, their partnership producing 54 runs. Gregory was the first to go, and Darling left at 74. The Lockwood, who had been indulged with a rest, got rid of Hopkins and Noble, and when the time came for drawing stumps eight wickets were down for 85. The Australians were only 122 runs ahead with two wickets to fall, and it is only reasonable to assume that if the weather had kept fine during the night, England would have won the match comfortably enough. Rain poured down for five or six hours however, and on Saturday morning the position had completely changed. Owing to the state of the ground nothing could be done until shortly after twelve, and for the addition of a single run the Australian innings ended, England being left with 124 to get to win. For Lockwood, as a bowler, the match was nothing less than a triumph, his analysis for the two innings coming out at eleven wickets for 76 runs. Finer bowling than his on Friday afternoon can rarely have been seen.

As no one could tell how the wicket would play, the Englishmen entered upon their task under any anxious circumstances. At first, however, everything went well, MacLaren and Palairet scoring 36 runs in fifty minutes, and being still together at lunch time. Still, though they started so well, the difficulty they experienced in playing the bowling made one apprehensive as to what would happen after the interval. Palairet was bowled at 44, and then with MacLaren and Tyldesley together runs for a few overs came so fast that England seemed likely to win hands down. However, at 68 or only 56 to win, Tyldesley was caught in the slips. Another misfortune quickly followed, MacLaren, after playing very fine cricket for an hour and a quarter, hitting out rashly at a ball from Trumble and being caught in the long field at 72. At this point Ranjitsinhji was joined by Abel, and after the latter had been missed by Saunders at mid-on, a slight shower stopped the game for a quarter of an hour. The weather looked very threatening and it was clear, on cricket being again proceeded with, that Abel had received strict injunctions to hit. He played a game quite foreign to his ordinary methods, and for a time got on very well. Ranjitsinhji, however, was altogether at fault and did not seem to have the least confidence in himself. He was always in front of the stumps in trying to play Trumble, and at 92 he was leg-before-wicket to that bowler. With six wickets in hand and only 32 runs wanted, England still seemed sure of victory, but from this point everything changed, Trumble and Saunders, backed up by superb fielding, bowling so finely that in fifty minutes five more wickets went down for 24 runs. Abel was bowled in trying to drive; Jackson was caught at mid-off from a full pitch Braund beautifully stumped, and Lockwood bowled, the eighth wicket falling at 109. With fifteen runs required, Rhodes joined Lilley and in three hits, one of them a big drive over the ring by Rhodes the score was carried to 116 or only eight to win. At this point, Lilley, from a fine hit, was splendidly caught by Hill at square-leg, the fieldsman just reaching the ball when running at full speed. Heavy rain then drove the players from the field and there was a delay of three-quarters of an hour before the match could be finished. Tate got a four on the leg-side from the first ball he received from Saunders, but the fourth, which came a little with the bowler's arm and kept low, hit the wicket and the match was over, Australia winning by three runs. Trumble and Saunders bowled extraordinary well, combining a lot of break with almost perfect length, and the fielding that did so much to win the match was unsurpassable.

© John Wisden & Co
 
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