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As Mr Bosanquet has in another part of the Almanack dealt with the doings of the MCC's team in Australia last winter, a long introduction to the record of the tour is quite unnecessary. In every sense, except the financial one, the trip was a brilliant success, the general result far exceeding even the most sanguine expectations. Success was badly needed, for not only had the two previous English teams - under Mr Stoddart in 1897-98, and Mr MacLaren in 1901-02 - been beaten by four to one in the Test matches, but the Australians had in this country carried off the honours on the occasion of their last two visits, winning the only Test Match that was played out in 1899 and two out of the three that were decided in 1902. Thus we had not had the best of our recurring struggles with the Australians since that memorable morning at the Oval in August, 1896, when J. T. Hearne and Peel got Harry Trott"s eleven out for 44 and won us the rubber.
Prestige counts for a good deal in the cricket field, and the victories last winter had a most beneficial effect in again putting English cricketers on thoroughly good terms with themselves. The fact of the MCC team winning the rubber by three matches to two so dwarfed everything else in the public mind that the players received less credit than was their due for their fine work outside the Test games. Of their half-dozen matches with the single States they won five, beating Victoria twice, New South Wales twice, and South Australia once. The first match with South Australia-the opening fixture of the tour-had to left drawn, but the Englishmen had so much the best of the position that if play had gone on to the ordinary time for drawing stumps on the last afternoon, they would almost certainly have won. Taking these half-dozen matches and the five Test Matches together, the net result of the first-class cricket was that the Englishmen gained eight victories, suffered only two defeats, and played one draw.
The team consisted of:
Of these fourteen players, seven were entire strangers to Australia, and Warner and Bosanquet had only taken part in one match each at Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide, at the end of the English tour in New Zealand, in the winter of 1902-03. On the other hand, Hayward had been through two tours in Australia, and Hirst, Tyldesley, Braund, and Lilley one. The team was well chosen with a view to all-round efficiency, but it cannot be said that Relf and Fielder proved quite class enough to justify the distinction conferred on them. It is a curious fact that these two players were chosen purely on expert advice. A right-handed fast bowler being almost a necessity, Fielder was looked upon as the most likely man available, and two great cricketers had a theory that Relf's bowling would be peculiarly suitable to Australian wickets. Ordinary followers of cricket would not have thought of choosing either man to the exclusion of John Gunn and other players who could be named. Leaving this point aside, Mr Warner had at his command a team calculated to do well under all conditions of weather and wicket, and the results proved that the side was an extremely good one.
The strong point was the variety of the bowling, and to this more than to any other cause may be attributed the success in the Test matches, Rhodes, Arnold, Hirst, Braund, and Bosanquet forming a splendid combination. Rhodes was, as regards the whole tour, the most effective bowler, but Bosanquet turned the scale in England's favour, the victory at Sydney in the fourth Test match being clearly due to his efforts. Rhodes quite confuted those who prophesied that he would be a failure in Australia, his figures being exceptionally fine. He was fortunate in being more often helped by rain than he could have expected, but we have Mr Warner's testimony to the fact that he nearly always bowled well even on the best and firmest pitches. By taking 15 wickets at Melbourne he set up a new record in Test matches. Mr Warner wisely treated him as a bowler pure and simple, giving him little chance to expend his energies in run-getting.
Bosanquet's value with the ball cannot be judged from the averages, as on his bad days he is, as everyone knows, one of the most expensive of living bowlers. When he was in form the Australians thought him far more difficult on hard wickets than any of the other bowlers, Clement Hill saying, without any qualification, that his presence in the eleven won the rubber. Arnold bowled uncommonly well - much better than his figures would suggest - but Hirst, though by no means the failure he had been with Mr Stoddart's team six years before, fell far below his English form. Braund was disappointing, and was only up to his best standard in the last two matches.
As regards batting, the Australians thought Tyldesley on all wickets much the best man. He played magnificently in the second Test match, scoring 97 and 62, and in the second innings surmounting the difficulties of a wicket on which the other men could do noting. However, he had a long spell of bad luck and his record did not come out so well as at one time seemed likely. R. E. Foster, with his wonderful score of 287 at Sydney, established a record in Test matches that may not be beaten in this generation, and it was peculiarly unfortunate that he should have been checked by illness just when he was at the top of his form. He soon recovered, but his play was certainly affected. Even as it was he headed the averages both in the Test matches and all first-class fixtures, his one great score of course helping him materially.
Hayward did not perhaps make so many runs as had been expected, but he played very finely indeed, his best, though not his highest, innings being the 91 with which he did so much to win the First Test match at Sydney. Again, in the Fourth Test Match he scored 52 when the wicket was very difficult. Hirst's best score in the Test games was 60 not out, but in all first-class fixtures he scored 518 runs, with an average of 32. The Australian wickets in fine weather are rather too fast to suit the pulling and hook strokes of which he is such a master in England. Only playing in three of the Test Matches, Knight did not have so many opportunities as he had hoped for, but when his chance came he played good cricket, scoring an invaluable 70 not out in the match which decided the rubber. Bosanquet failed as a batsman in the Test games, but played admirably against the single States. To Warner's qualities as a leader full tribute has been paid by Bosanquet. As a batsman the English captain was probably disappointed with himself, but on occasions he did very well, notably in the Test match at Adelaide. Lilley's wicket-keeping was described on all hands as superb.
Match reports for
South Australia v Marylebone Cricket Club at Adelaide, Nov 7-11, 1903
Victoria v Marylebone Cricket Club at Melbourne, Nov 13-16, 1903
New South Wales v Marylebone Cricket Club at Sydney, Nov 20-23, 1903
Queensland v Marylebone Cricket Club at Brisbane, Nov 27-30, 1903
Tasmania v Marylebone Cricket Club at Hobart, Jan 25-26, 1904
Tasmania v Marylebone Cricket Club at Launceston, Jan 29-30, 1904
Victoria v Marylebone Cricket Club at Melbourne, Feb 5-9, 1904
New South Wales v Marylebone Cricket Club at Sydney, Feb 12-15, 1904
South Australia v Marylebone Cricket Club at Adelaide, Mar 12-15, 1904