England 2 Australia 1

The Australian team in England, 1888

There are two ways of passing judgment upon the tour of the sixth Australian team in England. The first is to compare the individual and collective records of the tour with the performances of preceding elevens, and the second is to discuss the team of 1888 upon their own merits, thinking and saying as little as possible about what has gone before, and summing up the doings of McDonnell's eleven with the object and end of comparing them, not with previous visitors from the Colonies, but with the contemporary Englishmen with whom they battled, by whom they were beaten, and over whom, thanks to their magnificent bowling, they gained many a notable triumph.

The first method has the sanction of precedent, and the advantage of convenience. From the tour of 1880, through the great periods of 1882 and 1884, and in dealing with the less remarkable trip of two years ago, the method of comparison was largely adopted. The method is easy, inasmuch as several of the men were as familiar to English players and the English public as are our own prominent amateurs and professionals. For the satisfaction of those who like to compare the past closely with the present a table is published among the other statistical matter at the end of this record of the Australian tour, and there will be seen what the batsmen and bowlers who had been here before did in England last summer. Beyond that we shall scarcely go. One reason for this is that the readers of Wisden's Cricketers' Almanack are very largely students of cricket history themselves, and have in their libraries the old records from which we should have to quote. Another reason, and a strong one, is that, we there were five previous tours with which and all of which some comparison would be inevitable if the task were entered upon at all, we should be committing ourselves to the construction of a sort of cricket House that Jack built--wearying rather than entertaining those who naturally look in the book devoted to 1888 for the cricket of that year. But the third and most powerful reason is, that the success achieved by our late visitors was due to new men, and the failure was that of new men also. TThe old hands did pretty much as they might have been expected to do, and, while they rarely brought about victory, they still more rarely caused defeat. Accordingly the second plan will be followed as closely as possible.

The team was organised by Mr. Charles W. Beal, on the old basis of private and personal adventure: the men were, we believe, banded together in a commonwealth, though we do not profess to know, nor should we put on record if we did know, the private and financial relations that existed among the members of the eleven. It was at first hoped that Moses, the well-known left-handed batsman, would be a member of the team; while down to the last moment before sailing the compansionship of George Giffen was confidently expected. Disappointment followed in each case, and also in the cases of some other men who were asked to make the trip; and there can be no doubt that the team that sailed from Adelaide last March, while they did not deserve a quarter of the bitter and contemptuous things said about them by newspapers of their own Colonies, were yet far from representing Combined Australia. The secretary of the Surrey Club at the meeting in December, 1887, made most of the Australian matches, and the vacant dates were all filled up by the manager of the team as soon as practicable; so that, with the exception of Thursday, May 10, and the Derby Day, May 30, every week day for twenty consecutive weeks was allotted to play. Some few of these fixtures were not made immediately, and in one case there was a change from Edinburgh to Stoke in consequence of the Scotch team being engaged with Yorkshire on the only days the Australians had open. Without for the moment discussing the question of how the wet summer affected the play of the team, it may be at once admitted that by bringing about many short games it greatly increased the period of rest, and enabled the men to go through their programme with few, if any, of those tedious night journey's which have tried the endurance of many cricketers, English and Colonial. Followers of sport are proverbially superstitious, and on the same principle that many a batsman, to change his luck, has gone in wearing an old cap or carrying an old bat that he used when he made some former big score, so Beal took his men to the hotel from which the great team of 1882 set out and adopted the colours worn by that famous eleven, and, also we believe for the same reason, the early practice was taken on Mitcham Green. Here naturally enough the chief interest of spectators centred in Turner and Ferris. It was no secret that this trip was an experiment, a new departure in Colonial cricket.

The mighty Spofforth, the greatest bowler we had ever seen, was with the team no more; there was neither Giffen nor Palmer. The Australians of 1888 were for all practical purposes a new eleven trusting to two young bowlers. The choice of a captain had fallen upon Percy McDonnell, and it is difficult to see who else could have been selected. Not improbably when the next team comes Turner himself will be chosen, but it would have been rash in the extreme to have given the anxiety and trouble of leadership to him upon whose bowling those who knew the most about the team knew that the most depended. It was at once seen that Turner and Ferris were bowlers of high capacity and considerable resource, that their action was free from tricks of any kind, and that they both were, like all Australians we have ever seen, scrupulously and irreproachably fair. Bonnor, who had been here since 1886, joined the team on its arrival, and the simple facts were soon learned that Jarvis was brought over to relieve Blackham in wicket-keeping, that a lot was expected of Jones, and very little of Boyle. There was a great deal of cordial good feeling expressed towards the new comers, who commenced their long series of matches at Norbury Park, the private ground of Mr. J. W. Hobbs, on the first Monday in May.

The forty matches resulted as follows:--Nineteen victories, fourteen defeats, and seven games unfinished. Turner and Ferris won the first match for their side, Ferris, the left-hander, having in each innings rather the better analysis, and taking eleven wickets to his comrade's nine. There was little in this that was unexpected, for the Englishmen had had even less practice than their rivals. The complete overthrow of Warwickshire followed, and then again people said this was only what might have been anticipated. Again Ferris did better than Turner, and then the team came up to the Oval to play Surrey. This match, as it turned out, was one of the most completely successful of the whole tour. The batting was good pretty well all through, and Turner surprised even his friends by the brilliant score he made. Surrey collapsed before the already famous pair, and were beaten more decisively than Warwickshire had been. The fame of the Colonial eleven was established at once. Rushing from one extreme to the other the people who had thought and spoken lightly of the visitors because critics on their own side had set them the example, and because so many famous names were absent from the Australian list, were now enthusiastic or apprehensive according to their temperament, and were full of not only the prowess of the strange bowlers, but had plenty to talk about in what they had seen of the batting of Trott, Turner, and the men they knew. Oxford University were unable to stem the tide; there was another 100 scored, another single-innings victory gained, and people pointed out that, as in the second innings of Surrey, Jones's fast bowling had been extraordinarily destructive. He had not bowled twenty overs in the two innings, but he had taken seven wickets for 23 runs.

Something like a scare was certainly beginning, and when Yorkshire, like their predecessors, were beaten in a single innings at Bramall Lane, with Bonnor showing his old hitting, and Turner and Ferris as steady and as deadly as before, the most extravagant opinions were uttered by men of usually calm judgment, and those comparisons which we set out by deprecating were made with irrational and ludicrous freedom. Now set in one of those periods of disaster which were fated to follow the Australians'triumphs through the season, and so render very difficult the attempt to estimate fairly and accurately the true form of the Colonial eleven. Briggs, helped by A. G. Steel, J. Eccles, and J. R. Napier, enabled Lancashire to beat them after a big fight at Old Trafford; and, although the next match was a draw and Bonnor made 100, the Gentlemen at Lord's batted so finely against Turner and Ferris that the tone of public opinion changed again. W. G. Grace played a magnificent innings of 165; and the two great Surrey amateurs, Shuter and Read, gave further proof that on a good wicket our best batsmen could play the new bowlers as they had played all other bowlers before them. In that same week a very strong eleven of Players beat the Australians handsomely at all points. This was followed by a crushing defeat at the hands of Nottinghamshire, for whom Attewell and Barnes bowled superbly, and J. A. Dixon played one of the best innings of his career. This was probably the most critical period of the tour. Jones, the best batsman on the side, who had played finely against Lancashire, and still more finely against the Gentlemen, was evidently ill and sickening during the Players' match, and was obliged to give up his place almost as soon as the contest with Nottinghamshire commenced. A period of anxiety for the manager ensued, the grief and burden of which had to be borne by him alone, while even the knowledge that cause for such anxiety existed was wisely restricted to a very few. No risk was run, no danger was incurred, no steps were taken to which the strictest purist in morals could have objected; but, acting under full medical authority and sanction, the secret of the highly contagious nature of Jones's illness was strictly and faithfully kept, and only one or two members of the team itself and some three or four persons outside the team knew until months afterwards, when all danger was past and the unlucky young fellow was about again, what a narrow escape the ship had had from foundering before the voyage was a quarter over.

The public knew well enough in these early June days that a crisis had come, and it is very much to the credit of the Australians that they surmounted their difficulties and played themselves into form again. Beal and Turner, and we fancy M'Donnell also, never lost heart, but faced fortune like men, and, the first great disaster overcome, were able to take the ups and downs that distinguished the remainder of the tour quite philosophically, coming out at the end, as everyone knows, after two tremendous thrashings at Leeds and Manchester, with big victories at Hastings and the Oval. They could naturally never replace Jones. Batsmen of his class are not made in a day; and, notwithstanding Trott's consistent excellence, M'Donnell's brilliant though rash hitting, Bonnor's occasionally magnificent play, the tireless patience of Bannerman and Edwards, and the late success of Lyons. the batting all through the remainder of the tour was unsatisfactory, untrustworthy and unequal to that shown by most of their adversaries. Time after time the fortunes of the tour ebbed and flowed, until people used to joke about having Beal up before the Jockey Club to explain the in-and-out running of the team.

The most surprising thing of all was that the batting showed little or no improvement when with August the English summer started. There had of course been some fine weather in May, but June was detestable, and July indescribable. It was in the first days of August that Turner accomplished at Hastings his greatest achievement of the year so far as figures were concerned. He had already at Stoke taken thirteen wickets in a match for 48 runs, but at Hastings, just after the team had been washed out of the Oval, he actually took seventeen wickets for 50 runs. Then came the August Bank Holiday, and with it the sunshine. But with the consequent good wickets there did not come any material improvement in the Australian batting. It has always been an axiom with cricketers that, given good batsmen, the better the wicket the better the scores. Tried by this standard the Colonial batting cannot escape condemnation. It is true that the team beat Kent, but on the grand Canterbury ground they only scored 116 and 152, Gloucestershire at Clifton put them out for 143 and 126, and at Cheltenham again defeated them, dismissing them for 118 and 151. At the Oval, on a wicket good enough for anything, they went down before the England bowlers for 80 and 100; at Nottingham, Attewell, Barnes and Dixon put them out for 95 and 147. They did better at Portsmouth, but there there was literally no bowling against them; while at the Crystal Palace they had all the worst of a bad wicket. They were helpless against England at Manchester, and, although they beat the mixed team at Harrogate, the victory was achieved as much by the bowlers as by the batsmen. Many cricketers will readily remember how Briggs and Peel dismissed them at Scarborough for 96 and 57, and, although they batted fairly well on the strangely treacherous turf at Holbeck, they were beaten there by Shrewsbury's team and again at Manchester, when Briggs and Lohmann actually put them out for 35, and this when the wicket offered no adequate excuse. It was after this miserable exhibition, when the bitter days of Nottingham seemed to have come back again, and the tour looked like finishing up in failure and gloom, that a splendid victory was gained over the representative eleven of the South at Hastings, and that Surrey were beaten, after a gallant and plucky fight, by splendid all-round cricket.

We have purposely not mentioned in their places the two great victories achieved over England at Lord's and the North at Manchester. The Lord's game was played on a bowlers' wicket throughout, and the Manchester victory was due to one of the most remarkable batting feats that has ever been witnessed, McDonnell scoring 82 out of 86 runs by hitting unique in our experience for its rapidity, power, and daring. At Lord's the Australians started with a score of 116, and this, with the ground in the condition it was, proved enough to win with. Our side were put out for 53, narrowly saving the follow on. The wicket was worse afterwards, and the Australians made 60. Turner and Ferris, with all the conditions in their favour, then accomplished their great historical feat of getting England out for 62 after W. G. Grace had begun the innings by scoring 24. This game, as well as all the other games, is described in the record of the tour which comes after this. If against the Lord's match we had only to set the match at Manchester, where England won the toss and the game, there would have been little to say one way or the other. Certainly we won the Manchester match more easily than they did the game at Lord's, but in each case the ground was not in a condition to play a Test match upon, and, while the Australians were admittedly not representative of the full strength of Australia, England had emphatically the best available side in the field. But there is the Oval match to be considered, and there, as we have said, the Colonial batting broke down utterly before our best bowlers, and, although the challengers had first innings and nothing against them except the ever-to-be-lamented absence of Jones, they were never formidable from start to finish, and were badly beaten at all points of the game. We do not wish to make much capital out of this victory of the old country in the strictly international contests. The Australians themselves would freely admit that the team of 1888 were not equal, or anything like equal, to the best contemporary eleven of England. It would have been a disgrace to have been beaten, and we are only speaking the simple truth when we say that England maintained her superiority. Of course the beating we had at Lord's in July is a recorded fact and will be remembered against us, but it was in no sense a defeat upon our merits, and not one Englishman in a thousand will feel it as belonging to the same category as our overthrow at the Oval in 1882. The team who have left us have a good deal to be proud of besides the fluky defeat of England on a mudheap. There are the splendid series of victories with which they opened, the excellent drawn game with Cambridge after the University had scored a first innings of 332, the triumph over the Past and Present of Oxford after being 72 runs behind on the first innings, the complete beating administered to Middlesex, the keen and victorious engagement with the M.C.C., the startling successes over the North and the South, and the double defeat of Surrey. These are achievements which are more than enough to stay the hand of anyone disposed to write down the tour as a failure, while the vigour and thoroughness of the Colonial cricket on these and other occasions compel the impartial critic to declare that Australian cricket stands far higher to-day than it did two years ago. And yet no sooner has this judgment - which we believe to be a true and candid one - been pronounced than there come before our eyes the shadows of the matches at Brighton and Leicester to bewilder us, and the indelible figures which chronicle the triumphs of Humphreys and Arthur Hide in the one game and of Pougher and Arnall-Thompson in the other to protest against too favourable a conclusion, and to show us, however we may decide upon this motley and self-contradictory collection of facts, that no judgment will be regarded as final or universally accepted as satisfactory.

We have said that forty matches were played continuously through twenty weeks, beginning on May 7 and ending on September 22. With the two spare days that were arranged for, there were 118 days possible; fourteen matches were finished in two days, and ten entire days were lost owing to rain, so that there were ninety-four hard days' play. We have also said that of the forty matches played, the Australians won nineteen and lost fourteen, the remaining seven being drawn. McDonnell won the toss on seventeen occasions, and lost it on twenty-three, so that he has no reason to thank his luck for any share of success gained. McDonnell's conduct as captain of the eleven was by no means unanimously approved by the team or by English cricketers who took interest in the matter, and it is an open secret that but for Beal's tact, the loyalty and level-headedness of Turner, and the unswerving obedience of Ferris, there was now and then a possibility of the same sort of muffled mutiny which in some former teams has been unpleasantly apparent. Now the tour is over, and there can be no harm in speaking all one's mind, we may say that we think on many occasions McDonnell showed want of judgment. We do not mean in his batting, though after the marvellous Manchester performance his rashness was apparent to anyone; but in the general management of his bowling. He never seemed happy unless he had Turner on at one end and Ferris at the other. Of course we all knew very early in the tour that there were no other great bowling stars, and that it was a Turner and Ferris trip or nothing. The young bowlers stood the work magnificently. Ferris, the slighter and less robust of the two, was now and then stale and below himself, but Turner worked with superb energy, skill, and determination, and commanded the admiration of even the most lukewarm follower of the game. But what would have happened if the dry weather had come at the beginning of July instead of the beginning of August? How would the team have fared if disease had seized one of the best bowlers instead of the best batsman? No one, save the veteran Boyle, had had any experience of English grounds, and the team had not been taught to place reliance on any one else. McDonnell's policy said as plainly as if he had spoken the words, Our bowlers are Turner and Ferris; we only put the other men on to give them a rest. We have no great opinion of Trott's leg break bowling, and think it probably too slow to be effectual against good batsmen, at any rate during such a season as we have had. Worrall, however, showed that he was by no means to be despised, and he was certainly far more successful than S. M. J. Woods, who after his heavy work through the Cambridge season played for the Australians in the representative matches. And what are we to think of Boyle? It is true that he is, as Australian cricketers go, a veteran, but when he was here in 1884 he took sixty-seven wickets for about 17 and a half runs each, and two years before he took a hundred and forty-four wickets for something over 11 runs each. Surely if he was worth bringing at all in 1888 he was worth bowling more than a hundred and fifty overs. As it is, his record for the season shows that he took eleven wickets for 18 runs each, and scored 153 runs. There was no reason at all in bringing him if no more use than this was to be made of his services. To show how completely Turner and Ferris monopolised the bowling, obeying McDonnell's orders, the averages give Turner bowling nearly two thousand six hundred overs, Ferris over two thousand two hundred, and Trott only five hundred, while no one else in the whole season approached even three hundred overs. Of course, McDonnell should have made full use of his best men when the occasion required it, but a wise general does not have his crack regiments engaged in every skirmish, and there were plenty of sides who would not have been able to do much with Boyle keeping a good length at one end, and the changes played upon Worrall, Trott and Lyons at the other.

The wonder is that McDonnell's policy succeeded. We doubt very much if it would ever succeed again. Let alone the chances of accident - and before now Spofforth and Palmer have had to stand out from their side - there is the practical certainty that with the wickets harder than they were during the summer the work would have beaten Ferris, if it had not even been too much for the strength and resolution of Turner. The batting and bowling tables at the end of the matches will show, to keep our promise, how the Australians compared with contemporary Englishmen. We should say that what are called the representative matches were the following nine: Three against England, and one each against the Gentlemen, the Players, the North, the South, the M. C. C. and Lord Londesborough's Eleven. These tables will show how M'Donnell came out at the top of the batting throughout the season, how Bonnor displayed his inequalities of form, playing a giant's game one day and a lawn-tennis game the next. Trott amply and fully justified his selection by scoring the highly creditable total of 1212 runs, with an average of over 19 per innings. We have already said all we need say in praise of the steadiness of Bannerman, and we hope that no one will over-look the enormous loss sustained through Jones's illness. Turner hit freely and well on many occasions, and played the keen, plucky, and confident game that great cricketers play on great occasions. Lyons, after beginning in the most miserable fashion, came out at last like a cricketer, and played at Hastings, in the middle of September, a really admirable innings of 84. We should not be in the least surprised to see this player here again, and then he should prove a success. Edwards's method of scoring is painfully slow, and, though we give him every possible credit for good intentions, we do not think that he is an element of strength in a touring eleven. Of course it is trying a man pretty highly to put him in a team of this sort, and many a cricketer who plays creditably enough for an English county would fail under the severer test. Jarvis failed in this way. He went in 52 times and his best score was 39. Ferris - plucky little Ferris, of whom no great things were expected as a batsman - was useful often enough. He hit with plentiful lack of science, and a princely contempt for the hands of the fieldsmen; but he made runs, and in the England match at Lord's the runs he made went a long way towards winning. Worrall is a batsman of the rural or bucolic type. He must be a descendant of that village wonder who hit 'bloomin'ard, bloomin'igh, and bloomin' often.' But Worrall is degenerate. He certainly hits hard and high - and seldom. Blackham's batting, notwithstanding that early innings of 96, was a conspicuous failure, and in fifty-eight innings he made less than 550 runs. Boyle did very little, and S. M. J. Woods went in ten times to make 54 runs.

We ask the readers of this annual to compare the Australian batting table, the features of which we have just been describing, with the English batting against Australians. There was only one Australian average of over 20, but we have to go a very long way down the English list before the point of 20 is reached. Of course it may be urged that these English averages were obtained in fewer matches; but the same men, playing against the same bowling that was brought against the Australians, averaged for their counties and their clubs for better than did the Colonial batsmen. In the representative matches, though the advantage is still on the English side, the comparison is somewhat closer, and so too was the result of the matches, for with one drawn game there were four victories to the Australians, and four to English teams. It is, however, for the bowling and the bowling of Turner and Ferris that, as we have said, the tour of 1888 will be memorable in cricket history. We hope these young bowlers will come again and be given another chance on English grounds against the pick of our batsmen. Save for illness or accident they are sure to do themselves credit, and if they are better supported than they were this summer, and somewhat more sparingly used, they will, we feel sure, come through a second ordeal as triumphantly as they came through their first. Ferris was thought by many people to be at least the equal of Turner, but as the season went on it was apparent that the young left-hander was not only less vigorous and enduring, but that he lacked the terrible knack of hitting the wicket which Turner had acquired. Ferris is a splendid bowler, and worthily carries on the traditions of the Colonies, but few people here, and certainly not ourselves, will maintain that he is a cricketer of the same class as his great colleague. Turner at one bound has reached the highest point in cricket fame. We knew he was a fine bowler before he came over, but no one, and least of all the Australians, will say that a merely Colonial reputation nowadays will place the seal of enduring fame against a cricketer's name. Since he has gone through this wonderful season's work, taking more wickets in important eleven-a-side matches than we believe any bowler had taken before him, Turner ranks with the best. We shall not attempt to decide whether he or Spofforth is the greater, because they have never been tried under equal conditions. Who are the absolute best among the great bowlers of a period must always be a matter of opinion. Experts have differed, and continue to differ, not only about the bowlers of the past, but about the comparative merits of men that they see every day, and we shall not be guilty of the rashness of saying whether Turner or Spofforth is the greatest of Australian bowlers; nor will we commit the lesser indiscretion of excluding from the fanciful competition the names of Palmer and Giffen. All we shall say is that in ability to hit the wicket, Turner seems to be superior to Spofforth. Of the three hundred and fourteen men he got out last summer two hundred and ten were out through the ball hitting the wicket. We do not say that they were all clean bowled, for they were bowled probably in some cases off their legs or after the ball had hit the bat. Spofforth, so far as we know, has no record to equal this, but Turner had the wettest of wet seasons to help him, and we do not think that, in the matter of skill and resource in bowling for catches, Turner has as yet proved himself anything like the equal of the wily Demon. We now give two lines of figures, though here again we must leave the readers of this annual to form their own conclusions. They represent respectively the season's work of Turner for the Australian eleven and the season's work of Lohmann in eleven-a-side matches for Surrey and other great sides. If these figures prove nothing else they prove that even with the presence of a new man of phenomenal ability the old country has not the smallest reason to feel dissatisfied. In looking through these figures readers must bear in mind that Lohmann bowled in four or five fewer matches than Turner.

OversMdnsRunsWkts.Average
C. T. B. Turner2589.31222349231411.38
G. A. Lohmann1936.3907270725310.177

In concluding this review of the tour we should say that Blackham's wicket-keeping was excellent all through the summer, his form on many occasions being considered quite equal to that of his best days. As this was Blackham's sixth tour in the country higher praise is impossible. Jarvis kept wicket excellently on several occasions. The figures of the colleagues were as follows:

Blackham21 caught21 stumped
Jarvis14 caught12 stumped

the fielding of the side, though now and then it fell to pieces unaccountably, was decidedly good. Trott was excellent at point, Bannerman on the off side was pretty well as safe and quick as ever, Bonnor made some grand catches in the long field, and Worrall and Edwards were capable of stopping anything that came to them. the team sailed for home in the Orient steamer Cuzco, on October 12, from Tilbury, having been entertained in a cordial and friendly way by many people after the tour ended. The most noteworthy banquet was that given at Bailey's Hotel, Gloucester Road, Kensington, by Mr. F. H. Dangar, president of the New South Wales Cricketing Association. Here a large company of between two and three hundred sat down, including nearly all the members of the team, several prominent English cricketers, and journalists connected with the sport.

Lord Harris, in responding for the cricketers of England, expressed his confident hope that four years would not be allowed to elapse before another Colonial team visited England. He bore testimony to the admirable feeling and true cricketer's instinct displayed by McDonnell and his eleven, and he said, whatever their changes of fortune might have been, they no doubt won the match which of all others they would have chosen if they had been asked before they sailed which they would rather win - the England match at Lord's.

Match reports for

1st Test: England v Australia at Lord's, Jul 16-17, 1888
Report | Scorecard

2nd Test: England v Australia at The Oval, Aug 13-14, 1888
Report | Scorecard

3rd Test: England v Australia at Manchester, Aug 30-31, 1888
Report | Scorecard

Match reports for

1st Test: England v Australia at Lord's, Jul 16-17, 1888
Report | Scorecard

2nd Test: England v Australia at The Oval, Aug 13-14, 1888
Report | Scorecard

3rd Test: England v Australia at Manchester, Aug 30-31, 1888
Report | Scorecard

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