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Toss: England. Test debuts: Australia - J.McIlwraith.
The third and last meeting between England and Australia had been robbed of a large amount of its interest by the poor form shown by the Australians, who had suffered defeat on each of the two previous occasions. Nevertheless there was a large company on the opening day at Kennington Oval, 11,368 persons passing through the turnstiles. As the team which gained so decisive a victory at Lord's had worked well together, it was a fitting compliment to play identically the same eleven in this third match. The Colonists left out Jarvis and Bonnor, and McIlwraith appeared for the first time for Australia against England.
For the second time the Englishmen won the toss, and once more they took full advantage of their opportunity. Curiously enough the Australians were engaged for the whole day in getting down two wickets, just as they had been a fortnight before in the return match against Surrey. On the present occasion, however, the batting was not of such a high quality. Although Mr W. G. Grace made the highest innings he had ever scored against Australian bowling, it was pretty generally admitted that his cricket was more faulty than usual. He gave an easy chance to Scott at short slip when he had made 6, when his score was 23 he hit a ball very hard back to Giffen, which was a possible chance to that bowler's left hand; when he had scored 60 he might perhaps have been caught in the long field, had Bruce started earlier for the ball, and when his total was 93 McIlwraith had a difficult one-handed chance of catching him at slip. Moreover, just before getting out, when his total was 169 he hit a ball straight back to Garrett, who failed to hold it. Still, these blemishes notwithstanding, the innings was a very fine one. He made the enormous proportion of 170 out of 216 during his stay, which lasted altogether four hours and a half, and his figures were twenty-two fours, four threes, seventeen twos and thirty-six singles. In an hour and fifty-two minutes before luncheon Mr. Grace made 40 runs, and consequently in two hours and thirty-eight minutes afterwards he made 130.
This marked difference in the rate of scoring was certainly accounted for to a large extent by the state of the wicket, which was by no means perfect up to the interval, but which improved steadily as the afternoon wore on. Scotton batted with extraordinary patience even for him, and contented himself by keeping up his wicket while Mr. Grace hit. The two batsmen put on 170 runs before they were parted, this being the largest number ever scored for the first wicket against an Australian team in England. Scotton's 34 - an innings of immense value to his side - occupied no less a time than three hours and three quarters, and at one period the famous Notts left-hander was in an hour and seven minutes without making a single run. After the dismissal of Scotton and Mr. Grace some beautiful cricket was played by Shrewsbury and Mr Walter Read. The two men became partners with the score at 216, and when time was called for the day, the score was 279 with only two wickets down, Shrewsbury being not out 42, and Mr. Read not out 30. The weather for the most part of the day was dull and overcast, but there was not a single interruption by rain.
On the Friday there was another immense attendance 9,786 persons paying for admission at the gates. As on Thursday, everything went in favour of the Englishmen, and at the close of the day's proceedings the Australians found themselves in a most hopeless position, wanting no fewer than 358 runs to avert a single innings defeat, and having ten wickets to fall. It must be stated, however, that the English team had all the best of the luck, for the rain which fell in London on the Thursday evening seriously damaged the ground, and the Australians had to play the cream of the English bowling on a wicket on which run-getting was a matter of great difficulty. The remainder of the English innings occupied from half-past eleven until ten minutes to four in the afternoon, the total ultimately reaching 434. It was generally thought that, as the Englishmen were in such a position that they could not lose, some of the batsmen threw their wickets away. Shrewsbury only added 2 to his overnight score, and after his departure Barnes, Mr. Steel, Barlow, and Ulyett were dismissed in rapid succession, seven wickets being down for 320.
Then came a most brilliant display of cricket on the part of Mr. Read and Briggs, who hit at a tremendous pace, and at one time made 56 in half an hour. Briggs was at last well caught at slip at 410 for a very dashing 53, composed of three fours, five threes, eight twos, and ten singles. When it seemed almost certain that Mr. Read would reach his 100 he was out to a well-judged catch in the long field. Out of 202 runs scored while he was at the wickets, he made 94 by perfect cricket. He hardly gave a fair chance, and seldom seemed in the least difficulty with the bowling. He was batting for about three hours and a half, and hit eight fours, two threes, and fifteen twos. It was surprising in so long an innings that Evans and Bruce were not put on more often to bowl. The batting of the Australians proved to be of the most disappointing description. The innings opened at ten minutes past four, and just before six the whole side were out for the wretchedly poor total of 68. Being assisted by the condition of the ground, Lohmann and Briggs bowled magnificently and carried all before them, only two men on the Australian side - Palmer and Trumble - showing the least ability to contend against them. The English fielding was exceptionally brilliant, and the catch with which Briggs dismissed Blackham deserves a special word of praise. Following their innings against the enormous majority of 366, the Australians scored 8 runs without the loss of a wicket before the call of time.
The cricket on the concluding day needs but brief description. The Australians could not hope to avert defeat, and though Giffen and Palmer batted well, the total in the end only reached 149, and England was left with another decisive victory, by an innings and 217 runs. The only chance of saving the game was to stop in the whole of the day. Even with the ground in the best of condition this would have been a task to tax the powers of any eleven, but with the wicket still assisting the bowlers it was now practically out of the question. Lohmann and Briggs again proved by far the most successful bowlers, and in the whole match the young Surrey man obtained twelve wickets for 104 runs, while Briggs secured six for 58. All ideas as to the ability of the 1886 Australian eleven to meet the full strength of England were totally dispelled by this crushing defeat. In fairness to the Colonials it must be stated that, at the Oval at any rate, they had all the worst of the wicket; but they played throughout with a lack of the life and energy that have usually characterised Australian cricket.