Althought most people had made up their minds as to the relative cricket merits of England and Australia, or at any rate of such a team as we could put into the field and the present representatives of the Colony, the Manchester match was important as being the rubber game, and the interest in its result was heightened when it was seen that the wet weather had come back again, and, therefore, probably the batting of England was less to be depended upon.
S. M. J. Woods, the Cantab, again played for Australia, for whom also Lyons appeared. Pilling kept wicket for England, and Sugg was played, the two men standing out being Wood and J. Shuter. There had been a great deal of rain just before the contest, and the ground was very soft when play commenced, so that when the Englishmen for the first time in the three matches, won the toss, they obtained a great advantage. It would perhaps be going a little beyond the truth to say that the advantage was so great as it had been at Lord's, but nevertheless there can be no doubt that the first innings gave the side that took it, and immense chance of victory.
The ground could scarcely get better, while it was almost sure to be exceedingly difficult as it dried. This is what really happened, and, after the Englishmen had made a good score under the existing conditions, the Australians were helpless against Peel, with Lohmann and Briggs to help him. Turner at once began to do wonders, as he bowled Abel before a run had been scored, and clean bowled Ulyett with the first ball he had at him. Walter Read and W. G. Grace then hit freely until at 58 the Surrey man was out to a good ball. After this nearly everybody made runs, the champion's 38 being the highest, and the best innings in the match.
Mr. Grace was out to a wonderful catch at long-on; Bonnor with the sun in his eyes could not judge the ball properly, but got to it just on the boundary, and made the catch with his right hand high up in the air. Sugg played capital cricket, and so did Barnes; while afterwards, Briggs and Pilling, getting together when nine wickets were down at 136, put on 36 runs for the last wicket, and took the total to 172. The finish of the first day's play saw the Australian score at 32 for two wickets, McDonnell and Bannerman being out.
On the Friday play started at a quarter past eleven, and at five minutes to two the game was over. There was a lot of sunshine, and every minute made the ground more difficult. The best batting in the first innings of the colonial team was that of Lyons, who hit hard and well, and, with Blackham, put on 36 runs. Peel's bowling was certainly the feature of the innings. He was on all through, and he took seven wickets for just over 4 runs each. He was backed up by some superb fielding. The Colonial team had a minority of 91 against them, and they started at twenty minutes to one o'clock, Peel and Lohmann again opposing them. This innings was one of the most remarkable ever seen in a big match, even allowing that the wicket, bad as it had been before, was now very much worse.
Bannerman was caught at forward point from the first ball of the innings, and before a run had been scored McDonnell, in hitting out at Lohmann, was clean bowled. There was a leg-bye run, and then Bonnor placed a ball easily into Grace's hands, the fieldsman standing in quite close at foward point, and taking the ball without any fuss at all. With three men out for a single run, the excitement was tremendous. The score was only 7 when Abel and Lohmann cleverly ran Trott out, and, with the total unaltered, the fifth and sixth wickets fell, Lohmann bowling Blackahm and Woods at consecutive balls. This start was certainly one of the features of the season. Turner and Lyons were partners, and, after two runs had been scored, the South Australian gave Walter Read at point an easy catch, which, to the surprise of the team, was dropped.
The batsmen, after these mistakes, played up with a lot of energy and determination, hitting very hard and scoring fast. They put on 48 runs in half and hour, and took the score to 55 before Turner was bowled for a capital 26. Edwards fell to a magnificent left-hand catch by Grace, close to the ground at forward point, and then just before the time for lunch Lyons was bowled, and the last wicket fell, England winning in a single innings with 21 runs to spare. Lyons's 32 was an excellent display of batting, and his hits on such a wicket and against such bowling deserve a lot of praise.
It will be seen that Peel's bowling was again very succesful, but this time Lohmann and Briggs had a considerable share in taking the wickets. However, Peel's performance in the match - eleven for 68 - was altogether admirable. The Australians undoubtedly had the worst of the luck, but England, brilliantly led by W. G. Grace, played a grand game. Not only was their batting strong and good throughout, but their bowling, wicketkeeping, and fielding would have done immense credit to any team. Notwithstanding the threatening weather on the opening day, 8,080 spectators paid admission at the gates, while on Friday there was a good crowd present in the morning, and it is not too much to say that several thousands more were prepared to go up to the ground in the afternoon from Manchester and the surrounding towns, where the news of the collapse of the Colonial batting created a great deal of excitement. this result gave England the 'rubber', and was received with extreme satisfaction throughout the country.