First Test

England v Australia 1890

This was emphatically the great match of the Australian tour. No other game was looked forward to so eagerly and to the result of no other game was so much importance attached. Victory on this special occasion would to a very large extent have made up to the Australians for all their previous defeats and disappointments, and given, as it were, a fresh start to the trip. As everyone interested in cricket is well aware, the result of the match was a victory for England by seven wickets, but repeating in other words what we have said a few pages back, we may state emphatically that scarcely any one of their thirty-eight engagements reflected so much credit on the Australians as this encounter with the representative England eleven. No side could well have given a better display of bowling and fielding, or striven harder to beat opponents manifestly superior to themselves. The Australians had meant to include Jones in their eleven, but the New South Wales cricketer was taken ill the day before the match, and the selection committee, leaving out Walters as a batsmen little calculated to do himself justice on so great an occasion, gave the eleventh place to Burn. The England team was an immensely strong one, and yet not quite so powerful as that originally chosen by the M.C.C committee, the places intended for Mr. Stoddart and Briggs being given to Maurice Read and Barnes. Mr. Stoddart preferred playing for Middlesex against Kent at Tonbridge, and Briggs very properly resigned his place when he found that he had not sufficiently recovered from a strain to enable him to bowl. The eleven, if not quite the best in the country, still formed a splendid combination, and, as it happened, the batting can best be judged from the fact that the three last men on the order were Lohmann, Mr. McGregor and Attewell. It was a great compliment to Mr. McGregor to select him as wicket-keeper for England against Australia, but no one disputed that the distinction had been fairly earned by his achievements for Cambridge. It may be said at once that, though he missed one or two difficult chances, he kept wicket magnificently all through the match, fairly dividing honours with Blackham. In the whole course of the game neither wicket-keeper gave away a single bye. Before describing the cricket it may be stated that 12,345 people paid at the gates on the first day, 12,726 on the second day, and 5,208 on the third, making a total number for the match of 30,279.

An immense amount of rain had fallen in London on the Thursday and Friday before the match, but the ground recovered itself far more rapidly than anyone expected, and the wicket - rather slow to begin with - got steadily better and better as the game went on, and was at its best on the concluding day. the Australians, who won the toss, were batting on the Monday from just after twelve o'clock till a quarter to four, for a total of 132. The one feature of the innings was the amazing hitting of Lyons, who in three-quarters of an hour scored 55 runs our of 66 before being bowled by a yorker on the middle stump. His innings comprised eight 4's, a 3, five 2's and ten singles. When England went in the cricket was of the most sensational character, Grace, Shrewsbury, W. W. Read, and Gunn - unquestionably the four best bats on the side - being all got rid of for 20 runs. With things looking very black indeed for their side, Maurice Read and Ulyett then became partners, and in the course of an hour and a half, against superb bowling and fielding, put on 72 runs. The stand they made, coming when it did, was invaluable, and it would be difficult to praise the beyond their deserts. At the close of play the score was 108 for five wickets, and on the Tuesday the innings finished at twenty minutes past one for a total of 173, or 41 runs to the good. The innings lasted four hours and a quarter, and not a single chance was missed. Ulyett"s 74 was a splendid display, only marred by a little unsteadiness towards the close. Never before had the Yorkshire batsman met with anything like the same success in a match between England and Australia. Lyons bowled with great success on a wicket that was considerably firmer and faster than on the previous day, and had a remarkable analysis.

Going in for the second time at twenty minutes to two, the Australians were batting all the rest of the afternoon, and at the drawing of stumps had made 168 for nine wickets. Lyons again hit brilliantly, scoring 33 runs in twenty-five minutes, but the feature of the day was the wonderful defence of Barrett. On the third morning the Australian innings closed for 176, Barrett, who had gone in first, taking out his bat for 67. He was at the wickets for four hours and forty minutes. England had 136 to get to win, and with the wicket in capital order there was not much doubt about the task being accomplished. Shrewsbury was out at 27, but Grace and Gunn took the score to 101 and thus practically decided the match. Towards the finish Grace hit magnificently, and his not out innings of 75 was entirely worthy of his reputation.

© John Wisden & Co