Third Test Match

England v Australia 1896

The third and conquering Test match was preceded by a regrettable incident which for a time caused intense excitement in the cricket world. The Surrey committee, after much deliberation, chose nine cricketers as certainties for the England eleven, and four others amongst whom the last two places were to be filled. Early in the week previous to the match, however - indeed almost as soon as the selection had been known - they received a letter signed by Lohmann, Gunn, Abel, Richardson and Hayward, in which those players demanded £20 each for their services in the match. Ten pounds per man had been paid to the professionals in the Test matches at Lord's and Manchester, and the Surrey committee, without going into the question of whether £20 was an excessive fee on an occasion of such importance, declined point blank to be dictated to.

It is betraying no secret to say that they felt greatly aggrieved, on the eve of the most important match of the season, at being placed in a difficulty by four of their own professionals. However, they did not hesitate for a moment as to the course to be pursued, at once taking steps to secure the best possible substitutes for the revolting players. For two or three days the position remained unchanged, and as soon as the facts became known to the general public, nothing else in the way of cricket was talked about. Friendly counsels, however were soon at work, and on the evening of Saturday August 8th, a communication was received at the Oval from Abel, Hayward, and Richardson to the effect that they withdrew from the position they had taken up, and placed themselves without reserve in the hands of the Surrey committee. Much gratified at the turn which things had taken, the Surrey committee resolved on the Saturday evening to let the final selection of the England eleven stand over until the meeting of the match committee on Monday morning. At that meeting, Sir Richard Webster presided, and after a good deal of deliberation, it was determined that Abel, Richardson and Hayward should play for England. Among leading cricketers, opinions were a good deal divided as to the wisdom of this policy, but in our judgement the match committee took a just, as well as popular choice of action.

Lohmann did not act with the other professionals, but at a subsequent period, he wrote a letter of apology, and made his peace with the Surrey Club. Even when the question of the professionals had been settled, however, the match committee were by no means at the end of their difficulties. Statements in certain newspapers as to the allowance made for expenses to amateurs caused great irritation, and for a time there was much uncertainty as to how the England eleven would be finally constituted. In the end matters were smoothed over, but not until a definite statement - which will be found in another portion of this Almanack- had been made public as to the financial relations between Mr. W. G. Grace and the Surrey Club.

Happily, the match, which had been preceded by all these storms and troubles, passed off in the pleasantest fashion, and proved a complete success. Played on a wicket ruined by rain, it produced some startling cricket, and was in the end won by England by 66 runs, the old country thus securing the rubber. Rain on the first day delayed the start until five minutes to five, and with the ground by no means so difficult as it became on the following day, England profirted to a considerable extent by having won the toss. They started well, and at the drawing of stumps at half-past six had scored 69 for one wicket.

The second day was fine, and up to a certain point, England did very well, but after having had 113 on the board with only three wickets down, the sided were all out for 145. Trumble, after crossing over to the Pavilion end, bowled nine overs for ten runs and five wickets. Darling and Iredale made a wonderful start for the Australians, and when, with a little luck, the score reached 70 without the loss of a wicket, the Australians seemed to have more than made up for the disadvantage of losing the toss. However, a foolish attempt to get a fifth run for a hit of his partner's, cost Iredale his wicket at 75, and then, thanks chiefly to Hearne's fine bowling, such an astonishing change came over the game that the innings was finished off for 119, or 26 runs behind. England, on going in for the second time, had a terribly difficult pitch to bat on, and at the close of play, five wickets were down for 60 runs.

It was anybody's game on the third morning, everything depending on the condition of the ground. It was freely predicted that the wicket would improve, but such was far from being the case, the pitch being perhaps more difficult than ever. England's innings was finished off for 84, the Australians being left with 111 to get to win. This task they commenced shortly before half-past twelve, the excitement being of course at a very high pitch. In the second over, before a run had been scored, Darling was bowled, and then the Australians went from bad to worse, the climax being reached when the seventh wicket fell at 14. All this time, Hearne and Peel had bowled in wonderful form, the latter having been put on in place of Richardson directly Darling was out. The ninth wicket was lost at 25, and the Englishmen had the game in their hands, but McKibbin, by some plucky hitting, delayed the end, he total having reached 44 when Abel caught him most brilliantly at slip with one hand. Thus amidst great enthusiasm, England won the match by 66 runs.

© John Wisden & Co