Second Test Match

England v Australia 1909

The second Test Match marked the turning point in the Australians' fortunes. Faced as they were with a possibility of the tour being a failure they were on the eve of the game much depressed, the extreme difficulty they had experienced in beating Somerset having greatly shaken their confidence in themselves. However, they beat England in most brilliant fashion by nine wickets and only once more- after an interval of over three months- did they suffer defeat. While giving them every credit for their fine performance, however it must be said that fortune was to a certain extent on their side. Never in the history of Test Matches in England has there been such blundering in the selection of an England eleven. When the names of the players were announced everyone was astonished to learn that Jessop and Walter Brearley had been left out, and almost as much surprise was felt at the Leicestershire professionals, King and Jayes, being chosen. It transpired afterwards that at the last moment Brearley was asked to play, but declined. This is not the place to discuss the action of the Selection Committee, the matter being dealt with in another part of the Almanack. On no other occasion has there been such a storm of protest, nearly every newspaper in England condemning the action taken. Owing to private business C.B. Fry found himself unable to play, and Hayward, though too lame to do himself justice, was in defiance of medical opinion pressed into service. As the ground had been under water on the previous Saturday it was decided to leave out Jayes, and so it came about that England went into the field at Lord's without a right handed fast bowler- a deplorable error of judgement. The blunders of the Selection Committee did not end here, George Gunn being given a place in the eleven at the expense of Rhodes. If the Selection Committee entertained any idea that the match would not want much winning they had a rude awakening. As Lord Hawke had gone abroad for the benefit of his health the responsibility for what was done rested on Leveson-Gower, Fry and MacLaren.

Rightly judging that the wicket in the absence of further rain would improve, Noble on winning the toss decided to put England in. His policy was justified by results, the wicket, never so difficult as was expected being much faster on the second day than on the first. All things considered England gave a very creditable display of batting, staying in until just upon six o'clock for a total of 269. The highest and best innings was played by King, who not only showed the value of left handed batting, but did much to justify his selection. He played a good strong game, hitting cleanly on the off side and placing the ball well to leg. He and Tyldesley put on 79 runs for the fourth wicket, taking the score from 44 to 123, but they had to work very hard for their runs, the partnership lasting an hour and twenty five minutes. Tyldesley's batting was invaluable, but the bowlers kept him very quiet on the slow wicket, his innings extended over nearly two hours. Out at last to a smart catch at point, King was batting two hours and forty minutes, his hits including half a dozen 4's. By far the most vigorous hitting for England was shown by Lilley, who after a quiet start punished Cotter in front of the wicket in a style to which fast bowlers in these days are unaccustomed. Without reaching a really high standard the Australian bowling was very steady and the ground fielding could not have been better. The Australians had a quarter of an hour's batting at the close of the day. McAlister and Laver opened the innings and 17 runs were scored without loss.

On the second day the match went all in favour of the Australians. The wicket rolled out very well and not until a quarter to six did the innings end, the total reaching 350 or 81 runs ahead. Then in the last twenty five minutes England lost Hobbs's wicket for 16 runs. In gaining their big advantage the Australians owed nearly everything to Ransford who, like Harry Graham in 1893 and Victor Trumper in 1899, had the satisfaction of making a hundred in his first Test Match at Lord's. Going in third wicket down with the score at 90 he withstood the England bowling for a little over four hours and took out his bat for 143. For the most part he played wonderfully well but fortune was kind to him. When 13 he was missed by MacLaren at slip, when 56 he might have been caught at the wicket and with his score 61 he gave a chance at second slip to Jones. Had any one of these three chances been taken the whole course of the game might have been different. Ransford was strong on the leg side, but the feature of his innings was his brilliant hitting past cover point. He was a little rash now and then in going for the off ball, but apart from this his judgement was seldom at fault. His great innings included twenty one 4's, three 3's and nine 2's. He found valuable partners in Trumper and Noble, the fifth wicket putting on 79 runs and the sixth 71. Early in the day Bardsley scored an invaluable 46, but only during the first part of his innings was he at his best. Relf, who deserved far better support than he received, bowled untiringly, keeping his length in quite a wonderful way during long spells of work. King at one point bowled extremely well, but he never got over the disappointment of seeing Ransford and Trumper missed off him in one over.

The last day was a triumph for Australia and nothing less than humiliating for England. As the wicket had quite recovered from its drenching on Saturday most people thought that England would have little difficulty in saving the game, but in less than half an hour all hopes of this kind were destroyed. Tyldesley and George Gunn were out in one over from Armstrong at 22, with one run added Hayward was run out; and then Armstrong, who was in wonderful form, clean bowled King and Hirst with splendid balls, six wickets being down for 41. In the meantime Jones had been missed low down in the slips by Laver. Had this catch been held England would in all probability have been beaten in a single innings. As it was, Jones and MacLaren doubled the score, putting on 41 runs together in fifty minutes. MacLaren, beaten at last by a fine break back, played well, but Jones never inspired confidence. Lilley, as on the first day, hit freely, but at half past two the innings was all over for 121. Never perhaps has Armstrong bowled quite so finely. More than once he varied his leg breaks by making the ball turn a little the other way, and his length was a marvel of accuracy. At one point he had taken five wickets for eight runs, and in the whole innings his record was six wickets for 35. The Australians only wanted 41 to win and, after a "catch" at the wicket had got rid of Bardsley, Malister and Gregory soon hit off the runs. The match proved an enormous attraction, 50166 people paying for admissioin during the three days.

© John Wisden & Co