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It is perfectly safe to say that since the visit of George Parr's eleven in 1863-64 no tour of English cricketers in Australia has been from every point of view more brilliantly successful than that of Mr. Stoddart's team. Leaving England in October, 1894, the band of players - with three exceptions - returned home in May last, loaded with honours and delighted with their trip. They had abundant reasons for satisfaction, inasmuch as in the series of contests with All Australia they had won the rubber by three matches to two.
To these Test games everything else in the tour was subordinated, even the other eleven-a-side engagements being of secondary interest, and the fixtures against the odds counting for nothing. Never, probably, have five matches excited more widespread interest. They drew such crowds of people to the Australian grounds that the Melbourne Club and the trustees of the Sydney ground, under whose joint auspices the tour was undertaken, divided between them a profit of about seven thousand pounds.
In England the interest was greater than had ever been felt in matches played away from our own shores, the enterprise of the Pall Mall Gazette, in arranging every afternoon when the big matches were in progress for long cable messages, keeping lovers of the game in this country in closer touch with cricket in Australia than they had ever been before. It so happened that after England had been victorious at Sydney and Melbourne the Australians won at Adelaide and Sydney, the rubber thus depending on the fifth and last match, which was played on the Melbourne ground. As everyone knows, this conquering game was won by Mr. Stoddart's team by six wickets, a wonderful display of batting by Brown and Albert Ward in the last stage of the contest giving them the victory. The excitement in London when the result came to hand could scarcely have been greater if the match had been played at Lord's or the Oval.
Altogether the Englishmen took part in twelve eleven-a-side matches, of which they won eight and lost four, and eleven games against odds, of which they won one and left ten unfinished. The large proportion of draws in the fixtures against odds was attributable to the fact that all but two of them were limited to a couple of days each. Apart from the five contests against All Australia, the Englishmen beat Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, a mixed eleven of Queensland and New South Wales, and South Australia. As a set-off to these victories they were beaten by South Australia in the first of their eleven-a-side matches, and also by Victoria in their return with that colony. Mr. Stoddart's team consisted of -
Mr. A. E. Stoddart (Middlesex), captain.
Mr. A. C. Maclaren (Lancashire).
Mr. F. G. J. Ford (Middlesex).
Mr. H. Philipson (Middlesex).
Mr. L. H. Gay (Somerset).
T. Richardson (Surrey).
W. Brockwell (Surrey).
W. Lockwood (Surrey).
Albert Ward (Lancashire).
J. Briggs (Lancashire).
R. Peel (Yorkshire).
J. T. Brown (Yorkshire).
Walter Humphreys (Sussex).
This was undoubtedly a fine side, though in the absence of Mr. W. G. Grace, Mr. F. S. Jackson, Gunn, and one or two others, it could not be said in October 1894, to fully represent England. This being the case, the triumphant result of the rubber with Australia was all the more gratifying. As is always the case both with English cricketers in the Colonies and with Australian cricketers in this country, there were some failures and disappointments in connection with the team. It was soon evident that a mistake had been made in selecting Walter Humphreys so late in his career - the veteran lob bowler being quite ineffective in eleven-a-side matches. Mr. Gay kept wicket so badly in the first game against All Australia that his post on all subsequent occasions of importance was filled by Mr. Philipson; and Lockwood, who ought to have been the best all-round man in the eleven, failed disastrously both as bowler and batsman. Brockwell, too, though not altogether unsuccessful, was very far indeed from keeping up the reputation he had established in England in the season of 1894.
As a set-off against all these shortcomings, however, Mr. Stoddart himself, Mr. MacLaren, Brown, and Albert Ward batted superbly; and Richardson, Peel, and Briggs, though the exceptional excellence of the Australian wickets makes their averages look very poor when judged by the English standard, did capital work with the ball. Indeed, it was Richardson's wonderful bowling that first made victory probable in the last test match. So difficult did the Surrey fast bowler find to accommodate himself to the beautifully true, fast grounds that the first three wickets he took in the Colonies cost him about a hundred runs each. In the interest of his side Mr. Stoddart played a safer and more cautious game than he has ever adopted in England, and as the reward of his self-denying patience had the satisfaction of being at the top of the batting, scoring 870 runs, with an average of over 51. His highest and best innings was 173 against All Australia at Melbourne. Very little inferior to him were Mr. MacLaren, Brown, and Albert Ward, all of whom could point to splendid records. Ward's patient and skilful batting was on nearly all occasions invaluable. The success of MacLaren and Brown was the more remarkable from the fact that they were among the last players chosen by Mr. Stoddart, Brown, indeed, being the final choice, and only gaining his place when Abel declined the invitation to pay another visit to the Colonies.
To MacLaren fell the distinction of playing the highest innings for the team - 228 against Victoria at Melbourne. It must be stated that, on the evidence of the Australian newspapers, the fielding of the Englishmen was by no means comparable to their batting. The first test match was in some respects the most extraordinary in the history of the game. The Australians lost by ten runs, after playing a first innings of 586, and the aggregate score of 1,514 runs was without precedent in first-class cricket. Only a night's rain when Australia had the match in hand gave the Englishmen a chance of victory, but all the same it was a wonderful win, Peel's bowling on the saturated pitch being unplayable. Mr. Stoddart managed his team all through the tour with unfailing tact, and gained greater popularity than any previous English captain in the Colonies.
Match reports for
1st Test: Australia v England at Sydney, Dec 14-20, 1894
2nd Test: Australia v England at Melbourne, Dec 29, 1894 - Jan 3, 1895
3rd Test: Australia v England at Adelaide, Jan 11-15, 1895
4th Test: Australia v England at Sydney, Feb 1-4, 1895
5th Test: Australia v England at Melbourne, Mar 1-6, 1895