Australia 4 England 1

England in Australia, 1897-98

To speak the plain truth there has not for a very long time been anything so disappointing in connection with English cricket, as the tour of Mr. Stoddart's team in Australia last winter. The team left England in September, 1897, full of hope that the triumph of three years before would be repeated, but came home a thoroughly beaten side. Following the precedent of the previous tour five test matches were played against the full strength of Australia, and of these the Englishmen only won the first, severe defeats being suffered in all the other four. Twice they were beaten in a single innings, once by eight wickets, and finally at Sydney on the 2nd of March by six wickets. Necessarily the side had to stand or fall by the results of these matches, the engagements with the single colonies of South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales being nothing by comparison. In these six fixtures the Englishmen did well, gaining three victories, suffering only one defeat - in the return with New South Wales - and leaving two games unfinished. Thus, as the general result of their eleven-a-side matches, they won four games, lost five, and had three drawn. This was a poor record indeed for a team of which so much was expected, and on the admission of Mr. Stoddart himself, it was due to the vastly better cricket shown by the Australians. The Colonial players were much more consistent in batting and far superior in bowling. While admitting all this, however, one cannot believe that the Englishmen played up to their home form. MacLaren and Ranjitsinjhi batted magnificently; Storer and Hayward played many fine innings; and J. T. Hearne bowled with a steadiness beyond all praise; but the men as an eleven never got really to their best, as their best is understood in this country. Richardson, except in two or three matches, was not in any way the Richardson of Kennington Oval or indeed of the previous tour; and of the other bowlers, apart from Hearne, there is nothing favourable to be said. Hayward had only one day of success; Briggs and Hirst - the latter handicapped to some extent by a strain - could not get wickets; and Wainwright was so harmless on the beautiful grounds that it was rarely thought worth while to put him on. In excuse for the team, however, it must be said that they had two or three misfortunes to contend against. Ranjitsinhji, though he made so many runs, suffered a great deal from bad health and Stoddart, far from repeating the success that had attended his previous visits to Australia was utterly out of form. An attack of influenza at the outset of the tour, the anxieties of captaining a losing side, and the shock caused by the news of his mother's death combined to spoil his cricket. As regards J. R. Mason and N. F. Druce it is fair criticism to say that, without fulfilling the expectations of their friends, they did a lot of good work for the eleven. Mason started in great form at Adelaide and Melbourne, but after that he had a long spell of bad luck, and was only beginning to get runs again in big matches when the trip ended. As some compensation for his uneven batting, however, he fielded superbly at slip, and was one of the best change bowlers on the side. Druce was most consistent with the bat, getting double figures in every innings he played in the test matches, but it was his misfortune to be out time after time just when he seemed set for a big score. Hayward, as a batsman, made a bad start but played very finely indeed as soon as he had accustomed himself to the great pace of the wickets. Wainwright, who had been in such wonderful form in the English season of 1897, was sadly at fault on the fast grounds, it being literally months before he played an innings of fifty. Of all the English players the one who had the best cause to look back upon the trip with satisfaction was MacLaren. No English batsman - not even Arthur Shrewsbury - has ever played more splendidly in the Colonies. There was some little unpleasantness during the tour, Mr. Stoddart complaining bitterly of the "barracking" indulged in by a section of the crowds, but on such points as these there is no need at this distance of time to dwell at any length. The financial success was immense, the test matches attracting an extraordinary number of people, and the public were delighted - as they had every reason to be - with the cricket shown by their own players. Above all the others in batting stood out the two left-handers Clement Hill and Darling - while in a group of fine bowlers Noble shone conspicuously. Almost unknown as a bowler when the season began, he developed surprising skill and several times on perfect wickets quite puzzled the Englishmen, keeping a fine length with a little work on the ball and being curiously deceptive in the flight. Of Hill and Darling it would be impossible to say too much, their play in match after match being wonderful. As in England in 1896, the Australians owed much to the unfailing skill and tact of Trott as a captain.

The English team consisted of : -
A.E. Stoddart (Middlesex) (Capt.)
A.C. MacLaren (Lancashire)
K. S. Ranjitsinhji (Sussex)
J. R. Mason (Kent)
N. F. Druce (Surrey)
T. Hayward (Surrey)
T. Richardson (Surrey)
J. Briggs (Lancashire)
W. Storer (Derbyshire)
E. Wainwright (Yorkshire)
G.H. Hirst (Yorkshire)
J.H. Board (Gloucestershire)
J.T. Hearne (Middlesex)

James Phillips accompanied the team through the whole tour as umpire, and caused a great sensation by twice no-balling the South Australian bowler Jones, for throwing.

Match reports for

1st Test: Australia v England at Sydney, Dec 13-17, 1897
Report | Scorecard

2nd Test: Australia v England at Melbourne, Jan 1-5, 1898
Report | Scorecard

3rd Test: Australia v England at Adelaide, Jan 14-19, 1898
Report | Scorecard

4th Test: Australia v England at Melbourne, Jan 29-Feb 2, 1898
Report | Scorecard

5th Test: Australia v England at Sydney, Feb 26-Mar 2, 1898
Report | Scorecard

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