Henry Boyle

HENRY FREDERICK BOYLE, who more than anyone else, except Spofforth and Blackham, made the fame of the first Australian eleven in Englandin 1878, died at Bendigo, Victoria, on November 21st. Born on December 10th, 1847, he was within three weeks of completing his sixtieth year. He was a Sydney man by birth, but he went to live in Victoria when only three years old, and with Victorian cricket he was always associated. He took to the game when quite a small boy, and at the age of fifteen he played for twenty-two of Sandhurst against Victoria. When in December, 1873, W. G. Grace"s eleven played their first match at Melbourne, Boyle appeared for the Eighteen of Victoria, who beat the Englishmen in a single innings, and to the end of his life he recalled with pride the fact that he bowled down W.G."s wicket. In addition to Boyle, the Victorian team included Frank Allan, Thomas Horan, B. B. Cooper-so well known in England a few years earlier as a batsman-W. Midwinter, John Conway, the manager of the Australian eleven of 1878, and the once famous bowler Sam Cosstick. It is no injustice to Boyle to say that he was a far greater cricketer in England than in Australia. When he came to this country in 1878 he was not regarded as anything like such a good bowler as Allan, but whereas he enjoyed a triumph, Allan gave way before the rigors of a very ungenial summer, and only once or twice did himself justice. It is a very old story now to tell how Spofforth and Boyle on the 27th of May, 1878, dismissed the M. C. C. for totals of 33 and 19, and in one afternoon established for good and all the reputation of Australian cricket. In the eleven-a-side matches of that memorable tour Boyle took 63 wickets, coming out a very respectable second to Spofforth who took 123. Visiting England for the second time in 1880 he did not have many opportunities in first-class matches, the Australian programme that year, owing to the unfortunate incident at Sydney during the tour of Lord Harris"s eleven in 1878-79, being largely restricted to games with local eighteens. Boyle however, made the most of such chances as he enjoyed. Indeed, he perhaps never bowled better than when, towards the end of the season, Spofforth"s accident threw the whole responsibility upon him and George Palmer. In the England match at the Oval the two bowlers got five wickets down for 31 runs, when Englandwent in with 57 runs to get in the last innings. It was, however, in the great tour of 1882, that Boyle reached his highest point. He bowled down the last wicket when the Australians gained their famous victory by seven runs against England at the Oval, and in the eleven-a-side matches he took 144 wickets, finishing at the top of the bowling averages with Spofforth, Palmer, and Garrett below him. The tour of 1882 was the climax of his career. From that time his powers as a bowler began to wane. In 1884, when for the first time he experienced a real English summer, he only took 67 wickets as against 216 by Spofforth, and 132 by Palmer, and in 1888, when Turner and Ferris did such wonderful things, he was quite an unimportant member of the team. He paid his last visit to England as manager of the 1890 eleven. Boyle as a bowler relied mainly upon headwork and accuracy of length, and had no very remarkable break. Like Alfred Shaw, though his style did not in any way resemble that of the English blower, he was satisfied if he could make the ball do just enough to beat the bat. No one was quicker to discover a batsman"s weakness, or more persevering in turning his knowledge to account. He could peg away at the wicket for an hour without ever bowling a bad ball, and he was never afraid of pitching one up to be hit. No doubt his very high delivery helped to make him deceptive in the flight and awkward in his quick rise off the pitch. Apart from his bowling, Boylewill be remembered as perhaps the most daring fieldsman Australia has ever produced. The position he made for himself at short mid-on was not of much use on very fast wickets, but on the slow grounds in 1878, 1880 and 1882 he brought off any number of catches. Moreover, the mere fact of his standing so dangerously close in, caused many English batsmen to lose their wickets. Of course he got some ugly knocks at times, but he was quite fearless and did not mind how hard the ball was hit at him. E. M. Grace is proud of the fact that he alone gave him a fright and caused him to stand further back.

© John Wisden & Co
 
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