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In as much as the Australians won only nine matches, lost eight, and left twenty unfinished, their tour in England in 1912 cannot be regarded as much of a success. No good purpose would be served by discussing the quarrels that prevented the side from being a representative one. As stated elsewhere in Wisden, it was peculiarly unfortunate that, in view of the Triangular Tournament, the Australians did not sink all personal differences and send us over their best team, but it is useless now to indulge in laments on this score. No doubt the members of the Board of Control knew, as well as anyone else, that the great players left behind could not be adequately replaced. The men chosen proved a strong combination so long as the wickets were reasonably hard, but the wretched weather soon found out the limitations of the team. On soft wickets the batting depended far too much upon Bardsley, Macartney, and Kelleway, and taking one day with another there was no bowler who could make the most of conditions in which Turner or Hugh Trumble would have revelled.
For a proof of what the break-up of the weather meant to the side one need only glance at the summary of matches. Of the Australians' nine victories, six were gained before the end of May, defeat in the opening match at Nottingham being followed by half-a-dozen wins in succession. The reputation of the team stood very high after the single innings' victory over the South Africans in the first Test match, though even then one felt that the bowling was not up to the standard reached in many previous tours. Following their second victory over the South Africans-- at Lord's on the 17th of July-- the Australians did not win a match, the record for the rest of the tour coming out at four defeats, twelve draws, and one match abandoned without a ball bowled. Alone among the batsmen new to England, Kelleway accommodated himself to the slow and often treacherous wickets. Ten of the fifteen players had never been here before, and it was certainly bad luck for them that they should have had their first experience of England in such an appalling summer.
The matches in May, and those played afterwards in fine weather, showed clearly enough that several batsmen who had to be content with poor records would have done well under normal conditions. As evidence of this it is sufficient to recall the splendid play of Jennings and Smith in the second match with Surrey at the Oval. As it was, the team, as time went on, leaned more and more heavily on Bardsley, Macartney, and Kelleway. Bardsley, to our thinking, was an even greater batsman than in 1909. Increased responsibility seemed to bring out all that was best in him. He was at home on all sorts of grounds, but there need be no hesitation in saying that he showed his finest form against the M.C.C. and the South Africans on wickets at Lord's, which, though fast, were worn and difficult. It was a stupendous feat to score as he did in such a summer, 2,441 runs with an average of just upon 52. We should be inclined to place him above all other left-handed batsmen, not even excepting Clem Hill. Macartney also had a great season, but he was not so consistent as Bardsley. He started in wonderful form, getting hundreds in the second, third, and fourth matches, and before May was over people were beginning to compare him with Trumper. He did not quite live up to this reputation, but he, perhaps, played the innings of the year against England at Lord's, and was as good as ever at Hastings in September. A marked characteristic of his play on his many good days was the quickness with which he settled down. He did not need to play himself in, being able to punish the best bowling from the moment he got to the crease. He had nearly every scoring stroke at his command, cutting, driving to the off, and turning the ball to leg with equal facility. His power to turn straight balls to the boundary sometimes cost him his wicket, but it earned him heaps of runs. He had improved out of knowledge as a batsman since 1909, and watching his dazzling play it was difficult to understand why he had only been picked in one Test match out of five against the M.C.C.'s team in the previous winter.
Kelleway had none of Bardsley and Macartney's attractive qualities. A defensive batsman pure and simple he was often a weariness of the flesh to the spectators, but his value on the side was very great indeed. Curiously enough he did nearly all his best work on the big occasions, getting two hundreds against the South Africans and playing finely against England at Lord's and the Oval. His record for the whole tour was nothing extraordinary, but in Test matches he averaged 60-- only five runs an innings less than Bardsley. He is very deficient in strokes, but there are few bats-men now before the public so hard to bowl out. It seemed to us that in the big matches he set himself to risk nothing. There were signs now and then that if he had so desired he could have scored.
more freely. To sum him up it may be said that one Kelleway on a side is well enough. Two or three would be almost unbearable. Sydney Gregory, who captained the team, opened the season in fine form, but had many failures afterwards. Apart from the wet wickets it was rather unreasonable to expect that at forty-two he would be as good as in his younger days. Still, when he made runs there was little or no falling off in his style. Considering the reputation with which he came to England Minnett among the batsmen was the disappointment of the side. Essentially a forward hitter he was no good on slow wickets. Jennings, who also wanted quick wickets, showed greater adaptability and played some very good innings.
The Australian bowling was nearly always good, but except as regards Whitty and Hazlitt it seldom, after May, reached a high level. Emery started by taking a lot of wickets, but failed to keep up his early form and was left out of two of the Test matches. He can bowl a very difficult bowl, but he has little control over his length. Speaking generally the bowling would, we think, have been more formidable in a dry summer. Most of the men were better suited to hard wickets than to soft ones. Whitty was often first-rate, keeping his length remarkably well during long spells of work. He was quite at his best against the South Africans at Manchester. Hazlitt had more head than any of the other bowlers and commanded a good swerve as well as an off-break. There can be no doubt, however, that, especially during the first part of the tour, he threw a great deal. The attitude in this country towards unfair bowling has happily undergone a great change since the county captains united to rid the game of throwing, and to those who remember what we used to put up with in England, the readiness with which Hazlitt's delivery was condemned was rather amusing. Hazlitt evidently felt there was something in the criticisms passed upon him, bowling with a much straighter arm as the season went on. Matthews, though he could not sustain the reputation earned by his double " hat-trick '' at Manchester, proved himself a good slow bowler, and Kelleway, right hand rather fast, did good work while the wickets were hard. Macartney, in view of his immense value as a batsman, was not asked to do very much, but he was, perhaps, more like a real slow wicket bowler than anyone else in the team. The Australian fielding went to pieces on the first day of the match against South Africa at Lord's, but on the big occasions it was as a rule very brilliant. Macartney, Matthews, Bardsley, and Hazlitt were superb, and Gregory, after all his years of first-class cricket, was still very quick. Carkeek, the chief wicket-keeper, was very good without being great. The Australians beat the South Africans twice and gained their other seven victories over the M.C.C., Northamptonshire, Essex, Surrey, Oxford University, Somerset, and Scotland. They were beaten once by England, twice by Lancashire, and once each by Notts, Surrey, Hampshire, Surrey and Middlesex combined, and C. B. Fry's XI at Bray. The tour did not pass off without unpleasantness. Mr. G. S. Crouch, the manager, on getting back to Australia, lodged a scathing complaint with the Board of Control, stating that some of the players had conducted themselves so badly in England as to lead to the team being socially ostracised. He urged that in the selection of future teams something more than the ability to play cricket should be taken into consideration. It may be added here that some of the players were not at all satisfied with Mr. Crouch as manager.
Match reports for
Australia v South Africa at Manchester, May 27-28, 1912
England v Australia at Lord's, Jun 24-26, 1912
Australia v South Africa at Lord's, Jul 15-17, 1912
England v Australia at Manchester, Jul 29-31, 1912
Australia v South Africa at Nottingham, Aug 5-7, 1912
England v Australia at The Oval, Aug 19-22, 1912