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Played at Kennington Oval, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, August 19, 20, 21, 22.
Whatever might be said about last season's cricket as a whole, the closing Test match at the Oval afforded convincing evidence of the enduring popularity of cricket. The match had much to contend against in the way of unseasonable weather, but in the course of the four days over which it extended, 44,717 paid for admission at the turnstiles. No definite pronouncement had been made at the beginning of the season as to the method of deciding the Triangular Tournament. but almost at the last moment it was stated that the side successful at the Oval would he the winners, the match being played out to a finish even if it lasted a week. As the two previous matches between England and Australia had been left drawn through rain, and both teams had shown an immense superiority over South Africa, the decision was, in a sense, quite just, but it involved some disadvantage to the Englishmen, who had beaten the South Africans three tmimes whereas the Australians had gained two victories, and played a rather unfavourable draw. Thus, if England had been beaten at the Oval, they would have been placed second in the Tournament with the same number of wins to their credit as Australia. However, as events turned out no question arose, England gaining an easy victory at the finish by 244 runs. They had the best of hick as regards the condition of the ground, but their victory was gained by splendid all-round cricket. On the morning of the match a change had to he made in the England eleven, Hayes, who was suffering from a cold, giving way to J. W. H. T. Douglas. No place had been found for Douglas in any of the previous Test, matches, but he is by temperament so much the man for a big occasion, that he might well have been picked for the whole series. That the public shared this view was proved when he went in to bat, the crowd giving him an overwhelming welcome.
Heavy rain on Sunday night and again in the early hours of the morning had affected the Oval to such an extent that the start of the match had to be delayed until twelve o'clock. At that time the sun was shining, but Fry, on winning the toss, had no hesitation in taking first innings. In such unsettled weather he could not risk putting his opponents in. His policy met with brilliant success, England gaining an advantage on the first day that was never wholly lost. The Australians bowled steadily and well, but they had not on their side any man capable of doing so much on the wicket as Spofforth, Turner, or Hugh Trumble would have done in former years. A couple of very light showers fell during the afternoon, but in neither case was the game delayed for more than a few minutes. At the drawing of stumps England's score stood at 233 for eight wickets-- in the circumstances a wonderfully good start. Hobbs and Rhodes once more proved an incomparable pair to open the innings in a big match. Staying together an hour and fifty minutes they scored 107 for the first wicket. This, on a pitch of varying pace and against superb fielding, was a great achievement. Hobbs, who made 60 out of the 107 runs before being caught at the wicket, played just as fine an innings as in the South African match a week before. Though never rash he seized every chance of getting runs, pulling the short balls with absolute certainty. He hit four 4's and seven 3's, and would have made a good many more runs if the outfield had not been so slow. Spooner was out to a wonderful catch at short leg, Hazlitt throwing himself forward and taking a hard hit close to the ground with his left hand, and then things went so badly that at the tea interval five wickets were down for 144. Rhodes and Fry found their task so difficult that it took them three-quarters of an hour to put on 18 runs for the third wicket. Rhodes was batting for three hours, his watchful defence being invaluable. After tea Woolley, with excellent help from Douglas and Foster, more than made up England's lost ground, the sixth and seventh wickets adding 33 runs each. Woolley, who was out just on the call of time, showed the finest hitting of the day, his splendid innings of 62 including eleven 4's.
Cricket on Tuesday was restricted to little more than an hour and a half. Owing to a heavy downpour in the night nothing could be done until just on one o'clock and a drenching shower stopped the game from ten minutes to three till a quarter past five. England's innings was quickly finished off for 245, and the Australians scored 51 for two wickets, Kelleway and Bardsley playing with great judgment after Gregory and Macartney had failed. On the third day the weather was again very unfavourable, rain causing two stoppages and bad light and further rain cutting the afternoon's cricket short at twenty minutes past five. So long as Kelleway and Bardsley stayed together the Australians got on very well, the score reaching 90 before the third wicket went down. However, an extraordinary change came over the game from the moment the two batsmen were separated. The pitch had become extremely treacherous and the last seven wickets actually went down for 21 runs. The turning point came with a change of bowling, Woolley going on at the Pavilion wicket and Barnes crossing to the other end. Kelleway was out lbw. in Woolley's second over, and thence-forward the batsmen were helpless. Kelleway was in nearly two hours, his defence all that time being impregnable. He and Bardsley put on 71 runs together. Bardsley was bowled by a remarkable ball from Barnes. As it pitched well outside his leg stump he let it alone, but he failed to cover the whole of the wicket, and the ball turning very sharply hit the leg stump After the eventful change Woolley took five wickets for 22 runs, and Barnes three wickets for 10 runs. Holding a lead of 134, England went in after luncheon. The wicket was very treacherous, the light bad, and rain evidently near at hand. A disastrous start was made, Rhodes being bowled with the score at seven, and Spooner caught at slip from the next ball. Had play gone on without interruption the bowlers would probably have had everything their own way, but when two runs had been added down came the rain. When at four o'clock the players came out again the pitch was considerably easier than before, and of the altered conditions Hobbs at first took advantage. So steady was the bowling, however, that at one point eight overs produced only one hit-- a snick for three by Fry. Then the pace of the run-getting improved again, though Hobbs, spraining a muscle in his thigh, became rather lame. Hobbs fell to a smart catch at point at 51, having as in his first innings played splendid cricket. Woolley was bowled at 56, and when, on a second appeal against the light, play ceased for the day the score, with Fry and Hearne together, was 64 for four wickets. Fry's defence, under trying conditions, was beyond all praise.
As there was no likelihood of the pitch ever being good the Englishmen-- leading by 198 runs and having six wickets in hand--entered upon the fourth day's play without much anxiety. To all intents and purposes they had the game in their hands. More rain had fallen in the night, and not until a quarter to twelve was the ground considered fit for play. At first the wicket was easy enough and by free hitting the score was carried from 64 to 91. Then Hazlitt went on and from the first ball he bowled Hearne was caught at short leg. However, Fry found another excellent partner in Douglas, and though the pitch, as it dried, naturally became difficult, the total at lunch time had reached 149. Had the match been limited to four days Fry would have declared at once, but with two more days before him there seemed no need to run the slightest risk. As it happened the innings was quickly finished off for 175, Hazlitt going on in place of Whitty at 167, and taking the last five wickets at the cost of a single run. Subsequent events proved that his astounding success was for England a blessing in disguise, as it led to victory before the end of the day. Out sixth at 170 Fry was batting for three hours and forty minute. For once in the Test matches he was his true self, his innings of 79 being a masterpiece of skilful defence No one could have played with finer judgment. The Australians alleged that he was out hit-wicket comparatively early on Thursday morning, but the umpire ruled otherwise. So far as one noticed lie gave no chance that went to hand, but when he had scored 41 a quicker fieldsman than Smith might have caught him at short leg. Douglas, proving conclusively his right to a place in the England eleven, helped Fry to put on 79 runs in an hour and fifty minutes.
The Australians wanted 310 to win--practically an impossible task on such a damaged wicket. Jennings and Kelleway went in at half-past three, Barnes and Dean sharing the bowling. In the second over, before a run had been scored, Kelleway was caught at a sort of backward point, Douglas managing to hold the ball at about the sixth attempt. Then came some startling cricket. Jennings punished Barnes for two 4's to leg and Macartney hit so brilliantly that, though Woolley bowled in place of Barnes, runs were put on at an alarming pace. Every-one felt, however, that the pace could not last. At 46 Jennings was caught at extra cover point from a skyer, and at the same total Dean, with a fine ball, clean bowled Macartney A disaster that followed took all the heart out of the Australians. Bardsley, starting for a short run, seemed to take things easily, and had his wicket thrown down from cover point-- an amazing piece of work by Hobbs. There was a lot of discussion about the decision, several famous cricketers in the pavilion expressing a positive opinion that Bardsley was not out. However, Mass, the umpire, when interviewed after the match, said that he had no doubt whatever on the point. Here one may leave a question that will probably be talked about for years to come. Bardsley's downfall meant the end of the game. Though very difficult, the pitch was not so bad as to excuse the utter feebleness of the subsequent batting. Three more wickets fell with the score at 51, and the innings was over for 65, England winning the match by 244 runs. Playing an an innings of 62 and taking ten wickets, Woolley had a big share in a memorable victory. If it had not been finished on the fourth day the match must have ended in a draw, as rain fell incessantly on the Friday and Saturday.