Australia v. England, 1976

The greatest centenary of them all!

Gordon Ross

On March 15, 1977, a few weeks before the first copies of Wisden, 1977, are on the bookstalls, the greatest event in cricket history will be celebrated -- the one hundredth anniversary of the first Australia v. England Test match, which began in Melbourne on March 15, 1877, the start of a rivalry which has become a piece of history, and has survived the ravages of one war after another, to stand the passage of time unchallenged in national affection. The green caps of Australia (even the actual cap seems different in physical shape from any other cricketing cap!) have had a special magic about them; tradition has not tarnished a golden image; the cricket has mellowed through the years; it has lost nothing of its bouquet.

The England party touring Australia in 1877 were not the first to go there. They were, in fact, the fourth. It is generally accepted by historians that the first overseas cricket tour from England was in 1859, when a strong team under the captaincy of George Parr, sailed from Liverpool for Quebec on September 7. Financially the trip was a success, the players clearing £90 each, free of all expenses, not to mention the gifts that were bestowed upon them. News of this excursion was not long in reaching Australia. A Melbourne catering firm, Spiers and Pond, enterprisingly, sent a representative to England in the summer of 1861, and he, Mr. Mallam, approached H. H. Stephenson of Surrey with a request that he would collect a team and go to Australia with an idea of pioneering cricket of international standard in that country.

Stephenson's Team in 1861

The terms arranged for the cricketers was £150 each and full expenses; in 1861 this represented handsome reward. A number of leading cricketers of the day lacked the adventurous spirit and declined to make the trip, but twelve did, and so shaped cricket's destiny. They were: H. H. Stephenson (captain), G. Bennett, W. Caffyn, G. Griffith, T. Hearne, R. Iddison, W. Mortlock, W. Mudie, C. Lawrence, T. Sewell, E. Stephenson and G. Wells. The tour opened in Melbourne on New Year's Day, 1862 when, it is said, twenty-five thousand people paid half-a-crown each for admission. Spiers and Pond are alleged to have made a very handsome profit from their venture; all the more surprising that it took another hundred years for sponsorship to play a major role in cricket.

Stephenson's cricketers had arduous journies to endure. They travelled to their second match in Australia, a distance of over two hundred miles, in a coach drawn by six greys -- all to play a collection of gentlemen curiously titled 'The Ovens'. The Ovens were bowled out for 20 and 53, and when at the end of the scheduled contest, Griffith played a single-wicket match against eleven of them, all eleven suffered the extreme indignity of failing to score. To cap it all, when having to bowl Griffith out for nought in order to tie the match; The Ovens bowlers sent down two wides. This may have been a slightly Gilbertian cricket match, but it mattered little in the overall context of the tour. The players brought home with them such glowing reports of their treatment in Australia that no difficulty was found in raising the next side to go in the winter of 1863-64. This time George Parr was the captain and the rest of his party was G. Anderson, J. Caesar, W. Caffyn, R. Carpenter, A. Clarke, E. M. Grace, T. Hayward, J. Jackson, T. Lockyer, G. Tarrant, R. C. Tinley.

Parr's Tour of 1863-64

The Melbourne Age, on April 25, 1864, wrote:

"Parr's Eleven, one and all, proved themselves good men and true, and during their stay of four months in the colonies they have shown themselves worthy of their reputation. Much has been said about the comparative merits of the two Elevens which have visited Australia; but there cannot be a doubt in all unprejudiced minds, that the Eleven now leaving these shores is greatly superior to anything the colonists have before seen in point of cricketing excellence. The previous Eleven showed nothing equal to the wicket-keeping of Lockyer, the batting of Hayward and Carpenter, or the bowling of Jackson, Tarrant and Tinley, and it is more than probable that the Eleven which first visited Australia would now find their match in a Victorian Twenty-Two. The visit of this Eleven will be productive of much benefit to colonial cricketers, if for no other cause by its having led to the retention of Caffyn, the best all-round man among them; and with the aid of such a coach, Victoria will doubtless in future inter-colonial matches take her proper position."

History has not recorded why it was, in view of the fact that this tour was so obviously a success, that ten years elapsed before another English side set foot in Australia. These tours were privately arranged so that it first needed an invitation to be issued, and then it was a question of whether or not the financial arrangements were suitable to all parties. It seems that this was sometimes the stumbling block -- and may have been the reason for a decade going by without a tour. It appears that an offer was made to W. G. Grace (then aged twenty-four) in the summer of 1872, but the inducement was not of a sufficiently tempting character, and the idea was abandoned, but in the spring of 1873 another offer came direct from the Melbourne Cricket Club to Mr. Grace to bring out a team of his own selection, and the proposal met with considerable favour. Circumstances, we are told, tended to cripple the Captain in his task of forming a Twelve. Emmett was unable, and Alfred Shaw unwilling. Pooley was in disgrace, Pinder in domestic disarrangements, and Hill, at hand if wanted, but not required. Amateurs, as is their wont, promised, and no doubt intended, to fulfil their promise, but failed at the crisis, or Messrs. Hornby and Bird might have been in the party. The final composition was nine from the South and only three from the North -- W. G. Grace (captain), F. H. Boult, J. A. Bush, W. R. Gilbert, G. F. Grace, A. Greenwood, R. Humphrey, H. Jupp, James Lillywhite, M. McIntyre, W. Oscroft and James Southerton.

The team played fifteen matches; they won ten, lost three and two were drawn, which on the face of it would appear to be a reasonably successful tour, but one or two remarks made by members of the touring party gave a hint that all was not well at times. One of them wrote: "We left our country, as we fondly hoped, for our country's good. We came back to some extent wiser, if not sadder men." He went on: "Whatever shortcomings there were during the tour might have been remedied with a little conciliation on both sides, and the want of an occasional concession from one leader or the other did much to magnify a mere scratch into an open sore."

W. G. Grace Captain in 1873-74

The tour began on Boxing Day, 1873, twelve days after the P and O Steamship Mirzahpore had landed the party in Australia. Mr. Grace disappointed his team sadly. He was not given to, or fond of, losing the toss, but he did on this occasion, and the Eighteen of Victoria took the bat to win by an innings and 21 runs. Australian cricket had, apparently, been under-rated. The second time the touring team met Victoria the latter had been suitably handicapped and their numbers reduced to Fifteen; this time the tourists won by seven wickets. For the third encounter Victoria were restored to their full complement of eighteen; the match was drawn. The general feeling was that cricket in Australia had improved wonderfully and was still improving; some very useful cricketers had been seen. Whatever undercurrents may have flowed beneath the surface, and although this was by no means the best side that England could have found, the trip seems to have done inestimable good for Australian cricket. The players were able to sharpen their claws ready for the next visit by a side from England, a side that was to make history.

And so to the winter of 1876-77. On Thursday, September 21, 1876 twelve English professional cricketers left Southampton for Adelaide in the P and O steamer Poonah. James Lillywhite of Sussex was the captain, Southerton of Surrey his first mate. Yorkshire sent five representatives -- Ulyett, Hill, Emmett, Andrew Greenwood, and Armitage -- Notts two -- Alfred Shaw and Selby -- while Surrey also furnished Jupp and Pooley -- and the remaining player was Charlwood of Sussex. Even so, this was still not the absolute best that could be found. In bowling they were undeniably strong with Alfred Shaw, Hill, Emmett, Southerton, Lillywhite and Ulyett, and their fielding was rated very highly. It was considered that, in Pooley, the side had the best wicket-keeper of the day, but it was generally felt that they might have been considerably strengthened in batting, and Daft, Lockwood and Shrewsbury might conceivably have taken the places of Southerton, Armitage and Charlwood, but any chosen party by any set of selectors is always open to question when alternative suggestions are bandied about. The party arrived at King George's Sound on November 2; they played their first match on the 17th.

The Historic 1876-77 Tour Begins

Alfred Shaw was one of the players whom W. G. Grace had invited on his tour, but Shaw had declined. The conditions offered for Grace's tour to the professional members were £150, and second class passage, travelling and hotel expenses, the latter item being fixed, where possible, at 7s 6d a day. Shaw declined the offer because he objected to the second class proviso. For the 1876 trip the terms were £150 and first-class passage. It was Shaw who began the tour in dramatic fashion against South Australia in Adelaide when Eleven played Twenty-Two. His analysis was 226 balls, 46 maidens, 12 runs, 14 wickets. England (as they were billed throughout the tour) scored 153, the Twenty-Two South Australians could muster only 54 and 53. The wicket was sandy and broke up early. The Australians had not yet learned the subtleties of wicket preparation; they were afraid to use the roller for fear that it would bruise and kill the grass. In later years, this Adelaide wicket became as firm as concrete and as smooth as a sheet of glass. The credit for this transformation was largely due to Jesse Hide, the old Sussex player, who obtained some clay off the mountains nearby and worked it into the soil at a remarkable expenditure of time, trouble, and elbow grease!

From the overwhelming success in Adelaide, England were brought down to earth at Sydney by Fifteen of New South Wales -- England 122 and 97. New South Wales 81 and 151 for twelve, to win by two wickets. Shaw once again had impressive figures -- 376 balls, 68 maidens, 53 runs, 8 wickets. England were shattered by Evans and Spofforth -- they took 16 of the England wickets between them. What are usually termed Country matches followed against Twenty-Two of Newcastle and Twenty-Two of Goulburn.

The fifth match of the tour, however, was rather different; it was against Fifteen of Victoria at Melbourne. It began on Boxing Day. England were beaten, despite the continued magnificence of Shaw. This time he took 12 for 74, but Victoria's bowlers, Midwinter and Allen, were the prime architects of a victory by 31 runs. Yet this match had once been threatened with legal proceedings. Originally, two teams had been announced to make a tour that winter from England. One was projected by Mr. G. F. Grace; the other was Lillywhite's. The Grace tour fell through, but the commodious Melbourne Ground had been engaged by Grace's agent. Lillywhite's agent had arranged for the East Melbourne enclosure, and the East Melbourne club went to considerable expense in preparing for the visit. When Grace withdrew his project, Lillywhite decided to play on the Melbourne Ground. This intensely annoyed the people of East Melbourne and threats of legal proceedings, heated newspaper controversies, and general unpleasantness resulted. Finally, the dispute was settled by the East Melbourne Club accepting Lillywhite's offer of £230, with free admission to their members, numbering 500, to the tourists' matches in Melbourne.

The ecstasy at the success of the Victoria Fifteen erased all memories of rancour and bitterness. After two more country matches England faced the return match with Fifteen of New South Wales at Sydney -- and total humiliation. They were bowled out for 35, of which Charlwood was run out for 20. The scores of the remaining ten were: 0, 1, 0, 0, 1, 2, 2, 7, 0, 2. The bowlers? -- precisely the same two -- Spofforth and Evans, and they did it again in the second innings, having ravaged the first six batsmen for a paltry 18 runs, when they were thwarted by Armitage (38) and Shaw (30), and an England total of 104 resulted. The Fifteen scored 124 and 17 for one wicket to win by 13 wickets.

The Pooley Story

A return game was played immediately, starting the next day, by which time the handicapper had been at work and England met New South Wales at level weights, each side having eleven players, England this time having incomparably the better of it. Ulyett hit 94, and England scored 270. New South Wales were bowled out for 82, and were 140 for six in their second innings when the match ended, Shaw once again being head and shoulders England's most successful bowler -- he took eight for 54. On this note the first part of the Australian tour ended, and the England team left for New Zealand. Not many historians could tell you off the cuff the results of any of the matches in New Zealand, but all of them will mention, as if it were a legend -- the story of Pooley, and the trouble he got into. A number of versions have been given of the incident; age has a habit of over-colouring events; what is a little exaggeration here and there in the course of a hundred years! -- but we must take note of what Alfred Shaw said; after all, he was there.

Here is Shaw's account of the proceedings:

"It cannot be considered surprising that in quarters where betting was rampant, as was the case in Australia at this time, some of the members of our team, who needed very small encouragement to back their opinions and statements at any time, should be led to participate in enterprises they had better have eschewed. One of these enterprises had most unpleasant consequences to one member of the team and it led to the side being deprived of his services for the last few weeks of the tour. The victim was Ed Pooley. We were playing at Christchurch against Eighteen of Canterbury on February 26, 27, and 28, 1877. In a discussion as to the prospects of the match that occurred in an hotel bar at night, Pooley offered to take £1 to 1 shilling that he named the individual score of every member of the local team. It is a trick familiar to cricketers, and in the old days of matches against local eighteens and twenty-twos it not infrequently worked off against the unwary. The bet being accepted Pooley named a duck as the score of each batsman on the local side. A fair proportion of ducks was recorded, the Pooley claimed £1 each for them, while prepared to pay a shilling for the other scores. The man with whom the bet had been made said it was a catch bet on Pooley's part, and he declined to pay. The man's name was Ralph Donkin. His refusal to pay led to a scene of disorder, and brought Pooley's services with the team to an unpleasant end.

We had to go next to Otago and at the close of the match there Pooley was arrested on a charge of 'having at Christchurch maliciously injured property above the value of £5, and also of assaulting Donkin'. For the assault he had £5 and costs to pay. In the other charge he had as partner in trouble Alf Bramall, a supernumerary attached to our team. The two were committed for trial, bail being allowed for £100, with two sureties of £50 each. We never saw Pooley again during the tour. He and his companion were tried before the Supreme Court at Christchurch on April 6th, and found not guilty. The local public thought he had been hardly used in having been taken away from the team. They subscribed £50 for division between Pooley and Bramall, and in addition they presented Pooley with a gold ring. The old Surrey wicket-keeper had to make the journey back to England alone."

Pooley's experience was only one of the trials the team faced during their stay in New Zealand, which was financially a failure; stories live of a most frightening experience in Otira Gorge, when what should have been a shallow ford was a rising torrent of water and the coach came to grief in mid-stream. The four horses were dead beat and fell down in the water and the players leapt off the coach up to their waists in rushing water to free the horses. They had to walk on, wearied and exhausted, and with saturated clothing, to find shelter for the night. The hotels were described as being of the crudest and most trying character. But from a purely cricket point of view affairs were reasonably happy. The side was in New Zealand from the first match in Auckland on January 29 until the final game at Invercargill ending on March 8. Eight matches were played against combinations of Twenty-Two and Eighteen, England winning six and drawing two. And so back to Australia for the eighteenth match of the tour --and England v. Australia -- Eleven each side -- and the First Test Match!

The First Test, March 15, 1877

It was warm and sunny in Melbourne on March 15, 1877, when Charles Bannerman took guard and prepared to receive the first ball from Alfred Shaw in what has come to be universally regarded as the First Test Match. Bannerman did not commit his name to history purely because he scored the first run in a Test Match -- he happened to make 165. Whether or not contemporary historians will fall out over the question of this being the first recognised Test match is quite immaterial; what cannot be disputed is that both sides were very much below full strength. W. G. Grace was missing to begin with. These early Australian tours were, as said earlier, organised by private individuals, and until M. C. C. took over the management of official touring teams in 1903-4, the sides were never fully representative. But the same can be said of Australia. In spite of being the home side they had considerable difficulty in their selection. Evans, Allen and Spofforth (three bowlers who had caused the England players some problems) all declined to play, the latter stating categorically that the absence of Murdoch to keep wicket was his reason for refusing to take part.

Bannerman's was a truly remarkable performance. He scored 165 before retiring hurt after receiving a blow on the hand; the next highest score by an Australian was 18 -- and this by Garrett, the number nine. Due to Bannerman's superhuman effort, Australia reached a total of 245; a collection was taken to mark Bannerman's feat and it raised one pound a run. England were 49 runs short of Australia's first innings total. Jupp, who opened, hit 63, Charlwood scored 36, and Hill, coming in at number nine, scored an unbeaten 35. England were all out for 196, but they swiftly struck back. Shaw and Ulyett, who had had a comparatively quiet time in the first innings, bowled magnificently, and the Australian innings was soon in some disarray from which it was never able completely to recover. Shaw (5) and Ulyett (4) had taken the first nine wickets to fall, until James Lillywhite bowled the last man in. Australia were all out for 104; England thus needed 154 to win and were favourites to get them, but they were shattered by the bowling of Kendall, who had taken only one wicket in the first innings; this time he took seven, to finish with an aggregate of eight for 109. England's first four batsmen totalled 79 between them; the other seven contributed only 24 -- there were 5 extras.

Australia had won by 45 runs. There was great jubilation but also a few uncomplimentary remarks addressed to the England cricketers. The Australasian wrote that this was the weakest side by a long way that had ever played in the Colonies, notwithstanding the presence among them of Shaw, who was termed the premier bowler of England. It added: "If Ulyett, Emmett and Hill are fair specimens of the best fast bowling in England, all we can say is, either they have not been in their proper form in this Colony or British bowling has sadly deteriorated."Scores and Biographies had this to say: "The defeat of England must candidly be attributed to fatigue, owing principally to the distance they had to travel to each match, to sickness, and to high living. England were never fresh in any of their engagements, and, of course, had not near their best Eleven." But what were the facts? Well, the party had landed from its New Zealand trip only the day before the match began. The date had been fixed to allow a few days after landing, but the ship was delayed en voyage, and the accommodation had been so poor that some of the party had been obliged to sleep on deck. They were in no shape for a serious game of cricket, least of all Armitage, who had something of a nightmare match. In bowling to Bannerman, he tossed one ball wide over the batsman's head -- a delivery which brought forth the remark that the Australians could not reach Armitage's bowling with a clothes prop! The next ball he rolled along the ground; worse still, Armitage dropped Bannerman at mid-off, off Shaw, before he had reached double figures. All in all, for the players of England, it was an unhappy match. And it was the first time that an Australian side confined to eleven players had defeated any eleven from England.

The Second Test

So nettled were the English party that they were anxious to arrange another match on level terms (eleven players each side) and this was done. On Saturday, March 31, 1877, and the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday following, England met the Combined Australians on the Melbourne Ground. This time, Mr. Spofforth sank his differences, and was in the Australian team, and with his presence in their side the local public predicted a second victory. But England won by four wickets, due principally to the splendid batting of George Ulyett, who scored 52, in the first innings and 63 in the next. This time the Australian public accused England of kidding in the first match in order to obtain another game and another gate. On a previous occasion when Spofforth and Evans had bowled the side out for 35, and in the next innings Armitage scored 38, a critic asked: "how can they be playing square, when they make only 35 one day between all of them, and on another day one man makes more than the whole of the team put together?"

Australia again won the toss, but their early batsmen wilted in the face of a fine piece of fast bowling by Hill, who took the first four wickets to fall, including the valuable prize of Bannerman, who had been strongly backed by the great gambling community to score a lot more runs; Hill bowled him for 19. Midwinter was top scorer for Australia with 31 and Australia were all out for 122. Spofforth, it will be remembered, had refused to play in the first match because Murdoch was not chosen to keep wicket. Spofforth, apparently, held the view that only Murdoch was able to take his bowling effectively. It seems that Blackham lost little time in proving to Spofforth how wrong he was. In Spofforth's third over, a fast delivery lifted, and Blackham, standing up, stumped Shaw brilliantly. As Kendall had previously bowled Jupp for a duck, England were 4 for two and remarks were already being made about the poor quality of the English side in derisory terms.

Throughout cricket's long and enduring history, the inherent steel-like toughness of Yorkshiremen has driven back many a foe in adversity. Yorkshire cricket is taught in a hard school, but like a golden thread it has entwined all the classical ages of cricket. Here, at Melbourne, on this March day in 1877 Yorkshire won a match for England. The scores of the five Yorkshiremen were: 49, 52, 48, 49 and 21. The scores of the other six players from Surrey, Notts and Sussex were: 0, 1, 14, 7, 2, 0. Greenwood (49), Ulyett (52), Emmett (48), Hill (49) and Armitage (21) carried England to score of 261 and a lead of 139. The demon Spofforth had taken three for 67.

Australia batted consistently right down the card in their second innings, Gregory, the captain and number ten, scoring 43, the top score. England's attempt to score the 121 required for victory began calamitously. They were 9 for three and half the side were out for 76, but Ulyett stood in the breach once again with a magnificent 63. Hill struck the winning blow. England were home by four wickets, but even this victory did not alter the view of the Australian public that this was a weak England side, certainly the weakest of the four who had toured Australia.

They had a very high regard for the batting capabilities of Ulyett -- and well they might have done -- and they thought there were one or two average batsmen, but they rated Kendall ahead of any of the England fast bowlers. "We would counsel whoever may enter into future speculations for importing an England XI," advised one writer, "to bear in mind the great improvement of colonial cricket, and not to imagine that anything will do for Australia".

Only one more mjatch of this long tour remained - against Twenty-Two of South Australia; a low-scoring game was left drawn with George Ulyett making another fifty. So ended a tour which had begun on November 16 in Adelaide and had continued through Sydney, Newcastle, Goulburn, Melbourne, Ballarat, Geelong, Auckland, Wellington, Taranaki, Nelson, Greymouth, Christchurch, Invercargill, Otago, Melbourne, Sandhurst, Ballarat, Ararat, and back to Adelaide, ending on April 16. In view of the conditions of travel this was an immense undertaking.

© John Wisden & Co