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Wisden on the Ashes

Grimmett, O’Reilly, Lindwall, Miller, Lillee, Thomson, Warne and McGrath – took 14 wickets, and suddenly England could no longer take success against Australia for granted.

It hurt. The English press could hardly believe it, and one young journalist, Reginald Brooks, was moved to place a mock obituary in the Sporting Times: “In Affectionate Remembrance of English Cricket, which died at The Oval on 29th August, 1882, Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing friends and acquaintances. R.I.P. N.B. – The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.”

That’s how it all began: a semi-private joke in a sporting paper. Little acorns, and all that. Actually Brooks is rather fortunate to be remembered as the man who sparked off all the fuss, as two days before his announcement, the weekly newspaper Cricket included something very similar: “Sacred to the memory of England’s supremacy in the cricket field, which expired on the 29th day of August, at The Oval. Its end was Peate” (the last part referred to the last man out, Yorkshireman Ted Peate).

Fortuitously for the infant legend, an England team was planning to tour Australia that very winter, and someone leapt on the bandwagon to announce that the Honourable Ivo Bligh, the Surrey player who was going to lead the latest adventure, was going Down Under to recapture those ashes.

Young Mr Brooks couldn’t possibly have imagined what he had started. S. L.

Australia v England 1876‒77

1877

James Lillywhite’s team left England on September 21, 1876. They steamed away from Southampton on calm water and under a sunny summer-like sky, roars of good hearty English cheers from shore wishing them “God Speed”. The compiler of this book hopes they have had a pleasant voyage out; wishes them a successful career in Australia, and trusts they will have a safe return home to Old England.

First Test At Melbourne, March 15, 16, 17, 19, 1877. Australia won by 45runs.

Gordon Ross, 1976

Having cheerily farewelled James Lillywhite’s team in 1877, the following year Wisdengave only the briefest of mentions to the results: “This team played 23matches; won 11; lost four; and eight were drawn.” The omission was rectified some 99years later, when an article looking forward to the centenary of Test cricket included reports of the 1876–77 Tests:

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: he happened to make 165. Both sides were very much below full strength. W. G. Grace was missing to begin with, while spite of being the home side Australia 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.

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All rights reserved. You may not copy, distribute, transmit, reproduce or otherwise make available this content in any form or by any means. Early Days: 1876‒77 to 1882

Bannerman’s was a truly remarkable performance. He scored 165before retiring hurt after receiving a blow on the hand; the next-highest score by an Australian was 18 – by Garrett, the No. 9. Due to Bannerman’s superhuman effort, Australia reached 245 ; a collection was taken to mark Bannerman’s feat and it raised one pound a run. When England batted Jupp, who opened, hit 63, Charlwood 36, and Hill, coming in at No. 9, 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 and Ulyett had taken the first nine wickets to fall, until Lillywhite bowled the last man in. Australia were all out for 104; England thus needed 154to 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 79between them, but the other seven contributed only 24.

There was great jubilation in Australia, but also a few uncomplimentary remarks addressed to the England cricketers. The Australasianwrote 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 Biographieshad 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 XI.”

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 11players had defeated any XI from England.

Toss: Australia. Australia 245(C. Bannerman 165*) and 104(A. Shaw 5-38); England 196(H. Jupp 63, W. E. Midwinter 5-78) and 108(T. K. Kendall 7-55).

Second Test At Melbourne, March 31, April 2, 3, 4, 1877. England won by four wickets.

Gordon Ross, 1976

So nettled were the English party that they were anxious to arrange another match on level terms and this was done. This time, Spofforth sank his differences and was in the Australian team, and with his presence in their side the local public predicted a second

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All rights reserved. You may not copy, distribute, transmit, reproduce or otherwise make available this content in any form or by any means.