History of Test cricket from 1884 to 1889

The history of Test cricket between 1884 and 1889 was one of English dominance over the Australians. England won every Test series that was played. The period also saw the first use of the word "Test" to describe a form of cricket when the Press used it in 1885. It has remained in common usage ever since.

In 1883 England had won the first Ashes series by beating Australia 2-1 away, though they had lost a fourth extra Test played at the end of their Australian tour. However, this last Test proved to be a blip as English dominance remained for the rest of the 1880s. Of the 19 England-Australia Tests played in the period from 1884 to 1889, England won 14, Australia 3, with 2 draws.

1889 saw the first English tour to South Africa. England won both representative matches easily. But, although it was only recognised as a Test nation later, after 13 years, cricket had a third Test-playing team.

English summer of 1884

The first representative match of 1884 was held at Lancashire's ground, Old Trafford, making it the first such match played there. The practice at the time was that the host ground authority would select the team. First Lancashire asked Lord Harris to captain the side, but he refused as he was unhappy about the proposed selection of John Crossland, a bowler, who many considered a thrower. So Lancashire chose their captain and hero, A N Hornby instead. In the end, Crossland did not play. Billy Murdoch's Australians had the better of a draw against A N Hornby's English eleven. The game was scheduled as a three-day match, but rain made no play possible on the first day. When England did get to bat at 12.05 p.m. on the second day, they lost their captain in the third over, and Grace went when the score was on 13, before rain intervened yet again to delay play. After a quarter of an hour play resumed, as did the England collapse: at lunch, they were 83 for 6. The sun shone throughout the interval, making the wicket even more difficult to play. Harry Boyle finished on 6 for 42 and Fred Spofforth on 4 for 42, with England dismissed at around 3.10 p.m. for only 95. The Australians fared better, making 86 for 2. Three quick wickets, the third of them being George Bonnor, who was reluctant to go after being driven back onto his stumps, saw the Aussies collapse to 97 for 5. But the innings recovered, and they finished on 182. England fared much better in their second innings: it took the Australians an hour and a quarter to make their first breakthrough, although Alfred Lucas was dropped when England had only notched up six. England reached parity with only 3 wickets down—and as it was then 4.40 p.m. on the last day, a draw was a virtual certainty. The game ended with England 180 for 9.

The second representative match was at Lord's, and the Marylebone Cricket Club selected Lord Harris as their captain (as did Surrey for the third and last match, which was at the Oval). In the second Test, Australia made 229 in their first innings. During this innings, Billy Murdoch, the Australian captain, became the first substitute fielder to take a catch in Test cricket when he caught Australia's top scorer, Henry Scott, when he was on 75. Murdoch was helping out England after WG Grace suffered a finger injury! In their first innings England slumped to 135 for 5. As Dick Barlow went out to bat, Lord Harris instructed him, "For Heaven's sake, Barlow, stop the rot!" And this is exactly what Barlow did, scoring 38 as Allan Steel added 98 runs at the other end. In all, Steel made 148 in an innings that Plum Warner recounts in his book "Lord's 1787-1945" was told enthusiastically to him at the Adelaide Oval in 1911 by Australian George Giffen, who played in the match. England went on to make 379. Australia were dismissed cheaply for 145 in their second innings, thanks to 7 for 36 from George Ulyett.

The third representative match was played at the Oval. Australia won the toss, went into bat, and despite losing Bannerman early on for 4, made 551. Ideally, they would not have spent so much time batting, as it gave them less time to bowl England out twice to level the series. But the laws of cricket in did not permit declarations until 1889, so they just piled on runs. Billy Murdoch scored Test cricket's first double century (211 in total), and Percy McDonnell and Henry Scott also made centuries. England's best bowler in the innings was Lyttelton with 4 for 19. Lyttelton was the wicket-keeper (Read and Grace kept wicket when Lyttelton bowled), with all 11 Englishmen getting a bowl, which was the first time this has happened in a Test match. England struggled to 181 for 8 in reply. At which point, Walter Read, who was furious at being sent in as low as number 10, thrashed 117 off 155 balls in 113 minutes as England recovered to 346. The follow-on was enforced as a matter of routine, but England only got to 85 for 2 in the 26 overs of play that remained before the game ended as a draw. England had won the series 1-0.

"Australia in England 1884. Match length: 3 days. Balls per over: 4. Series result: England won 1-0."

Lillywhite, Shaw and Shrewsbury's third tour 1886/7

In 1886, Lillywhite, Shaw and Shrewsbury got together for a third time. Though the side was played as Shaw's XI, Shaw was too old to play much himself, as was Lillywhite. The England team was not a particularly strong one. Six of the players were from Nottinghamshire, the county of the organisers, Shaw and Shrewsbury. The side also got a reputation of playing slow, and therefore unattractive cricket, and the games were poorly promoted. They were poorly attended too.

In the first Test, the Australian captain Percy McDonnell became the first captain to invite the opposition to bat on winning the toss in a Test match. Charlie Turner and Jack Ferris bowled unchanged throughout their first innings at Test level to dismiss Shaw's Team for 45, which remains England's lowest-ever score in a Test match. By the end of the first day, Australia led by 31 with six first innings wickets remaining. On the second day, Australia moved their score onto 119. By stumps, England seemed out of it: they were only 29 runs ahead with 3 wickets remaining. The match turned on the final Monday, though. Briggs, Flowers and Scotton were able to move England to 184, setting Australia 111 to win. The wicket was in fine order, but Barnes, who took 6 for 28, assisted by Lohmann, who took 3 for 20 saw them dismissed for 97. According to "Wisden", apart from one mistake, Shaw's team's fielding was "magnificent".

In the second Test, owing to injury to Barnes, the hero of the last Test, Reginald Wood, a Lancastrian now based in Melbourne was called upon to play. Barnes had injured his hand after hitting it against a wall: he had aimed a punch at the Australian captain, and McDonnell had ducked out the way. Wood's Test career consisted of coming in at number 10 and scoring 6 and 0. He did not bowl or take a catch. He played only 11 other first class games. For the Australians, Spofforth was missing (the first Test proved to be his last).

In their first innings, England made 151, with the eighth wicket contributing 57 of those runs; Ferris and Turner took five wickets apiece. George Lohmann then destroyed Australia, becoming the first man to take eight wickets in a Test innings, as the Aussies made only 84. In England's reply, "Stonewaller" Barlow top-scored with 42, as they made 154, with Ferris and Turner taking 4 wickets apiece, to leave Australia an unlikely 222 to win. This time Briggs and Flower helped Lohmann, and though three Australians made 30s, they never looked likely to make them, and lost by 71 runs. England had run up six consecutive Test victories against them. In this match, Billy Gunn both played for England and deputised as an umpire when one of the appointed umpires was absent on the final morning, and Charlie Turner became the third man to take a catch as a substitute for the opposing Test side.

A putative third Test was hoped for at the East Melbourne ground, but the bitterness that divided Australian cricket at the time meant that the Sydney players would not have played.

"England in Australia 1886/7. Match length: Timeless. Balls per over: 4. Series result: England win 2-0."

outh Africa's first Tests 1888/9

A not particularly strong English touring team, consisting of 7 county-standard players and 6 of good clubs standard, and that Altham compared to a weak English county, played an extremely weak nascent South African team. These games were not recognised as Tests by England at the time. "Wisden's Cricketers Almanack" noted that "it was never intended, or considered necessary, to take out a representative English team for a first trip to the Cape". The England team did, however, include some stars such as Briggs and Abel, and George Ulyett, who replaced a player who had to return from South Africa due to a family bereavement.

Although the English team is said not to have paid its expenses, it was otherwise financially successful. The cricketers were warmly welcomed. England were led by Aubrey Smith, who became the most widely known of England's cricket captains as a result of becoming a "B" list Hollywood star. They played all their matches, except the two that later came to be regarded as Test matches, against odds, and lost some of them too! Of the 19 games they played, they won 13, including the 2 that later became recognised as Test matches, losing 4 and abandoning 2.

In the first Test, which was played on a green matting wicket, England beat South Africa on matting by 8 wickets by 3.30 p.m. on the second day. Around 3,000 spectators attended the first day.

Monty Bowden became England's youngest ever Test captain aged 23 in the Second Test, replacing an injured Smith. England scored 292 and then dismissed South Africa for 47 and 43 to record a comprehensive victory. Bowden died 3 years later after being trampled by his own oxen after falling from his cart. He had stayed in South Africa. His death was possibly the result of an epileptic fit. He may not have known he had ever played Test cricket. It is said that his body, which was taken to Umtali hospital, had to be protected from marauding lions before being interred in a coffin made from old whiskey cases.

"England in South Africa 1888/9. Match length: 3 days. Balls per over: 4. Series result: England win 2-0."


*"The Cricket Captains of England" by Alan Gibson ISBN 1-85145-395-4
*"Wisden Anthology 1864-1900" edited by Benny Green ISBN 0-356-10732-9
*"Australia versus England, A Pictorial History of every Test Match since 1877" ISBN 0-670-90323-X
*"Lords 1787-1945" by Sir Pelham Warner ISBN 1-85145-112-9
*"A Social History of English Cricket" by Derek Birley ISBN 1-85410-941-3
*"The Complete History of Cricket Tours at Home & Abroad" by Peter Wynne Thomas
* [http://www.cricinfo.com Cricinfo]
* [http://www.cricketarchive.com Cricket Archive]
* [http://www.cricketarchive.com/Archive/Articles/0/971.html "1884 1st Test Eng v Aus - What the Papers Said of the England 1st innings" compiled by John Kobylecky] (Accessed 5 March 2005)
* [http://www.cricketarchive.com/Archive/Articles/0/972.html "1884 1st Test Eng v Aus - What the Papers Said of the Australia 1st innings" compiled by John Kobylecky] (Accessed 5 March 2005)
* [http://www.cricketarchive.com/Archive/Articles/0/973.html "1884 1st Test Eng v Aus - What the Papers Said of the England 2nd innings" compiled by John Kobylecky] (Accessed 5 March 2005)

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