Alfred Lyttelton. (Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
Hon. Alfred Lyttelton removed his gloves to pick up four wickets at The Oval on August 12, 1884. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at a spell that broke all kinds of bowling records.
The 1884 Ashes had begun with Australia firmly in control at Old Trafford. Memories of 1882 came back when Fred Spofforth and Harry Boyle bowled out England for 95 after rain had washed out Day One. England, however, clawed back into the match and managed to save the Test.
England secured the rubber in the second Test at Lord’s by an innings thanks to a resolute 148 from Allan Steel, a six-for from Ted Peate, and a seven-for from George Ulyett. Billy Murdoch’s team proceeded to The Oval for the final Test; England needed only a draw to hold on to the Ashes.
Murdoch, McDonnell, and Scott
Peate snared Alec (also known as Alick) Bannerman early after Murdoch won the toss and decided to bat. That was the last of England’s celebrations for a while as Murdoch walked out himself to join Percy McDonnell, and the two batted on with a single-minded motto of piling up the runs.
McDonnell accelerated after the initial cautious start and outscored Murdoch easily. He eventually fell for a 168-ball 103: the innings had included 14 fours, two threes, nine twos, and 23 singles, and the pair had added 143 runs. Australia were 158 for two.
The rest of the day belonged to Murdoch and ‘Tup’ Scott: Australia returned with the score on 363 for two; Murdoch was on a resolute 145 while Scott had also raced to his hundred and had remained unbeaten on 101 (after offering a chance when he was on 60). Their partnership of 205 was already a world record for any wicket, going past the 199 set by Alec Bannerman and McDonnell for the fourth wicket.
After using the usual lot of Peate, Ulyett, Steel, Billy Barnes, Dick Barlow, WG Grace, and Walter Read to no avail Lord Harris turned to William Scotton and even brought himself on. When nothing seemed to work he asked Alfred Lyttelton to take off his gloves and bowl military-medium pace.
The Middlesex batsman was an accomplished all-round sportsperson, but bowling was certainly not his forte. He bowled all over the place and the Australians plundered runs off him. Despite all that it became the first occasion where 10 bowlers were used in a Test. Lyttelton also became the first wicketkeeper to bowl in a Test.
Scott was caught after the world record partnership had been extended to 207: he had scored 102 in 216 balls, which included 15 fours, three threes, seven twos, 14 singles, and a five (thanks to an overthrow). Ulyett got read of George Giffen shortly afterwards and Grace claimed George Bonnor.
Murdoch, meanwhile, had gone past Charles Bannerman’s world record of 165 not out set in the very first Test. He fell for a 525-ball 211 with 24 fours, nine threes, 22 twos, and 44 singles. He had given three chances — all of Ulyett — on 46, 171, and 205, but he still managed to score the first double-hundred in the history of Test cricket.
Lyttelton takes over
However, since declarations were not allowed (till 1889) the Australian innings did not seem to be coming to an end anytime soon with Billy Midwinter and Jack Blackham sticking firmly to their task. Just before 4 o’clock Lord Harris asked Lyttelton to bowl again as Grace took up the gloves.
The Oval laughed out loud as Lyttelton resorted to bowling underarm lobs — with his pads on; the first ball was tossed up in a high arc down the leg-side; Midwinter had a mighty heave; and the ball landed in Grace’s glove. “I had no time to prevent the umpire giving his decision, so Midwinter had to go”, Grace later reminisced: Lyttelton’s appeal had done the trick. He was, after all, the first wicketkeeper to take a Test wicket.
As bowling continued from the other end, Lyttelton took up his wicket-keeping duty. He soon managed to get Blackham leg-before. Lord Harris now introduced Arthur Shrewsbury Sr: he was one of the finest batsmen of the decade and was held in very high esteem by Grace, his only rival, but — he simply could not bowl.
Lord Harris thus became the first captain to use all his bowlers in a Test innings. He continued with Lyttelton and Shrewsbury; Lytterlton soon ran through Spofforth’s defence, and rounded up the innings when Boyle was caught at mid-on by Lord Harris. He finished with figures of four for 19 from 12 overs (eight six-ball overs). Australia had scored 551.
The above caricature of Alfred Lyttleton appeared in Vanity Fair on September 20, 1884. (Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
The rest of the match
England had a decent start, reaching 71 for two by stumps. However, ‘Joey’ Palmer picked up four quick wickets and England slid quickly to 181 for eight, still 370 runs behind. The dark shadows of an innings defeat loomed on the horizon.
It was under these circumstances that Read, England’s No 10 batsman, walked out to join Scotton, who had held fort on one side after opening the innings. He had scored a resolute 53, but he really needed support at the other end to save the Test.
What followed was an amazing innings. Scotton was reduced to a spectator as Read soon went past Blackham and Barnes’ 26 — the highest score by a No 10 batsman. He blasted his way to his fifty and then to his hundred. An awestruck Scotton eventually fell to Giffen for a 375-ball 90: his innings had nine fours, five threes, nine twos, and 21 singles.
The partnership had put up 151 for the ninth wicket: this was easily a new world for the ninth wicket — going past Murdoch and George Alexander’s 51 by the proverbial mile.
Read’s onslaught came to an end when he was bowled by Boyle for a 155-ball 117; he had 20 fours, a three, 12 twos, and 10 singles in his innings. England were bowled out for 346. They had to follow-on but had to bat out only just over an hour, and they finished at 85 for two as time ran out.
Lyttelton never played another Test. He did not pick up another First-Class wicket either.
Shrewsbury finished his First-Class career without a wicket.
It would be over 64 years before a side would have a 10th bowler in the form of Everton Weekes.
Lyttelton still holds the best bowling figures for a No 10 bowler. Ken Barrington had come the closest with figures of three for four against South Africa at Newlands in 1964-65. Taslim Arif, Mark Taylor, and Mark Boucher are the only other No 10 bowlers to have taken a Test wicket.
Only three other captains have used all 11 bowlers in a Test innings: Greg Chappell against Pakistan at Faisalabad in 1979-80, Sourav Ganguly against West Indies at St John’s in 2002, and Graeme Smith against West Indies at St John’s in 2005.
Other than Lyttelton no other designated wicketkeeper has picked up more than a single wicket in a Test innings. Bill Storer, however, had done it twice.
Read still holds the world record for a No 10 batsman.
The current ninth-wicket world record partnership of 195 is held by Boucher and Pat Symcox.
Australia 551 (Percy McDonnell 103, Billy Murdoch 211, Tup Scott 102; Alfred Lyttelton 4 for 19) drew with England 346 (William Scotton 90, Walter Read 117; Joey Palmer 4 for 90) and 85 for 2.
(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)