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Ashes 1885: When a player replaced the umpire mid-match

Photo Courtesy - Wikimedia Commons
In this photograph of the Australian team of 1882, Tom Garrett (centre in bottom row)is sharing space with few other members of the team which hosted the English in 1885 as well. Photo Courtesy – Wikimedia Commons

George Hodges had decided to opt out of a Test midway on March 24, 1885. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the day when a player from the same Test replaced an umpire while the Test was still underway.

Cricket, even at international level, has witnessed mid-match replacements: there has been the temporary concept of the Super-Sub (a concept that had earned the International Cricket Council (ICC) the wrath of cricket statisticians); cricketers (Billy Murdoch, for example) have fielded as substitutes for the opposition; commentators (Jeremy Coney was one of these men) have been drafted in as substitutes, and substitutes (Michael Slater immediately comes to mind) as commentators; journalists (Henry Blofeld) had almost played Tests; out-of-squad retired legends (Bob Taylor) have kept wickets; and umpires have been replaced by other umpires mid-match.

Despite all that, there have not been many instances of an umpire pulling out mid-way during a Test and being replaced by a cricketer who was playing in the Test. However, The Ashes of 1885 had witnessed something just as bizarre.

Adelaide: it was always about the moolah

Charles Pardon later wrote in Wisden: “From the moment (Billy) Murdoch’s team landed… it became evident they were animated by a feeling of bitter hostility (towards the England side).” There was a lot of animosity between the two sides, mostly based on the outrageous (by the standards of the time) amount claimed by the Australians.

John Creswell, Secretary of the South Australian Cricket Association (SACA), had really stretched himself for a Test at the Adelaide Oval. Desperate to get the match underway, Creswell offered each team an amount of £450 and a third of the match earnings. SACA eventually got their money back from the spectators, who paid an exorbitant four shillings for a seat in the stand and two shillings for a place elsewhere for what was the first Test at the Adelaide Oval.

Neither team managed to field a fully-fit side, nor were most players fully motivated. Thanks to Percy McDonnell’s 124 Australia scored 243, Billy Bates and Bobby Peel sharing eight wickets between them. England responded with an emphatic 369, thanks to Billy Barnes’ 134; Joey Palmer returned figures of five for 81.

McDonnell batted brilliantly again, scoring 83, but once again Peel and Bates shared eight wickets to bowl out the hosts for 191. Set to chase 67, England reached their target with eight wickets in hand.

MCG: Eleven changes

Despite the absurd pay-package, SACA were left with substantial debt after the Test. The elevated price had restricted the gate sales to a paltry £792. Since the teams took £450 each (plus a third of the profit) SACA had to pay £1,428, thereby incurring a huge loss.

Victoria Cricket Association (VCA), however, refused to play into the cricketers’ hands. The English manager James Lillywhite offered George Alexander, his Australian counterpart, 30% of the gate fee, and later £20 per player. Alexander refused: the Australians were not willing to play for anything less than 40% of the gate fee.

“Make what you can in the old country but in Australia act a little generously towards our visitors,” pleaded Tom Horan. The players did not relent, and neither did VCA. As a result, all eleven players from the Test at Adelaide Oval boycotted the MCG Test, resulting in eleven changes to the side. Horan himself led the side; Sammy Jones was recalled; and as many as nine men made their debut on the first ever New Year’s Test. The Test also ended Jack Blackham’s run: after playing the first 17 Tests in the history of the sport, he finally missed a Test.

A new-look Australia did not stand a chance against Arthur Shrewsbury’s men. To their credit they started off well, reducing England to 204 for seven when Johnny Briggs (then a specialist batsman at Test level) decided to take things in his own hand, scoring 121 and taking the score to 401.

Some excellent bowling from Barnes (who finished with nine for 81 from the Test) saw the Australians being skittled out for 279 (they were 190 for three) and 126. England won by ten wickets and went 2-1 up in the series.

A painting of Tom Garrett. Photo Courtesy - Wikpedia
A painting of Tom Garrett. Photo Courtesy – Wikpedia

SCG: Australia fight back

Four Australians from Murdoch’s team at Adelaide Oval were retained when Hugh Massie went out to toss at SCG. William Attewell (four for 53) and Wilf Flowers (five for 46) reduced Australia to 101 for nine before Tom Garrett and Edwin Evans added 80 for the last wicket: the partnership would go on to define the course of the Test.

Some excellent bowling from Fred Spofforth (four for 54) and Horan (six for 40) saw England being bowled out for a mere 133. Bates (five for 24) then bowled out the hosts for 165, leaving England 214 to win. Surprisingly, despite his success in the first two Tests, Barnes did not bowl a single over. Evans himself wrote for Sporting Life: “Somehow, the English bowlers could not bowl a bit, and (Billy) Barnes, the wicket being made for him, was actually not tried.”

Wisden, on the other hand, quoted an excerpt from “an Australian paper” on this topic: “It should be stated that owing to some unpleasantness between (Arthur) Shrewsbury and (Billy) Barnes, the latter refused to bowl when asked to do so. Everyone is aware that the first thing a cricketer has to do is to obey the captain, and therefore there is no excuse for Barnes.”

Spofforth reduced the tourists to 92 for six, but Maurice Read and Attewell scored fifties and added 102 for the seventh stand. However, Spofforth came back and dismissed both in quick succession, and finished with six for 90 as the hosts ended up losing by six runs under dramatic circumstances.

SCG, again: Australia regain lost ground

SCG witnessed a second Australian victory in the space of a month (which was not a very long span of time, considering the times). This time it was George Giffen who rose to the occasion, bowling out the tourists for 269 with figures of seven for 117. Australia were reduced to 134 for seven in response, but George Bonnor scored an emphatic 114-minute 128 to give the hosts a 40-run lead.

Palmer (four for 32) and Spofforth (five for 30) bowled unchanged, and England were bowled out for 77; Australia won the Test 2-2. It all came down to the final Test at MCG. Australia brought in William Bruce, Affie Jarvis, Frank Walters, and George McShane (the last two making their debut; McShane had also umpired in the previous Test) to replace Bonnor, Blackham (who had led in the previous Test), McDonnell, and Palmer. Horan decided to bat first.

Day One: Peel and Ulyett rout hosts

Joe Hunter dropped a sitter behind the stumps off George Ulyett’s second ball, but that only deferred the Australian onslaught. Bruce got another reprieve when survived a missed run out, but then the collapse started. Australia lost three wickets with the score on 21, two more on 34, and were down to 67 for seven when the opening bowlers were given a break.

Shrewsbury summoned Barnes and Flowers, and the former struck soon, removing McShane and Tom Garrett. Spofforth walked out at 99 for nine; he knew that there was only one way to respond to the situation, and he did exactly that, and how! John Trumble (Hugh’s brother) held one end up as the pair added 64 for the last stand.

Spofforth reached his 50 before Attewell ran through his defence; Trumble remained unbeaten on 34. In the process, Spofforth became the first number eleven to score a Test fifty; it was also the first occasion that a number eleven batsman had emerged as the top-scorer in a Test innings.

England batted comfortably, reaching 44 without loss at stumps with Barnes on 19 and William Scotton on 21. They still trailed by 119 runs.

Day Two: Shrewsbury’s day

The first wicket fell at 61, but the tourists were reduced to 97 for three thereafter when Shrewsbury walked out to join Barnes. The Nottinghamshire champion eventually fell for 74, and Bates walked out despite his illness. He hit out an almost everything, was dropped four times, and eventually had to retire ill on 54 (scored out of an unbroken stand of 73).

Shrewsbury, on the other hand, had no intention of letting the pressure go. He lost Flowers at the other end, and England finished the day on 270 for five with Shrewsbury on 54 and Briggs on 11. England were leading by a comfortable 107.

Day Three: Hodges quits

The next day started with Jim Philips, one of the umpires, not being able to take the field due to illness and had to be replaced by JC Allen for the rest of the Test. Shrewsbury found company in Briggs, who once again outscored the captain, scoring 43 out of 68. Then Trumble had Briggs caught at short-slip by Walters and Attewell by Alec Bannerman at mid-off. Bates rejoined Shrewsbury after the twin blows, but wickets kept falling: Bates soon holed out to Walters at long-on and Bruce Peel was bowled by Trumble for a duck. It was thus left to Hunter to assist Shrewsbury to take the lead past 200.

Hunter helped Shrewsbury become the first Test captain to score a hundred and by the time he was eventually bowled by Giffen for 18, England had acquired a potentially match-winning lead of 223. Shrewsbury, the backbone of the innings, remained unbeaten on 105.

Australia’s resistance received an early jolt when Ulyett removed Bannerman, Garrett, and Giffen with just 26 on the board. Jones and Horan survived a few anxious moments, especially the latter against Peel: the Yorkshireman appealed vociferously against Jones multiple times, to be joined by an enthusiastic Hunter. But Jones survived as George Hodges, the debutant umpire, turned every appeal down.

Then it happened: irritated by the continuous appeal, especially by Peel, Hodges refused to take field after tea. Since there was no deputy umpire, Garrett, who had already been back in the pavilion, walked out with Jim Philips to officiate for the rest of the Test. This also meant that the there were two replacement umpires at the ground for the rest of the Test.

It may have been a coincidence, but wickets fell in a heap after tea. Horan and Jones both perished with the score on 60 (Jones was claimed by Peel), and though Bruce played a few strokes Trumble and Walters fell at the other end. Australia finished the day on 105 for seven (still 118 in arrears) with Bruce on 28 and Jarvis on one.

Day Four: England wrap things up

When play resumed on Day Four, Lillywhite stood as a replacement for Garrett (or Hodges, whichever way you want to look at at it). Jarvis was caught by Peel at mid-on off Flowers, but Barnes left the field almost at the same time. So Jarvis stayed on the field as a substitute for Barnes; almost immediately he caught Spofforth at long-on off Flowers, becoming the second Australian (after Murdoch) to take a catch while fielding as a substitute for England.

Bruce and McShane hit out for a while before the former was caught by Bates at short-slip off Attewell. England won by an innings and 98 runs and retained The Ashes.

What followed?

- Hodges never umpired in a Test again.

- Australia did not regain the Ashes till 1891-92.

- Horan never played a Test after the series (though Murdoch did).

Brief scores:

Australia 163 (Fred Spofforth 50; George Ulyett 4 for 52, Bobby Peel 3 for 28) and 125 (William Attewell 3 for 24, George Ulyett 3 for 25, Wilf Flowers 3 for 34) lost to England 386 (Arthur Shrewsbury 105*, Billy Barnes 74, Billy Bates 61, Johnny Briggs 43; John Trumble 3 for 29, William Bruce 3 for 99) by an innings and 98 runs.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)

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