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Ashes 1893: Dr. WG Grace treats Charlie Turner on the field

WG Grace helped healed Charlie Turner's dislicated thumb to help him continue with the match © Getty Images
WG Grace missed the first Test of the 1893 Ashes at Lord’s due to a split finger © Getty Images

August 26, 1893. On the final day of the Old Trafford Test, WG Grace used his medical skills to allow Charlie Turner of Australia to continue his innings. Arunabha Sengupta recalls the day when a painful finger dislocation was treated by the doctor on the field.

It was not a happy tour for the Australians.

On the cricketing front it was neatly summed up by George Giffen, “We missed a fast bowler badly …. But their fast bowlers did not always miss us.”

In the tour matches, the tourists were given a thorough working over by Charles Kortright and Arthur Mold, two furiously fast bowlers with somewhat questionable actions. In the Tests it was the turn of Tom Richardson and Bill Lockwood. With JJ Ferris no longer in the scene, the Australians missed a new ball partner for Charlie Turner.

Ironically, the 40-year-old Fred ‘Demon’ Spofforth was busy enjoying post Test match days, playing club cricket for Hampstead, twice taking all ten wickets in an innings and once hitting 155.  There were one or two voices that urged Jack Blackham and his men to secure the services of the great man.

WG Grace missed the first Test at Lord’s with a split finger. Andrew Stoddart led in his stead and opted to bat on a wet wicket. The Australians did not have the bowling to take advantage of the situation. Rain ensured that the first Test was drawn. Grace returned for  the second Test at The Oval and the hosts won by an innings.

There were not only problems of performance, but also serious rifts in the team. On their way to a match at Brighton, members of factions within the team lost their tempers during their railway journey. When the train reached Sussex, the carriage compartment in which the visitors travelled was found spattered with blood.

There were other incidents. Alec Bannerman, deputising for Blackham in the Brighton match, clashed with Giffen. The great all-rounder, in turn, bickered with Turner. Much of the problems were attributed to drink. On one night Harry Graham was found asleep on the staircase of his hotel, fully dressed. Victor Cohen, the manager who accompanied the team, complained of disrespectful language and added that he had to defend himself from assault by ‘some drunken brute’.

By the time the series reached Old Trafford, Lord Hawke made a succinct statement about the Australians by taking Stanley Jackson and Bobby Peel out of the side to play for Yorkshire.

It proved a miserable tour for Turner. He picked up 148 wickets at 13.63 in the tour matches, but managed just 11 expensive ones in the Tests. After that war of words with Giffen, he refused to go on the American leg of the tour.

His bowling at Manchester remained unimpressive as Billy Gunn hammered a century. However, he did redeem himself with a  memorable phase with the bat in the second innings.

Tom Richardson announced himself in Test cricket with five wickets in each innings. England took a crucial 39-run lead. When Turner walked in to bat at 182 for eight in the second innings, the chances of a win for the hostslooked quite prominent.

At 200, the stonewalling Bannerman had his stumps uprooted by Richardson and captain Jack Blackham joined Turner at the wicket. Australia were still far from safe. The bowling was keen and the fielders sniffing for the chance.

Yet, Blackham and Turner batted on, with great pluck and determination. It was experience and common sense at work, and the bowlers were tiring. The two tail-enders slowly ate away chunks of the remaining time. The day was almost saved when Turner dislocated his finger on the bat handle.

Help, however, was not too far away. The looming figure of Grace approached from point. A bear like paw reached out for the injured hand. A couple of astute tugs and the finger was reset. Following a sudden spasm of extreme pain and an urge to split the Manchester skies with a yell, Turner found himself able to carry on with his innings.

Almost immediately, perhaps out of gratitude, he fell to Johnny Briggs for 27. But by then only two and a quarter hours remained to score 198 and England were content to play out a draw.

Brief scores:

Australia 204 (William Bruce 68; Tom Richardson 5 for 49) and 236 (Alec Bannerman 60; Tom Richardson 5 for 107) drew with England 243 (WG Grace 40, Billy Gunn 102; George Giffen 4 for 113) and 118 for 4 (Andrew Stoddart 42, WG Grace 45)

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)

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