Dick Pougher (left) and Fred Huish © Getty Images
Dick Pougher (left) and Fred Huish © Getty Images

The touring Australians were blown away for 18 by MCC at Lord’s on June 11, 1896. However, a different sort of game was being played in the stands, by Fred Huish, as Abhishek Mukherjee  narrates.

Let me begin the tale with another one (one whose authenticity I cannot vouch for), from India’s 1982-83 tour of West Indies. The West Indian fans cheered heartily when Sunil Gavaskar fell for 1 at Port-of-Spain. This did not go down well with one of the Indian fans. He immediately placed a bet that Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes would score less than that between them.

The bet was duly accepted, and Balwinder Sandhu, to the horror of the locals, had Haynes caught behind and Greenidge leg-before — both for ducks. The elated Indian looked around, but the vanquished was nowhere to be found.

The match in question dates back to Australia’s 1896 tour of England. It was a tightly-contested Ashes, one that England won 2-1. The Australians had started the tour in emphatic fashion, winning 7 (3 by an innings) and drawing 2 of the first 9 matches.

Then came the MCC match. MCC vs Australians invariably evokes memories of the iconic 1878 clash, where Harry Boyle and Fred Spofforth had skittled out MCC for 33 and 19. It had undoubtedly been the most significant match behind the development of Anglo-Australian cricket.

The Australians looked ominous here too. Unfortunately, they were hit badly when George Giffen went down with sciatica after bowling 9 overs and took no further part in the match. But Hugh Trumble took 6 for 84, and despite fifties from ‘Drewy’ Stoddart and FS Jackson, MCC were bowled out for 219.

Then the Australians walked out. Even after Harry Graham fell on 8, JJ Kelly and Harry Trott took the score to 14 for 1. Then ‘Old Jack’ Hearne did away with captain Harry Trott and Syd Gregory. Kelly and Frank Iredale helped them reach 18 for 3.

Then the fun began. WG Grace replaced William Attewell with Dick Pougher. As always, there were speculations in the crowd on how much the tourists would reach.

Sitting among them was Kent wicketkeeper Fred Huish. “In a pure spirit of joke,” Huish placed a 100-1 bet that the Australians would not be able to add another run to their score.

Now Pougher came on. Kelly hit his first ball straight back to him. Clem Hill, one of the greatest batsmen in history, was bowled off the next ball. Trumble saw off the rest of the over, but in the next over Iredale became the fourth batsman of the innings with a “bowled Hearne” entry next to his name.

Joe Darling, held back till very late, stayed at the non-striker’s end as Pougher bowled a maiden to Trumble. At the other end Hearne extracted a maiden as well, this time out of Darling.

Then Pougher clean bowled Trumble. Charles Eady, who would later score 566 in an innings (still the highest score in adult cricket), walked out.

At this stage Huish got very excited. He placed another bet, this time 50-1, that Eady would be bowled first ball. Some men, despite Huish’s tremendous fortune that day, obliged.

But this was Huish’s day. Pougher hurled a yorker to bowl Eady. For the second time Pougher was on a hat-trick, but Tom McKibbin kept out the first ball. He holed out to mid-wicket off the next. Of course, Giffen did not bat.

The Australians were all out for 18. Pougher finished with figures of 3-3-0-5. He became the first bowler to take 5 wickets in an innings without conceding a run — a feat later emulated by George Cox, Dick Tyldesley, and Percy Mills.

It is not known exactly how much money Huish pocketed that day, but it was certainly a considerable amount.

As for the match, the Australians batted again that day. They were reduced to 33 for 6 and then 62 for 7 before Darling and Eady added 112. They still fell 18 short of making England bat again. The lion-hearted Hearne bowled 50.3 five-ball overs to take all 9 wickets, for 73.

Brief scores:

MCC 219 (Andrew Stoddart 54, Stanley Jackson 51; Hugh Trumble 6 for 84, Tom McKibbin 3 for 51) beat Australians 18 (Jack Hearne 4 for 4, Dick Pougher 5 for 0) and 183 (Joe Darling 76; Jack Hearne 9 for 73) by an innings and 18 runs.