George Lohmann finished the series against South Africa in 1896 with 35 wickets at 5.80. Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
George Lohmann routed the South Africans almost single-handedly on March 3, 1896. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the cheapest nine-wicket haul.
The tour was expected to be a mismatch when Lord Hawke’s team embarked for the third English tour of South Africa, and the outcome was not a lot different. George Lohmann, one of the champions of the side, was also the Business Manager of the tour. It was he who controlled the course of the series the way few people have in the history of the sport.
The South Africans were all at sea in the first Test at St George’s Park without the presence of Bernard Tancred, Alfred Richards (who made his debut and led in the third Test), and George Rowe: England, especially with Lohmann, were too heavyweight an opposition for them, dishing them out a 288-run hammering.
While the tourists scored 185 and 226, Lohmann again routed the hosts for 93 and 30 with magical figures of seven for 38 and eight for seven (still the cheapest eight-wicket haul). The match figures of 15 for 45 were the cheapest 15-wicket haul at that time (though it was later bettered by Johnny Briggs’ 15 for 28). Barring Briggs, only Bert Ironmonger (11 for 24), Glenn McGrath (ten for 27), and Ernie Toshack (11 for 31) have taken cheaper ten-wicket hauls than Lohmann.
Day One: Tom Hayward builds
One of the oddities of the second Test at Old Wanderers was the appointment of Audley Miller as umpire. Miller had played for England in the previous Test. When Lord Hawke’s team arrived at the ground they were in with a bitter surprise: the club buildings were populated by the survivors from a dynamite blast close to the place.
With Rowe back for the second Test the South Africans had a chance to put up some resistance, which they did: England lost both Lohmann and Tim O’Brien with only eight runs on the board. Once they saw off the initial burst of Rowe and Jimmy Sinclair, however, Hayward and CB Fry eased into the proceedings. They added 119 before Fry (64) hit one back to Rowe; Hayward then added 122 more with Arthur Hill (65) before becoming Rowe’s third wicket: he had scored 122.
Sinclair kept striking at the other end, and from 291 for four England suddenly dipped to 307 for seven: it seemed that South Africa were in with a chance to keep the English score under control when Hugh Bromley-Davenport joined Charles Wright. They played out patiently till stumps with the former on 30 and the latter on 19; England were 350 for seven at stumps.
Day Two: Lohmann breaks
Three quick blows on the second morning could have given South Africa a chance to claw back into the Test. The blows happened, but only after a 154-run eighth wicket stand between Wright and Bromley-Davenport. It took the perseverance of Rowe to break the partnership when Bromley-Davenport eventually holed out to Clement Johnson for 84.
Christopher Heseltine fell for a duck, but Wright kept on playing his strokes and was last out, bowled by Billy Frank for 71. England finished on 482. Rowe returned figures of five for 115 while Sinclair had four for 118. The score was perhaps a tad too high for the South Africans, given their dismal show in the first Test.
Sammy Woods provided England with an early breakthrough, clean bowling Tommy Routledge. However, Sinclair and Robert Poore dug in, and at 70 for one it seemed South Africa would claw back into the match — which was when Lohmann struck, clean bowling Poore, and having Frank Hearne caught-behind for a duck. Sinclair and Johnson followed shortly afterwards — both too Lohmann — and South Africa found themselves reeling at 85 for five.
A few tense moments passed as “Barberton” Halliwell and George Shepstone tried to bring some life back into the resistance. The hundred came up, but Lohmann broke through soon afterwards, having Halliwell caught, Fred Smith bowled, and Billy Frank caught-and-bowled in quick succession.
Shepstone eventually found some support in Charlie Llewellyn, and the pair hung around, taking the score from 111 for eight to 142 before Lohmann ran through Shepstone’s defence. He finished things off by removing Llewellyn, and South Africa crashed to 151. Lohmann finished with figures of nine for 28 from 14.2 overs (12 six-ball overs) — the first nine-wicket haul in Test history.
Lord Hawke enforced the follow-on, and kept Lohmann away from bowling to begin with. There was no respite for the hosts as Heseltine dismissed Routledge for a duck and Poore soon afterwards. Lohmann was introduced after a while and he removed Hearne almost immediately, reaching his ten-wicket haul. South Africa finished the day on 63 for three with Sinclair on 29 and Halliwell on four: they still needed 268 to make England bat again.
Day Three: A meek surrender
Disaster struck early on Day Three when Woods removed Sinclair with any addition to the score. Halliwell had small partnerships with Johnson (who was run out) and the reliable Shepstone, but when he fell to Heseltine for 41 South Africa’s last hope had abandoned them. Lohmann followed by having Shepstone caught by Fry, thus reaching the 100-wicket mark in his 16th Test. He still holds the record for being the quickest to the 100-wicket mark.
Lohmann also removed Hill before Heseltine finished things off, returning figures of five for 38. With three for 43 Lohmann’s match numbers read 12 for 71. South Africa, having lost their last five wickets for 18, went on to lose the series with an emphatic defeat by an innings and 197 runs.
- England completed the whitewash with another emphatic victory at Newlands, this time by an innings and 33 runs. Lohmann returned figures of seven for 42 in the first innings but “failed” in the second, finishing with one for 45. He became the first bowler to finish with four seven-fors in a series — a feat equalled by only Syd Barnes.
- Miller umpired in the third Test as well. He neither played nor umpired in another Test.
- Lohmann finished the series with 35 wickets at 5.80 and a strike rate of 14.8 — easily the best average and strike rate among all bowlers with 25 wickets in a series. He has also taken the most wickets in a three-Test series.
- Lohmann played only once more, in the Ashes Test at Lord’s in 1896. Though he bowled unchanged (to pick up three for 13) with Tom Richardson (six for 39) to bowl Australia out for 53 in the first innings the tourists turned things around in the second before eventually losing the Test. Lohmann finished his career with 112 wickets at 10.75 and a strike rate of 34.1. Both numbers are the best for any bowler with over 20 Test wickets.
England 482 (Tom Hayward 122, Hugh Bromley-Davenport 84, Charles Wright 71, Arthur Hill 65, CB Fry 64; George Rowe 5 for 115, Jimmy Sinclair 4 for 118) beat South Africa 151 (Jimmy Sinclair 40; George Lohmann 9 for 28) and 134 (Barberton Halliwell 41; Christopher Helestine 5 for 38, George Lohmann 3 for 43) by an innings and 197 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)