Left: pavilion and Mound on Unley Oval, where Henry Hay took his hat-trick. Right: J Bushell, groundsman of Unley Oval. Courtesy: Adelaide Observer
Left: pavilion and Mound on Unley Oval, where Henry Hay took his hat-trick. Right: J Bushell, groundsman of Unley Oval. Courtesy: Adelaide Observer

The date was Saturday, September 12, 1892. There was an august, fashionable gathering basking in the glorious afternoon sunshine at Unley, an inner southern suburb of Adelaide. The occasion was a momentous one for the suburb: a playground was to be officially thrown open to the public. As reported in the South Australian Register (Adelaide): “His Excellency the Governor (Lord Kintore) declared the Park Side Oval (now to be known as the Unley Oval) open for the purposes for which it was dedicated.”The report states that shortly after 2 o’clock, an estimated 3,000 children from 25 private and public schools within the confines of the local Municipality, under the guidance of their teachers, marched in an orderly manner into the ground, and sang the National Anthem upon the arrival of the honoured guests. On the request of the Lord Mayor, Lady Kintore formally announced the renaming of the ground as Unley Oval.

It seems that it was only in 1890 that the Municipality had been able to lease the open ground for the use of the public. In a brochure of the Antiquarian Print Gallery, South Australia, owner Sandra Ker narrates how one Arthur Thomas, a visionary in his own way, founded the Sturt District Cricket club in the same year. To quote her: “Thomas knew that the forming of this club would give the young men of Unley the chance to play cricket in their district. In the closing years of the 19th century it was obvious to Thomas that a football team was required in Unley to use the oval during winter, keep the cricketers fit in the off-season and allow young men who loved the sport to once again play in their own district.”

Halfway across the world, momentous events were taking place in Australia at the turn of the century. The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act (UK) was passed on July 5, 1900, receiving the gracious Royal Assent from Her Royal Highness, Victoria Regina, on July 9. The concept became a reality when the Commonwealth was formally proclaimed on January 1, 1901 at Centennial Park, Sydney. An interim Federal Ministry of 9 members was put in place under the leadership of Sir Edmund Barton, the interim Prime Minister. The cries of “one people, one flag, one destiny” had finally borne fruit.

An Australian cricket team had a very successful tour of England in 1902, winning the Ashes series 2-1 with 2 draws, despite it being a miserable and wet summer. The superiority of the visitors was unmistakeable as they won 23 matches out of the 39 played, losing 2 and drawing 14. Victor Trumper was the undoubted star of the side, the uncrowned Prince Charming, enchanting the spectators of the Mother Country with his style and panache at the crease, his enchanted bat seeming to roll the clouds away and to bring the sunshine back to the cricket, and his grace acting as a salve over the wounds of defeat for the English.

In a Doctoral thesis for the University of Canterbury entitled Where the Game Was Played by Decent Chaps: The Making of New Zealand Cricket, 1832-1914, research scholar Greg Ryan explains that it was only after Archie MacLaren’s England team decided not to visit New Zealand at the end of their Australian tour of 1901-02, that the New Zealand Cricket Council decided to send a letter to Lord Hawke, the Yorkshire captain, “requesting him to bring an English amateur team to New Zealand.”

The tour was confirmed in April 1902, much to the delight of the hosts. Ryan quotes the Chairman of the NZCC, ECJ Stevens, as saying “nothing could be better for New Zealand cricket than the visit of a team such as that now proposed, and speaking for himself, he would rather see a team of English amateurs than a professional team or one from Australia.”

It was under these circumstances that Hawke, often referred to as the Father of Yorkshire cricket and an ardent evangelist for cricket, set about selecting a team for what was to be the first English tour of the Antipodes with the primary focus on New Zealand. Unable to recruit a sizeable number of amateurs willing to make the tour, Hawke added two professionals — six-foot-16-stone Northamptonshire all-rounder George Thompson and Warwickshire left-arm slow-medium bowler Sam Hargreave — to the 10 amateurs. Although perhaps not of fully-fledged Test calibre, the squad was proficient enough as far as cricketing skills went.

The information that the English touring team would contain two professionals had not been received very favourably in New Zealand initially. The matter, however, was settled amicably at a meeting of the Auckland Cricket Association in September, and their consent was cabled back. Regarding the financing of the tour, NZCC sought confirmation from their Australian counterparts regarding the distribution of the net profits from the matches to the local Associations and to the English visitors. That issue was also settled by mutual consent.

For all his enthusiasm and enterprise, Hawke was unable to travel with the team he had picked, having broken his collarbone on the eve of their departure, and his mother being suddenly taken ill. It fell to Plum Warner to lead the tourists, although the team was documented everywhere they went as “Lord Hawke’s team.” The original plan had been to play two matches in Australia, at Melbourne and Sydney, at the conclusion of the New Zealand tour. A cablegram was sent to the Secretary of the Otago Cricket Association from England that the English team would be departing from the Home Country in November and could be expected to arrive at Auckland on or about January 10.

In September, NZCC received a communication from the South Australian cricket authorities stating that they were keen to have the tourists play a game at Adelaide also after the New Zealand tour was over. With the consent of the English tourists, the Adelaide game was subsequently fitted into the schedule rather late in the planning stage.

Across the Atlantic, and on their way to New Zealand, Hawke’s team stopped at California to play one light-hearted game at the Presidio Athletic Ground of San Francisco on November 26. The opponents were 18 expatriate Englishmen against all 12 of the visitors. The local team were dismissed for 125, Bernard Bosanquet taking 11 for 37. In reply, the tourists won the game by 4 wickets and scored 155 for 8, batting on after reaching the victory target.

Hawke’s team arrived at Auckland on December 16 aboard the mail steamer Ventura. They played 18 games in all on the New Zealand tour, 7 of them being of First-Class status, including 2 against representative National XIs from New Zealand. The disproportionately large number of ‘odds’ games was not taken to very kindly by the tourists. Warner was to comment later: “We had too many games against odds, against cricketers of the rustic and Salt Bush Bill type, and a better means of improving cricket would have been to have had more eleven a side matches”.

The games against Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury, Otago, and South Island were attributed First-Class status, the tourists winning all of them by large margins. The first match against a New Zealand XI was played at Canterbury. Lord Hawke’s XI won the match by 7 wickets. The hosts folded for 164, Thompson taking 6 for 38. Warner’s team responded with 304, of which Fred Fane scored 124. The home side were dismissed again, this time for 214. Thompson (4 for 74) claimed a 10-wicket haul and Bosanquet (4 for 44) gave him good support. The Englishmen won by 7 wickets.

In the next match, at Wellington, Daniel Reese scored 148, the first ever First-Class century scored for New Zealand. The two professional bowlers, Thompson (8 for 124) and Hargreave (2 for 70) captured all the wickets. In reply, the Englishmen scored 380, Warner scoring 125. Opener Randall Johnson (88), ironically born in Wellington, gave the innings a solid beginning. For the home team, Sydney-born Sydney Callaway, having already played 3 Tests for Australia, captured 4 for 80. The New Zealand XI could then muster only 84. Cuthbert Burnup claimed 5 for 8. Lord Hawke’s team won by an innings and 22 runs.

While the Englishmen were enjoying the New Zealand tour and winning most of the games in handsome fashion, news arrived from Adelaide that the Adelaide Oval would not be available for the match against South Australia. It seems that the Adelaide Oval had already been pre-booked by the South Australian League of Wheelmen for an International Cycling Race Spectacular around the same time. Under the circumstances, the England tour committee had no option but to cancel the fixture by cablegram from New Zealand.

Events took an interesting turn when Arthur Thomas, a founder of Sturt Cricket Club, sent the English tourists a cable offering them the use of the Unley Oval, the home ground of the Sturt CC, as a prospective alternative venue for the match against South Australia. After discussion among themselves, the Englishmen were happy to accept the offer.

The League of Wheelmen was somewhat uneasy about a cricket match being played in Adelaide during their International Races. They feared that the cricket game would woo many of their dedicated spectators away from the Racing Spectacular. Local newspapers then joined the debate by explaining that cricket and bicycle racing being two distinctly different genres of sport, it would be unlikely for the one to detract from the other from the point of view of viewership, and that the bicycle racing enthusiasts could be quite easy in their minds on the issue. As it turned out, the newspapers were quite accurate in their assessment of the situation, both events attracting large numbers of spectators.

Having completed the New Zealand leg of the tour, Hawke’s team played a match against Victoria at Melbourne. Although the match was witnessed by about 10,000 enthusiastic spectators over three days of play, the visitors could not reproduce the form they had shown in New Zealand. Victoria won by 7 wickets, Jack Saunders (6 for 118 in the first innings) Fred Collins (7 for 61 in the second) winning the game for them.

The match at Sydney was drawn when the last day’s play was rained off. Reginald Duff (194) and Bert Hopkins (133) scored centuries for NSW in their second-innings total of 463. Bosanquet (6 for 153) and Thompson (3 for 105) took most of the wickets. Interestingly, Albert Trott turned out for the visitors in this game, taking 6 for 88 in the first innings. The silver lining for the visitors was the fact that the gate receipts for the match turned out to be £594, a sizeable proportion reverting to the coffers of the tourists.

Warner’s men took the Adelaide Express overnight train from Melbourne on their way to Adelaide, utilising the opulent Mann Boudoir sleeping car facilities offered on the train. They put up at the South Australian Hotel on the North Terrace, adjacent to the Adelaide railway station.

The last First-Class match of the tour for the visitors, against South Australia, began at the Unley Oval on March 27, the first time that a First-Class match was being played at any venue in Adelaide other than the Adelaide Oval. It would be the year 2013 before another First-Class match would be played at Adelaide in any venue (Glenelg Oval) other than the Adelaide Oval. There was only one debutant in the match: the right-arm fast-medium bowler Henry Hay from Sturt CC, reportedly chosen at the “eleventh hour”, and turning out for South Australia.

Warner won the toss in brilliant sunshine on the morning and came out himself with the trusted Burnup to open the innings in front of a large crowd and on a true wicket prepared by curator J Bushell. At lunch the total read 88 for no loss, with Warner on 38 and Burnup on 43. As reported, the attendance increased considerably after lunch and the turnstiles were kept busy. With Burnup (103) and Taylor (105) both scoring hundreds, the first day ended with Lord Hawke’s XI on 380 for 4. The media estimated the attendance for the day to be about 2,000.

The innings ended next day on a prodigious 553. For South Australia, skipper Giffen captured 4 for 218, while his bowling partner left-arm orthodox bowler Joe Travers had figures of 3 for 145. With so much of chasing the ball all over the field for the best part of a day and a half, the home team were a tired lot by the time they went in at the termination of the innings. South Australia lost the first five batsmen in the order by the time stumps were called on the second day, four of them to Thompson, the total reading 227. Of the men dismissed, skipper Clem Hill (58) had tried to bring some semblance of a fight into the home innings.

After the gap of the Sabbath day, the weather continued to be fine on Monday and the home team were all out for 304 about an hour before lunch. The story of the innings was the bowling of Thompson and his figures of 9 for 85, seven of the victims being bowled. He picked up all the wickets that fell in the innings on the third day.

Invited to follow on, South Australia began at about 20 minutes past 1 o’ clock, 249 in arrears. Fred Hack (90) and Hill (73) steadied the innings with a second-wicket stand of 137. By stumps, South Australia had lost 4 wickets but had wiped off the deficit and were 11 runs to the good.

The dramatic last day’s play began at noon on Tuesday. The fifth wicket added 61 before Reedman (41) became Thompson’s third victim of the innings. Claxton (32) helped Algy Gehrs to add 41 for the sixth wicket before he fell to Albert Trott. Almost immediately, Jennings became Trott’s other victim as well, both wickets falling at 316. That brought wicketkeeper Philip Newland to the crease.

The eighth wicket added 91 valuable runs, Newland contributing 48 before he was dismissed by Edward Dowson. The last stand was worth 39 more, and the innings ended with the run out of the valiant Gehrs (100). The innings total finally read 454, a very distant dream for the home team the day before when they had followed on. Hawke’s team required 206 to win, and the remainder of the last day’s play to score them in.

Giffen was out with an ankle injury and a local Sturt player, A Richardson, fielded in his place. The home team thus became a vital bowler short at the start of the fourth innings. The bowling was entrusted to Hay and Travers, who, as things turned out, were to bowl unchanged throughout the innings. The total reached 16 before the fall of the first wicket, that of Burnup (3), bowled comprehensively by the local man Hay. Fred Fane (0) was bowled middle stump by the first ball he faced, bringing wicketkeeper Tom Taylor to the wicket. The ground was abuzz with excitement as Hay ran in to bowl his next delivery. It took Taylor’s off-stump out of the ground, and debutant Henry Hay had a hat-trick against his name, all three victims bowled, the very first instance in history of a bowler taking a hat-trick on First-Class debut. All three wickets had fallen at the total of 16. The name of Henry Hay sits proudly at the head of a list of 17 bowlers who have achieved a hat-trick on First-Class debut till date.

Dowson was the next man in. The Advertiser (Adelaide) states that after Dowson had negotiated his first delivery from Hay safely, he had raised his hat to his teammates in the pavilion in a gesture of reassurance to his mates. At 49, Warner (25) was lbw to Hay, bringing Bosanquet to the wicket. Bosanquet played his first ball from Hay on to his wicket, and the fifth wicket fell at 49. At this stage, Henry Hay had taken all 5 wickets at a personal cost of 32.

The trusted professional Thompson, English bowling hero of the first innings, arrived at the crease to join Dowson, who was batting with a fair degree of ease. The spectators were in a frenzy of excitement, and the game was in a delicate state of balance. The total mounted to 82 before an accurate throw-in to the ’keeper from skipper Hill resulted in the run out of Dowson (46). The visitors had now lost 6 wickets and still needed another 124 runs to seal victory.

Thompson went his unhurried way but wickets kept going down at the other end as Hay literally ran riot. Hay captured the last 4 wickets to bring his tally to 9 for the innings, the score advancing by another 26 runs. Lord Hawke’s team were dismissed for 108 in an unbelievable turn of events, having scored 553 in the first innings, and South Australia won an unexpected victory by 97 runs. Hay’s figures read 9 for 67, 6 of his victims were bowled, one lbw, one caught and bowled, and one caught behind.

The local media were in raptures of delight at the turn of events, with bold headings in capitals letters reading “Lord Hawke’s Team v South Australia,” “Sensational Climax”, “Hay bowls brilliantly,” and “South Australia Wins By 97 Runs.” Well, it must be said that a very unlikely result had been achieved, and an unprecedented record had been set in a match that had initially been cancelled and which could only be played because an alternative venue had been offered.

This match also provided the first instance of two different bowlers capturing 9 wickets in an innings in the same First-Class match. The chart below depicts the 5 instances till date:

Bowler 1 Team Bowler 2 Team Venue Season
George Thompson 9/85 Lord Hawke’s XI Henry Hay 9/67 South Australia Unley 1902-03
Arthur Morton 9/71 Derbyshire Thomas Wass 9/67 Nottinghamshire Blackwell 1911
Doug Wright 9/47 Kent Tom Goddard 9/38 Gloucestershire Bristol 1939
KS Kannan 9/50 Madras Ghulam Ahmed 9/53 Hyderabad Secunderabad 1947-48
Jim Presdee 9/43 Glamorgan Don Shepherd 9/48 Yorkshire Swansea 1965

It may be mentioned here that in the match against Kent, Goddard, in addition to his figures of 9 for 39 in the first innings, captured 8 for 68 in the second innings when Kent followed on.

Henry Hay, born at Adelaide on March 30, 1874, was to play 4 more First-Class matches, all in 1903, never reaching the heady heights of his debut match. At the end of 1903-04, Hay passed into cricketing oblivion, his entire documented cricket career being covered by his 5 First-Class games. His biography states that he passed way at Adelaide on May 16, 1960.

Brief scores:

Lord Hawke’s XI 553 (Cuthbert Burnup 103, Tom Taylor 105, Edward Dowson 66, Bernard Bosanquet 57, Randall Johnson 54; George Giffen 4 for 218, Joe Travers 3 for 145) and 108 (Harry Hay 9 for 67) lost to South Australia 304 (Clem Hill 58, Norman Claxton 88, Claude Jennings 52; George Thompson 9 for 85) and 454 (Fred Hack 90, Clem Hill 73, Algy Gehrs 100; George Thompson 3 for 113, Edward Dowson 3 for 62) by 97 runs.