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Tom Groube: First New Zealand-born cricketer to play a Test

Despite being highy spoken about through the decades, Tom Groube recorded very average numbers as a player © Getty Images

Tom Groube, born September 2, 1857, had one of the most unimpressive First-Class careers for a Test cricketer. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the first New Zealand-born Test cricketer.

Thomas Underwood Groube had one of the most intriguing Test careers: he scored 179 runs (which included a fifty) at a mere 8.52 from 13 First-Class matches, did not bowl a single ball, did not keep wickets, though Wisden called him “a steady batsman, a medium-paced bowler, and a very good field at cover-point and long-on”. Despite the ordinary (the word perhaps flatters him) numbers Groube went on to play a Test — only the fourth in the history of the sport.

Born in New Plymouth, Groube played his first recorded match for an 18-member Victoria against an 11-member Australians at Melbourne. The Victorians did not stand a chance against the round-arm left-hand seam of Frank Allan, who routed them with seven for 68 and 11 for 57. Groube scored two and 13. He did a decent job against the same opposition (it was 15 on 11 this time) at MCG, scoring 26 and 29.

Lord Harris’ team visited Australia in 1878-79. They played the third Test ever along with a handful of First-Class matches. Groube made their First-Class debut for Victoria against them, opening in each innings and scoring two and 12. He scored 96 for Colony XV against Victoria XI.

He joined East Melbourne Cricket Club (EMCC) around this time and averaged 155.33 in 1879-80. It was probably the reason for his earning a place in Australia’s tour of England in 1880.

Test cricket

Groube played nine matches on the England tour, scoring 129 runs at 9.92 — a Herculean effort by his standards. His only performance of note came against Yorkshire at Huddlefield: after Fred Spofforth and Eugene Palmer bowled unchanged to rout the hosts for 78, Groube walked out to bat after Billy Murdoch fell for a duck. He eventually top-scored with 61, and rain washed out the rest of the match after Australians reached 229 for six.

It was perhaps this innings that got Groube a Test cap in the fourth Test in history and first Test on English soil. There were 15 debutants (including the three Grace brothers) in the Test. As Lord Harris decided to bat, Groube became the first New Zealand-born cricketer to play a Test.

After WG Grace scored 152 to drive England to 420, Fred Morley, with figures of five for 56, routed the tourists for 149. Groube walked out to bat at 28 for one (once again, after the fall of Murdoch), hung around for 44 balls, hit a four, and was bowled by Allan Steel for 11.

Groube was caught by Alfred Shaw off Morley for a golden duck, but Murdoch’s 153 not out helped salvage some pride for the Englishmen (he added 140 for the last two stands with George Alexander and William Moule). England were given a tough time by Harry Boyle and Joey Palmer, but the target of 57 was easily reached with five wickets in hand.

Groube never played another Test, and had no reason to, either. He finished the tour with seven runs in his last six innings (which included four ducks).

Later days

Groube continued to play for EMCC on his return. He played two matches for Australian XI against a combined team of New South Wales and Victoria, but with no success. When Alfred Shaw’s team toured Australia in 1881-82, Groube played his last First-Class match against them for Victoria. He scored three and one in the encounter at MCG.

In 1884 Groube scored 101 and 98 for EMCC against South Melbourne at their den; the last wicket stand in the second innings with a certain G Gordon yielded 174. The rest of his career remains shrouded in mystery. Groube passed away at Glenferrie, Melbourne on August 5, 1927 — a month before his 70th birthday.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)

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