Australia team to New Zealand, 1913-14. Photo credit: Moss Green Catalogue Back, from left: Les Cody, Frank Laver, W. McCall, Charles Dolling, Arthur Mailey, William Macgregor, Bill Ferguson (scorer), Victor Trumper, Colin McKenzie Middle, from left: Maria Noble, Monty Noble, Arthur Sims (c), Warwick Armstrong, Amelia Mary Armstrong Front, from left: Jack Crawford, Gar Waddy, Vernon Ransford, Herbert Collins
Australia team to New Zealand, 1913-14. Photo credit: Moss Green Catalogue
Back, from left: Les Cody, Frank Laver, W. McCall, Charles Dolling, Arthur Mailey, William Macgregor, Bill Ferguson (scorer), Victor Trumper, Colin McKenzie
Middle, from left: Maria Noble, Monty Noble, Arthur Sims (c), Warwick Armstrong, Amelia Mary Armstrong
Front, from left: Jack Crawford, Gar Waddy, Vernon Ransford, Herbert Collins

The story really begins with one Benjamin Lancaster, a Londoner born December 1, 1801, who later became the co-founder of Edward Price & Company, a manufacturer of high quality but low-priced candles. It was through his wife Rosamaria that Lancaster became interested in property development in Christchurch being carried out by the Canterbury Association. After Christchurch was first surveyed in 1850, Benjamin Lancaster invested 150 and became the original owner of the 50-acre Rural Section 2 in the new settlement. At this point in his life, Lancaster had still not thought of emigrating from his native land. His purchase of the rural property entitled him to the purchase of two town properties of 1/4 acre each, at Gloucester Street and the other at Cathedral Square. Lancaster s property soon acquired the name Lancaster Block.

In 1880, three Opawa cricketers, Frederick Wilding, William Pember Reeves and Arthur Morton Ollivier came up with the idea of a ground owned by the sporting codes where spectators would pay gate charges. Lancaster sold them the rear part of his property, a rectangular block 10 acres 3 roods 30 perches in extent, at a price of 2,841. In August 1880 the Canterbury Cricket and Athletics Sports Club Ltd was floated. Directors included ECJ Stevens, while Ollivier was Secretary-Treasurer and Andrew Duncan Chairman. The company had a capital of 4,500 derived from 450 10 shares. These were snapped up, and work on the grounds began. Lancaster Park was officially opened on October 15, 1881. Lancaster passed away on March 16, 1887, leaving behind a venue that was to flourish in the coming years and to become a premier venue in New Zealand for cricket, rugby and cycling.

On February 27, 1914, in a pleasant ambience of warmth and sunshine, some stirring and record-setting events from an international cricket match began to unfold at Lancaster Park before enraptured spectators for whom international cricket encounters were quite uncommon. A visiting Australian team, led by Arthur Sims, was to take on Canterbury in a three-day game. For whatever reason, this game had been accorded First-Class status.

Daniel Reese won the toss for the home team and decided on first strike. Henry Whitta and Frank Woods squared up to the bowling of Vernon Ransford and Warwick Armstrong. As the saying goes, Whitta was dismissed without troubling the scorers before there were any runs on the board.

It may be added here that the late Bill Frindall was not a great fan of the term not troubling the scorer , insisting that when a man was dismissed for a duck, it entailed more work for the scorers that the common man realised.

It was a procession after that, the team folding up for 92 in 33.1 overs. There were only two men in double figures, the aforementioned Woods (31) and Bill Patrick (20*). For the visitors, Monty Noble (4 for 25) and Arthur Mailey (3 for 17) took most of the wickets.

The Australian visitors replied, perhaps, roared back would be a better description, with 653. There was some parity in the early stages of both innings, the first wicket falling without any runs on the board for both teams. The first day s play ended with Australia on 105 for 5, with wicketkeeper Leslie Cody on 47 and skipper Sims still to open his account. Cody was dismissed for 54 on the second day, the first of three men with 50+ scores in the innings.

Meanwhile, skipper Sims, at No. 7, felt his way cautiously through the innings, reaching 100 in 191 minutes (he was to add another 84 runs in the next 102 minutes). For some reason or other, Victor Trumper, accustomed to opening the innings, was held back by the skipper to allow those usually lower in the order to have a bat. It was not until the fall of the seventh wicket (on 209) that Trumper made his way to the batting crease. At the other end, skipper Sims was batting on 44 at the time.

Victor Trumper was the eighth man out at the total of 642, having scored 293, his second-highest individual First-Class score, in 181 minutes with 44 fours and 3 sixes. Trumper s scoring pattern was as follows: 50 in 35 minutes, 100 in 73 minutes, 150 in 92 minutes, 200 in 131 minutes, and 250 in 152 minutes. His eighth-wicket stand with Sims had realised 433 runs in 181 minutes, and had turned the game on its head. Sims had contributed 140 runs in the stand. Even today, this partnership of 433 is the record for the eighth-wicket, 102 years down the line, though Amit Mishra and Jayant Yadav came close to emulating them earlier this decade.

In the all-time list of the highest partnerships in First-Class cricket of 400 runs and above, there are only 4 that had taken place earlier than this one in the end of February 1914, as follows:

Wicket

R

Batsmen

Team

Against

Venue

Season

1

554

Jack Brown

John Tunnicliffe

Yorkshire

Derbyshire

Chesterfield

1898

4

448

Bobby Abel

Tom Hayward

Surrey

Yorkshire

The Oval

1899

6

428

Warwick Armstrong

Monty Noble

Australians

Sussex

Hove

1902

6

411

Robert Poore

Teddy Wynyard

Hampshire

Somerset

Taunton

1899

All of the above have subsequently been bettered. The eighth-wicket stand between Sims and Trumper remains the only one in excess of 400 runs that has survived for over a century.

To return to the story of the game, the Australians ended the second day on 650 for 9, with Sims, having batted throughout the day, and a sizable part of the first day as well, undefeated on 182. The innings ended soon enough on the last day, the skipper remaining undefeated on 184 at the end, and it was another opportunity for the hosts to take a turn with the bat.

Canterbury improved on their first-innings effort by all of 105 runs, scoring 197. The highest individual score was 80 by Donald Sandman. Jack Crawford took 5 for 60 and Armstrong, 3 for 58. It was a cakewalk victory for the touring Australians to the tune of an innings and 364 runs.

Those whom the Gods love die young is an aphorism that has been used in connection with many great luminaries in diverse fields of human endeavour over the years. The life and extraordinary cricketing feats of Trumper, who had succumbed to Bright s disease at a relatively young age, have been documented in too much detail by too many learned cricket historians to bear any repetition here. One can, however, envision, in one s fancies, a great Ashes Test taking place at an Elysian Lord s ground, with the Australian innings being opened by Trumper and Archie Jackson, another true champion who was afflicted with tuberculosis and who forsook his worldly ties too young.

Arthur Sims: Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Arthur Sims: Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Let us turn our attention to the other man in the historic partnership. Arthur (later, Sir Arthur) Sims (not to be confused with Arthur Mitford Sims, who played for Europeans in India) was born July 27, 1877 at Spridlington, Lincolnshire, England. The family migrated to New Zealand when young Arthur was barely three.

Sims grew up in the country and acquired a love for the outdoors early in his life. He was educated at Christchurch Boys High School, where he became the first in the school s cricketing history to score 1,000 runs and take 100 wickets in the same season, serving an early notice of his talents. He did not neglect his academic pursuits, however, moving on to Canterbury University, where, in the company of Ernest Rutherford, no less, he completed his Masters with First-Class honours in Chemistry.

Turning his scientifically trained mind to business, Sims qualified as an Accountant. His commercial interests gradually led him to the upper echelons of the frozen meat industry in New Zealand, and his business became global with time. His business interests took him from New Zealand to Australia, South Africa, Rhodesia, and to the United Kingdom, as his commercial empire grew.

If there was an interest greater than his later business pursuits, it was his love for cricket in his younger days. In a span of 1896-97 to 1913-14, Sims had played 53 First-Class matches, scoring 2,182 runs. His highest score was the undefeated 184 mentioned above, and he averaged 26.28 with the bat. He had 2 centuries and 8 fifties and held 51 catches. He represented Canterbury in 41 matches, scoring 1,792 runs at 25.23.

Sims made his First-Class debut with Canterbury against a touring Queensland team at Christchurch in 1896-97, scoring 31 and 37. It was in his second match, against Wellington at Lancaster Park that season, that Sims struck his only century for Canterbury, scoring 103 not out. This was his maiden First-Class century. Against Auckland the following season he had a score of 51, the top-score in a total of 182. Canterbury won the match by 125 runs.

In 1898-99, Sims was part of a touring New Zealand team that played Victoria at Melbourne, scoring 18 and 6. This match, which Victoria won by an innings and 132 runs, is principally remembered for a magnificent 224 by Percy McAlister (later to play 8 Tests for Australia). This was McAlister s maiden First-Class century.

It sometimes happens that a man, with the very best intentions, becomes inadvertently involved in an imbroglio that escalates into an incident worth reporting. Such a fate befell Sims, then aged about 25 and somewhat green behind the ears. It was a game between Canterbury and Lord Hawke s XI, on the 1902-03 tour to Australia and New Zealand, played at Lancaster Park.

Lord Hawke’s XI had batted first and scored 352 to which Canterbury replied with 224, including Reese’s 111. Hawke’s XI then declared at 159 for 7. In the Canterbury second innings, Reese had to retire hurt without opening either his or his team s account. That brought Walter Pearce, making his last First-Class appearance, to the crease to join Sims.

Let us hear about the later events from the Lyttelton Times: With 28 showing, Bosanquet took the ball from Thompson. There was an appeal against Pearce for bowled, but the umpires declined to give a decision, neither having properly witnessed the incident, and there was a little delay owing to several of the English players being inclined to argue the point.”

The Press, a rival newspaper from Christchurch, made the following detailed editorial statement: We have been at some pains to ascertain the facts. Bosanquet bowled one of his slow breaks to Pearce. It beat the batsman, who lunged across the pitch, completely obscuring the stumps from the view of the umpire and of Sims, who was batting at the other end. A bail flew to the ground, and Bosanquet believed that he had hit the wicket. Sims called to Pearce not to leave till the umpire gave him ‘out’. It was, of course, for the bowler’s umpire [Charles Bannerman, in this case] to decide, but for the reason stated, he was unable to give a decision. The other umpire [Bob Spencer] was appealed to, and he also was unable to say whether ball hit the wicket or not.Pearce accordingly remained at the wickets. The umpires were quite right.

“Assuming that Pearce was bowled, as is probably the case, neither of them was in a position of certainty. They could not act on probability, nor on the authority of the bowler. The rules of the game compelled them, under the circumstances, to give the batsman the benefit of the doubt.

“For English gentlemen to so far forget themselves as to openly dispute such a decision, and to say that it was the worst decision they had ever heard, was strange conduct. If Canterbury men had done such a thing ‘shockingly bad form’ would be the mildest comment to expect from University-trained players.

“But that is not all. Sims was told that it was a disgrace for him to suggest an appeal to the umpires, though in doing this he was not only within his legal rights but he was in no way transgressing the very strictest etiquette of the game. Hopes were audibly expressed by the field that he would be bowled, and he was subjected by the wicket-keeper to a running fire of disconcerting remarks.

“It is little wonder that a highly-strung boy Sims is only just out of his teens [he was, in fact, 25 at the time] was completely put off his play by such treatment, and it is more than probable that the early dismissal of himself and of his partner, Pearce, who heard all that passed, was accelerated by conduct which neither expected from Eton and Oxford men.”

Well, these were rather strong words from the pulpit, as it were, for the times, and an indication that the concept of sledging is, perhaps, as old at the game itself.

For the record, both Sims and Pearce were later dismissed by Bosanquet, Sims bowled for 8 and Pearce stumped for 31. It was reported that captain Plum Warner had written to AEG Rhodes, President of the Canterbury Cricket Association (CCA) the following day expressing his regret for the whole incident and insisting that his team had every confidence in the umpires, and had, at no time, disputed their decision in the matter. Both Bosanquet and Whatman, the wicketkeeper, had also written separately to CCA expressing their regrets over the unsavoury incident.

The whole incident may well have been swept under the carpet had it not been for a rather unexpected fall-out from an entirely different and astonishing quarter. It was F Waymouth, then Managing Director of the Canterbury Frozen Meat Company, under whom Sims was then employed, who took exception to the way in which the whole incident had been handled and was not satisfied with Warner s apology.

Lyttelton Times reported a letter written by Waymouth to Sims, as follows: I read in yesterday’s papers the report of the incident which took place at the cricket match on Monday. I have also your personal explanation in the matter. In view of all the circumstances, I do not think the letter appearing in this morning’s papers, over the signature of the captain of the team, is a sufficient apology. I do not, therefore, think you can, with dignity to yourself or to the credit of cricket in Canterbury, play any further matches against the English cricket team, unless Messrs Bosanquet and Whatman apologise personally to you for their conduct. Failing your obtaining this apology I must withdraw your leave of absence from this office for further matches against this team. Sims did not play any other games against Lord Hawke s XI.

The magnum opus of Arthur Sims First-Class career, and one of his greatest exploits, was his organising a tour to New Zealand by an Australia team in 1913-14, with himself in the lead. It was a powerful team that he had mustered, as follows: Warwick Armstrong, Leslie Cody, Herbie Collins, Crawford, Charlie Dolling, Frank Laver, William Macgregor, Colin McKenzie, Mailey, Noble, Vernon Ransford, Trumper, and Gar Waddy, apart from himself. They were accompanied by Bill Fergie Ferguson, the scorer and baggage-master, and the wives of Noble and Armstrong.

The tourists played 8 First-Class games on the tour in all, 2 of them against the New Zealand national team who had still not been accorded Test status. The captivating story of the game at Lancaster Park has been recounted above.

Sims played his last First-Class game, for Australia, on the same tour of 1913-14, against a New Zealand national team at Auckland. Although the visitors won the game by an innings and 113 runs, the skipper did not need to bat in the game. This was also the last game for the universal darling of Australian cricket, Trumper, and of McKenzie.

For the home team, Ted Sale scored 109 in an innings of 269. The visitors then went berserk, putting up a total of 610 for 6. There were 4 individual centuries in the innings: 140 from wicketkeeper Waddy, 104 from Dolling, an 110* from Armstrong (the 100 coming up in 112 minutes), and 134 from Crawford, his 100 coming in only 78 minutes. Trumper scored 81 in his last First-Class innings.

Married to his long-time admirer Nancy in 1909, Sims became the New Zealand representative in the Imperial Cricket Conference in the year 1926, and a member of the MCC in 1955. He also became a well-known philanthropist, particularly in the fields of Education and Medicine.

In 1938 he endowed a Rutherford Memorial Scholarship in Physics at Canterbury University his alma mater. Soon after, he donated the first radium ever to be used medically in New Zealand, and followed this up after the war with the gift of a cobalt therapy unit to the Christchurch Hospital. In 1945, he set up his Empire Scholarships to bring one young man each year to Cambridge from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada on the lines of the Rhodes Scholarship scheme. In recognition of his services to the Commonwealth, he received a knighthood in 1950.

In 1955 he presented the thrones which decorate the Legislative Chamber of the New Zealand House of Parliament; and in 1965 he gave 10,000 to help establish halls of residence in his old University in Christchurch. In 1956 he gave 15,000 to the research funds of the Royal College of Surgeons of England; but undoubtedly his most valuable contribution was the setting up of the Sims Commonwealth Travelling Professorships in 1946. He set up a scholarship scheme, now known as the Sir Arthur Sims Scholarship, for students who had attended his old school, Christchurch Boys High school, and who wished to pursue a full-time degree programme at Lincoln University. The list of his generosity is endless.

This well-loved and highly respected benefactor of the human race died on April 27, 1969 at East Hoathly, Sussex, aged 91, and was survived by his wife, and his daughter Margaret Black, who followed her father’s example by endowing a travelling fellowship of obstetricians and gynaecologists.

(Pradip Dhole is a retired medical practitioner with a life-long interest in cricket history and statistics)