Arthur Shrewsbury (left) and Andrew Stoddart © Getty Images
Arthur Shrewsbury (left) and Andrew Stoddart © Getty Images

July 17, 1893. The day that saw the first man to reach 1,000 runs in Test cricket and the start of the Test match that witnessed the first ever declaration. Arunabha Sengupta recalls the feat of Arthur Shrewsbury and the path-breaking decision of Andrew Stoddart.

“Give me Arthur,” WG Grace was supposed to have exclaimed multiple times when discussing the merits of English batting. On less modest occasions, which in the case of the good doctor was almost always, he was known to remark, “Arthur is definitely the second best batsman in the country.”

Arthur Shrewsbury it was who became the first man to reach 1,000 runs in Test cricket, in a match Grace missed with a split finger. It was the first time that the great man did not appear in a Test match in England ever since the inception of the contests in 1880.

Andrew Stoddart, an English rugby representative, the impulsive, easy-going and popular son of a merchant, was chosen to lead the English side in the absence of the hulking form of the English giant. And he scripted history as a captain.

Inauspicious start

When the Australians arrived for the tour of 1893, holders of the Ashes and led by wicketkeeper Jack Blackham, they were supposed to be one of the strongest sides to visit the English shores. Harry Altham’s historical account notes, “When in the spring of 1893 the eighth team, under Blackham’s captaincy, sailed for England, it was hailed not merely as at last truly representative, but as something like the equal of the best of its predecessors.”

However, on the first morning of their first match of the tour, Grace and Shrewsbury put on 101, and Lord Sheffield’s XI won by 8 wickets. In the lead-up to the Tests, losses followed against Surrey, Yorkshire, Marylebone Cricket Club, South of England and Arthur Shrewsbury’s XI.

The visitors won their share of matches as well, but struggled against the stronger oppositions, and the inability to break through early in the innings was conspicuous to all. And the crop of fast bowlers of the land including Arthur Mold, Bill Lockwood, Tom Richardson and Charles Kortright, battered the visitors in multiple encounters.

According to Australia’s leading all-rounder George Giffen, “We missed a fast bowler badly… but their fast bowlers did not always miss us.” Australia could have done with the services of old Fred Spofforth. The ageing Demon, having retired from international cricket, was tormenting the club batsmen, picking up wickets by the bushel for Hampstead. Twice that season he captured all ten in an innings, and even batting with relish to score 155 in one merry knock.

The Shrewsbury-Jackson show

So expectations from the Aussies was rather low when Stoddart won the toss on a damp Lord’s wicket and was both brave enough to take first hit. But, in the end, the tourists did give a fairly good account of themselves. Of course, three day Tests made it a little difficult to force results.

Shrewsbury, poised on 993 Test runs, opened the innings with the stand-in skipper. Charlie Turner and his old partner JJ Ferris had knocked over 104 batsmen in the eight Tests they had played together. Now, without his hunting partner, Turner was less threatening but only just. He soon accounted for Stoddart and Billy Gunn.

The conditions were tough, and Shrewsbury was diving deep into his immense reserves of patience and technical perfection to stay at the wicket. And joining him at number four was the young Yorkshire aristocrat Stanley Jackson. Jackson was making his debut, in some ways heralding the Golden Age of batsmanship, with his debonair style, blue eyes, neat golden brown moustache and impeccable attire of spotless flannels, boots and pads.

Now, as he took guard, Shrewsbury the professional warned him from the other end, “Back up with your legs, Sir, or Charlie Turner will have you out.” Whether Jackson heeded the caution or not is difficult to know. CB Fry considered him the only great batsman not to change his game for wet wickets. In any case, he raced to 91 in an hour and three quarters with thirteen fours.

During the course of Jackson’s astonishing brilliance, after nearly an hour at the crease, Shrewsbury tapped a ball for a single to move to seven, thereby becoming the first man to reach 1,000 runs in Test cricket. This was his 21st Test match. Percy McDonnell, who had played his last Test five years earlier, was the closest with 955. Alec Bannerman, the Australian opening batsman in this Test match, stood at 947. Grace, who picked and chose his Australian tours, had 797 from 16 Tests with 2 hundreds.

However, Shrewsbury now stretched his lead over the rest of the field, in his slow, reassuring steady fashion. He put on 137 with Jackson. Turner kept pegging away at the wickets, but the Nottinghamshire professional batted for 4 hours 10 minutes to score 106. Wisden remarked that the innings was “marked by extreme patience, unfailing judgment, and a mastery over the difficulties of the ground, of which probably no other batsman would have been capable.” His innings contained nine fours. It was his third Test hundred, thereby placing him at the top of the centurions’ table alongside McDonnell.

As many as four catches were dropped in the England innings, and whereas 150 would have been a good score, the hosts piled up 334.

The stolen singles

In response, the Australian top order wilted in front of the pace of Lockwood. However, from 75 for 5 on the second morning, two youngsters started rebuilding the innings with youthful cheekiness.

The conditions were better for batting on Day two, and Syd Gregory and Harry Graham tapped close to the wicket and ran, stealing daring singles and soon creating a flutter amidst the bowlers and fielders. Before the spectators could realise what was taking place, runs were put on at a remarkable rate. As many as 141 were added for the sixth wicket before Gregory nicked one from Mold for 57. But Graham pushed on to his hundred on debut, becoming the second Australian to achieve the feat since Charles Bannerman hit 165 in the inaugural Test. The only other cricketer to have hit a debut-century till then was none other than WG Grace himself.

The end of the innings was quick, with the visitors finishing at 269. When England batted again, Stoddart went early once more, but Shrewsbury and Gunn made runs quickly to end the day at 113 for 1.

The first ever declaration

With the lead stretching to 178 by the end of the day, England looked for quick runs. Both Shrewsbury and Gunn punished the bad balls and the score raced along. The partnership amounted to 152 before Gunn was dismissed by George Giffen.

For a while it looked that Shrewsbury would score his second hundred of the match, but he was affected by an interruption caused by a drizzle. On resumption, he was bowled by Giffen for 81. Ted Wainwright threw his bat around for a while and England reached 234 for 8 at lunch. And after a further delay due to showers, Stoddart closed the innings.

It was the first time an innings had been declared in Test cricket. It left the Australians exactly 300 to win in 225 minutes. An exciting finish looked likely. However, persistent rain did not allow the game to resume and the path breaking move amounted to nothing but a frustrating wait in the dressing room. The match ended in a draw.

What followed?

By the end of the match, Shrewsbury had 1,180 runs against his name, more than 200 ahead of Bannerman’s 964.

Grace returned for the next Test at The Oval and opened the innings with Stoddart. He led the way with 68, while Stoddart scored 83 and Shrewsbury, at No. 3, collected another composed 66. Albert Ward and Walter Read hit half-centuries as well before Jackson came in and hammered 103 in two-and-a-quarter hours. England amassed 483, the third-highest total at that point of time. Johnny Briggs followed up the good work by skittling the Australians out with 5 for 34 in the first innings. There was slightly more resistance in the second but Briggs sealed the issue with 5 for 113. England won by an innings.

It was the only result in the series, and the Ashes was back in the Mother Country.

The third and final Test at Manchester was the last in Shrewsbury’s career. He ended with 1,277 runs at 35.47, a remarkable average for his times. His record for highest aggregate stood for almost a decade before Syd Gregory and Joe Darling went past him together at Adelaide in 1902.

Brief scores:

England 334 (Arthur Shrewsbury 106, Stanley Jackson 91; Charlie Turner 6 for 67) and 234 for 8 decl. (Arthur Shrewsbury 81, Billy Gunn 77; George Giffen 5 for 43) drew with Australia 269 (Syd Gregory 57, Harry Graham 107; Billy Lockwood 6 for 101).

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twiter.com/senantix)