The Australian squad for Ashes 1905    Getty Images
The Australian squad for Ashes 1905 Getty Images

It was the year of our Lord 1905, and Australia were about to embark on an Ashes tour to England. The tour party was announced on January 9 after prolonged preliminary confabulations on January 2 between the three selectors, Joe Darling, Monty Noble and Clem Hill. Ten men were confirmed in the first instance: Reggie Duff, Victor Trumper, Syd Gregory, Bert Hopkins, wicketkeeper James Kelly, and Noble (all from New South Wales [NSW]), Algy Gehrs, Hill, and Phil Newland, the second wicketkeeper (all from South Australia), and Warwick Armstrong (Victoria). The party was completed by the addition, on 9 January 9, of Darling (South Australia), Tibby Cotter and Bill Howell (NSW), and Charlie McLeod (Victoria). Frank Laver (Victoria), later to become a popular columnist, was to accompany the team as player-manager. Four wickets in four balls: A short list

At the behest of Noble, perhaps the most well-known dentist in Australia at the time, there was one other interesting addition to the party in the form of young Bill Fergie Ferguson, who was to later achieve an iconic status among the cricketing fraternity as a scorer and baggage-man. This was to be the first of Fergie s 43 cricket tours.

The group left Sydney on the Manuka for Auckland on February 1. In mid-March, they were strengthened by the addition of Newland at Christchurch. It was then onwards to Fiji on the Navua on March 22. The next leg of the voyage was the trans-Pacific crossing to Vancouver on the Miowera, arriving on April 12. Having witnessed the wonder of the Niagara Falls, the party left New York on the Majestic on April 19, and docked at Liverpool on the evening of the Wednesday, April 26. Plum Warner welcomed the team at the conclusion of the train journey to London. Darling came from Adelaide separately on the P & O liner Marmora by the conventional route, through Suez, and arrived on April 25. Ferguson and some of the players wives came to England on the Suevic.

Once the whole group had assembled in England, according to the prevalent custom of the time, the players themselves decided on their skipper. Contemporary reports indicate that at a meeting on April 28, Darling was the popular choice for the captain s slot, with Noble, who had been the skipper of the Australian side to New Zealand and Fiji in 1904-05, chosen as vice-captain. It must be mentioned here that this was the last occasion on which the players were able to exercise this privilege of choosing their own captain. The tour selection committee was to comprise skipper Darling, vice-captain Noble, and Hill, with inputs from Trumper and Laver.

The group spent a long time away from Australia, 274 days, to be exact. On this long tour, the team played a total of 39 First-Class games (including 5 Tests in England and 4 games in New Zealand). They won 18 of these games, and lost 3 (including the first Test at Trent Bride and the fourth Test at Old Trafford), the rest being drawn. This was to be the only Test series with both rival captains being born on the identical day, November 21, 1870.

They had ample time to adjust to the local conditions before the first Test, spending just over a month in England and playing 7 First-Class games in the run-up. They gained in confidence as they won the last 4 of these games on the trot. Against Oxford they won by 200 runs, against the Gentlemen at Lord s, they won by an innings and 189 runs.

Then they added a twist to the tale by winning the next 2 games against the Roses counties by exhibiting an admirable degree of impartiality and winning both the games by the identical margin of 244 runs.

The first Test at Trent Bridge was played in the end of May, and Laver made an immediate impression by claiming 7 for 64 in the England first-innings total of 196. Cotter, playing his first Test on English soil, captured 3 for 64. Johnny Tyldesley, the Lancashire stalwart, top-scored with 5. Australia took a first-innings lead of 25 runs, being all out for 221, Hill scoring 54 and Noble 50. The pick of the English bowlers was skipper Stanley Jackson with 5 for 52.

The England second innings was a solid 426 for 5 declared, with Archie McLaren (140) and Tom Hayward (47) putting on a first-wicket stand of 145. Tyldesley pitched in with 61 and Jackson remained unbeaten on 82.

The target of 402 proved to be beyond the visitors and Australia finished with 188, Gregory putting up the only resistance with 51. England won the Test by 213 runs. The wily Bernard Bosanquet tied the Australians up in knots, capturing 8 for 107.

The Australians won only 1 of their next 4 engagements before the second Test, defeating Cambridge by 169 runs, and drawing the other 3. Cricket umpire-turned statistician Martin Briggs highlights a statistical nugget from an otherwise humdrum draw in the second Test at Lord s in mid-June, the frivolous English weather playing a major part in not allowing any play on the final day of the game.

In a way, this Test, the 84th Test ever played, had one feature about it that makes it unique till date, always remembering that the 2233rd Test is currently being played between hosts Australia and South Africa at Hobart at this time. This is the only Test match on record where all 22 participating players had had First-Class centuries to their credit.

Here are the line-ups with the number of the individual First-Class centuries indicated next to them. The century experience ranges from the 2 by MacLeod to 104 by Tom Hayward.

ENGLAND

AUSTRALIA

Batsman

FC 100s

Batsman

FC 100s

Archie MacLaren

47

Victor Trumper

42

Tom Hayward

104

Reggie Duff

10

Johnny Tyldesley

86

Clem Hill

45

CB Fry

94

Monty Noble

37

Stanley Jackson

31

Warwick Armstrong

45

Arthur Jones

34

Joe Darling

19

Bernard Bosanquet

21

Syd Gregory

25

Wilfred Rhodes

58

Bert Hopkins

8

Dick Lilley

16

Charlie McLeod

2

Schofield Haigh

4

Frank Laver

6

Ted Arnold

24

James Kelly

3

The actual play in the Lord s Test was a rather low-key affair, the highest total reading 282 in the first innings, CB Fry scoring 73, and Archie MacLaren 56. Australia conceded a first-innings lead of 101, being dismissed for 181, Darling scoring with 41 and Jackson capturing 4 for 50. The Test ended prematurely when the last day was washed out, and England put up 151 for 5, MacLaren scoring an authoritative 79 and Armstrong taking 3 for 30. Top-scorers in low team scores in Test cricket

The visitors travelled to Dublin for a Second-Class game against Dublin University Past & Present, winnings by 231 runs. Three more First-Class games followed before the third Test at Headingley.

The Test was played in the first week of July, and petered out to a draw, with Australia chasing a difficult target. The standout performance in the England first-innings total of 301 was the commanding 144 by Jackson. Playing his last Test, Bosanquet scored 20 and 22 not out and captured 1 for 36. Colin Blythe of England contributed his mite to cricket history by being dismissed for a golden duck in his first Test innings.

The Australian first innings finished at 195 with Armstrong scoring 66, Duff 48, and Hopkins 36. Arnold Warren, playing his only Test for England, made his mark in cricket history by capturing 5 for 57.

England declared their second innings on 295 for 5, built around an even 100 from Tyldesley. Armstrong took all 5 wickets, for 122. When the match ended, Australia had scored 224 for 7, Noble getting 62.

With the third Test out of the way, visitors played 3 First-Class games in England, winning 2 and drawing 1. They then crossed over to Scotland for a drawn game at Edinburgh and a Second-Class engagement at Glasgow against XV of Scotland.

The fourth Test at Old Trafford turned out to be another chastening experience for Australia. England put up an imposing 446. Jackson led the way with 113, ably supported by Hayward with 82 and debutant Reg Spooner with 52. For Australia, McLeod captured 5 for 125.

Although Darling scored 73 for the visitors, their first innings finished on 197. Walter Brearley, another debutant, took 4 for 72. Inevitably, Australia were invited to follow on, and only managed a total of 169 after being 121 for 1. The innings fell away gradually after Duff (60) was the second wicket to fall. Brearley took 4 for 54 to complete a very good debut. England won the Test by an innings and 80 runs, sealing their superiority over the visitors.

There were 5 games before the fifth and final Test, one of them a Second-Class affair at Cardiff.

The fifth Test, following tradition, at The Oval in mid-August, was a bit of a melancholy affair, turning out to be the swan song for both skippers and three other Australians: Duff, MacLeod, and wicketkeeper Kelly.

Jackson became the first captain to win all 5 tosses in a rubber. England put up another big first innings total, scoring 430 with Fry scoring his maiden Test century (144). He added 100 with Hayward (59) and 151 with Jackson (76). For Australia, the star was Cotter with 7 for 148.

For the first time in the series, Australia had a reasonable first-innings total, scoring 363, powered by 146 from Duff, who would become becoming the first to score centuries both in his debut Test and in his last. Brearley was again among the wickets with 5 for 110, his first 5-wicket haul in Test cricket. George Hirst took 3 for 86.

When England declared their second innings at 261 for 6, Tyldesley remained undefeated on 112. The other noteworthy contribution was 79 by Spooner. When the curtain came down on the Test series, Australia were 124 for 4, and the Test was drawn.

The top performers with the bat for an under-performing Australian team (for whom there was only 1 individual century) in the Tests were as follows:

Batsman M R HS Ave
Reggie Duff 5 335 146 41.87
Warwick Armstrong 5 252 66 31.50
Joe Darling 5 230 73 28.75
C Hill 5 188 54 20.88
MA Noble 5 173 62 19.22
VT Trumper 5 125 31 17.85

The bowling performances were not much better, only 4 men taking 10 or more wickets:

Bowler W BB Ave 5WIs
Warwick Armstrong 16 5/122 33.62 1
Frank Laver 16 7/64 31.87 1
Tibby Cotter 13 7/148 32.84 1
Charlie McLeod 10 5/125 52.50 1

There followed 8 more First-Class games, with 4 wins and 4 draws for the Australians, who would have been somewhat disappointed with their overall performances on the tour. Only 6 of the touring party scored a thousand on the tour, as follows:

Name M R HS Ave
MA Noble 31 2,053 267 46.65
WW Armstrong 30 1,902 303* 50.05
C Hill 31 1,722 181 38.26
J Darling 32 1,696 117* 38.54
VT Trumper 30 1,667 110 36.23
RA Duff 28 1,341 146 30.47

There were only 3 men with 100+ wickets on the tour, as follows:

Name Ws BB Ave 5WIs 10WMs
Warwick Armstrong 122 8/50 18.20 10 2
Tibby cotter 119 7/15 20.41 10 2
Frank Laver 115 8/75 18.19 8 3

At the end of the tour, this was the overall performance of the team:

M

W

L

D

Tests

5

0

2

3

Other First-Class matches

30

15

1

14

Minor matches

3

1

0

2

Pre-tour matches in New Zealand

7

3

0

4

Total

45

19

3

23

However, there was one tale that has been handed down by cricket fans over decades. As was expected, Darling was not happy about losing all 5 tosses in the rubber. And when Australia toured Scarborough for the end-of-tour festival match, Darling was not amused to see Jackson in the opposition.

Darling turned up on the door of the hosts dressing-room, wrapped in a towel, challenging Jackson for a bout of wrestling: the idea was to use wrestling as replacement for a toss. The wily Jackson agreed, on the condition that the burly Hirst would represent the hosts. Darling backed out. Sure enough, Australia fielded first. George Dennett: Over 2,000 wickets, yet no Test cap

It was now time for good-byes and pledges of keeping in touch. The tour party made their way home in different small groups, sailing back on different vessels. Contemporary newspapers were quick to downplay this diversity of the team s return and took pains to point out that although the personnel had travelled back in different ships: There was not the slightest vestige of a quarrel from start to finish.

History tells us that the first central administrative body for cricket in Australia was established in March 1892, when delegates from the state associations of NSW, South Australia and Victoria established the Australasian Cricket Council. There was a definitive fall-out from the disappointing result of the 1905 Test series.

The closed-shop ambience of the 1905 tour fell into disfavour, and the abovementioned Council was disbanded seven years later, and Australian Board of Control for International Cricket was formed in 1905. Its first meeting was attended by two representatives from each of NSW and Victoria. A delegate from Queensland attended its second meeting later that year; and its constitution was amended in 1906 to formally allow for one representative from Queensland and three from each of NSW, South Australia and Victoria. Things were going to be different going into the future.

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