Behind the sombre eyes of Charles Eady lay a fiercely competitive all-rounder. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Charles Eady, born October 29, 1870, was a swashbuckling all-rounder, a quality Australian rules footballer, a capable administrator, and a renowned politician. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the man who scored 566 in an innings.

Standing at 6’3” and blessed with an imposing frame (95 kg), Charles John Eady was an imposing presence on the field even if he did not do anything. But he did. He was hailed as one of the fastest bowlers of the era (his obituary on The Mercury (Hobart) rated him only next to Ernie Jones); he also had the capacity to go hammer-and-tongs (sometimes for a sustained period of time), the finest example of which was his famous 566. But more of that later.

Had he not hailed from Tasmania (who made their Sheffield Shield entry as late as in 1977-78), Eady’s First-Class and Test careers would have been substantial. Instead, Eady was restricted to a mere 43 matches that were given First-Class status (17 of these were played in England). He scored 1,490 runs from these at 22.92 with 3 hundreds, and claimed 136 wickets at 23.13 with 12 five-fors and 5 ten-fors.

He also played 2 Tests at the span of 6 years (in two centuries); he failed with the bat, but his 7 wickets came at the cost of 16 each. However, it is the 566 he is mostly remembered for.

Rise to Test cricket

Eady started his career at 15 for Lefroy Club. He made a few appearances for South Tasmania against North Tasmania, but none of these matches were given First-Class status. The debut happened against Victoria at Hobart; the 19-year old scored a duck and 37 and got a wicket.

There followed an 88 not out against Victoria at Launceston; playing against the same team at Hobart in 1894-95 he slammed 116 and 112 not out against Victoria, helping them chase down 250. It was the first time that an Australian had scored hundreds in each innings.

[Note: The next Tasmanian to score twin tons in a First-Class match, David Boon, did so about a century later, in 1987-88.]

His next outing saw him rout Victoria at MCG with 8 for 34 and 4 for 29, bowling unchanged in each innings. Only William Brown (whose 8 for 31 was the first 8-wicket haul and also remains the best) has done better. When they picked the team for the Ashes tour of 1896, they selected Eady.

Sighting The Blighty

England suited Eady. He did not succeed with the bat (he crossed 40 only twice), but finished with 16 wickets at an impressive 25.50. His best performance came against Hampshire at Southampton, where he routed the opposition for 134 (they were 119 for 2) with a spell of 11-8-6-4.

For Eady, the highlight of the tour was, of course, his Test debut — alongside three other champions, Clem Hill, Dick Lilley, and James Kelly. Eady also became the second Tasmanian to receive a Test cap (Kenny Burn being the first). The Test, of course, is more remembered for MCC not allowing KS Ranjitsinhji to make his Test debut on accounts of his place of origin.

Harry Trott batted first, and Australia were unfortunate to run into a rampant Tom Richardson (6 for 39), supported ably by George Lohmann (3 for 13); the latter was playing his last Test. Batting at No. 8 Eady was left stranded on 10; he was one of three men to reach double figures as Australia were bowled out for 53 in 22.3 overs (18.5 six-ball overs) on what Wisden called “a dry, true pitch”.

Coming on first change after Jones and George Giffen, Eady clean bowled Andrew Stoddart. He had 2 more wickets — of Bobby Abel and Lilley — both bowled; Giffen also claimed 3 wickets, but England managed a lead of 239. This time Trott sent Eady to open — perhaps to counter fire with fire — but the strategy failed. The great man sent both Joe Darling and Eady back with a mere 3 on the board.

Trott and Syd Gregory both scored hundreds, adding 221 (then a world-record Test stand for any wicket), but Australia lost their last 7 wickets for 64, eventually leaving a target of 109. Then came the rain, and Jones reduced England to 42 for 3, but it all went in vain. Eady struck once before the end, having Jack Brown caught-behind, but it was too late: England won by 6 wickets. Eady was dropped for the next 2 Tests, and England took the series 2-1.

Records, records, and another Test

Eady’s First-Class exposure was limited, but he managed a few feats in between. Playing for Break o’ Day (a club that had got its name because they started practice at 5.30 in the morning, at the break of day) against Wellington in the South Tasmania Association Championship final of 1897-88 Eady had 205 and 120 not out along with a five-wicket haul. Soon afterwards he routed Tasmania Country XVIII with innings figures of 10 for 70.

Against Victoria at Hobart in 1898-99, for example, Eady scored 92 and 31, and claimed 7 for 66 and 5 for 63. He remains the only Tasmanian to score 100 runs and take 10 wickets in the same match. Two seasons later, against Victoria at Launceston, Eady scored 104 and took 6 for 74 and 3 for 63. He remains the only Tasmanian to score a hundred and take a 6-wicket haul in the same match.

With Australia having already claimed the 1901-02 Ashes 3-1, Eady earned a comeback for the final Test at MCG. A month before the Test, Eady had played a lone hand in a defeat against Victoria at Launceston, scoring 104 and taking 6 for 74 and 3 for 63.

Australia were bowled out for 144 by Tom Hayward and George Gunn, but Hugh Trumble (5 for 62) and Eady (3 for 30, which included having Johnny Tyldesley caught-behind) restricted the tourists to a 45-run lead. Hill’s 87 helped Australia set a target of 211. Monty Noble then bowled unchanged, and Trumble got a 2-over break (the overs were bowled by Eady), and Australia won by 32 runs. Relegated to No. 10, Eady had scored 5 and 1 in the Test. He was never recalled.

566 and all that

Charles Eady’s 566 remains the highest recorded score in senior cricket. Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Despite all his achievements, Eady is remembered mostly for his performance for Break o’ Day against Wellington in the South Tasmania Cricket Association Championship final. Let us, however, first have a look at the rules of the contest. The contest was played only on Saturdays, which meant that a five-day match potentially lasted about a month; additionally, it was a timeless match.

There was no shortage of enthusiasm, though: Wellington batted first, and though their captain Burn (the first Tasmanian to play Tests, if one remembers) scored a hundred and remained unbeaten on 123 at stumps, the rest of the side never stood a chance against Eady’s pace. The day finished with Wellington on 218 for 6 (Eady having claimed 5 wickets already) and Burn on 117.

Play resumed again next Saturday, and Eady sent down 46 overs and finished with 7 for 87; Wellington were bowled out for 277, Burn top-scoring with 161 while nobody else reached 30. Eady went out to open batting with William Gill. Play o’ Day finished the day on 218 for 2; already in control, Eady had reached 130 at stumps.

Break o’ Day lost 4 quick wickets next Saturday, being reduced to 312 for 6 (Eady’s 6 partners having scored 73 between them), having already won the one-innings match, but they carried on, as per the rules of the day: both sides needed to be bowled out. Four more wickets, Wellington probably thought: how long can it take?

William Abbott joined Eady at this stage (and got away, thanks to an umpiring error, before he scored a single run), and the pair started a spectacular onslaught. To cut things short, Eady and Abbott added 340 in less than 4 hours. Whether Wellington had relaxed the pressure is not well-documented, but Burn’s absence in the field probably proved significant. Day Three finished with Break o’ Day on 652 for 6 with Eady on 419 and Abbott on 106.

Easter prevented any play from happening next Saturday, but everyone returned the Saturday after that (though an umpire had to be substituted). Playing for Hampstead against Stoics in 1885, Stoddart had amassed 485, the highest score in adult cricket. AEJ Collins, 13, had gone past that in 1899, scoring 628 not out for Clarke’s House against North Town House at Clifton — but that was at school.

As play resumed on Day Four (or Day 29, depending on your perspective), the question remained: When would Eady stop?

There was a minor distraction when Abbott fell for 143, but N Douglas kept Eady company. Eady broke loose after Abbott’s wicket. “His style of batting was varied, clean and good, while he severely punished the loose bowling, a fair quantity of which was sent down,” wrote The Mirror (Hobart).

Stoddart’s record was gone; Eady was now pursuing the teenaged Collins. Douglas dropped anchor and scored 49, but he helped Eady reach 500, then 550, helping his way in pursuit of the magical 629-mark. Then Douglas was claimed by A Hayton.

A desperate Eady now tried to hit out, only to be stumped by R Burgess off Loudoun MacLeod. He had scored 566 in 477 minutes, and had hit 67 fours and 13 fives (there were no sixes, and to get five one had to clear the fence, not the ropes). The match ended when Break o’ Day were eventually bowled out for 911, scored at 5.52 runs an over.

More cricket

Eady continued to play competitive cricket till 1907-08. He claimed ten-wicket hauls in consecutive  First-Class matches (6 for 58 and 5 for 41 against New South Wales, and 7 for 72 and 6 for 113 against Victoria, both at Hobart). The second performance remains the second-best First-Class match figures for a Tasmanian (after Brown’s 15 for 73). Even in his last match, for South against North at Hobart, Eady scored 43 and had match figures of 8 for 81.

Post-retirement and personal life

Eady was a more than competitive Australian rules footballer. Jack Worrall wrote of him, that he was “about as fine a defender as I have ever seen. He was a giant, and active, brilliant in the air, and was a lovely long kick.” He went on to serve as the President of the Tasmanian Australian National Football League on two separate stints that amounted to 25 years.

He was a prominent coach in South Hobart, and was a member of the management committee at Tasmania Cricket Association for 35 years. He also served as the secretary of the Tasmanian Amateur Jockey Club and a judge of the Tasmanian Racing Club. Also a solicitor in Hobart, Eady was elected to the Tasmanian Legislative Council in June 1925. He was re-elected in 1928, 1934, and 1940.

Eady’s sister married Michael MacLeod. Both Michael and his brother Loudoun played for both Hobart and Southern Tasmania (Loudoun had dismissed Eady when he scored 566).

After leading the fullest of lives, Eady passed away on December 20, 1945 in a private hospital at his beloved Hobart after being ill for several months. He was 75, and was survived by his daughter Mrs J Broadbent.

Eady was given a State funeral. As for the bat he had used to score 566, it found a place in the MCC Museum at Lord’s. It came back to Tasmania only when a museum was opened in February 2013.

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