Ivo Bligh   s England team in Australia, 1882-83    Getty Images Back, from left: Billy Barnes, Fred Morley, CT Studd, George Vernon, WW Read. Middle, from left: GB Studd, Edward Tylecote, Ivo Bligh, AG Steel, Charles Leslie. Front, from left: Dick Barlow, Billy Bates.
Ivo Bligh s England team in Australia, 1882-83 Getty Images
Back, from left: Billy Barnes, Fred Morley, CT Studd, George Vernon, WW Read.
Middle, from left: GB Studd, Edward Tylecote, Ivo Bligh, AG Steel, Charles Leslie.
Front, from left: Dick Barlow, Billy Bates.

Wandering through the sports museum at Melbourne Cricket Ground, the cricket enthusiast suddenly found himself face-to-face with an old cricket ball mounted on a metal replica of the palm of a hand. The legend below identified the ball as being that which had been used in the dramatic closing stages of the Test at The Oval in August 1882 that Australia had won by 7 runs, spawning the legend of The Ashes. It was further stated that in the utter disbelief of the gripping conclusion of the game, Australian wicketkeeper Jack Blackham had noticed the ball lying around and had pocketed it. The ball had remained for many years in a chest of drawers of the family home along with some press clippings about the game. Upon its discovery, descendants of Blackham had donated this treasure to the Museum, causing a shiver to run down the spine of the enchanted cricket history enthusiast. Close by, a lady member of the Museum staff had been relating the fascinating story of the final moments of the historic game to a group of wide-eyed schoolchildren who had come to visit the Museum. It had been a memorable afternoon for the cricket enthusiast, and one to cherish life-long.

The iconic mock obituary of English cricket written by Reginald Brooks that had appeared in The Sporting Times of September 2, 1882, had sparked off a jingoistic zeal among the cricket fraternity of England and had ignited a burning desire to bring back The Ashes to the Mother Country.

The story of the 1882-83 English tour of Australia had begun much before the dramatic events of the Oval Test of Aug/1882. It was in January 1882 that Mr Ben Wardill, then Secretary of the Melbourne CC, had written to invite another English team to tour Australia (it would be the seventh such visit). It seems that the original idea had been mooted by the Hon. Ivo Bligh, who had suggested a repeat Lord Harris 1878-79 tour. The initial plan had been for the Hon. Alfred Lyttelton to lead the team out but his duties at the Bar had prevented Lyttelton from undertaking a long overseas tour. The onus of leading the team out to Australia then fell on Ivo Bligh, the original proponent of the venture.

That the tour was being given very serious consideration in England is evident from the fact that Lord Harris had taken it upon himself to convene a meeting to discuss the proposed composition of the team, the other members present being Lyttelton, the original choice of captain, Bligh, who ultimately stood in as captain, and Isaac Walker, who had been instrumental in choosing the team for Lord Harris own tour earlier. The names of the touring party had been announced on July 20, as mentioned in Cricket: A Weekly Record of the Game.

The main body of the 12-member touring party had left Gravesend aboard the Peshawur on September 14. Four other members, Dick Barlow, Billy Bates, Charles Leslie, and George Vernon had made the Channel crossing a week later and travelled overland to Brindisi, from where they had boarded the Poonah, finally meeting up with the Peshawur at Suez on October 1. The team spent a day sight-seeing in Colombo before proceeding on their way. Shortly after leaving port, however, the Peshawur collided with another vessel, the Glenroy, in thick fog, and had to return to port for running repairs.

This unfortunate and unforeseen setback allowed the English visitors time for the first ever cricket match between a touring English party in Ceylon when they took on VIII Colombo Europeans, the game being played on October 13 and 14. They also had time for a single-day match against VIII Royal Dublin Fusiliers. It was not until October 24 that the ship was considered to be fit enough to sail again. Fred Morley, a professional cricketer on the team, had broken a rib in the collision at sea, causing him to miss many of the games on the tour.

Bligh was himself a victim of a misadventure on the voyage when he injured his right hand severely in a friendly game of tug-of-war and was unable to take the field until the seventh game of the tour, resulting in Martin Cobbett, a journalist from The Sportsman, who was accompanying the team, and the local team manager, George Alexander, being drafted in to turn out for the visitors, particularly for some of the odds games.

The eventful voyage ended with the ship docking at Port Adelaide/Glenelg on November 10. A three-day game had to be cancelled because of the late arrival of the party, occasioned by the unfortunate sea collision. Upon arrival in Australia, the tourists were joined by the Alexander, who had been appointed for the purpose by Melbourne CC, to act as the local Manager, umpire and scorer.

The detailed accounts of the various games of the Australian tour by Bligh s men have been recounted by wiser and more knowledgeable heads, and need not be repeated here. The results of the Test matches are given below:

First Test at Melbourne: Australia won by 9 wickets

Second Test at Melbourne: England won by an innings and 27 runs

Third Test at Sydney: England won by 69 runs

Fourth Test at Melbourne (not part of The Ashes): Australia won by 4 wickets

There had been, of course, some controversy surrounding the fourth match being designated as a Test at the time, and the popular belief being that Bligh s men had, indeed, won the Ashes back. The cause of the dispute had been the experiment, agreed upon by both teams, to play the last match, against a very powerful full-strength Combined Australia team on a different strip for every innings, four separate pitches in all. This match had been added later to the schedule, as had another, to be played at Adelaide. The Adelaide game had been later cancelled.

Suffice it to say that, in retrospect, the Test series had ended in an honourable 2-2 draw, and that the skipper had not only gained a talismanic trophy that would, in the years to come, be the Holy Grail of cricket between the oldest rivals in the game, but the heart and hand of Florence Morphy, an Australian maiden.

At the conclusion of the tour, the Englishmen had gone their different ways from Melbourne; the four professionals had boarded the Nizam on March 15, reaching London on May 2. The amateurs of the group had preferred to remain at Melbourne for another fortnight. CT Studd, Steel, Leslie, WW Read and Edward Tylecote had then departed from Hobson s Bay on the P & O liner Parramatta on March 29. The skipper had remained behind in Australia a little longer and had accomplished a major milestone in his personal life by being betrothed before sailing home on May 5, arriving back in England on June 25. The two remaining members of the party, GB Studd and Vernon, had sailed on RMS Zealandia from Sydney for San Francisco on 20 May.

Let us now turn our collective attention to the other games of the 1882-83 season.

The curtain-raiser for the season had been the game between Bligh s men and Victoria at Melbourne in November. Winning the toss and batting first, the Englishmen had immediately made a good impression by scoring 273. Barlow (44), Bates (48), CT Studd (56), and Leslie (51*) had shown early form with the bat. Wicketkeeper Tylecote, leading the team in the absence through injury of Bligh, had contributed 37. William Cooper, the captain of the team, took 5 for 89.

The Victoria first-innings total was nowhere as good, ending on 104, with a highest of 25 from wicketkeeper Ted Turner. Read (4 for 28) and AG Steel (3 for 15) had been among the wickets. Invited to follow on, Victoria made 169. The highest individual score was the 40 by William Bruce, and he endeared himself to generations of trivia enthusiasts by being the victim of two brothers, being caught by one of six brothers, GB Studd, off the bowling of another, CT.

The scores being equal at this point, the visitors won by 10 wickets when 4 byes accrued from the first ball of their second innings. It is reported that a total of 15,400 spectators had witnessed the three days of play.

With the Melbournians disposed of, it was the turn of Sydney sides to face the tourists. New South Wales (NSW) took the strike and were bowled out for 152, Steel taking 5 for 32. The visitors then stamped their authority on the game in no uncertain terms by posting 461. After the first wicket had fallen on 14, Barlow (80) and Leslie (144) added 224. Ted Evans stood out among the bowlers, taking 6 for 146. NSW were blown away in the second innings for 165, only three men reaching double figures. The visitors won by an innings and 144 runs.

The first of the traditional fixtures between Victoria and NSW began in Melbourne in end-December. Blackham won the toss for Victoria and batted first. The innings ended on 148, with a highest of 33 from Tom Horan. Tom Garrett claimed 5 for 45 and Fred Spofforth 3 for 35.

The NSW first innings of 247 was largely built upon a second-wicket stand of 136 between Alec Bannerman (78) and skipper Billy Murdoch (71). Henry Scott took 4 for 57. Horan scored 129 in the second innings and Percy McDonnell 70. The total amounted to 371 all out as James Cleeve captured 6 for 95. NSW then won the match by 7 wickets, Bannerman remaining unbeaten on 101.

This match was followed by 3 Tests in a row, followed, in turn, by the return game between NSW and Victoria, played in Sydney in February. NSW could find no suitable answer to Victoria s 281, being shot out for a humiliating 49 and 66. Boyle (4 for 14 and 4 for 32) and Palmer (4 for 32 and 5 for 29) bowled unchanged in both innings of the game and took all the wickets that fell to the bowlers.

This match was followed by the game where the unusual experiment of using a different strip for each innings was carried out, with the resultant debate about its suitability for being classed as a Test. It was, of course, accorded Test status retrospectively.

There was another game between Victoria and the tourists who were nearing the end of their long stay in Australia (the side spent 125 days in Australia, from November 10 to March 15; they were to spend 230 days away from England, from September 14 to May 2). This was to be their last engagement in Australia, at Melbourne, starting March 9.

VIC batted first and scored 284 with a fine 92 not out from Billy Midwinter and 54 from George Bonnor, Billy Barnes taking 5 for 70. Although the Englishmen were dismissed for a mere 55, there was an interesting twist to even this low score: There were only three men in double figures: CT Studd, Steel, and Bates, and all three had identical scores of 11. Cooper and Palmer took 4 wickets each. Following on, the Englishmen scored 156 with a 76 from Steel. Palmer captured 7 for 65.

The last match of the season turned out to be a bit of an anti-climax. Victoria took on South Australia (SA) at Melbourne. The visitors won the toss, batted first, and immediately realised the folly of the decision as they were dismissed for 23, Joan Noel scoring 18 of them. Palmer (5 for 16) and Boyle (4 for 6) took all the wickets that fell to bowlers. Noel contributed 78.26% of the team total; only WG Grace (126 out of 159, 79.25%, for United South of England XI against United North at Hull in 1876) had a higher percentage of runs in an all-out total.

Victoria responded with 200, Midwinter (40) and Jim Slight (44) dominating the scoring and George Giffen took 5 taking 61. George s brother Walter made his First-Class debut in this game and would prove to be a bone of contention for a later Australian tour to England.

SA were again dismissed cheaply, for 79 this time, with George Giffen (19) top-scoring. It was Boyle (4 for 28) and Palmer (5 for 28) among the wickets again.

There were no international visitors to Australia in 1883-84. On the other hand, Australia were preparing for a tour of England in 1884. There were the usual reciprocal games between Victoria and NSW, a game between SA and Victoria at Adelaide, and 2 games designated as Australia XI v Combined XI.

NSW skipper Murdoch often referred to as the first great batsman produced by Australia, a sentiment vigorously endorsed by no less a person that Clem Hill, himself a batsman of extraordinary skill, continued to enhance his reputation with a superlative innings of 158 against Victoria in late December. Palmer, as usual, was frequently among the wickets, and Horan was in the process of establishing his credentials as a dependable batsman in the upper order. Another Tom, Garrett by name, went about his business of accumulating wickets with the minimum of fuss. Midwinter, reverting back to Australian domestic cricket, continued to hone his all-round skills. Victoria won the first game by 3 wickets.

The return match at Sydney was played in February, NSW winning relatively easily by 202 runs. For Victoria, Palmer captured 6 for 72 and 5 for 68 while Evans took 6 for 40 and 4 for 52 for NSW. There were no individual centuries in the game, the highest score being 91 from Alec Bannerman.

The game at Adelaide between SA and Victoria in was a relatively high-scoring one, Victoria emerging the ultimate winners by 4 wickets. SA posted 334 and 319. The visitors had totals of 285 and 369 for 6. This was a 6-balls-per-over game. The only century of the game came from James Trinnick (109) of Victoria.

The first game between Australia XI and Combined XI played at Melbourne in January, was remarkable for another Murdoch special. The Australian XI won the toss and batted first, losing the first wicket on 15. From there, McDonnell (111) and (279*) shared a second-wicket stand of 199.

This may be an appropriate moment to muse on the career of Murdoch and on his remarkable batting figures. In a First-Class career spanning 1875-76 to 1904, Murdoch played 391 First-Class games, scoring 16,953 runs with a highest of 321 and an average of 26.86. He had 19 centuries in all, including 5 double-hundreds:

321 for NSW vs Victoria at Sydney, 1881-82 (the first triple-hundred in Australian First-Class cricket)

286* for Australians vs Sussex at Hove, 1882

279* for Australian XI vs Combined XI, 1883-84

211 for Australia vs England at The Oval, 1884, the first double-century in Test cricket

226 for Sussex vs Cambridge at Hove, 1895

He played 19 Tests, one of them for England.

To get back to the game under discussion, the innings finished early on the final morning. In the time remaining, Combined XI scored 181 for 9, Palmer and George Giffen taking 4 wickets each. The game ended in a draw.

The second game between the same teams was played in Sydney. The Australian XI won this game by 9 wickets. The most remarkable individual feat in this game was the 10 for 66 (another Australian bowler, Arthur Mailey, would have identical figures on tour to England in 1921) by George Giffen in the Combined XI second-innings total of 113. This was the first instance of an Australian taking all 10 wickets in an innings in First-Class cricket.

It was the 1884-85 season in Australia and another English team (the eighth) was scheduled to visit. This tour would, unfortunately, go down in history more for the wrangles over money than for the quality of cricket played. Notwithstanding the controversies that dogged the tour, it is a historical fact that this was the first ever 5-Test series played (in England, the first 5-Test series was arranged as late as 1899).

Alfred Shaw s team in Australia, 1884-85 Getty Images
Back, from left: Bobby Peel, Billy Barnes, Joe Hunter, William Attewell, James Lillywhite, Maurice Read, William Bates.
Middle, from left: Arthur Shrewsbury, Alfred Shaw, William Scotton.
Front, from left: Wilfred Flowers, George Ulyett, Johnny Briggs.

For the second time, the touring party was chosen by the trio of Alfred Shaw, Arthur Shrewsbury, and James Lillywhite. Shaw was the designated captain, also doubling as promoter and player-manager, with Shrewsbury the vice-captain. Lillywhite, by now 42, was in the party as promoter and umpire. The team consisted of 13 professionals, hence the absence of such illustrious amateurs as the Graces. On arrival in Australia, the party had the services of CW Beal, the Australian agents.

The group departed from Plymouth on September 18 aboard SS Orient. The original intention of calling at the port of Naples had to be cancelled on account of a reported outbreak of cholera in the port city. Instead, the voyage continued up to Suez, arriving on October 2. The tourists made a break here to play an odds game against an XXII-member team comprising personnel from the British Army and Navy and some local expatriate residents. They also visited the Pyramids.

The onward journey from Suez began on October 7 and the tourists reached Port Adelaide on October 29. The 1884 Australian tourists to England had not yet returned home. The Englishmen were to play 34 games on the tour, a very strenuous schedule. Shaw could play in only 10 of the minor games and Lillywhite could play in only 2. Perforce, Shrewsbury took over the mantle of the skipper for all the important matches of the tour.

The tourists were helped by two unlikely persons who had travelled with them on the same ship to Australia, both of them travelling on health grounds: GF (George) Hearne, the MCC Pavilion clerk at Lord s who was visiting Australia for his health, and Surrey batsman Robert Henderson, also on the ship to Australia at the expense of his County, to recuperate in a warmer climate. These two stood in for the tourists in some of the minor games and helped to keep the Union Jack flying in the Colony.

The Englishmen played 8 First-Class games in Australia in all, 5 of them being designated as Test matches. The first match of the new season was between Shaw s XI and Victoria at Melbourne. Batting first, the Englishmen scored 220, thanks to Shrewsbury (80) and Billy Barnes (61). Victoria were bowled out for 146 in response. Barnes shone with the bat again, this time scoring 46 in a team total of 150, while Digger Robertson took 5 for 46 overs. However, Victoria collapsed for 88 in the second innings in the face of a superlative performance off-break bowler Wilfred Flowers (8 for 31 overs).

The Englishmen then played NSW at Sydney in November. The hosts scored 184, thanks to Sammy Jones (72) and Harry Moses (49). The tourists managed a rather disappointing 110 all out. Francis Downes and Garrett took 4 wickets each.

The NSW second innings was a sorry affair, being all over for 44. There was an unusual incident in the innings when No. 4 batsman Hugh Hiddleston had to retire hurt before opening his account on the team score of 9 for 2, returning to the crease at the score of 43 for 9, and remaining not out at the end without having opened his account. William Attwell (5 for 19) and Barnes (4 for 1) cleaned up the hosts in no uncertain manner. The Englishmen won by 4 wickets.

The stage was now set for the Tests. At the outset, it may be stated that Australia had to rely on four captains for the 5 Tests, this unusual situation arising largely from non-cricketing circumstances. For the first time in the history of England-Australia Test cricket, England fielded the same XI in all the 5 Tests.

As has already been stated, the Test series of 1884-85 was not a very happy one, being marred by various non-cricketing issues, chief of which happened to be money. The following is a summary of the Test results:

First Test at Adelaide: England won by 8 wickets. Home skipper: Billy Murdoch.

Second Test at Melbourne: England won by 10 wickets. Home skipper: Tom Horan.

Third Test at Sydney: Australia won by 6 runs. Home skipper: Hugh Massie.

Fourth Test at Sydney: Australia won by 8 wickets. Home skipper: Jack Blackham.

Fifth Test at Melbourne: England won by 8 wickets. Home skipper: Tom Horan.

Arthur Shrewsbury became the first England captain to score a Test century (105*) in the Test.

Here is a chart showing the results of all the matches played by the Englishmen on this tour:

Matches Played Won Lost Drawn
Tests 5 3 2 0
Other First-Class Matches 3 3 0 0
Second-Class Matches 26 10 0 16
All Matches 34 16 2 16

Having been engaged by the Earl of Sheffield to coach the Sussex team from April 10, Shaw left Australia on February 23 on board the Liguria. The rest of the team set sail for home on the Orient Line steamer SS Potosi from Adelaide on April 6, travelling via Suez and the Mediterranean Sea. The group split at Naples, now thankfully free of cholera. One group of six men (William Attewell, Barnes, William Scotton, George Ulyett, Lillywhite, and Flowers) preferred to travel overland across Italy and France, reaching England on May 12. The others (Shrewsbury, Maurice Read, Bates, Johnny Briggs, Hunter and Bobby Peel) sailed through the Bay of Biscay, arriving at Plymouth on May 15. The entire venture had made the touring party an overall profit of about 500, and they had been away from England for 239 days.

Back in England, and in a jocular mood, this is what Shaw, original skipper of the touring team, had to say in his summing up of the tour: (we were) providentially-sent water diviners who produced deluges at the call. Rain accompanied us all round Australia. The up-country people thanked us for breaking the drought, and asked us to come again whenever their land was afflicted with an abnormally dry season.

Another chapter of the early days of cricket in Australia ended with the conclusion of this tour.