Caption: Arthur Shrewsbury (left) and Percy McDonnell. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Caption: Arthur Shrewsbury (left) and Percy McDonnell. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

The Australian national team came back home from their 1886 tour of England in a chastened frame of mind, having suffered the first ever whitewash in Test history, by losing the 3-Test series to England 3-0. The 1885-86 domestic season, therefore, assumed great importance, in the absence of any visiting team. It was a time for soul-searching, for regrouping, and for renewed efforts at raising the standard of their skills and strategies, and, above all, in learning from their experiences of the just completed unsuccessful tour.

Boxing Day of 1885 saw the beginning of the first game of the new season with Victoria taking on New South Wales (NSW) at Melbourne. Batting first, Victoria put on a sizeable total of 471. After the first-wicket stand between Henry Scott (111) and William Bruce (71) had realised 136 runs, John McIlwraith scored 133, sharing a fourth-wicket stand of 170 runs with Scott. One interesting feature of this game was the fact that the Fred Spofforth, having played 12 First-Class matches for NSW between 1874-75 and 1884-85, had switched allegiances and played his first game for Victoria in this match (he was to play a total of 5 matches for them). Tom Garrett (5 for 121) and Ted Evans (4 for 69) were, as usual, among the wickets.

NSW were then dismissed for 168, Adam Mather top-scoring with 49. Spofforth took 5 for 43 for his new team. Following on, NSW managed 234 with fifties from Sammy Jones (77 not out) and Garrett (50). Spofforth was the main scourge for the NSW batsmen again, taking 5 for 95.

The new year began with Victoria taking on an Australian XI at Melbourne. The Australian XI won the game rather easily by 10 wickets. Francis Wingrove, playing the only First-Class game of his career, opened bowling for Victoria in the Australian XI 1st innings and took a wicket with his first ball in First-Class cricket, dismissing Bruce for 1. There were two significant personal performances in this match: bowling figures of 8 for 59 in the Victoria first innings by Joey Palmer, and 125 by John McIlwraith in the Australian XI first innings.

The return match between NSW and Victoria at Sydney was won by the hosts by 150 runs. In a match remembered mainly for good bowling efforts, Spofforth took 4 for 66 and 4 for 70. For NSW, the old combination of Evans (4 for 70 and 3 for 31) and Garrett (6 for 55 and 6 for 56) did their best for the team. The match notes state that an estimated 23,000 spectators had witnessed the game.

The last match of the season was the clash between South Australia (SA) and Victoria at Adelaide, a game the hosts won by 40 runs. The undoubted hero of the match was George Giffen of SA (20 and 82, 9 for 91 and 8 for 110). The 17 wickets for 201 runs remained his best match figures in First-Class cricket.

There was another visit by an English team in 1886-87, the third under the management of Alfred Shaw, James Lillywhite, and Arthur Shrewsbury, the sixth Test tour of Australia by an English team, and the ninth visit overall. It was a group composed of 11 experienced professional cricketers, carefully selected by Shaw, Lillywhite and Shrewsbury, and they toured Australia under the name Shaw’s XI. The wicketkeeper’s slot was the last to be filled in with the inclusion of Mordecai Sherwin. Shaw and Lillywhite were both long past their playing days and accompanied the group as promoters, and in managerial capacities. Lillywhite also acted as umpire on the tour.

Preparations for the present visit had begun in the summer of 1886 when Ben Wardill, Secretary of the Melbourne Cricket Club, had started putting the arrangements in place for an England visit with both amateurs and professionals in the team. He was, however, unable to motivate WG Grace to lead the side, and negotiations fell through. It was with this background that JP Tennant of Melbourne and Sydney Cohen of Sydney stepped in to act as the Australian agents for the English tourists of 1886-87. History tells us, however, that Tennant fell somewhat short of the expectations of the managing committee of the tourists as far as the arranging of the matches was concerned, so they placed more and more reliance on Cohen in this regard.

The touring party boarded the Orient liner Cuzco at Plymouth Sound on Saturday, September 18, and sailed via Naples, Port Said, Suez, and Aden, bypassing Ceylon altogether. The tourists disembarked at Adelaide in the evening of Friday, October 29. The Englishmen played 30 games in all on this trip, 11 of them of First-Class status, including 2 Tests. One minor game was abandoned due to weather conditions. Lillywhite and Shaw played only two games each on the tour and some local talent had to be roped in to make up the numbers in some of the side games, the names of W Shaw, J Clarke, and F Jarvis being recorded in the archives in this respect.

The opening game of 1886-87 was between Victoria and Shaw’s XI. The centrepiece of Victoria’s first-innings total of 329 was a splendid 117* from the by now well-experienced Tom Horan. Richard Houston (68) and George McShane (65) complemented Horan’s century.

Having made his First-Class debut for Surrey in 1884, George Lohmann was playing his first game in Australia. He took 6 for 115. Shaw’s XI made a robust 352 in reply. There was a second-wicket stand of 193 between Billy Barnes (109) and Dick Barlow (86). Harry Trott and McShane took 4 wickets each.

Victoria were then dismissed for 207 with a top score of 54 not out from Sam Morris (the first man of West Indian parentage to play Test cricket for Australia). Lohmann surpassed his first-innings figures with 8 for 80 in this innings, providing ample indications that he would be a constant thorn in the flesh of the Colonists on the tour. The match ended in a draw.

The visitors then played NSW twice on the trot. The first was completed in two days due to the superlative bowling of Charlie Turner (6 for 20 and 7 for 34) and JJ Ferris (4 for 50 and 3 for 49) as Shaw’s XI were dismissed for 74 and 98. These were the first two 5-wicket hauls in First-Class cricket for Turner. NSW won by 6 wickets.

The tables were turned in the next match, the visitors winning the game by 9 wickets. In another low-scoring game, Johnny Briggs (5 for 45), Lohmann (5 for 47), and Wilfred Flowers (5 for 21) shone with the ball for the Englishmen. For NSW, the battle was joined by Ferris (3 for 81) and Turner (7 for 77 and 1 for 3).

There was then a series of 3 matches between a team called Melbourne CC’s Australian XI and Shaw’s XI, two of the games being played at Melbourne, and one, surprisingly, at Sydney. The Australian scored 294 in the first match. Shaw’s XI were bowled out for 201 and were asked to follow on. It may be mentioned here that from 1854 to 1894 there had been a law making it mandatory to enforce the follow on for a deficit of 80 runs. From 1894 till 1900, the deficit had been increased to 120, and from 1900 onwards, the enforcement had become optional). The visitors scored 264 the second time before dismissing the home team for 114 to win the game by 57 runs. Briggs took 5 for 42.

The second encounter was a relatively high-scoring draw with the first three innings topping 200. The highest score of the match was 93 by English all-rounder Billy Barnes. Bruce took 5 for 56 for the home team in this innings. For the visitors, Bates took 5 for 72 in the first innings.

In between the above two games, there was the first of the two traditional games between Victoria and NSW, played at Melbourne. There were 2 standout individual performances in the game that NSW won by 184 runs. NSW skipper Percy McDonnell played a gargantuan innings of 239 in a second-innings total of 363. This was to be his highest First-Class score. Turner then disposed of Victoria for a second-innings total of 138 with figures of 6 for 42, including a hat-trick with the first 3 wickets of the innings.

The third game between Shaw’s XI and the Australian XI was played at Sydney, the visitors emerging victorious by 9 wickets. In the Shaw’s XI first-innings total of 280, Garrett took 6 for 53, and the highest score was 69 by Briggs. Barnes then underlined his value in the team by claiming 7 for 51. Following on, the Australian XI scored 203, Barnes taking 4 wickets.

This was followed by the return game between NSW and Victoria played at Sydney. In a low-scoring game, none of the totals topped 100 and the hosts won by 6 wickets. Turner and Ferris took 4 wickets each as the Victoria first innings ended at 61. Spofforth then got into the act with 6 for 47 in a NSW first-innings total of 89. Turner (4 for 25) and Ferris (5 for 28) then conspired to bundle Victoria out a 2nd time for 68. Turner then top-scored with 26 not out as NSW won by 6 wickets.

The first Test began at Sydney on January 28. The home team was without one of their champions, Giffen, through illness, and had opted to omit Palmer and Horan from their playing XI. McDonnell put the opposition in, becoming the first captain in Test history to opt for fielding after winning the toss.

The unusual move seemed justified as the first 2 wickets fell at the total of 11 and the next 3 at the total of 13. The sorry state of affairs ended with England being bowled out for a mere 45. The only man in double figures was Lohmann, with 17. Australian Test debutants Turner (6 for 15) and Ferris (4 for 27) bowled unchanged throughout the innings and took all the wickets.

On the second day, the Australian first innings ended at 119, Harry Moses scoring 31. The 74-run lead appeared to be a daunting one as England began their second innings. Day Two ended with England on 103 for 7 at the fall of Lohmann’s wicket. Earlier, Barnes had contributed a vital 32 runs. England spent a sombre Sabbath day contemplating the slender overall lead of a meagre 29 runs with only 3 wickets remaining. The Almighty, however, turned out to be in a capricious mood when play resumed on the Monday.

Briggs, who had not yet opened his account on the previous night, went his merry way and top scored with 33. He was assisted by William Scotton (6), Flowers (14) and debutant wicketkeeper Sherwin (21*). The last 3 wickets contributed a significant 81 runs to the ultimate second-innings total of 184 all out, the last-wicket stand being 31.

Australia would perhaps have felt confident of their victory target; after all, the figure of 111 — ‘Nelson’, was supposedly inauspicious for their foes, the Englishmen. The home team had not, however, taken into account the true-blue British bulldog spirit as the last innings of the match began on Day 3.

Barnes and Lohmann, opening bowling for England, bowled their hearts out, Barnes picking up the wickets of the first 5 men in the order. Let us hear the story of the last dramatic moments of the match from Mark Baldwin from his book The Ashes’ Strangest Moments: “At 61 for 5, and then at 95 for 8, the game was continually in the balance. However, Lohmann then had Tom Garrett caught for 10 and clean bowled Fred Spofforth for 5. Australia had lost their last two wickets for just two runs and were all out for 97.”

Barnes took 6 for 28 and Lohmann captured 3 for 20 as England wrapped up a seemingly impossible win by the tenuous margin of only 13 runs. England’s 1st innings total of 45 remains the lowest in Test history from which a team has gone on to win the game till date — a remarkable team effort.

A rather unsavoury off-field incident in the interval between the 2 Tests resulted in another tiny morsel of cricket history being created for England. It seems that an unseemly drunken brawl had broken out in a public house during which Barnes had aimed a punch at Australian captain ‘Greatheart’ McDonnell, who had been alert enough to move out of the way. The punch had ended on the wall behind McDonnell breaking Barnes’ hand and rendering him hors-de-combat. Since the Englishmen had only brought 11 men over, this posed a serious problem of logistics for them.

Reginald Wood, who had played for Charterhouse XI in 1876 and as an amateur for Lancashire from 1880 to 1884, had emigrated to Melbourne. He had, in fact, turned out for Victoria against the touring Shaw’s XI in the first match of the season. Wood was co-opted to the England team for the second Test, becoming the first player to be used as a replacement on a Test tour.

Having been engaged by Lord Sheffield for a coaching assignment, Shaw left Sydney after the first Test, sailing out on the Bengal on February 4 and arriving back in London on March 25. Ivo Bligh, who had been in Australia, was a co-passenger on the ship that also carried as part of its cargo a consignment of kangaroos for the Zoological Gardens.

The match between Victoria and SA followed the first Test, and was played at Melbourne. Giffen, now happily restored to full health, led the visiting team. It was a triumphant return for Giffen as he snapped up 8 for 83 in the Victoria first-innings total of 138. The visitors then gained a small lead as they were dismissed for 170, Sam Morris taking 4 for 59.

The VIC second-innings total was a respectable 230 with fifties from McIlwraith (72) and Billy Midwinter (52*). Giffen took 4 for 104 to notch up another of his 30 ultimate 10-wicket hauls. SA, however, fell apart in the face of great bowling by Morris (5 for 21) and Midwinter (5 for 22) to be dismissed for 54, Victoria emerging by 144 runs.

Shaw’s XI met NSW at Sydney and ran into Turner, who was in superlative bowling form. For the tourists, Lohmann was also gradually building up a very impressive portfolio for himself. NSW were dismissed for 141, Lohmann taking 5 for 56. Shaw’s XI were then skittled out for 99, Turner taking 8 for 32. The only batting effort worth mentioning in the innings was 48 from Bates, known as the ‘Duke’ for his penchant for smart dressing.

With a lead of 42 runs, NSW scored 180, Moses (73) scoring the only fifty of the innings. Lohmann picked up 6 for 41. Shaw’s XI could only manage a round 100 in the face of incisive bowling from Turner (6 for 27) and Ferris (3 for 62). Bates top-scored again, with 40.

The second Test began at Sydney on February 25, 1887 and provided the keen student of the game with several interesting incidents worth taking cognisance of.

There was one enforced change in the England team, Barnes being substituted by Wood, as mentioned above. The Australian team was somewhat lop-sided in the sense that there was only one man from Victoria in Midwinter. There were a total of five debutants for the home team, including Walter Giffen, brother of the more illustrious George. Walter was to have a less than glorious Test career, scoring a total of 11 runs from his 3 Tests with a highest score of 3. It was reported that he had suffered an accident involving two cog-wheels and had lost the tops of two fingers of his left hand in 1886. Surprisingly, particularly in view of his current form, George Giffen was still missing from the home team.

England batted first, putting up a total of 151, Barlow scoring 34 and Flowers 37. Not for the only time in their careers, Ferris (5 for 71) and Turner (5 for 41) accounted for all the wickets.

The home team was done in by George Lohmann, being dismissed for 84, Moses scoring 28. Lohmann returned figures of 8 for 35. It may of interest to examine this performance in comparison with others who have done very well in Australia. Here are the figures:

Bowler Team Figures Venue Season
Richard Hadlee New Zealand 9/52 Brisbane 1985-86
Sarfraz Nawaz Pakistan 9/86 Melbourne 1978-79
George Lohmann England 8/35 Sydney 1886-87
George Lohmann England 8/58 Sydney 1891-92
Wilfred Rhodes England 8/68 Melbourne 1903-04
Len Braund England 8/81 Melbourne 1903-04
Tom Richardson England 8/94 Sydney 1897-98
Kapil Dev India 8/106 Adelaide 1985-86
Jack White England 8/126 Adelaide 1928-29
Anil Kumble India 8/141 Sydney 2003-04

Though there have never been anyone taking 9 wickets in an innings at Sydney by a visitor, Lohmann occupies the first two spots among the four instances of 8 wickets in an innings. Lohmann’s performance of 8 for 35 (the first instance of a bowler taking 8 wickets in an innings in the history of Test cricket) is still the best for all the 104 Tests played on the ground till date, the record surviving for almost 134 years.

To get back to the story of the second Test, England scored 154 in the second innings, Barlow remaining not out on 42. Ferris (4 for 69) and Turner (4 for 52) were again among the wickets. Billy Gunn of England, patriarch of a great family of Nottinghamshire cricketers and the founder of the famous bat manufacturing company, Gunn & Moore, created his own niche in cricket history by not only batting in both innings (scoring 9 and 10), but standing in as a substitute umpire on the last morning of the Test when one of the designated umpires, John Swift, was absent due to illness.The fortuitous addition to the team, Wood, scored 6 and 0.

Facing a winning target of 222, Australia were bowled out for 150, McDonnell (35), Moses (33), and Reginald Allen (30) putting up some resistance. And thereby, as it is said, hangs a tale. The dismissal of Allen added another item to the vast treasure trove of Test trivia, when he was caught by Turner, an Australian, fielding substitute, who became the third man after Murdoch and Jarvis to take catches for the opposition in Test cricket. Briggs (3 for 31), and Billy Bates (4 for 26) ensured that England won the game by 71 runs and completed successive whitewashes over Australia.

Shaw’s XI played their last match of the tour against Victoria at Melbourne, winning by 9 wickets. In the Victoria first-innings total of 245, openers Bruce (62) and McIlwraith (64) batted well Flowers took 5 for 50 for the visitors. Shrewsbury then scored a masterly 144 for Shaw’s XI, sharing a second-wicket stand of 142 with Barlow (43), the final total reaching 283. For the hosts, Bruce (7 for 72) shone with the ball.

The Victoria second innings ended at 156, mainly through the efforts of Lohmann, who took 5 for 44. Chasing a target of 119, Shaw’s XI got there rather easily after a first-wicket stand of 111 between Bates (86) and Shrewsbury (29*).

There remained one last, rather light-hearted engagement to end the season, with the Smokers taking on the Non-Smokers at Melbourne. The teams had been selected from players of the touring side and from local talent. Shrewsbury won the toss for the Non-Smokers and batted first, and was immediately in the thick of things scoring a glorious 236 sharing a first-wicket stand of 196 with Bruce (131). After Bates had been dismissed cheaply, Gunn got into the act, scoring 150 and sharing a third-wicket partnership of 320 with his skipper. The total continued to prosper with several good hands and ultimately ended at 803 from. This was the highest team total on Australian soil at the time, and the first time that a team had topped 800 runs in Australia in a First-Class game.

The Smokers were dismissed for 356 with a 113 from Palmer. Bates took 6 for 73. Following on, the Smokers were 135 for 5 when the game ended in a draw.

The English team boarded the P & O steamer Massilia at Adelaide on March 26 for the return voyage, sailing past Albany, Colombo, Aden, Suez, Port Said, Malta, and Gibraltar, before finally arriving at Plymouth on the morning of Saturday, May 1887, having been away from England for 231 days.

This is what Wisden had to say about the tour:”It is understood that the tour did not yield much profit but the cricket shown was very fine indeed.”