JJ Ferris (left) and Charlie Turner. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
JJ Ferris (left) and Charlie Turner. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

It was an embarrassment of riches for the cricket loving populace of Australia in 1887-88 when two different English teams visited their shores for a series of matches against the Colonists. The logistics of the individual missions may have been in question at times, but the quality of cricket played was of the highest order. The old firm of Alfred Shaw, James Lillywhite, and Arthur Shrewsbury decided to launch their fourth enterprise in Australia despite the knowledge that another English team, under the leadership of Lord Hawke, was about to visit Australia almost simultaneously.

The team, chosen by Shaw, Lillywhite, and Shrewsbury, would be touring Australia under the auspices of the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) authorities of New South Wales (NSW) this time. Deviating somewhat from their usual practice, Shaw et al decided on a little more variety in their choice of personnel for the new venture and made up a team comprising 12 members, 4 amateurs, and 8 experienced professionals. The team was to be led by C Aubrey Round-the-Corner Smith of Sussex, later a pillar of the Hollywood film industry and the doyen of English expatriates in the USA, a fine example of the archetypal English amateur cricketer.

There was a notion at the time that with the knowledge of the impending parallel tour by Hawke s team at about the same time, the selectors had quickly pounced on Johnny Briggs, George Lohmann, Walter Read, and Shrewsbury. Their coup de grace had been the opportunistic selection of Smith as the skipper pre-empting Hawke from getting at him. Ludford Charles Docker of Derbyshire (later Warwickshire) was the final choice and would act as the vice-captain of the team.

Shaw remained behind in England, while Lillywhite carried out managerial and scoring duties on the tour in addition to acting as the baggage-master, a role that would later be glorified by the legendary Bill Ferguson of Australia in later years. In Australia, this team was known as Shrewsbury s XI.

The irony of the situation was that members of both the touring teams found themselves travelling to Australia on the same ship, the Iberia that had sailed from Tilbury on Thursday, September 15, arriving at Adelaide on Wednesday, October 26, from where Shaw s team travelled on to Sydney.

Meanwhile, having been unable to persuade WG Grace to tour Australia with an English side in 1886-87, the Melbourne CC had abandoned their attempt to arrange an English tour the season after. In a special meeting of the Melbourne CC on January 21, it was decided to extend an invitation for an English team to visit Australia, with the Club undertaking to arrange the programme of fixtures.

The responsibility for the enterprise was given to the Secretary, the indefatigable Major Ben Wardill. The party was to feature eight English amateur cricketers, backed up by 5 professionals. George Vernon, in his capacity of captain of the proposed team, selected the team members, assisted by Read. Although Major Wardill did indicate the names of some players of his choice for the tour, he did not dictate terms as far as team selection was concerned. In Australia, this team was known as Vernon s XI.

Hawke was the final choice as captain of the team travelling to Australia under the auspices of Melbourne CC. It was reported at the time that WG had been made a handsome offer of 1,500 plus generous expenses to accompany the team but had turned it down.

Ill luck dogged the team for a while with Hawke having to return to England prematurely upon the death of his father. Vernon, who took over the duties of captaincy, himself slipped down the gangway on board the ship and was forced to miss the first few games of the tour, being out of action for the first three weeks. Perhaps the greatest setback for the team was the injury to one of their premier all-rounders, Billy The Duke Bates, who was struck on the eye while at net-practice at Melbourne on December 21 and could take no further part on the tour, returning to England in February.

The 1887-88 Australian domestic season began with South Australia (SA) taking on Vernon s XI at Adelaide. The visitors batted first, being dismissed for 104. As always, George Giffen was in the thick of things, taking 5 for 32. Bobby Peel returned the favour for Vernon s XI by taking 5 for 31 in the home team s first-innings total of 118. Vernon s XI then put on 291, with a first-wicket stand of 105 runs between Bobby Abel (95) and Andrew Stoddart (64). Although the home team did score 206 in the second knock, the visitors won the game by 71 runs. Here is what the match report has to say about attendance over the 4 days of the game: 1200, 1600, wretched , wretched . Total 4297.

Melbourne hosted the next game of the season, between Victoria and Vernon s XI. The Victoria first-innings total amounted to 152, John McIlwraith scoring 60. Vernon s XI then scored 296, Stoddart (95) and Peel (55) doing most of the scoring. Billy Trumble took 4 for 68 in the innings while his brother Hugh (who was to later become the first man to take 2 Test hat-tricks) made his First-Class debut in this game. The Victoria second-innings total of 126 was primarily possible because of a resolute 68 from Jack Blackham. Vernon s XI won an innings and 18 runs.

Shrewsbury s XI began their Australian campaign with the first of their 3 games against NSW at Sydney. The visitors were no match for the wiles of JJ Fiend Ferris (6 for 24) and Charlie Terror Turner (4 for 22), who bowled unchanged throughout the innings and bundled the visitors out for a first-innings total of only 49. The digits were reversed when NSW batted, the innings ending at 94, Lohmann doing the damage with 5 for 26.

Turner (6 for 23) and Ferris (3 for 35) were at it again when the visitors batted a second time and were dismissed for 66, with Lohmann being the only man in double-figures with 20. NSW knocked off the winning runs without losing any wickets to win the game.

If Shrewsbury s XI were taking the field at Sydney, could Vernon s XI be far behind? NSW took on the other English team at Sydney in a timeless game. It was a satisfying batting effort from the Englishmen as they put up a first-innings total of 340. Almost everyone contributed, with Bobby Abel (88), Stoddart (55), Hawke (48) and Peel (54) scoring most of the runs. As had become the accepted norm of the times, Turner (7 for 106) took most of the wickets.

The hosts then responded with 408, with skipper Percy McDonnell scoring 112, Harry Moses 77 and Sammy Jones 60. Peel took 4 for 98.

Peel (34*) turned out to be the highest scorer for the visitors in the second innings of 106. This time Ferris captured 7 for 49. NSW knocked off the winning target with the loss of McDonnell s wicket. his match turned out to be the final curtain call for Billy The Duke Bates who suffered an eye injury at net practice at Melbourne shortly after this game and never played First-Class cricket again on account of the extensive damage that the blow had caused to his eye-sight. Given the unfortunate circumstances of his departure from the game he loved, and depressed by his misfortune, it is reported that Bates had attempted suicide.

Nine days later, Shrewsbury s XI were locking horns with NSW at Sydney as the game began on December 9. NSW were all out for 149. Moses flew the pennant for NSW with 78 not out. Smith, primarily a bowler, top-scored with 68 in a first-innings total of 279, Turner taking 7 for 117. NSW then folded up at 165, Moses again top-scoring, this time with 68. Dick Pougher, who would later gain cricketing fame by claiming 5 for 0 while playing for MCC against the 1896 Australians at Lord s, took 4 for 40. The visitors then knocked off the winning target of 36 without losing any wicket.

The next game was between Victoria and Shrewsbury s XI, a game that Victoria would have wanted to expunge from their memory at the earliest. First, they were brushed aside for 68, Joseph Preston returning figures of 16-8-16-4. Day One ended with Shrewsbury s XI on 178 for 2, Shrewsbury himself batting on 86. Shrewsbury was still very much there at stumps on Day Two, with his team on 500 for 4 and himself on 221.

The innings finally ended on 624 in 550 minutes of agony for Victoria. Shrewsbury was finally dismissed for 232. One interesting statistic from the great batsman s career is that he had repeated his highest individual score at the First-Class level, 267, twice, both times for Nottinghamshire: against Middlesex in 1887, and against Sussex in 1890. Victoria were then dismissed for an even 100, Tom Horan scoring 49*. Briggs took 4 for 32 and Smith 3 for 11. The tourists won by an innings and 456 runs, as comprehensive a victory as can be imagined.

It was then the turn of SA to take on Vernon s XI at Adelaide on Christmas Eve. Vernon s XI scored 382, Read (183) doing the bulk of the scoring. JJ Lyons (4 for 72) and the ever-reliable Giffen (5 for 163) took all wickets that fell to bowlers.

The hosts were dismissed for 143, Affie Jarvis scoring 75. Following on, SA posted 493, Charles Godfrey scoring 119 and the redoubtable Giffen 203. William Attewell picked up 4 wickets in each innings. The game ended in a draw.

Meanwhile, a match between Victoria and NSW had also begun concurrently at Melbourne. NSW decided to field, a decision that was vindicated when the hosts were shot out for 35 in just over an hour s play. In this carnage, opener John McIlwraith stood out like a beacon, scoring 20. There were 5 ducks in the innings. As always, it was Turner (5 for 17) and Ferris (4 for 17) doing the damage.

NSW then scored 102 as Hugh Trumble (7 for 52) wove his magic. The Victoria second-innings total of 266 was dominated by Billy Trumble (57) and Horan (54*). Turner (4 for 97) and Ferris (4 for 90) did the damage. Requiring 200, NSW got there with the loss of 8 wickets, Tom Garrett top-scoring with 52. Receipts for the game were reported to be 475.

The next engagement on the First-Class calendar of the season turned out to be a game between a Combined Australia XI and Vernon s XI at Melbourne beginning on the last day of the year. The visitors scored 292, Arthur Newton (77), Vernon (50), and John Rawlin (78*) getting the runs. Harry Trott picked up 4 for 78.

The Australian XI were disposed of for 136, the wickets being shared by Attewell (4 for 34), John Beaumont (3 for 52), and Peel (2 for 26). Following on, the hosts managed a measly 78. Attewell (4 for 21), Beaumont (2 for 39), and Peel (4 for 15) took all the wickets this time.

NSW then engaged Shrewsbury s XI at Sydney. The home team put on 153 with Moses scoring 58. Lohmann again proved to be a thorn in the side of the hosts with 7 for 68. When the Englishmen batted, Turner (8 for 39) and Ferris (2 for 45) ensured that the total did not go beyond 87. With a lead of less than 80, NSW put up 216. It was a bit of a one-man show, Moses doing the honours again, this time to the tune of 109 excellent runs. Lohmann s bag for the innings was 7 for 97, making it 14 for 165 in the match.

When the tourists batted again, Turner trumped Lohmann by taking 8 for 40 in a total of 129. Turner s bag for the match turned out to be 16 for 79. NSW won by 153 runs. The umpires for the match were Charles Bannerman and George Ulyett.

The return Derby match was at Sydney. Victoria scored 267, with William Bruce (55), Horan (63), and Blackham (54) scoring fifties. The hosts totted up 576 with Moses contributing 297. In the Victorian second-innings total of 274, there was only one individual fifty, Horan, with 68. Turner took 5 for 102. NSW won by an innings and 35 runs.

It was then the turn of Shrewsbury s XI to take on a Combined XI at Sydney. The Combined XI made 262, with only McDonnell (54) topping fifty. Lohmann took 5 for 83. Shrewsbury s XI took a 33-run lead, Ulyett scoring 72 and William Newham 53. George McShane took 5 for 103. The home team, however, fell flat on their faces in the second innings, being dismissed for 83, Lohmann (7 for 43) and Briggs (3 for 18) taking all the wickets. Shrewsbury s XI won the game by 5 wickets.

That paved the way for the only Test of the season, at Sydney. The Australian side was fairly representative of the available talent, although Giffen, rather surprisingly, and Horan were not among those selected. The choice for the England team was a more complicated one given the number of players already in Australia from the two touring teams. Quite obviously, a compromise had to be made and diplomacy had to be called upon.

The mantle of captaincy for the England team ultimately fell on Read, who had helped to select the members of the touring Vernon s XI. The Almanac had reported at the time that the game had been played on a ground affected by the elements. Indeed, the weather was to play a significant role in the game, the entire second and third days of the game being completely washed away. It would probably have been the appearance of the sky that had influenced home skipper McDonnell to opt for fielding after winning the toss.

Among all the Tests that have ended with a positive result, the archives show only 12 games where the run aggregate of all 4 innings to be less than 400 runs. This Test had a grand aggregate of 374, till date the second-lowest for any Test played in Australia (the lowest would later be the 234 runs in the fifth Test, Australia vs South Africa at Melbourne in 1931-32, this total of 234 runs also being the lowest match aggregate for a completed match overall till date).

As expected, batting turned out to be a difficult task under the circumstances, particularly in the face of the impeccable line, length and guile of Turner and Ferris. The experienced Shrewsbury (44 off 150 balls with 3 fours) played the anchor role. The innings lasted 100 four-ball overs and realised 113 runs. Australia used three bowlers, with Turner (50-27-44-5) and Ferris (47-25-60-4) doing the bulk of the bowling and taking all the wickets that fell to bowlers.

The weather conditions did not help the home team either and Day One ended with Australia on 35 for 8. That made it 18 wickets for the opening day of the Test. Garrett was dismissed for 10 when the game resumed on the fourth day, in the process becoming the only man in double figures in a team total of 42. George (19-13-17-5) and Peel (18.3-9-18-5) bowled unchanged, taking all the wickets. This was Australia s lowest team total in Test cricket till date.

In a low-scoring game, a lead of 71 was an unexpected bonus for the Englishmen as they began their second innings. Surrey stalwart Maurice Read (of no relation of the skipper) turned out to be star of the England second innings with his enterprising batting that contributed 39 (off 49 balls with 4 fours and a six) to the team total of 137. For the hosts, it was Messrs Turner (7 for 43) and Ferris (2 for 43) taking the wickets.

Facing a winning target of 209, the Australian team was dismissed for 82, Blackham top-scoring with 25. Lohmann and Peel captured 4 wickets each, accounting for 18 of the wickets to fall in the two innings of the host team, a point that had been emphasised by the Almanac in the match report. Well, it may be mentioned here that Turner and Ferris had also captured 18 wickets between them in the Test. The final verdict was a victory for England by a margin of 126 runs.

Sydney was the venue for the next game of the season, between NSW and Vernon s XI. There was an element of pathos in the game as one Grand Old Man of Australian cricket, Charles Bannerman, played his last First-Class match and bowed out with scores of 6 and 0. There was also an element of the unusual in the game as the match report states that although the two designated umpires had been David Ogilvy of NSW and James Phillips of Victoria, Jack Blackham and WB Fairfax are shown to have deputised as umpires in the game for reasons unspecified. The tourists won the game by 8 wickets. The standout performance of the match was a 119 from Walter Read.

Adelaide hosted the next match of the season, SA taking on Victoria. This match is remembered for the all-round skills of Giffen more than anything else. He first took 8 for 65 in the Victoria first-innings total of 168. When SA batted, their total of 407 was built around a commanding 166 from Giffen (Harry Trott took 7 for 216).

Giffen then destroyed Victoria again, taking 6 for 60 in an innings total of 126. SA won by an innings and 113 runs. Perhaps a word on the all-round performances of George Giffen in First-Class cricket would not be out of place here. Here are the instances of his not only scoring a century but also picking up 5 or more wickets in both innings of the same game:

Bat 1 Bat 2 Bowl 1 Bowl 2 Against Venue Season
166   8/65 6/60 Victoria Adelaide 1887-88
135 19 6/82 7/77 Victoria Melbourne 1888-89
237   5/89 7/103 Victoria Melbourne 1890-91
271   9/96 7/70 Victoria Adelaide 1891-92
120   7/122 5/28 NSW Sydney 1891-92

Shrewsbury s XI played a timeless match against a Combined XI at Sydney. Shrewsbury scored 51 in a total of 173. Turner took 5 for 64. The Australian XI replied with 75. Lohmann (4 for 30) and Briggs (6 for 40) bowled unchanged. Following on, the hosts were dismissed for 56. This time, Lohmann and Briggs took 5 wickets each and again bowled unchanged through the innings. The visitors won by an innings and 42 runs.

The action shifted to Melbourne, with a Combined Australian XI facing Vernon s XI. The tourists scored 221, Newton scoring 54. Turner and Ferris took 4 wickets each, Harry Boyle chipping in with the other 2. The hosts finished only 2 behind, Horan scoring 67. Attewell took 5 for 33. Vernon s XI made 117 in the 2nd innings, Turner (7 for 48) and Ferris (2 for 47), as usual, doing the damage. The joy would have been short-lived for the hosts, however, as they were all out for 32, Attewell (7 for 15) and Peel (3 for 17) sealing a victory.

The penultimate match of the season was between a Combined Australian XI and Shrewsbury s XI at Sydney. Smith batted first and top-scored with 59 out of total of 212. Turner (7 for 72) and Ferris (2 for 59) kept the opposition total to a manageable limit. In the home team s total of 190, there was an outstanding 97 from Blackham. Lohmann and Joseph Preston took 4 wickets each.

Shrewsbury s XI then posted a solid 402, with Shrewsbury himself scoring 206. Turner took 4 for 135. The home team did score 266 Jones remaining not out on 134, but Lohmann was at his usual job of taking wickets, finishing on 4 for 70 to help the Englishmen win by 158 runs.

This may be a good moment to review the bowling performances of Turner for the season. The archives inform us that Turner had played 12 First-Class games in the season, picking up 106 wickets at average of 13.59. This included 13 instances of 5 or more wickets in an innings and 5 of 10 or more wickets in the match. His best bowling performance in the season was 8 for 39. In the history of Australian domestic cricket, Charlie Turner remains the only bowler to take 100 wickets in a single season.

While the above-mentioned game was going on at Sydney, the last engagement of the season was being played out at Melbourne with Victoria crossing swords with Vernon s XI. The visitors scored 130. The brothers Trumble, Billy (4 for 47) and Hugh (3 for 55), took most of the wickets. Attewell (6 for 30) and Peel (3 for 28) then dismissed Victoria for 81.

Walter Read scored a robust 142* in a second-innings total of 368, the only other man with a fifty being Stoddart with 75. Jack Worrall had 5 for 33. Attewell (5 for 28) then helped to dismiss Victoria for 135 to win the game for the Englishmen by a healthy 282 runs.

With the season having ended at last, it was time for the two groups of English visitors to take stock of their financial situations and to head back home. It is reported that Shrewsbury s team made a heavy financial loss on the tour, estimated to be about 2,400. It is said that Lillywhite had proved to be quite reluctant to shoulder his share of the heavy loss. It may be remembered that Alfred Shaw had remained behind in England, and he is supposed to have lamented; so ended our Australian cricket tours. At the finish we were much worse off financially than when we had begun.

Shrewsbury and Stoddart hit upon the idea of promoting the first ever overseas Rugby Union team to Australia and New Zealand in 1888 in an effort to offset some of the losses.

Shrewsbury s team left for New Zealand on the Hauroto on March 17, and later left Lyttelton Harbour, Christchurch, on the Coptic on March 31 for the voyage back to England, docking at Plymouth on the morning of May 12, having spent 238 days away from the Mother Country.

The financial loss for Vernon s team was estimated to be about 3,382, largely due to the presence of the other group of Englishmen in Australia at the same time. Melbourne CC had to bear the heavy loss of the venture. It proved to be a salutary lesson for them and they refrained from inviting any English team to Australia for the next four years. It was only because Lord Sheffield had himself borne the expenditure that the next English team toured Australia in 1891-92.

The Melbourne CC gave the team a farewell dinner on Tuesday, March 13, following which the majority of the group boarded the Orient Line steamer Austral from Melbourne, setting sail on March 17, and reaching Plymouth on April 27, having spent 225 days away from England.

This is what Steven Lynch, in his Wisden on the Ashes: The Authoritative Story of Cricket s Greatest Rivalry, had to say about it all: Two English teams visited Australia in the season of 1887-88, but it is certain that such a piece of folly will never be perpetrated again.