George Moore : Canny slow bowler – photographed at the age of 55, 14 years after the match
George Moore : Canny slow bowler – photographed at the age of 55, 14 years after the match

February 15, 1862. It was an epochal day in the history of Australian cricket as the combined New South Wales and Victoria XXII beat the visiting Englishmen led by HH Stephenson. Arunabha Sengupta looks back at the landmark match and also traces the life and career of the hero of the hour, George Moore. This obscure cricketer was the grandfather of one of the greatest batsmen of Australia.

The ‘test match’ of the tour

February 13, 1862.

As the day wore on, crowds gathered in great numbers. After all, this was billed as a great match. In retrospect, many consider this to have been the ‘test match’ of that pioneering tour.

The morning showers had been a dampener, but people did flock in as the hour of commencement drew near. There were soon 10,000 of them milling about, including the Governor of Sydney. They amused themselves in the sideshows set up in stalls around the ground, featuring the ‘Female Prodigy’, ‘the oleaginous Australian youth who announces his levees’, and an elaborate magic show orchestrated with mirrors. The bands played incessantly and the scorecard vendors screamed about selling their wares.

Heathfield Herman Stephenson and his men, the celebrated Eleven of England, had landed in the colonies a month and a half earlier. Eager to welcome them had been the duo Felix Spiers and Christopher Pond, the two businessmen who had arranged the cricket tour as a hasty replacement after Charles Dickens had refused to embark on a proposed reading trip. The welcome had been extraordinary, with the streets packed with people, men swishing their hats, women waving their handkerchiefs. Melbourne Herald had gone as far as to say that there had been no such welcome since the Athenians arrived in Corinth.

The Englishmen had travelled around, playing at Melbourne, Beechworth, Geelong, Sydney, Bathurst, and now they were back in Sydney.

At the start of the tour, still suffering from sea legs, they had requested to play 18 men of Victoria rather than the usual 22. They had triumphed by an innings and 96 runs. Since then they had taken on 22-men sides. Barring two draws, one due to a furious storm and the other caused by the loss of a day’s play to weather, they had won everything.

But the combined XXII of Victoria and New South Wales had held them to a draw at MCG. The first day’s play had been washed out by rain, but the local team had obtained a 42-run first-innings lead. Stephenson had unleashed his twisters in the second innings, picking up 7 for 23, but they had been left to score 187 in half an hour. The draw had been rather unsatisfactory for the mighty team.

So, the return match, played at the Outer Domain, Sydney, was certain to be keenly contested. Stephenson and his men eagerly wanted to win. Excitement had grown over the past few days.

However, the previous night had been a tense one for Spiers and Pond. The Rangataria, bearing the Australian cricketers from Victoria, had refused to show up. The organisers had anxiously waited late into the night, even trying to coax the harbour authorities to commission a search vessel. Then, in the wee hours of the morning that the ship had finally arrived, battered after a rough passage of four and a half days. The cricketers had been rushed to their Pitt Street Hotel, to snatch a few hours of sleep before the match commenced at noon.

HH Stephenson: Captain oft he first England team in Australia © Getty Images
HH Stephenson: Captain oft he first England team in Australia © Getty Images

The collapse

The match commenced at 12.30. The combined team was led by none other than George Gilbert, captain of New South Wales, former Middlesex cricketer, and cousin of the Graces of Gloucestershire. Stephenson won the spin of the coin and elected to bat.

The umpires, PC Curtis and the old Surrey cricketer William Mudie, took their positions. Kent’s George Bennett and Yorkshireman Roger Iddison opened the innings for the tourists. For the combined team, Gilbert started the bowling. From the other end ran in the 41-year-old round arm slow bowler George Moore.

Gilbert and Moore had troubled the English batsmen when they had played for the New South Wales XXII two weeks earlier. Brought on surprisingly late by his captain, Moore had whisked out 3 men in the first innings. Gilbert had taken 3 as well. In the second, the two had opened the bowling and taken 4 each, ending the English innings for 66. The visitors had still triumphed by 49 runs.

Today, Iddison and Bennett started cautiously. They were in no mood to give their wickets away again. For the first few minutes, the match proceeded according to expectations. Both the openers were dropped in the deep. Runs were scored at a steady pace.

And then, with the score on 21, Iddison played forward to Gilbert and missed. Nat Thomson, who was to play the two inaugural Test matches of 1877, whipped off the bails. The first wicket was down.

The dam was broken. After that it was a series of sensational events. Sam Cosstick whipped in a return to Gilbert to get rid of Bennett. Catches went down, even the superb Ned Gregory, the pioneer of the great cricketing family, dropped one. But, wickets kept tumbling.

Moore got on to the scorebooks by snaring William Mortlock of Surrey. The left-handed George Griffith and the great William Caffyn tried to rally things around with a fighting stand of 15. But Griffith lofted Gilbert and this time Gregory made no mistake in the deep. At the same score, Caffyn failed to beat a throw by Gilbert.

The rest fell away fast. Ned Stephenson was stumped off Gilbert. The captain got George Wells too, Moore bringing off a running one-handed catch. Finally, Moore ended the innings quickly. He got captain Stephenson caught at long-off, Thomas Sewell taken by Gregory at straight hit out field, and finally Thomas Hearne of another supreme cricketing family was caught at point. All England were all out for a mere 60. Both Gilbert and Moore had captured 4 wickets each.

Match in progress: ST Gill’s watercolour of the first big match at Sydney between the New South Wales XXII and the English visitors. The match between the Combined XXII and Stephenson’s men was held in the same venue
Match in progress: ST Gill’s watercolour of the first big match at Sydney between the New South Wales XXII and the English visitors. The match between the Combined XXII and Stephenson’s men was held in the same venue

A matter of honour

The eleven morose Englishmen took the field at four in the afternoon. Honour was at stake. They knew that this was the strongest team they would face in the whole tour, the best of two colonies. They needed wickets, quick ones. And many of them. There were 22 to bat, and hence 21 wickets to be captured.

By the end of the day, they got 12 of them. But, by then the combined team were ahead by 21 runs.

Caffyn had missed a skier at long-on, and the 50 was up with just four men out. But he had made amends by bowling the talented John Louis Kettle and holding a fantastic return catch off Thomson. But, before that Thomson had struck the boundary that had levelled the scores with six wickets down.

Cosstick had then hit Caffyn into the Parliamentary tent to bring up the 70 of the team, but the wily cricketer had got him caught by Iddison in the long field. By the end of the day, with nine wickets in hand, the Victoria and New South Wales XXII were on top.

The following morning play started at 11.30. Charles Lawrence and Caffyn, the two round-arm exponents, kept pegging away at the wickets, but the rest of the batsmen managed to add 20 more. Caffyn ended with 7 for 36, Lawrence 9 for 36, but the combined team led by 41.

Moore and the second collapse

Was it because of his splendid bowling? Perhaps. Stephenson asked Lawrence to open the innings with Bennett. But, he was quickly induced into a faulty stroke by Moore. Gilbert snared Bennett, and then there was the huge blow. The wily old Moore, wheeling in, got Caffyn to play a rash stroke. The Englishmen were 11 for 3.

Moore had been born on April 8, 1820, at Ampthill in Bedfordshire. Like his father and grandfather, he had played his first cricket on the village green.

For some reason, this gifted bowler never played First-Class cricket in England. He had worked as an apprentice pastry cook, and had been happily married to a brown-eyed beauty, the daughter of a Bank of England employee. His cricket had been limited to Ampthill’s village green.

In 1852, Moore and his wife Jane had emigrated to Australia. They had set up a baker’s shop specialising in confectionary, at West Maitland in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales. They lived in a wooden cottage they had built themselves. It was at Horseshoe Bend, very near the shop they had set up. He had always walked to the store. Later, as business flourished, he rode a horse, but only sometimes. The horse was more for Jane’s use.

Moore was also a prominent member of the Congregational Church and taught in the Sunday School. Eventually, he was named a life deacon of the church. In 1856, he was blessed with his first born, a daughter named Mary Ann. Somehow, he still found time for cricket.

On this day, he bowled unchanged in the second innings. Mortlock and Griffith steadied the innings with a stand of 35, but Moore got both. He accounted for Stephenson and Iddison as well. John Conway, who would later play a leading role in arranging the first tours of Australia to England, bowled Wells and Sewell was run out. The rest were all caught, with Gilbert doing a splendid job in setting the field with 20 fielders at his disposal.

The Eleven were 68 for 5 at one point, with Griffith and Iddison at the crease. A sizable lead still seemed possible. But Moore induced Griffith to hit out and Gregory brought off another catch at the boundary. Iddison was snared by the wily bowler as well. The end hastened with another unusual collapse. The visitors were all out for 75.

An epochal win

Moore had bowling figures of 6 wickets for 39 from 30.2 four-ball overs. That made it 10 for 61 in the match. The stumps were drawn at 5.40 with the last England wicket going down. The United team needed just 35 on the morrow.

The following morning Stephenson opened the following day with Caffyn and Sewell, his two sharpest bowlers. Gilbert, opening the innings, was bowled by Caffyn for 2. His partner, Thomson, was caught at the wicket by Ned Stephenson for 1. John Huddleston drove one back and Caffyn clutched on as if his life depended on it. It was 11 for 3. The Englishmen were bowling their hearts out and fielding with extraordinary keenness.

But, 21 wickets are quite a lot. Cosstick connected a couple of hits. Kettle scored just 2, but stuck around for a while. The fourth wicket stand amounted to 13 before Caffyn knocked over Kettle’s stumps.

At 27, Sewell bowled Cosstick for the most valuable contribution of 9, the highest score of the innings. Three more wickets went down at the same score, the two bowlers breathing fire, the score reduced to 27 for 8. But Alfred Park, the man who had top-scored in the first innings with 20, had been wisely held back by Gilbert. Coming in at No. 9, he stood resolutely at one end. Conway and he took the score to 32 before Sewell dismissed the former to make it 9-down. Finally, James Brodie and Park scrambled the remaining 3 runs. The 22 of Victoria and New South Wales had won by 12 wickets

It was a splendid milestone in Australian cricket history, their first ever win over a representative England side. The Sydney Morning Herald proclaimed, “A new cricketing era has doubtless commenced throughout this and the sister colony of Victoria, and the prevalent mania will probably rage with greater or less violence for some time to come. From this date cricket becomes the leading pastime of Australia.”

As David Frith wrote in his story of the tour, The Trailblazers, “The prevalent mania still rages.”

There was a lot of speculation about whether the excessive travelling had affected the performance of the England team. There were one or two rather baseless accusations of throwing the match because of bets being placed, but they were shown to be unfounded. Besides, Stephenson was the most upright of characters and it is hard to imagine him being a party to any such dubious dealings.

The Englishmen took the defeat well, ‘in the most kindly manner’. That evening they attended a performance of Rip Van Winkle and Mazappa, a burlesque, held for them at the Victoria Theatre. Present for the event were the Governor of Sydney, the Mayor and a swarm of other celebrities. Stephenson read a gracious farewell address to the people of Sydney.

HH Stephenson’s party all set to sail for Australia: Back row: Bennett, Mudie, Caffyn, HH Stephenson, Griffith, Mallam, Iddison, Hearne, E Stephenson. Front: Lawrence, Mortlock, Sewell
HH Stephenson’s party all set to sail for Australia: Back row: Bennett, Mudie, Caffyn, HH Stephenson, Griffith, Mallam, Iddison, Hearne, E Stephenson. Front: Lawrence, Mortlock, Sewell

The Heroic Lineage

We return to the hero of the match, George Moore.

Two years down the line, another English team visited the shores, this time led by Nottinghamshire’s George Parr. A New South Wales side of 22 played them and were beaten by 5 wickets. Moore excelled in this match as well, picking up 4 for 66 and 1 for 9.

However, these matches were not given First-Class status. It was only in 1871 that Moore got to make his First-Class debut.  He was nearly 51 at that time when he turned out for New South Wales against Victoria. He opened the bowling with Dave Gregory, the first Australian Test captain, and picked up 5 wickets in the game.

He played again in 1872, and thereafter in 1873, each time for New South Wales against Victoria, taking 15 wickets in his three First-Class games at 12.20, 6 for 56 in 1872 being his best figures. After that he played no more serious cricket.

He did later bowl to a Test cricketer though, and one of the greatest batsmen of Australian cricket at that. He bowled to him with little green apples from his orchard, while the batsman defended with great focus and determination, with a red cedar-wood bat handcrafted by Moore himself. “He could play the round ones,” Moore recalled much later, “But when I sent them down with an off-break, they bothered him. I’m thinking they wouldn’t bother [him] now.”

You see, Moore’s daughter Mary Ann, whom we had seen as a new born in 1856, got married in 1882, a month and a bit after that epochal Test at The Oval giving rise to the lore of The Ashes. Her husband was three years her junior, a St Kilda man of Scottish lineage, by the name of Joseph Belton Macartney.

Charlie Macartney was the second of their children, born on June 27, 1886. As a boy, he batted with that little cedar-wood bat, with his grandfather bowling with the small green apples.

George Moore lived to a ripe old age of 96. That was not enough to learn about his grandson’s feats of emulating Victor Trumper with a century before lunch, or his 300 in three-and-a-half hours against Nottinghamshire. But Moore did hear of his bowling Australia to a win at Headingley with 11 wickets. He was also in town when Macartney cracked 137 against Aubrey Faulkner, Charlie Llewellyn and Reggie Schwarz in the Sydney Test of 1911.

Brief scores:

All England XI 60 (George Gilbert 4 for 38, George Moore 4 for 22) and 75 (George Griffith 38; George Moore 6 for 39) lost to New South Wales and Victoria XXII 101 (Charles Lawrence 9 for 36, William Caffyn 7 for 36) and 35 for 9 (William Caffyn 6 for 16) by 12 wickets.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history of cricket, with occasional statistical pieces and reflections on the modern game. He is also the author of four novels, the most recent being Sherlock Holmes and the Birth of The Ashes. He tweets here.)