Joe Darling (left; Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons) and Stanley Jackson © Getty Images
Joe Darling (left; Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons) and Stanley Jackson © Getty Images

Joe Darling challenged Stanley Jackson to wrestle with him on September 7, 1905. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at an extreme example taken by a man to bat first.

Stanley Jackson and Joe Darling, the opposition captains of the 1905 Ashes, were born on the same day — August 21, 1870. It remains the only case where both captains in a Test series were born on the same day.

Despite their common birth date, their fortunes took different turns in 1905. Jackson won all 5 tosses, batted first all 5 times (he became the first to do so in a 5-Test series), and won the Ashes 2-0 with easy victories at Trent Bridge and Old Trafford.

Even in the 3 Tests Australia managed to draw they trailed by 101 at Lord’s, were 7 down when stumps were drawn at Headingley, and were 124 for 4 at close at The Oval. All in all, it was a series completely dominated by England, and it won’t be unfair to claim that the toss played a crucial role in the series.

So much for astrology and horoscopes. Things possibly work different ways on different sides of the Equator even for two people born on the same day. Maybe it has got something to do with the Ferrel’s Law or the Coriolis’ Force.

Darling was not in the happiest of moods when the tourists reached the fag end of the tour. As it was almost always the case, the Scarborough festival match was played in a festive mood. It used to be more of a carnival and less of a keenly contested, ruthless match.

One really cannot blame Darling’s sour mood when he reached Scarborough to play Charles Thornton’s XI and found out that the opposition captain was none other Jackson. He was not amused to say the least, and was determined to bat first. The son of a respected member of the Legislative Council of South Australia decided to cross the barriers of the revered laws of the sport.

Darling wrapped a towel around his waist and made his way to the home side’s dressing-room. On arrival he sought out Jackson and told him “I’m not going to risk the toss this time except by wrestling.” Yes, he insisted Jackson really came out for a wrestling duel instead of a toss to decide who would bat first.

Jackson was perhaps amused, but decided to play Darling at his own game. He agreed to Darling’s wrestling bout — but only one on the condition that the sturdy, burly Hirst would represent Thornton’s XI in the duel. Darling cast a look at Hirst’s imposing, weather-beaten frame and backed out.

Darling and Jackson eventually walked out to toss. Darling tossed the coin in the air, Jackson called, and did not bother to look at the coin afterwards. “We’ll bat” were the only words he uttered. A distraught Darling found out that he had indeed lost the battle of the coin again.

A fuming Darling’s only way to take revenge was to win the match. They had a good start with ‘Tibby’ Cotter and Frank Laver reducing the hosts to 120 for 7. However, Jackson played a gem and eventually finished on 123 (nobody else crossed 24) to take the side to 282. Cotter finished with 4 wickets and Laver with 3.

Darling himself began aggressively before falling for 31; the Australians were reduced to 54 for 3 but Clem Hill led a fightback, adding 98 with Warwick Armstrong for the fourth wicket and 101 more with Laver for the eighth. He eventually fell for 181 as the tourists secured a 110-run lead. Hirst claimed 4 scalps while googly man Bernard Bosanquet had 3.

Having a full day to bat out, Thornton’s XI were 176 for 5 when play was called off; Armstrong got 3 crucial wickets but Reggie Spooner countered a potential collapse. Wickets kept falling till Jackson arrived at the crease. His 31 not out played an important role in saving the match.

What followed?

Other captains who have won all 5 tosses in a series are Monty Noble, ‘Nummy’ Deane, John Goddard, Lindsay Hassett, Colin Cowdrey, Tiger Pataudi, Garry Sobers (twice), and Mark Taylor.

Brief scores:

CI Thornton’s XI 282 (Stanley Jackson 123; Tibby Cotter 4 for 107, Frank Laver 3 for 36) and 176 for 5 (Reggie Spooner 59; Warwick Armstrong 3 for 20) drew with Australians 392 (Clem Hill 181, Warwick Armstrong 48, Frank Laver 43; George Hirst 4 for 70, Bernard Bosanquet 3 for 82).

(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and can be followed @ovshake42)