The 1883 Surrey team © Getty Images
The 1883 Surrey team © Getty Images

September 2, 1878. Surrey’s Ted Barratt ran through the touring Australians with 10 for 43. He was rightfully hailed by all and sundry. Monetary contributions were arranged for. The match panned out to a gripping finish. And amidst all that, they cheated Barratt, as Abhishek Mukherjee narrates.

Ted Barratt was not an outstanding bowler. He bowled left-arm round-arm, moved the ball mainly away from the right-hander. He bowled to a steady line and length and varied pace, but men equipped with footwork (like EM and WG Grace) always dominated him.

Even then, 790 wickets at 17.54 make impressive reading (add a couple of notches to that average for the era). He raised his bar particularly against the Australians: his 8 matches against them fetched 51 wickets in all, at 16.15. This included the 4 matches in 1878, from which he got 37 wickets, no less, at 9.35.

Yes, Barratt was in ominous form that season. For Surrey he wrecked the tourists with 8 for 58 and 3 for 35. For Orleans Club, Twickenham, he took 5 for 71 and 7 for 70. He was up against them yet again at The Oval, this time for the Players (professionals).

The Australians had started the 1878 tour with an innings defeat against Nottinghamshire. Then they beat MCC at Lord’s, a match that definitely played a crucial role in the development of England-Australia cricket matches (in other words, Test cricket).

Fred Spofforth was already a star by the time the match had started. He would finish the tour with 97 First-Class wickets at 11.01, while Harry Boyle’s 51 would come at 9.47. The professional batsmen would not get it easy.

However, they had their own bowlers as well. The Australians were skittled out for 77 after James Lillywhite Jr put them in. Amazingly, Charles Bannerman got 51 out of these, but only three others got off the mark.

Barratt bowled the first over and the last — in fact, he bowled unchanged — for 29 four-ball overs; his figures read 10 for 43. Interestingly, these included seven catches and three stumpings.

This was in complete accordance with WG’s assessment of Barratt that his wickets were usually “owing to the eagerness of the batsman, who could not resist the temptation to hit out at everything off the wicket.”

This was obviously Barratt’s greatest performance. No Englishman would take all 10 wickets in an innings against a touring Australian side till 1956 — when Jim Laker did it twice.

Everyone was elated, and rightly so. The Australians had grown in stature as they travelled through the country. To take all 10 wickets in an innings against them was no mean feat. Even the Australians were impressed: they got the ball mounted in silver and gifted it to Barratt, along with a Ł5 note (about Ł540 by today’s standards, as per Kate Morley).

Three men, presumably approved by Surrey County Cricket Club, walked through the crowd, asking for contributions towards a collection for Barratt. For the uninitiated, this was a common practice those days, though it was more popular in league cricket if a professional performed brilliantly.

The grateful public donated handsomely for their hero — or so they thought. Barratt never got a single penny of it. The men, as Cecil Parkin would later write in The Canberra Times, “were actually members of a clever gang of light-fingered gentry, and managed to decamp with the whole amount without anybody suspecting their bona-fides.”

Poor Barratt returned home empty-handed — barring that five-pound bill, that is. He would finish the season with 135 wickets at 14.04. Only four people got more wickets.

What happened to the match?

The Players set off well, reaching 59 for 2 before losing 7 wickets for 5 runs. This included 6 ducks from positions 5 to 10, Barratt included. Then somehow they secured a 5-run lead despite Spofforth’s 7 for 37.

The Australians collapsed too, this time from 45 for no loss to 82. William McIntyre got 6 for 24. Chasing 85, the Players were then bowled out for 76 (isn’t the resemblance to 1882 Test an eerie one?), Spofforth taking 5 for 38.

Brief scores:

Australians 77 (Charles Bannerman 51; Ted Barratt 10 for 43) and 89 (William McIntyre 6 for 24, Dick Barlow 3 for 29) beat Players 82 (Fred Spofforth 7 for 37) and 76 (Fred Spofforth 5 for 38) by 8 runs.