The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 9 (December 1, 1934)
The Battlefields of Sport — The Making of the Ashes
Like a field of mushrooms the umbrellas spread above the 20,000 watchers at the Oval. There had been a downpour at 10 o'clock, but it was clearing now and an exciting finish to the match was in prospect. England were still 38 runs ahead after that curious first day; they would win, surely, with Grace in form (though he had made a mere four runs yesterday), with Barlow bowling deadly stuff. But the Australians had their giants, too, that man Blackham who made runs even when all the others failed; Murdoch, of the wall-like bat; Giffen, whom these men from far away called “Our Grace.” And there was that ominous record of success throughout the tour, only three matches lost in the twenty-nine played, with “the demon” Spofforth pitching every ball just where he wanted it and with a giant appetite for wickets.
Yet England would win. Even though Spofforth had taken seven wickets for 46 yesterday, Barlow had bettered that with an average of five wickets for less than four runs apiece. He had bowled twenty-five maidens in thirty-one overs and this against a team which included a man who had hit three sixes and a four off successive balls sent down to him by Lucas at Scarborough, and another who had made a double century at Oxford—five times the score that the rest of his side was able to put together. Well, this was the fateful innings. And there went Bannerman and Massie in to bat.
It was evident at first that the wicket was easy. The deficit of 38 runs was gone in the first hour. Massie, the man who could score with a stroke to any part of the field, was fifty-five now, but at last he made a mistake and Australia's great opening run ended at last. The total score is sixty-six, three runs more than the whole team made yesterday, and the promise of the tour is being borne out. They will be hard to beat, these Australians. This first test match is providing a measuring rod for English cricket, and it is not as far ahead of the men from far away as everyone had thought. But Peate is in deadly form, and from the way Bannerman and Bonner are shaping it is obvious that the wicket is giving the batsmen greater difficulty. That summer sun, in all its English heat, is dragging up the moisture from this level turf. The ball is doing strange things, shooting and swerving. Ah! fourth ball and there goes Bonner's middle stump. Bannerman is tied up now and will fail before long. He has made thirteen, it will be unlucky for him. It is! He fails to a swift, low one, and what looks like a collapse has begun.
Now it is Grace's turn. Murdoch and Horan are the next men, Murdoch the man to check the attack at a moment like this; Horan, the reliable. Blackham is to come, too, for he can stop anything; Blackham, the great wicket-keeper, of such a splendid eye that (imagine it!) he needs no long stop to cover his errors. But Peate is bowling again, and they cannot handle him. The ball is beating them, they must do better or leave it alone. There goes Horan, not so reliable after all, a perfect catch by Grace at point. And there goes Giffen on the next ball, the same way! Five for seventy-nine; five wickets for thirteen runs! What a change of fortune!
Jones has come in to replace Blackham and the score is moving up again. Jones has reached six now and Murdoch is facing the bowling. He has hit it to short-leg, and there goes Lyttelton in pursuit with Grace moving in from point to cover the stumps. They have run their single and Jones has gone out to pat the turf. But Grace is waving to Lyttelton, who returns the ball and the doctor raps it against the wicket. “Out!”
The Australians are dumbfounded. “Cricket, but dirty,” says one of them. “The sort of thing that happens when tinkers play tailors,” says another. (Later, Hornby, the greatest of English captains will say to Murdoch: “I never thought one of my side would have done it.”)
It is all over now, with the last batsman gone. Spofforth leaves the crease without scoring a run; Garrett, the change bowler, makes two, and Murdoch tries to force the pace so that the runs may come before it is too late. He will overdo it, of course, and he does—run out by a smart return. The Australians have not made a big score after all—122 after that beginning which gave them sixty for no wickets—and England has to make only eighty-five to win.
Studd is next. He has already made one century against the Australians, but as he comes out it is seen that he is so excited that he has put on a pad upside down. Someone calls out, “You'll get a duck,” and he does not even hit the ball before he is back again; such is the odd turn of fate. At seventy-five Lucas plays Spofforth's shooting delivery on to the wicket, and the last batsman is gone, save Barnes. He comes in—with a season's average of eighty—at ninth wicket. That is how strong this English team has been. The first ball he cuts hard to point and Murdoch's hands stiffen for the catch. Nine for seventy-five. Peate is last. He is no bat, but only nine runs are wanted, and last week he made 145 for last wicket. He pulls the first ball round to leg to score two. But he misses the next entirely and the third ball clean bowls him. Studd is unbeaten, but he has got his duck all right, and Australia has won by seven runs. Garrett, in the slips, kneels down and kisses the turf, the team's manager rushes out, incoherent with excitement; Blackham hurriedly pockets the ball, and at the side bar a moment later “W.G.” booms, “I left seven men to get thirty-two runs, and I'm damned if they could get them!”
In the evening Murdoch will offer Blackham £5 for the ball, and Blackham will say “No thanks, that ball's an Australian heirloom,” and in the sporting press there will appear the funeral notice:
“Sacred to the Memory of English Cricket. It's end was Peate.”