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Was It All Cricket?

Chapter 30 — Second Cricket Tour of Australia

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Chapter 30
Second Cricket Tour of Australia

It was now six years since the inception of Plunket Shield matches, yet competition remained as keen as ever and public interest as great.

The New Zealand Cricket Council's decision to send a second team to tour Australia added enormously to the intensity of individual effort during the season 1912–13, for the touring side was to be selected on the form of that year's cricket. As was the case with the 1899 team, we were faced with the disappointment of a number of our best players not being available: Harold Lusk, younger brother of Hugh, had been in rare form the previous season, but had gone to Rugby in an exchange of masters between that great school and Christ's College of Christchurch; Arthur Sims was away on a business trip to England; and David Collins, just back from Cambridge, became ill and was unable to go. There is irony in the fact that C. V. Grimmett was a member of the Wellington provincial team when the selection was made. It has been said that the selectors made a mistake in overlooking his claims. Sandman was the acknowledged leg-break bowler of New Zealand, and no one, not even the Wellington selector, urged Grimmett's claims. I had not seen him play, but what I should have taken more notice of was Harry Trott's remark to me the previous season, when he said, “There's a lad named Grimmett in the Wellington team who's going to make a good player.” However, it is obvious that Trott was referring to his batting, for young Grimmett made scores of 19 and 29, but took only one wicket in the match against South Melbourne. As Grimmett made 25 and 28 in his next match, against Auckland, it is clear his first promise was as a batsman.

Canterbury provided seven of the fourteen players selected; it is indicative of the relative strength of Canterbury cricket at that time when it is stated that with so many players away the province withstood challenges from Auckland, Wellington and Otago. Two splendid young all-rounders in N. C. Snedden of Auckland and R. G. Hickmott of Christchurch, both playing page 390 for New Zealand for the first time, were on our side. We also had a young fast bowler in Robinson, the fastest bowler New Zealand had so far produced. Altogether it was a representative side.

I had urged the Cricket Council to give us a few days' practice on the hard wickets of Australia before beginning match play. My experience had been that it was more difficult for young batsmen to come off the wickets of England and New Zealand to the faster wickets of Australia, than for Australians playing away from their own country; English touring teams of last century always had a week's practice at Adelaide. We were ready to sail when a maritime strike occurred in New Zealand. Our boat was delayed and we arrived in Sydney with only one day left for practice. In the afternoon it rained and we left for Maitland that night without having had the practice considered so necessary.

At a civic reception, the Mayor of Maitland proceeded to laud New Zealand football, but almost apologized for our cricket; we responded by giving this strong country district team a good hiding, and won by 303 runs. All our batsmen made runs, but Hickmott and Sandman were brilliant; Sandman took eight for 28 in the second innings. Rain had made the pace of the pitch more like a New Zealand wicket.

Going on by rail to Glen Innis, we met another combined country district team. Again we were too strong for this class of cricket and won by an innings. I remember how troublesome the flies were on the field of play; Hemus made us laugh by fielding with a woman's veil pinned to the rim of his white hat.

Our next match was at Brisbane against Queensland. It was good to meet some of the old players who had visited New Zealand sixteen years earlier. We anticipated that Queensland would be a team about our own weight and expected a keen match: it was a keen match all right! Heavy rain had made the wicket soft and on winning the toss the Queensland captain made us bat first. It was soon evident we were in for a rough time; Ironmonger, the left-hander, was making his first appearance; Barstow was the other bowler. I had not seen a really bad Australian wicket since my days with the Melbourne Club. The bowlers not only broke back quickly, but often kicked high—one ball from Ironmonger flew straight to first page 391 slip. There was only one thing to do; we all had a “dip.” Wickets fell regularly and our total of 89 seemed paltry, but “it micht ha' bin waur,” as the Scotsman once said. Had Ironmonger been endowed with the head-piece of a Giffen or a Trumble, we would not have made half that number; instead, he bowled as Saunders had bowled against us at Christchurch when the wicket was taking the spin—pitching on the off-stump and breaking away was no good on this wicket; to be satisfied with beating the batsmen was not getting full value. I remembered old George Giffen's sage remark: “Any bowler can get wickets when the pitch is damaged; it is who can get them the cheapest….”

The pitch had improved by the time Queensland batted, but it was still a bowlers' wicket. I was determined not to make the same mistake as Ironmonger, and plugged away at the leg stump. I had clean bowled the first two batsmen and had a third caught at forward short-leg before Marshall got someone to stay with him. Alan Marshall, not long back from England where he had phenomenal success with London County when that county side dropped back to club matches, showed rare skill on this wicket, but just when they appeared to be making too many runs for our liking I bowled him. It had been a ding-dong go between us, but as he had scored 42 it cannot be said that he lost the contest. Evans slogged to some purpose, but this was their last spasm, for on this wicket the tail-enders had no chance and the innings closed for 124. “Not so bad,” we thought, for they still had fourth use of the wicket. Reese took seven for 53 and Bennett three for 40. But for Marshall we would have had remarkable figures.

We had a good laugh going home in the tram that night. Changed into our ordinary clothes, no one knew we were members of the New Zealand side. A group of rugged Queenslanders of the artisan class, who had obviously had a drink at the hotel opposite, got into the tram and sat behind us. Presently one said in a loud voice, “By Jove, that ‘boogger’ Reese knows how to bowl!” What terms of endearment one hears in Australia, although he really sounded like a Geordie!

In our second innings we got a jolt when Snedden was out before a run had been scored, but Tuckwell stayed with Hemus until 60 was passed, when they were both out; two more wickets fell and we were again in trouble. Patrick then page 392 played finely, but it was our tail-enders who won back a chance of victory; five for 70 jumped to all out for 161; our bowler-batsmen took the long handle and brought joy into our camp. Barstow again took five wickets; I was greatly impressed with his bowling.

Left 127 to win, the Queenslanders entered upon their task in light-hearted fashion, for the wicket was now faster, though still showing the effects of the damage done when it was soft. Their complacency soon changed to anxiety when Robinson bowled the first batsman before he had scored and I clean bowled the next two! The score-board now read three wickets for 7 runs. From then on it was an intense struggle; our bowling and fielding nailed them down to a defensive game. As in the first innings, Prout stayed with Marshall and the tide appeared to be turning in their favour. The score was past 40 when Sandman relieved me and at once bowled Prout. Now it was Marshall on one side and Sandman on the other. Another wicket fell, then another and another, but Marshall kept taking toll. How we fought him! How he fought back! He manœuvred for the strike … we closed in to prevent a single at the end of an over. It was Test Match strategy on both sides. We felt that if we could prevent Marshall from getting more than his share of the bowling we could settle accounts with the remaining batsmen. Now it was seven for 71, then eight for 95. The excitement was intense. The ninth wicket fell at 113. When Ironmonger, the last man, walked to the wicket, there were 15 runs to get. The left-hander was not a good batsman, but hit his first ball powerfully to long-on for a single. Marshall then hit what looked like an easy 2, but a glorious piece of fielding by Hickmott in the outfield turned it into a single. Sandman again bowled to Ironmonger. Our leg breaker's ordinary leg break was an off break to Ironmonger, who again swished for a drive to long-on, but this time it was a wrong 'un, and down went the stumps! It looked an inglorious stroke, but we knew that better batsmen than Ironmonger might have fallen to that ball.

It mattered not to us how it happened—we had won by 12 runs! It was a great match and a great victory. The Queens-landers praised our fielding, our tenacity and fighting spirit. We could have hugged our Donald Sandman when that last ball of the match found the middle stump. How literally he page 393 had carried out his captain's instructions to bowl at the wicket may be gathered from the fact that his five victims were all clean bowled; it was a fine bowling performance. He had bowled as accurately as Walter Mead of Essex, one of the most accurate of leg-break bowlers. It was Sandman's occasional googly that stopped the batsmen from jumping in to him as they should have done.

I cannot pass from this scene of excitement without reference to Alan Marshall's batting; he had gone in first and remained not out with 66 to his credit. We did well to appraise correctly his ability and keep the bowling away from him as much as we could. He had played two splendid innings. Marshall should have become one of Australia's greatest batsmen.

We had a unique experience in Brisbane; an evening pony race-meeting was held the night after our match and we were the guests of the Racing Club. It was a lovely warm evening and the ground had a bright appearance with lights all round the track. Betting played its usual big part in the races. A keen Queensland cricket enthusiast was in our party. He was a jolly companion with a good Irish name. He said to our lads, “Now, don't put any money on until I come back.” Away he went and returning with a knowing look, said, “Back ‘so-and-so.’” Sure enough it won. This made more of our fellows drop their fancies for the second race. Again, his “back ‘so-and-so’” proved he was a good judge! The third race, and the fourth, it was just the same; now everyone was laughing; it was easy money. He finished by tipping five wins out of six races. Our friend did not take the card and mark the ponies to back—it was always, “Wait till I return.” Where he went or whom he saw, we did not know. Some said he had a word with the horses! It was an eye-opener to us to see what pony racing in Australia was at that time. We left Brisbane with happy memories.

Now it was New South Wales we were to face on the great Sydney cricket ground. As with the 1899 team, a good performance preceding this match made New South Wales put its best team in the field. We were soon to learn how disastrous it was for us to have played so far only on two rain-affected wickets, and one matting wicket. The Sydney wicket was hard and fast and when Kelleway, medium-fast, and Scot, fast, began to bowl our batsmen were all at sea.

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Hemus and Snedden opened the innings, but the Auckland champion was out for 0. Tuckwell and Hickmott, who followed, also failed to score; both clean bowled playing back and beaten by the pace. Snedden, the Auckland colt, was shaping well, but two more wickets fell quickly. This was a tragic start, with the bowlers making us look the veriest novices. Then came Sandman: stockily built and with a spring in his stride not unlike Jessop's as he walked to the wicket, he wasted no time in causing the man on the hill to wake up. The crowd that sits there loves a fighter, and they found one in this Canterbury lad. Bang! went a square cut to the fence off a short one from Scott. A straight drive off Kelleway brought more cheers of encouragement from the embankment. Now there was no holding him and while Snedden continued to play soundly, the would-be Jessop hit 4's and more 4's. Snedden was out for a splendid 44. Robinson, our young fast bowler, played as breezily as he had when he helped to save our second innings at Brisbane. Now it was a case of two colts with the bit in their mouths, each appearing to be trying to outdo the other. Sandman was a footballer-cricketer and could run like a hare between the wickets; he was also as daring as a Syd. Gregory or a Harry Graham, and, as Robinson was a thorough athlete, the crowd had a real thrill for the next half-hour; they ran short singles; they turned ones into twos, twos into threes, and did not neglect to hit fours. A fielding side that had so far had little to do was now galvanized into action, and the suddenness of it seemed to rattle them. There were over-fast returns and an over-throw as well, which proved a delight to the crowd. They now got hold of his nickname and “Go to it, Sandy!” could be heard round the ground. But at this pace something had to crack and when Kelleway bowled Robinson for 31 the pair had added 58 in just over half an hour. Andrews, with his slows, got our last wickets cheaply and Sandman was left with 53 not out. It was a wonderful effort and saved us from shame. Our total was 161.

Bardsley and Andrews opened for New South Wales and we got a thrill when Robinson, our speed merchant, clean bowled the great left-hander for 7; he, too, played back to a ball that was faster off the pitch than he thought. This was the end of our success, for Collins came in and played the page 395 rock until the edge was worn off our bowling. Andrews was out before the century was up, but then Cody, Scott and Trumper all got runs. Next came Macartney with the peak of his cap pulled down over his eye and chin stuck out—“The Governor-General,” his comrades had nicknamed him. Now he would show us that his form in Christchurch was not that of the real Macartney. He began at once and gave an exhibition of batting almost as dazzling as Trumper's had been in this same match some fourteen years earlier. In the end he got 142 and stayed till the score was just on 500. All out for 513. One does not grudge runs to such batting.

We batted again. Kelleway started as though he would repeat his first innings performance. It was, however, Mailey and Andrews who wrought havoc this time. Our first few batsmen shaped confidently, but their wickets fell just as they appeared to be settling down. More wickets fell quickly and we were once more in the cart—almost as badly as in the first innings. Young Carlton was now joined by Sandman, who was cheered by the men on the bank as he walked to the wicket. He wasted no time and was soon hitting fours and running the short ones; again they shied at his wicket; again there was a 4 for an over-throw. But this time they got him as the Englishmen got Clem Hill in that famous exhibition of batting and of short runs, with Trumper as a partner, against the M.C.C. team in 1903. In the end Sandman was run out for 33, and was again top-scorer on our side. Our total was 105. It was most disappointing to have all our best batsmen fail in each innings; our opponents knew how we were troubled by the pace of the wicket, but the public measures a team by results and we must have left Sydney with a damaged reputation.

At this stage of his career Sandman was developing into a fine all-rounder. If he could have been restrained a little he would have become a very good batsman; he could square-cut with great power, drive through the covers, straight-drive fours and hit sixes with the greatest of ease; he was. the quickest-footed batsman on our side. In his first appearance at Lancaster Park, against Armstrong's Australian team in 1910, coming in at the end of the innings, he had two balls only from Armstrong and finished with 12 not out; both sixes were beautiful hits over long-on's head! Audacious is the word to describe this page 396 youth whose heart ruled his head when he had the bat in his hands.

From Sydney he went to Goulburn, and, after a match against a combined country team there, went on to play at Albury, where it surprised New Zealanders to find an old-fashioned custom still being carried on as though it were a town of old England; here was the Town Crier who marched the streets ringing his bell and calling aloud the day's announcements. It was a mistake to go back to this class of cricket and, particularly, go back to matting wickets. What we wanted was plenty of play on the typically hard and fast wickets of Australia. I remember how the South Africans, coming off the matting wickets of their own country, suffered from playing back too much.

At last we were in Melbourne. The great M.C.C. ground was a revelation to our players. Warwick Armstrong led the Victorians; they had a good team with a sprinkling of youngsters in the side. E. A. McDonald was making his first appearance; we did not realize then that he was to become a famous Test Match bowler, although by his pace and beautiful action we knew we were up against something pretty good.

Patrick and Hemus opened our innings. When facing McDonald, the former snicked his first ball to Armstrong at first slip; he dropped it! His second ball went to-second slip; he dropped it! Patrick left the third ball alone and it hit the top of the off stump! Was a 0 ever more fully deserved? McDonald then clean bowled Snedden for 0, and we looked like repeating our Sydney performance. When Tuckwell was out, the score was four for 24; we were crestfallen. It was the pace of the wicket again, plus beautiful bowling by McDonald. I then joined young Hickmott, who alone had stood up to the fast stuff. We soon got moving and began to score freely; Hickmott was out for a finely played 46 and I followed shortly afterwards for 47. We were the only double-figure scorers on our side, and the total was 141. Lampard, who a few years later was to bowl well for the A.I.F. team, came with a run at the finish and with his very accurate leg breaks took five wickets.

Robinson started bowling with great vim, and dismissed Carroll, Victoria's opening batsman, for 2. I remember Hugh Trumble saying to me afterwards, “By Jove, when I saw that page 397 fellow Robinson begin bowling I thought you had a champion.” But Robinson had a knee that would not stand up to a long, hard day on Australian wickets, and he had to be used sparingly, yet he got through a surprising amount of work. He was our best bowler in the big matches at Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide; his extra pace made him a better bowler than Bennett on Australian wickets. All the rest of the Victorians made runs and their total was 439.

Our second innings saw more of our batsmen picking up form. Snedden got a nice 51, but our total of 188 could not be called a very worthy effort. The most encouraging part was that six of our batsmen ran into double figures, and all appeared to be shaping better on the fast wickets.

We then left for Adelaide. Though not as strong numerically in players as New South Wales and Victoria, the state of South Australia has made a notable contribution to the list of Australia's greatest players. It was a pleasure for me to renew an intimate friendship with Clem Hill and again to meet George Giffen, Lyons, Jarvis and Jones, whom I had not seen for a dozen years; Joe Darling was now away on his sheep station in Tasmania. Hill captained the South Australians, and as J. N. Crawford was also in the side they certainly possessed two of the world's great players at that time; E. R. Mayne and Pellew were the best of the others.

I had not been able to find an opening partner for Hemus, who would provide the good start which means so much to a side; this time young Hickmott accompanied him, but it made no difference; the first wicket fell at 15 and the second at 24. Then Hemus and Snedden made a stand, taking the score to about 80 before the former was out for a soundly played 46. I then joined Snedden and, getting quickly off the mark, we were soon making runs at a good rate. The partnership added 136 runs for the fourth wicket, and we were at last on the way to a substantial score. Young Snedden, fast becoming one of our best batsmen, was then out for 88; we were sorry he did not reach the century. Taylor stayed while another 40 was added. Then came the i popular Sandman. The crowd had read of his performance in Sydney and the man on the bank called, “Give it to 'em, Sandy!” and, sure enough, our Donald dived in at the deep end at once; he hit hard, he overhauled me between the wickets when running the 2's and 3's, he page 398 entertained the crowd as he had done in Sydney, although his batting was more sedate than it had been in the desperate plight his side was in when Kelleway was carrying all before him. When the total reached 300 the game had been in progress for but four hours. When 92, I drove the fast bowler to long-on; the ball hugged the grass all the way and stopped a yard short of the boundary; we ran 3 comfortably, but Sandman was right on top of me and I had to run the fourth. I panted for breath, then stood up and took strike again, only to be clean bowled by a plain, straight ball. Our fellows never let up on Sandy for robbing the “Old Man” of his century. Sandman followed soon afterwards; they got him out as we used to in club cricket in Christchurch—higher and slower—down the pitch he went to the slow bowler. Whang! But this time he missed and was clean bowled. He had made 56; no wonder Sandman was popular in Australia! If everyone played cricket as he played it the game would be able to compete with baseball in America. Our tail-enders added a few and we were all out for 362. Howard, the fast-bowler, took most wickets, but Crawford's figures were not good. Old Jack Lyons, the great hitting batsman of the 'nineties, and fast bowler Jones who loved a slog at the end of an innings, were enthusiastic about the way our runs were made. Old George Giffen's quiet, “That was good cricket,” and Clem Hill's, “By Jove, Dan, your fellows are game,” will show that our play had impressed the men of Adelaide.

It was now their turn to bat. They got a good start; one for 25 became two for 113, then more wickets fell and the score was five for 158. That was the end of our success, for Clem Hill showed all the form of his younger days, and played a beautiful innings for 92. Pellew got 94, so there was plenty of just missing the century in this match. Their total finally reached 433.

We again got a bad start; both Hemus and Hickmott were out before 20 was up. Tuckwell stayed with Snedden while 40 were added, then Snedden and I became associated in a partnership that was to put our batting on top. The young Aucklander played finely for 52 and this completed an excellent double. When Taylor came in we added 100 in quick time, and went on to make the fifth wicket partnership yield 147 runs. When I passed the century Clem Hill, in crossing at the page 399 change over, whispered, “Why in the devil didn't you get that other 4 in the first innings!” At the tea adjournment I was 130 not out, and Sandman 12 not out, with the total six for 287. As it was a three days' match I declared our innings closed. There was no chance of finishing and the game ended with South Australia having made 161 for three wickets.

In this match I was to witness how stubborn a bowler can be. Crawford was one of the first medium-paced bowlers I had seen who tried to bowl without an outfield. As a youngster I had been taught that in such circumstances it was a safe stroke to lift the ball over the bowler's head, provided you played with a perfectly straight bat. I did this several times to Crawford, and Hill suggested an outfield, but the Surrey man wouldn't have one; in the second innings the same thing happened. This reminds me of the story of Bill Howell, the Australian bowler. At a time when Australian cricket was in the doldrums, with all the young players following the style of Collins, Woodfull and Ponsford, Howell came down from his bee farm to see a New South Wales-Victoria match. After watching the game for some hours he turned to Syd. Gregory and said in his dry way, “When did they bring in the new rule, Syd.?”

“What new rule?” replied Gregory.

“Over the bowler's head is out!”

They all had a good laugh, but that was the state of the game in the Commonwealth when Bradman arrived to put it back where Trumper, Duff, Hill and Darling had left it.

My wife accompanied me on this cricket tour, and her presence was responsible for an amusing incident that occurred in the grandstand at Adelaide. An old school friend of hers had married an Adelaide doctor, and the reunion was a happy one. Her friend, while being fond of tennis and golf, knew little or nothing about cricket, but this did not prevent her from sitting with my wife throughout the match against South Australia. Everybody within hearing distance derived great amusement from her comments on the game. She was of an enthusiastic and excitable nature and every now and again she was heard to exclaim loudly, “Dan's hit another 4!”, accompanied by a quick hand-clap. The climax came after lunch on the third day when I hit the slow bowler clean over the sight board; in a tone that almost betokened incredulity page 400 she shrieked, “Dan's hit a 6!” They told me afterwards that the roar of laughter in the pavilion almost drowned what applause there was for the hit that sent the ball soaring over the fence.

We had been royally treated in this fair city of Adelaide, and left in a much happier frame of mind over our cricket than we had been when departing from Sydney and Melbourne.

We now returned to Melbourne to play the final match of the tour. The First XI of the great Melbourne Cricket Club had paid visits to New Zealand in 1900 and 1905. This was our first opportunity of returning their calls. Included in their team was the lovable Frank Laver. Since meeting him in Brisbane, Ironmonger had been appointed to the M.C.C. ground staff and this was his first match. Melbourne led off with 251. When I had taken about five wickets old Bob Crockett, the famous umpire, said to me, “I didn't know you could bowl like this!” Neither could I when I lived in Melbourne, for my pace was too slow for Australian wickets, and I could not swing the ball then. I finished with six for 66—my best bowling performance on the hard wickets of Australia. New Zealand followed with 209, Sandman being top-scorer with 45; he again got them when runs were badly needed—what a brave little cricketer he was! Melbourne declared in their second innings, and we ran to three for 152, and the match was drawn. This was a delightful game; it was grand to be back amongst the members of the club with whom I had previously spent three happy years. The Committee entertained us at luncheon and Major Wardill, Billy Bruce, Hugh Trumble, Warwick Armstrong, Charlie McLeod, all of whom had visited New, Zealand, vied with each other to make our stay a pleasant one.

This was the end of New Zealand's second cricket tour of Australia; the only blots on our performances were the débâcles at Sydney and Melbourne. I finished top of both the batting and bowling averages, a performance which, considering that excepting Boxshall I was the oldest member of the side, could perhaps be ranked as one of some merit.

Going by train to Sydney, we caught the Victoria for Auckland and were soon on the high seas. It had been a most enjoyable tour, and seeing so much of Australia was a great education, for few members of our team had previously been away from page 401 their own shores. Except for the rain on arrival at Sydney, and at Brisbane, we had had gloriously fine weather throughout the trip, with plenty of hot days which were sometimes very trying in the field. A rough trip all the way from Sydney Heads to North Cape was perhaps our worst experience of the tour.