Crowd Psychology – 2nd Ashes Test Sydney December 1928

Percy Chapman preux chevalier now led his merry but generally elderly men on from their seismic victory at the Gabba described earlier to the cauldron of  Sydney Cricket Ground where the outfielder senses intolerable isolation in a crowded place and even the wicketkeeper can hear himself barracked.

Mead had played his last Test and made way for Geary.  For Australia, Richardson replaced Bradman, the gentle Nothling came in for the broken Gregory, who had therefore also played his last Test, and the off-spinner Blackie made his debut at the unlikely age of 46.  The effects of the carnage of the First World War are clear to see with each side missing the Lost Generation of young players who might have been.

Hobbs and Sutcliffe opened the innings and put on 37 before Sutcliffe's dismissal brought forth Hammond.

Australia were bowled out for 253 with Geary taking 5 for 35 in 18 overs and Larwood picked up 3 for 77 in 26.2 overs.  Controversy attended the early dismissal of Kippax who was bowled off his pads from outside leg stump but the batsman claimed that ‘keeper Duckworth had broken the wicket.

The scene was then set for Hammond to take command. Coming in with England at 37 for 1, he reigned supreme for 7 hours 41 minutes during which time he scored 251 in England’s total of 636 all out.

Wally Hammond - the economy of the cover drive

Australia’s second innings of 397 contained centuries for Barnacle Bill Woodfull and the multi-initialed H.S.T.L Hendry, but it was barely enough to make England bat again and the tourists won the second Test by 8 wickets and went 2 – 0 up in the series. 

Tate bowls to Hendry probably on his way to 112 in Australia's second innings. Some consolation for the crowd but not enough to to forestall an eight wicket drubbing which gave a cricket mad country much to talk about.

In the home side’s second innings the damage had been done by Tate with 4 for 99 from 46 overs, but Larwood’s influence, although on paper insignificant with 1 for 105 from 35 overs, was in fact considerable as batsmen took risks at the other end either to avoid him or to protect the lower order from him.  Barker and Rosewater in Test Cricket England v Australia suggest that, ‘There was an impression, too, that at times he bowled at the batsman.’

The Australian crowds and commentariat were in two minds. Either this was the worst, oldest and least worthy side ever to reach Australian shores or given the results so far, the luckiest. The temperature metaphorically as well as literally was rising as the antipodean spring turned into high summer.

Four years later Jardine was to use the following quotation from R.W.Thompson’s  Down Under, a non-cricketing account of a period he spent in the Dominion, to show that the reaction in 1932/33 was in many ways no different to that which had preceded it.

Of 1928, Thompson writes,  “A far more serious series of events now commenced.  I refer to the cricket Test matches between England and Australia.  The papers and the people relegated all other business and thoughts to the background.  I had not realised that cricket could be taken so seriously.  The attitude of the general public and of the crowds at the matches was amazing.  This was no game.  It was warfare …”

Thompson wrote that, ‘There was little sporting spirit … The merits of England’s players were belittled and scoffed at, dismissed as luck.”

Jardine obscures the names so that his 1934 readers might at first think it was a report of that winter’s tour, but in 2010 there is no need for such artifice.

Argument, thought Thompson, was now unavoidable.  “I thanked God for Hammond and his double centuries, and Larwood and his Ponsford-baffling bowling (actually hand breaking bowling – TM). These two were unanswerable.  Nevertheless, the Australians called Hammond a one-stroke player, and Larwood, they said was not as fast as Gregory.”

According to Thompson, “The Sydney Test provided the newspapers with copy for several weeks, and the general public with material for heated and scathing debate …”   Duckworth, he writes, “was barracked unmercifully for many days afterwards …”   The Kippax incident being “discussed unsportingly on every hand.”

Thompson found it very hard, “to get an acknowledgement of England’s worth from anyone, even though we were winning.”

Yet, if the temperature was rising, it was to soar yet further as both sides made their way to Melbourne and the New Year Test.

To be continued …



Filed under Light roller

5 responses to “Crowd Psychology – 2nd Ashes Test Sydney December 1928

  1. diogenes

    you have to feel for Mead…getting dropped on the back of a 70. No 2 ways about it, the England attack was plain – a bowler of electric pace who tended to struggle for wickets on hard pitches without shine on the ball, Tate probably past his best and Geary a fast-medium bowler (mentally I put him there with Hendrick, Old, Fraser…all of whom struggled to take wickets in Australia), plus a non-turning left-armer in Jack White. Australia had Grimmett but the rest were even more innocuous. Your point about the toll of the First Waorld War is very pertinent. Australia had just said goodbye to a whole slew of pre-war players, including such as Bardsley and McCartney whereas England still managed to call on Hobbs and Hendren etc. Crucially, they temporarily had the brightest youngster in Hammond and this was a rare series that was one by a batsman. 240 runs in 7 hours – it must have been a stunning innings to watch, full of crashing cover-drives past Hendry at coverpoint And in Larwood, they had a force to nullify the adhesion of Ponsford, although 18 wickets at 40 does not strike you as a serie-winning return. Thanks for the insights…I am starting to spend too much time with the scorecards!

    • Thanks for the contribution with its detail and analysis, Diogenes. TM hopes you’ll stay with the side as it enjoys Christmas and takes the train to Melbourne.
      The Old Guard may have been slurping on the embrocation (like modern players do their zinc oxide) and the ‘young ones’ not yet established/or rejected but how influential was the experience on the Australian cricketing psyche; the huge thumping in the first Test, the improvements which were still not good enough of the second and, then, the ..?

  2. diogenes

    If you compare the 2 photos you show of Hendren and Hammond cover-driving, you get an image of just how different they must have been…Hammond ‘s power and whole body-strength going into the shot, whilst it looks as if Hendren was just flicking the wrists.

    • It is interesting to note Oldfield’s position, low and wide, suggesting that Hammond has played a very full length delivery (maybe even a full toss)with plenty of width on the off side which he so relished. Descriptions suggest that in this and many other innings Hammond would make room to leg to hit leg side balls through the off side to mid-off or extra cover, rather than play onto the on-side which he ‘disdained’(?) . Seems amazing that he was so one sided. But then there was this strong moral code about not bowling deliberately at the batsman – hence the muttering that surrounded Lawood’s bowling in this match.

  3. diogenes

    good point – and in the Hendren shot, Oldfield is almost standing up, suggesting perhaps that Hendren was playing wristily on the up, in the style of, say, Roy Marshall. A few years ago, David Frith showed some film of Grimmett bowling, demonstrating considerable drift towards leg. So if Hammond was ideeed moving to leg to hit through the covers, there must have been a lot of risk involved. Personally, I think he would have found Shane Warne an easy proposition.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s