Tag Archives: Percy Chapman

Watch Hobbs, Gregory, Grimmett, Rhodes and more.

England has not won a Test match for 9 days.  If you are suffering painful withdrawal symptoms Third Man has the answer.  Have a gander on YouTube at this BFI Film of England’s glorious victory against Australia at the Oval in 1926.

TM did make available another film of events from this series here  – but the quality of this BFI film is of a different order.  There are bright and sharp clips of Hobbs and Sutcliffe’s running between the wickets, gloveless Gregory, Grimmett’s arm speed (which Warne would admire and which must have produced considerable rates of rotation on the ball), Rhodes snaffling a 4fer and Mailey desperate to get his hands on the ball for a souvenir.

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Seventh Day Adventism – The Melbourne Test

No one in the pavilion on the sixth morning of the third timeless Test of 1928/29 was prepared to give odds on an England victory.  A thunderstorm had broken over Melbourne in the wee small hours and another heavy shower had fallen at eleven-thirty.  Now the sun was shining fiercely, cooking the wicket into the consistency of glue.

The banter was raucous as the crowd waited for the home side’s second innings to resume at 347 for 8, already giving them a surely untouchable 328 runs lead over England.

The odds on offer that morning were ten to one against England getting 200 on that wicket and fifty to one against anyone scoring a century.  The old firm of  Messers Trumble, Hill, Armstrong and Darling in their accustomed seats made it known that, as far as they were concerned, an England score of 80 would be on the steep side.

"Heads?"

A week before, to the day, the England Captain and Uppingham Rover, Percy Chapman, had called heads.  Seeing it fall tails, Australia’s Ryder, said he would have a bat.  An hour or so later with his score at 57 for three the decision looked to have been brave, but centuries from Kippax and Ryder himself took the score to 282 for five.  Bradman with 79 before he hit over a yorker from Hammond help his side grind out 397 in a little under two days. 

In England’s first innings Hobbs fell early, then, Sutcliffe and Hammond put on 133 for the second wicket.  Scoring almost exclusively through the off-side, Hammond, carved out his second double hundred in consecutive innings and, with a painstaking 62 from Jardine, England posted a 20 run lead after four and a half days cricket. The match had become another war of attrition.  

In Australia’s second innings Woodfall and Bradman made centuries, so that when Oxenham and Grimmett finally took the field on the second Friday of the match and surveyed the damp and drying gluepot it seemed to matter little how many more they scored.  As the remaining three batsmen wore blows to the head, shoulders and neck in adding but four more to the overnight lead their sacrifice served only to remind the 60,000 spectators that the result of this match was a forgone conclusion.

Ryder led his men out to deliver the coup de grace.  At their heels, from the pavilion into the fierce sun, emerged Hobbs and Sutcliffe not dishevelled by their time in the field, not downcast and beaten, but with a quiet confidence, relaxed and immaculately turned out in their splendid white hats, crisp shirts, creased flannels, whitewashed pads and devoutly sanded bats.

"Why not Bert?" "One ball at a time Jack."

Had those confident Australians turned to watch this extraordinary opening pair, they may have had an inkling of what was to come, but they did not.  Fired-up the opening bowlers, a Beckett and Hendry, speared each delivery into the spiteful morass and, along with their team mates, saw only red and revenge for Brisbane and Sydney.

Hobbs dropped his hands and took a blow.  Sutcliff used the same defence.  After two overs they inspected the pock-marked surface, which yielded like rum flavoured ginger cake as they replaced huge divots and made things as tidy as they could.

“Why not?” murmured Jack leaning over the same crater as his partner.

“We have only to play one ball at a time,” answered Bert, gently tapping, gently tapping.

Twice Hobbs was let off, and once his cap was knocked flying by a ball that spat like a camel and kicked like a mule, but soon each batsman realised that the length and tactics the Australians were pursuing were wrong. 

“Don’t think they really know how to use the conditions, Bert.”

“Well, if you’ll forgive me, Jack, I’m not about t’ tell them ‘ow.”

The pair reached their first target, the replacement of a Becket and Hendrey with Grimmett and Blackie.

Their plan was coming together.  Get to tea.  And so unbelievably they did; 78 for 0.   Get to stumps and allow the morning roller to take out all the lumps and the sun to bake it hard and flat. 

But could they really steer the ship to so distant  and so rock-ringed harbour?  They thought they might but now developed a contingency plan to share with their captain.

Hobbs called for a new bat.  Half a dozen were brought out to him.  Was it that old friend Mead who brought them?  Did the three old pros talk things over together while Jack tested each blade in turn before returning all of them to the dressing room, along with a message to his captain.

Did Mead report thus: “Mr Chapman, Mr Chapman, Jack says, ‘we’ll get through to nightfall and you might think of holding Wally back ‘til tomorrow and send in Mr Jardine if anyone’s needed today.’”

“Thank you Phillip,” said Chapman warmly, then whispered to himself in the quiet of that hushed dressing room, “Good man, Jack,”   

“Doougie, it’s kilt, pipes and pads for you, my Bannock Burn.  Wally stand down, dear boy, and gird yourself for the ‘morrow.  If Jack and Bert think we shall do it, then so we shall, so we shall.”

Bruised, battered but eventually beaten by Blackie for 49, in an opening partnership of 105, Hobbs returned to the pavilion and nodded in turn to the applause and disbelief of Messers Trumble, Hill, Armstrong, Darling and 60,000 other Australians who could not but put aside their passionate patriotism to acknowledge that they had seen something very special that afternoon.

Herbert Sutcliffe enjoying a more familiar wicket in 1930

Jardine joined the by now modestly confident Sutcliff and, each taking their share of corporal punishment, saw the day through: 171 for 1.

And on the Seventh Day, though there was still much to do, Sutcliffe made victory certain.  England were just 14 short of their gargantuan target of 332 when he was finally out for 135 and, although three more wickets tumbled quickly after him, Geary picked up a shot ball from Ryder for the winning shot, sending it to the boundary just yards ahead of a frantically pursuing Bradman.

It is difficult to conceive of a heavier blow than this that Sutcliffe, Hobbs and England had struck.  Chronologically the seven days of this Test spanned the years 1928 and 1929, but its ramifications reach down to us even as the two old foes prepare for their first encounter in the 2010 series – though 82 years of cause and effect, de-selection and selection, attack and counter, innovation and answer, humiliation and revival link Strauss and Ponting, Pietersen and Clark, Andersdon and Johnston with the ghosts of Hobbs and Woodfull, Sutcliffe and Grimmett, Larwood and Oldfield.

1928/29 begat 1930, 1930 begat 1932/33, 1932/33 begat …2010/11.

This Test was indeed timeless, it’s karma enduring.

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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 …

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The Emperor’s New Clothes or Wearing a T-Shirt for Douglas Jardine.

The not so humble T shirt, the undergarment that ‘came out’, self coloured or tye-died, ringer or billboard, utilitarian or expressive, mute or shrill – should we wear one for Douglas Jardine?

The boys at philosophyfootball think we should and for this winter’s Ashes tour they have selected for one of their garments the Harlequin’s strikingly modern campaigning assertion that “Cricket is a battle and service and sport and art”. 

History has been cruel to this Lion of England.  In every way, opinion has moved against him and towards his foes – the hecklers on the Hill, the journalists of Nineteen Thirties Australia, his Establishment familiars, even his ambitious Vice Captain. 

Yet, if anything, culture has moved towards his approach if not his heritage.  Who would not fancy him to bring back the Ashes in 2011 – as he did in 1933 – four, one?

Cricket has become more professional, more abrasive, more ‘win at any cost’.  In other circumstances Jardine might be regarded today as a hero of the game, but Third Man doubts he will be inducted into the ICC’s Hall of Fame

Cricket long ago clothed itself in a myth of fair play and idealised virtues. Was it the way the early aristocratic enthusiasts excused their dalliance with the lower orders in pursuit of the demeaning shepherd’s game?  Was it the pretence by which schools prepared their pupils for war and colonial administration?   Was it a convenient narrative by which old professionals romanticised their playing careers and obscured their humble origins and self-serving match-play? 

Big cricket cricketers have always found the garment course fitting, so why has Jardine, remained unfashionable?

The costume that today configures itself in the folds and frills of the Spirit of Cricket may be a fig leaf, but nevertheless it must be worn at all times with respect and subservience. 

He who questions too closely the Emperor’s new clothes risks becoming a lightning rod through which the guilt and greed of others reaches the ground.

Is it time therefore to rehabilitate Douglas Jardine? 

As in most things, we must start much earlier.  In November 1928 the genial Percy Chapman led a team Down Under.  As now, after a long period of dominance, Australia, with their great players aging or retired, were finding it hard to reconstruct their side.

Percey Chapman wore a funny hat and thumped Australia 4 -1 but the game has been far kinder to him than it has to Jardine.

England on the other hand were able to send the following batting order to the printing office at the Gabba as the series begun on the morning of November 30th: Hobbs, Sutcliffe, Mead, Hammond (a debutant in this match who was to score 905 runs in his 9 Test match innings on this tour), Jardine (another debutant), Hendren (who, coming in at the crisis point of the match, if not of the series, when England were tottering at 161 for 4 on that first day, scored 169 of England’s first innings of 521 in a five hour game-changing innings ) and Chapman himself. 

Patsy Hendred on his way to 169. Has he actually got a lot to answer for?

These batsmen were complemented by a bowling attack of Tate, Larwood, White, Geary (in subsequent Tests) and Hammond. 

In reply, Australia lost their first four batsmen for 40 in a disastrous last hour of the second day and eventually sunk to 122 all out.  The youth Bradman, who had already scored 295 runs against the tourists for twice out, was lbw to Tate for 18 batting at number 7.  Larwood took six for 32 in 14.4 overs. 

Tests being timeless affairs in those days, England batted on to 342 (Mead 73, Jardine 65*) in their second innings before declaring 741 runs ahead in time to take the wicket of Ponsford before the close of play on the fourth evening.

Overnight rain then made batting conditions treacherous and White 4 for 7 in 6.3 overs, Tate 2 for 26 and Larwood 2 for 30  sent Australia to a crushing and demoralizing defeat by 675 runs.

The impact on the home side’s supporters, their media, their cricketers past and present and especially on Bradman would have far reaching consequences.

To be continued …

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