Tag Archives: Sir Jack Hobbs

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.


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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Kumar Shri Duleepsinhji Shines on Opening Day of Lord’s Test

30,000 spectators filled Lord's in June 1930 to watch England v Australia

Try as he might, Third Man finds it hard always to be open to new ideas, new ways of doing things, new International Cricket calendars.

All week he has been trying not to scratch an itch.  By rights he should be in a queue in Cavendish Avenue edging towards the North Gate at Lord’s for the 2nd Test.  Instead Middlesex play Surrey at t20.

Must he sit and itch?  No he need not!  He can leave a note on the kitchen table reading, “Off to Lord’s, back Monday night,” and pace down to the garden shed where that old Time Machine is gathering too much dust.       N.B. Remember to take a step ladder.

Setting the machine’s travelling co-ordinates for NW8 9LE he is there in a trice at the back of the Wellington Hospital.

No one is about so he hides the trusty step ladder in some bushes in the Close and re-enters the Time Machine.

When should he arrive?

Silly question; 27th of June 1930, England v Australia, an easily dialled 80 years back.

Yes, the steps are still there and getting himself out of sight in a garden he makes his way over the wall and into the yard behind the clock tower at the Nursery End. 

The new Grandstand gleams, the Tavern is reassuringly still a tavern and the Mound Stand, across from him, is filling up, tier upon tier of seating to the dizzying heights of the back row. 

There is something special about watching from the top seats of the Mound, dark and cool but the light reflects from the arena affording the perfect panorama, like being at the motion pictures.

There is a confident air among the crowd that already looks to Third Man as if it well to around 30,000 for the day is done .  Two winters before, England easily won the series ‘down under’.  And the first Test in this series has already resulted in a 93 run victory for England. 

Hobbs and Sutcliffe had opened, the Master making 78 in a pair of relatively low scoring first innings:  England 270 all out (Grimmett 5 -107 in 32 overs), Australia 144 all out with Kippax not out 64.  England’s first innings lead was extended by a further 302 runs with Hobbs again top scoring and Grimmett taking another five this time for 94 in 30 overs.

Australia’s bid for victory in the fourth innings briefly promised a cricketing sensation with that young Bradman, who everyone is talking about, scoring 131 coming in at No. 3.

Could the crowd’s confidence in England be mis-placed?  With Hobbs at 47 (years not runs), Hendren 41, White 39, Geary 36 and Tate 35 there is a nagging concern that the England side is fighting a losing battle with age and capping that, Chapman the captain, has played very little cricket since the previous series.

This morning the talk around the ground is that Duleepsinhji, Allen and White will take the places of the injured Sutcliffe, Larwood and Tyldesley.  Reliable Leyland we already know is absent.  It all must have been a headache for Leveson-Gower, Man and White, the selectors.

Here’s cheer, though: England have won the toss on what looks like a wicket filled with runs.  But Hobbs falls early caught behind off Fairfax. Woolley then treats us to a glorious hour before he too falls to Fairfax, bringing Duleep to the wicket for his debut against the Australians.  At the other end Hammond cannot seem to time a thing and it is no surprise when Grimmett bowls him for 38.  Three down for 105.

Next Duleep (batting under the watchful and delighted gaze of his uncle Ranji who Third Man glimpses sitting in the pavilion) and Hendren treat us to 104 runs in 90 minutes.

The undercooked Chapman fails inevitably as does Allen, but Tate in a stand of 98 with Duleep strikes some lusty blows to the delight of the afternoon spectators who are sitting ten deep on the grass around the ground and field the ball, tossing it back to the despairing Australian boundary fielders.

This is better, but Grimmett seems capabale of beating Duleep whenever he likes and Fairfax and Wall with the new ball give him trouble.  Yet in four and three-quarter hours he takes his score to 173 before, trying to force the pace, he is caught at long off to the bowling of Grimmett. 

30,000 stand and cheer him off!  But, with the last pair in and the score not quite 400, has England scored enough?

“Time” calls the umpire as the first day comes to a close.

Post Script.   Meeting Ranji on the way down Baker Street, Third Man congratulates him on his newphew’s fine innings that day.

“Yes, but did you see that rash shot to Grimmett?  He always was a careless lad.”

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By train and tram and cab they came

It is Saturday 10th February 1912.  Archduke Franz Ferdinand is safely tucked up in a bed somewhere.  Waves are gently lapping on the shores of the Gallipoli peninsular.  Tension is mounting.

It is the morning of the second day of the fourth Test between England and Australia who are two one down in the series having won the first test but lost the next two.

After heavy rain earlier in the week the Melbourne wicket was drying out on the first day but still yielding slightly to pressure.  England winning the toss had already decided to put the Australians into bat and had bowled them out just after five for 191, Barnes and Foster taking nine wickets between them. 

The wicket had flattened out by the time Hobbs and Rhodes went out to bat that evening and with some beautiful shots and well judged running they had put on 54 runs by close of play.

Felix takes up our story on this second day.

“As I walked down to the ground, lovers of cricket were streaming from all quarters through Yarra Park to the entrance gates.  By train and tram and cab they came, and the glorious elm walk in Fitzroy Gardens seemed alive with people, many of them bronzed men from country parts beyond Benalla to the Murray …

“Never before was deeper interest taken in a Test Match.  It was Australia’s last chance this time to keep the ‘ashes here …

“In the full height of the great gathering the scene was simply splendid.  In the centre of the arena were two English batsmen, Hobbs and Rhodes, holding their positions hour after hour with a grim tenacity of purpose which made us feel proud of them as our kith and kin …

“Chasing the leather everywhere over the beautiful expanse of green turf were our own men, never once relaxing their activity and energy during that protracted and exceedingly productive partnership between these two able representatives of the famous counties of Surrey and Yorkshire.

“From the public entrance gates the whole crescent of grand-stand and ladies’ pavilion is filled with watching eyes, tier on tier, up to the summit … All the seats in front of the pavilion are packed.  So is the balcony, and even the pavilion roof, where long ago I watched ‘an orange sunset waning low’.

In putting on 323 runs for the first wicket, Hobbs and Rhodes went on that day, to beat all previous Test Match records.  It took them four and a half hours.  Hobbs was caught behind down the leg side for 178, his third hundred in successive Test Matches. Rhodes on Monday, after the rest day, was later caught Carter bowled Minnett for 179 in England’s total of 589 all out.  England went on to win the match by an innings and 225 runs.

The attendance that Saturday was 31,795 with the total gate money reaching £1,442.

In Zagreb, a young Bosnian, Gavrilo Princip, was asleep in his brother’s house.


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